One of the most fun traits of Inis is the geopolitical maneuvering players execute in their climb to victory. This hinges on the unique characteristics of the territories and their Advantage cards. Here is a provisional glance at the tactical applications the territories and their respective Advantage cards provide.
Triskel - After you play a Season card, take the Action card that was set aside during the Assembly phase and add it to your hand. Then set aside 1 Action card from your hand.
The Cove card is a useful card in especially tight games where each player is drafting well. The chieftain of the Cove is able to be a little more flexible than his opponents with use of this card. This card could be played early in the round if one’s hand is not satisfactory, or later in the round after other Action cards have been played and the identity of the card set aside has been deduced. Note that the player may choose to return the same card he just picked up--he is not restricted to discarding a card he had before playing this.
Triskel - After you play an Epic Tale card, draw 1 Epic Tale card.
The Forest card is arguably the strongest Advantage card in the game. Not only does it allow the player to maintain card advantage, but it does so with the powerful Epic Tale cards. With repeated plays, this card will cycle through the Epic Tale cards quickly. In contrast to some of the other Advantage cards related to Epic Tale cards, this card retains its full strategic value for the duration of the game. The Forest should be a hotly contested area for control in any game, and, if appearing at the beginning of the game, every player should consider placing a starting clan here.
Obviously, the chieftain of the Forest should prioritize drafting the Bard, Master Craftsman and Sanctuary card in order to gain Epic Tales cards. Successfully drafting and playing the Sanctuary card frequently will enable the chieftain of the Forest to concurrently progress towards the Religion victory condition, though it may be best for the player doing this to place Sanctuaries outside of the Forest to prevent that territory from becoming more attractive to invading players than it already is.
Gates of Tir Na Nog
Triskel - When resolving the Gates of Tir Na Nog’s territory effect, draw 1 more Epic Tale card, choose 1 to keep, and discard the rest.
The Gates of Tir Na Nog territory has a unique mechanic attached to the Assembly phase step of flipping the Flock of Crows token. It reads on the territory tile:
“If the turn direction changes during the Assembly phase, each player present in this territory loses 1 of his clans from this territory and draws 1 Epic Tale card.”
Generally, it is a good idea for everyone to have clans present here, because if planned appropriately, the trade-off between drawing an Epic Tale card and losing a clan here is an excellent one, particularly early in the game. If a player does endeavor to be present in this territory, he must be not only willing but also planning to lose a clan.
As one of the few territories that comes with a Sanctuary already on it, presence here does lend itself to pursuing the Religion victory condition. This combined with the chance to draw an Epic Tale card every Assembly phase makes this an attractive territory begin in, but also to invade. Because of a higher chance of clashing and the risk of losing a clan during the Assembly phase, there is a slight danger to depending on this territory to fulfill a victory condition. Note that the danger is not for the current round but for the next round, because victory conditions are checked before the Flock of Crows token is flipped during the Assembly phase (though there is one other possible instance of the Flock of Crows token being flipped with The Morrigan card.)
The Gates of Tir Na Nog card itself is not especially powerful, but it is a nice bonus for the chieftain to have more options when the territory effect occurs. This is one of the few cards that is played outside of the Season phase.
Triskel - At the start of a clash in the Highlands, choose 1 player with 1 or more exposed clans. The chosen player becomes the instigator of this clash.
The advantage of the Highlands card is that the chieftain in possession of it may always choose to attack first. Normally, whoever initiates the clash in any given territory would be the first to perform a maneuver, but with this card, the Highlands chieftain may play it and choose to become the instigator himself. He may then perform any maneuver before anyone else involved in the clash. This by itself will discourage a neighbor from invading the Highlands, who is at risk of losing a clan right away in the clash just for upsetting the peace.
This lends itself to territory defense that is better than most; however, the player here must make the card advantageous for himself--if there is no strategic value to the Highlands, the area may not see much action. This can be done if the chieftain builds up the Highlands with Citadels and Sanctuaries, or if the Capital is placed here at the beginning of the game.
Triskel - When an Attack maneuver is performed against you in the Hills, ignore the attack; you do not remove a clan or discard an Action card.
In much the same way as the Highlands, the Hills territory is an easier territory for its chieftain to defend than others, and following this course, the Hills chieftain can prioritize the Sanctuary card to place his religious centers here for a turtling strategy.
It is strictly inferior to Highlands, however, because the Hills card lacks the aggression factor the Highlands card has, so constructing Citadels here may be more important here than for the Highlands chieftain, who can threaten to attack anyone who initiates a clash in his territory.
Triskel - When you perform an Attack maneuver, the attacked player must both remove 1 exposed clan and discard 1 Action card.
The Iron Mine card is a powerful card that can combine with many other clash-related Triskel cards to debilitate an opponent during battle. It is most strategically used with in combination with Bard. The chieftain should use Iron Mine as he attacks to guarantee removing an opponent’s clan in battle and then use the Triskel effect of the Bard to gain a Deed. Accordingly, the chieftain of the Iron Mine should always draft Bard whenever possible.
