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Subject: This game was given the perfect name. It really is Ingenious! rss

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Ben Lott
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Mason
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Abstract strategy games (which I define as board games without a theme) intrigue me a great deal. I'm always amazed at how these games come with such a simple set of rules, and yet the strategy involved has a depth that you'd never suspect after learning the rules. So whenever I hear that there is a good multi-player abstract game, I am very interested in exploring what it has to offer. When I saw Ingenious on sale, there really wasn't anything that could hold me back from making a purchase. But did it contain that depth, or was the strategy as simple as the rules? Read on...

What do you get with Ingenious? In the box you get a rulebook, the game board, 4 individual player scoreboards, 4 sets of 6 different colored wooden cubes, 4 tile racks, and a big bag stuffed with a ton of tiles.

How does Ingenious work? Each player gets a tile rack, a scoreboard, and a set of wooden cubes. The cubes are placed on the matching color symbols on the far left of the scoreboards. Then each player draws 6 tiles from the bag. The tiles are all made up of 2 hexagons linked together, and each hexagon has one of the 6 colored symbols printed on it.

Players take turns playing one of their tiles to the board. They score one point for every same-symbol hexagon, which is connected through a straight path to their placed tile. Each half of the placed tile can score for tiles that radiate out from it in this fashion. The player moves the matching color cube(s) one space for each point they got in the color(s). Then they draw a new tile to replace the one played.

There are 2 special rules:
1. When a player draws a tile at the end of their turn, if they don't have any tiles of the color for which they currently have the lowest score, they can dump all their tiles and draw 6 new tiles.
2. When a player moves one of their score markers up to or past the last (18th) space on the scoreboard, they can immediately play another tile before drawing. (They then would draw more than one tile to get their rack back up to 6.)

The game ends when the board has filled up and no more tiles can be played. At that point each player only looks at how far they have moved their lowest scoring marker, and that is their final score. Whoever has the highest score wins.

What does Blott think of Ingenious? This game is so aptly named. The scoring system works perfectly here because you never really know whether to race up in order to hit the 18 with one color so you can play that extra tile, or slowly inch up all your cubes. The way that players can execute a number of different clever moves never ceases to amaze me. There are times when you will block out other players, and fight with defense. And there are times when you will just let a huge row of the same color accumulate so that you can get one big score. But that idea of your worst color being your score is really what makes this game shine. You are constantly battling with yourself wishing that you could get that one color to move faster, but it just continues to inch along.

Who will enjoy Ingenious? Ingenious is a great game for almost anybody. There is a great deal of strategic depth in the way you will play your tiles, but at the same time the rules are so simple that you can explain them to anyone. People with no experience gaming can learn every single rule in minutes and could even give a pro a run for his money. Those who value theme over mechanisms will undoubtedly be disappointed with the game, but at least the designer and publisher never even pretend that there is a theme involved. Also of note...each color also has a unique shape, so the game should be color-blind friendly.

Any parting comments about Ingenious? The one drawback to this game is the components. Now, don't get me wrong, the tiles are made of a decent plastic that is nice and sturdy, the bag is strong and holds all the tiles well, and the board is well-laid out with a pattern that is easy to see. However, Ingenious is one of the most frustrating "table-bump" games available. By that I mean that, with a simple bump of the table the entire board can be messed up beyond recovery, because there are no grooves to hold the tiles in place. Likewise, there isn't anything keeping the cubes in place on the scoreboards other than gravity. I really love this game and would recommend it as a great addition to anyone's collection, but don't ever play it on a shaky table or you'll never know who really won.
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Billy McBoatface
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I agree about the table bump. It's the scoring cubes that always get scrambled beyond repair for us. I keep thinking of making some cribbage-style scoreboards, but haven't gotten around to it yet.
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Snowball
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Quote:
What does Blott think of Ingenious?


Why does Blott speaks in 3rd person?
I surely like his review however.
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Marko Horvat
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Transitive and inversely well-founded frames spell FUN! http://yudkowsky.net/rational/lobs-theorem
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Actually, what you guys are talking about is one of the reasons I prefer the travel edition.

EDIT: Whoops... Intermezzo! The OP and the next guy.
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M K
Croatia
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Blott wrote:
However, Ingenious is one of the most frustrating "table-bump" games available. By that I mean that, with a simple bump of the table the entire board can be messed up beyond recovery, because there are no grooves to hold the tiles in place. Likewise, there isn't anything keeping the cubes in place on the scoreboards other than gravity. I really love this game and would recommend it as a great addition to anyone's collection, but don't ever play it on a shaky table or you'll never know who really won.

Hm, I have played numerous games of Ingenious, and the accidents like those mentioned NEVER happened to us.
I don't really agree about the main board being messed up so easily (it would take quite a bump), but I do agree that scoreboards can be risky if people aren't careful.
One small piece of advice is to hold scoreboards ABOVE the tile-holder because:
1) Your tiles are nearer to you.
2) Everyone can see the results of other players more clearly and most importantly:
3) There is definitely less chance of accidentally catching the wooden cubes with the sleeve while taking or playing tiles.

The reason I say this obvious thing is because I have seen lots of photos with people having their scoreboards below the tile-holder.

Regarding the title of the thread, I think Ingenious is only INGENIOUS with 2 players, because there are all sorts of strategies that arise that are pretty much impossible with more players because it's hard to block more people at the same time, and screwing only one often isn't a big enough gain in a 3 or 4 player game.
With 3 or 4 it's a great game too, but definitely more chaotic and luck-prone.
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Phil Thron
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Nice Review, Ben. You've captured my feelings about the game completely. It also works nicely as a solo game, though of course it's an exercise in trying to beat your own previous score. Works for me, though.

Agree completely about the board and the pieces. The bits are very nice indeed, but I concur that it would have added a great deal to have grooves in the board as well as the scoring cards. My OCD is driven nuts with the slightest shake near the tiles. I've thought about the travel edition for this very reason.

On a side note about the game: my sister visited a few months ago and fell in love with the game. (BTW, she also commented on the lack o' grooves). Her birthday is in August and I had planned on getting it for her as it would be an ocassion where a present was absolutely perfect. Anyway, 2 weeks ago she was in a very bad car accident (she's all right now, thank God) and I went immediately to the hospital to see her (she's in PA, I'm in Jersey). On the way out the door I grabbed my copy of the game. Once I got past seeing her in the hospital bed and realized that she would definitely be all right, I gave it to her, telling her I knew she'd be laid up for a while and would probably have some time on her hands. Well, she lit up like a Christmas tree. During her recovery she got her 5 year old son to play with her (he loved it) and, I believe, played a fair amount of solo games. But in the chaos of those first few hours, seeing her smiling and happy, even briefly, was worth the world.

Games can, indeed, be therapeutic.
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Andreas
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A very nice story indeed. I had the same feeling when I gave a game to a family (Zooloretto in my case). They were so incredulous (for us? to keep?) and got really good milage out of it in family time with their sometimes fiddly sons...
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