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Inkognito» Forums » Sessions

Subject: Spies in Molasses rss

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Daniel Kearns
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Bloomington
Indiana
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Inkognito Session

First play. Let me start by saying that I underestimated this game. After reading the rules, it seemed both quick and easy. In practice it was neither.

In the game there are four players: two teams of two. To make things intereting, from the beginning, no one knows who their partner is. Furthermore, each partner has one half of the victory conditions that cannot be deciphered until they find their partner and the other half of the plan. All very cool.

There are four different identities you can have and the teams are fixed according to these identities. Each player has four different pawns of different shapes and sizes but only one of these corresponds to the actual player. The pawns are placed on a map of Venice and are connected to each other by road and waterway paths. Your job is to move any of your pawns onto that of another player to get information about their identity or pawn attributes. Still cool.

Each player has a hand of cards in their color, and there is one card for each identity and attribute (tall, fat, thin, short). When you question another player you ask them for either their identity or attributes. If you ask for identity, they must show you two identity cards and one attribute. If you ask for attribute, they must show you two attribute cards and one identity. In either case, one card must be true. There is also a neutral pawn, the ambassador, and if you talk to him, you can ask any player for information but they only give you two cards, of the type you asked for, and one must be true. He’s a good person to talk to.

Okay, weird thing number one. After you talk to someone’s pawn, you send them flying to any other space on the board. Weird thing number two, when being interrogated, you cannot show the questioner the same set of cards you’ve shown them previously. This means that not only do you have to track the info you receive but also the info you give.

Now for my first problem. It is NOT easy to walk around and talk to people. The board looks pretty tight but you use a weird movement system. There is this scary nun looking thing that has colored balls in it and when you shake it, three of those balls become visible. This tells you how you can move your pawns. Red – one land space, Blue – one sea space, Yellow – 1 land or sea, Black – move ambassador, White – no move. You really have to shake the hell out of that thing to randomize the outcome. Also, we had many situations where you would get Black, White, White and essentially not be able to move. Pretty random. Also, having your pawns flung over hell’s half-acre tended to make it so some players are always trying to get back into the middle of board and other players, questioning them and sending them flying back to the edge. Not necessarily a huge problem as you technically have a partner who is hopefully doing something. Still, kind of frustrating.

I was playing Madam Zsa Zsa and I had to find my partner Agent X. The other players were my wife Katie and another couple, Mel and Zack. I was interrogated a few times and my pawns were being exiled to the perimeter. So I spent my turns trying to move back into the center. Because I wasn’t doing much questioning myself, I thought I would do my best to reveal my identity to other players hoping my partner would find me rather than the other way around. Giving leading information is surprisingly hard. Zack questioned me a few times and I kept showing him the Madam Zsa Zsa card and he eventually got the message and when I was able to question him, he showed me the Zsa Zsa card, the agent X card and an attribute. It looked like he was trying to confirm he was my partner but I couldn’t be sure, maybe he was lying about agent X and the body type he showed me was the true card. A clever ploy (as he wasn’t my partner) and this type of dynamic is what is the most fun about the game. Eventually, I asked Katie one question and everything became clear: everything. In one question, I was able to identify everyone’s identity and body type. I felt smart.

And the game was fun for a while. But it went on for so so long. Zack, god bless him, suffers from the double whammy of both Analysis Paralysis and Oh-Is-It-My-Turn Syndrome. The box says Inkognito should take 45 minutes, our game went for two and a half hours. WAY too long and it wore out its welcome.

My second problem with the game is the asymmetric victory conditions. Ours were as follows: Katie and I had to get her pawn to a single space on the board. Mel and Zack had to move one of their pawns onto Katie’s real pawn (the tall blue guy). What is wrong here? Getting one pawn to one space is incredibly specific and can be stopped by someone interrogating her and flinging her to the other side away from the goal. Extremely difficult. On the other hand, they have eight possible pawns to get to a single space, the tall blue guy. This seemed trivial. When we entered the endgame, one side effectively had no chance at all. Another weird corollary was that even though we didn’t know exactly which goal the others had, we each had a very good idea. They could have designed it so each side could have narrowed to two possible goals focused on two different pawns and make the endgame more interesting. Instead, it was clear that both sides had to focus on 1 pawn, with some trivial grey area (tall blue has to go to space 2 or 6. Whereas I would have preferred that tall blue to either be going to 2 or fat yellow going to six and they didn’t know which they had to prevent. Did that make any sense?)