The aggressive nature of this card can make for interesting scenarios. In a multiplayer game, smart opponents could choose to draft as many clash-initiating Action cards in order to prevent the Iron Mine player from being able to start a clash in the Season. Furthermore, the Iron Mine chieftain may find that he is threatening enough with this card that no one will want to attack him, or vice versa, that he is ganged up on. Either way, this powerful card can sway game balance more than most other Advantage cards.
Triskel - After you play a Season card, move any 1 clan from a territory adjacent to the Lost Vale into it. This move does not initiate a clash.
The Lost Vale territory is most useful for the player trying to pursue the Leadership victory condition, because this Advantage card is one of only two cards in the game that allows a player to move one of his opponent’s clans into a territory without initiating a clash. This is obviously most effectively used to move an opposing clan into the Lost Vale to meet the Leadership victory condition, but it is also useful for a player to retain chieftain status of the territory by bringing in one of his one clans. The chieftain of the Lost Vale should build up sufficient forces here to maintain control of the area, while simultaneously building Sanctuaries here or otherwise making the territory attractive to other players. This helps the chieftain advance onto the Leadership win condition and have options for the other two victory conditions as well.
If this territory is one of the starting territories, the first Brenn may decide to give the Lost Vale strategic value by placing the Capital there. This attracts other players who wish to compete for the title of Brenn to the area. If the Lost Vale chieftain can hold onto the title of Brenn, he is in a good position to win, as he may easily gain the Leadership condition and is able to break any ties that occur. To do this, however, he may have to focus his game solely on securing the Lost Vale and the surrounding areas. Constructing Citadels and routinely playing Craftsmen & Peasants and New Clans may be necessary to ensure success of this turtling strategy.
If nothing else, this Advantage card can be used situationally to move an enemy clan into the Lost Vale and reduce an opponent’s reach for the another victory condition. This simple play can sometimes be enough to stall any opponent.
Triskel - When you draw an Epic Tale card, draw 1 more Epic Tale card; choose 1 to keep and discard the rest.
The Meadows card is another useful card for the player gathering Epic Tale cards. The chieftain of the Meadows should prioritize Sanctuary, Bard and Master Craftsman to put this card to good use. This is a solid card to have, especially considering that Epic Tale cards tend to be circumstantially beneficial, so having more options while drawing them can make a significant difference.
If possible, the Meadows chieftain should pursue being chieftain of the Forest, Gates of Tir Na Nog, and/or Misty Lands territories as well, as play of this card with those Advantage cards will help set up dynamic Epic Tale card synergies later in the game. If a player is able to achieve this scenario, they will accrue some substantial Epic Tale firepower.
Season - Discard 1 or more Actions cards to draw that number of Epic Tale cards. Choose 1 to keep and discard the rest.
Because this is one of only three Advantage cards that are also Season cards, and it gives the player an Epic Tale card, it is one of the best territories to claim as chieftain. Early- to mid-game especially, the chieftain of the Misty Lands should play this card often and gain as many Epic Tale cards as quickly as possible while all the players are still far off from their victory condition goals. If prioritizing cards that give Epic Tale cards as well, it is quite possible for this player to gain multiple Epic Tale cards in a round, which is an incredible investment, especially early on in the game.
Combining this Advantage card with the Meadows card can nullify the need to discard Action cards for more Epic Tale options. Otherwise, it is not normally advantageous to discard many Action cards, especially as players begin to clash more and clans on the board increase in value. Discarding extra cards for options is more likely in a two-player game than a multiplayer game.
Triskel - At any time, look at the Epic Tale cards in 1 opponent’s hand.
The Moor card is a straightforward yet easily underestimated card. The ability to look at any opponent’s Epic Tale cards provides momentous intelligence that can inform a player’s tactical decisions. It is also the only card in the game that can be played at any time.
Triskel - When you move 1 or more clans to the Mountains, ignore the Mountains’ territory effect.
The Mountains territory is the most suitable location for a turtling strategy. To a greater degree than even the Highlands and the Hills, this territory discourages players from sending their clans into it. This is not because of the ability of the territory’s Advantage card, but the harsh feature of the territory itself. It reads on the territory tile:
“When 1 or more clans are moved to this territory, their owner must discard 1 Action card or lose 1 of his clans from this territory.”
This is not only obviously stronger than the use of the Highlands or Hills cards, which can only be played once per round, but it is also not exclusive for the chieftain of the territory. For this reason, any player aiming for the Religion win condition from the start should prioritize initial placement in the Mountains if it appears at the beginning of the game.
Note that as the Mountains territory is such an exceptional location for Sanctuaries, it is a common battlefield when initiated by the play of the Warlord card, which allows clashes to be started in a territory without anyone entering that territory.
The Mountains card itself provides the chieftain a once-per-Season exception to the toll the Mountains demand from those who enter. Note that the territory rule applies in all circumstances where a clan is moved into the Mountains, including such mundane movements as withdrawing there during a clash, so it is sure to be a useful card for the chieftain there.
Season - Move 1 or more clans from the Plains to 1 or more adjacent territories.
The Plains card has essentially the same effect as the Migration card, and for that reason is a great card for the player pursuing the Land victory condition. Additionally, it is one of three Advantage cards that is also a Season card, so possessing it increases a player’s card advantage. An obvious strategy with this card is to draft in such a way as to amass a large quantity of clans in the Plains, and then disperse them to the surrounding territories in an effort to gain the Land victory condition.
Triskel - After you play a Season card, randomly take 1 Action card from an opponent. Then give that player 1 of your Action cards.
The Salt Mine card is a strong play that can abruptly disrupt an opponent’s plan mid-Season phase. Optimal play of this card is following the Scouts & Spies card, but otherwise intelligent deduction often suffices in muddling an opponent’s goals that round. Note that, much like play of the Cove card, the player taking a card from an opponent can return the same card if they choose.
Triskel - After you play an Epic Tale card, you may remove 1 [of your own] clan[s] from the Stone Circle to take that Epic Tale card from the discard pile and add it back to your hand.
As a territory that begins with a Sanctuary, the Stone Circle is attractive to players seeking to win by Religion. Choosing to place an initial clan here puts a player one step closer to that win condition, as well as in contention for the right to the tremendous Stone Circle Advantage card.
The Stone Circle card is powerful for its ability to bring an Epic Tale card that has already been played back into the game. The penalty of removing one clan from the territory may make this card seem unappealing, but this is a common misconception. In the first stages of the game, there is a marked difference in strategic value between acquiring Epic Tale cards and having clans on the board. While clans are relatively easy to both be placed anew and likewise removed from the board, Epic Tale cards are difficult to acquire or lose, yet they represent great future investment for combo plays. For this reason, it is wise for anyone early on to emphasize a strategy prioritizing gaining Epic Tale cards rather than putting clans on the board. The power of the Stone Circle Advantage card follows this same line of strategy. Obviously, the Stone Circle chieftain must prioritize using Epic Tale cards early and often before putting this Advantage card to use. However, if the player stumbles upon a particular Epic Tale card suitable for their strategy and it benefits him to play that same Epic Tale repeatedly, this Advantage card is superb for that.
The tricky thing about the Stone Circle card is that its use directly undermines the player’s status as chieftain. The Stone Circle chieftain, in order to maintain his chieftain status there, must draft the appropriate Action cards that allow him to resupply his clans in the Stone Circle territory and help him maintain prominence as chieftain. This may require much of a player’s attention, and he may find that he is unable to devote many resources to other endeavors.
For this reason, the chieftain of the Stone Circle will find that achieving the Religion and Leadership conditions is more feasible than the Land win condition. As more Sanctuaries are built in the Stone Circle, players will begin jockeying to be present for the Religion victory condition. While this is happening, the Stone Circle chieftain may do his best to accomplish the Leadership win condition as well. Regardless, fighting in the Stone Circle is sure to be fierce throughout the entirety of the game.
Season - This card has no effect, but you can play it instead of passing.
This is the last of the three Advantage cards with Season effects and is probably the most understated of all the Advantage cards. Though it appears to be useless, its simple purpose is actually quite useful in manipulating the metagame that surrounds the passing mechanic. It allows the Swamp’s chieftain to essentially pass without passing, effectively lengthening the Season without risk of the Season ending too soon. Ideally, this means that the Swamp’s chieftain has a card advantage later in the round that will serve him well.
Triskel - After you play a Season card, place 1 clan in a territory where you are present.
While not particularly powerful, the Valley card is helpful for players pursuing the Leadership victory condition. Ideally, the Valley chieftain would use this card to establish chieftain status of any area he is in. In most situations, this should occur later in the Season when his opponent’s cards are spent.
If nothing else, this card puts a new clan on the board, which is helpful in many circumstances. It is, however, decidedly weaker than the Action cards that place new clans on the board.
Shouldn't Hills and Highland be functionally equivalent since they both simply shift who the first effective attacker is to the defending player ?
Shouldn't Hills and Highland be functionally equivalent since they both simply shift who the first effective attacker is to the defending player ?
If there are 4 people in the clash, Highlands lets you go first, while hills might protect you from 1 attack while having to endure 2 more before you get a turn.
Also note that highlands is played after the citadels step, so you can hide your clans, then say that you are the instigator and attack first.
Swamp is also nice when you want to pass on your first turn, but you also want to play that Cove card. Its a good way to get those "after playing a season card" effects while preserving your "real" season cards.
Another advantage of Highland in a 3+ player game, considering the crow flock and if you trust your allies, is that you need not choose yourself...
Excellent posts Joshua, you made my day
Thank you for taking the time to go through this. This is a deep, wonderfully dynamic, interactive, and strategic game. It's fun to read this and think about all the strategic possibilities.
Thanks for your interesting analysis! I personally can't wait for the expansion later this year that will add more territories to this list - they are certainly one of the best parts of the game
Excellent posts Joshua, you made my day