Things could have been different. For instance, I could have interrogated Katie’s tall blue pawn and flung her right next to our goal. The tall blue was in the center of the board and all four of my pawns were on the edges, as far from her as possible. I didn’t intentionally do this, I just seldom was able to move due to bad shaking of the nun-thingy and getting flung.

So I don’t know what to make of this game. If it was shorter it would be more fun, that is for sure. But the shaky thing was very annoying and the card passing and documentation got on my nerves too. Also, if you have to pass two identity cards and one attribute, how do you ever reveal your half of the code? Everyone just decided to break the rule on their own otherwise the game doesn’t work. I assume we played this correctly.

Things I learned.

* This game can be BRUTALLY slow. 2.5 hours is unacceptably long for this game. You’ve got to keep it moving. I’m not even sure why it took so long because you really have limited options due to the movement system. Analysis paralysis certainly took its toll but still…

* The endgame was disappointing. Anti-climactic and asymmetric in difficulty. Not a deal-breaker unless it is combined with a 2.5hr ordeal.

* The edge of the board is a terrible place to be. You won’t go there willingly and it is pretty tough to get off it. As soon as you try and move inward, someone will bounce you right back out.

* You don’t want to be totally obtuse about the information you give, remember you want your partner to find you.

* I think next time I will try and “pretend” to be my partner when I pass cards. For instance, if I’m Zsa Zsa, I will act like I am Agent X. This will give the most information to my partner without giving any info to my enemy. I think you’d have to have played the game to understand and I might be wrong.

* The nun thing seemed like a really neat idea but it is hyper random when it works as it should. Paradoxically, it is very difficult to ensure you get a random result. Sometimes, you’ll just keep getting the same outcome I think because the balls didn’t move around. 3 six sided dice would have accomplished the same result. Annoying.

* I would definitely like to give Inkognito another go. With the heads up that we’ve got to play faster.
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Nick Stables
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Hi Daniel,
Recently bought Inkognito and was curious to know if you played so that only one "meeting" was allowed per turn for that player (despite several of his/her pawns occupying the ambassador/other players' spaces) or did you allow upto 3 meetings per turn.

The reason I ask is that Rick Heli commented on his website : "the 2001 edition rules suggest that a player may meet multiple agents during a single turn, which for balance and downtime reasons does not seem wise".

I imagine allowing only 1 meeting per turn would make turns quicker, reduce the amount of the frustrating "banishment" occuring and so pieces would stay closer longer, with more emphasis on deducing the actions of others, and maybe considering the odds of what colour ball will appear. The other thing I may implement in my first game is allow the next player to "roll" while the current player executes their movement.

Regards
Nick
 
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Daniel Kearns
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Multiple meetings were allowed per turn but you could not question the same player twice in the same turn.

Also, we did not allow people to question the ambassador twice in one turn. We couldn't tell but this seemed to be a logical extension of the above rules.

Honestly, I can't remember if double questions were a huge factor in slowing the game down or not. You will probably be surprised, as I was, at just how difficult it is to move anywhere. You just don't often have the opportunity to question twice. Still, the one meeting per turn seems very appropriate. I would recommend it.

Shaking before the end of the last turn is a good idea. But it is obnoxiously loud and distracting and our Analysis Paralysis player did not like feeling rushed. laugh "Oh you're thinking? Lemme just *RACKA RACKA RACKA*..."

I'm thinking of a variant of banishment in which you send the person you questioned anywhere on the board but ADJACENT to another colored pawn.

Good luck with your first game. I suspect that it is good. I just wasn't prepared for certain aspects.

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Nick Stables
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Thanks for the insight, and I think I'll point out to other players that the "Racka Racka Racka" noise means "hurry up!!". I'll let you know how the first session goes.
Nick
 
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Andrew H
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here's another idea for the phantom. Take out one ball to make the balls move around more easily- no series of the same result over and over. Specificly take out one white ball- far less likely to have a series of very limited movement turns.

I haven't played yet but it seems like an obvious improvement if the game is frustrating or slow.
 
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Jim Cote
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2.5 hours eh? Did you find it took a lot of "questions" to make deductions? I think in my last game, I found all 3 complete identities with only 5 or 6 questions, and I don't think players were trying to give away too much info.
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