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Subject: Einfalls-Pinsel: a review after a few plays with my children rss

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Pieter Lust
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Einfalls-Pinsel is a game by Klaus Teuber. It came by chance into my collection: it was a prize I won in one the Spielbox magazine competitions. I didn't like it at first sight: party games are not my favourites. But my children (aged 7 and 10) saw it, and wanted to try it out. We had good fun, and we have played it a few times since then.
In this review, I'll try to give an overview of the gameplay, and then my appreciation of the game as a family game.

Gameplay

In Einfalls-Pinsel ('idea-brush') players are employees in a publicity agency. They must design images for billboards, book covers, and the like. The agency has a peculiar way of working: designs must be submitted before the campaign themes are known. Also, designers with a distinctive style are frowned upon.
The game is for 3 to 5 players. First each player must create three designs. Designs are made on paper approximately the size of a playing card (the box contains plenty of such paper). Designs must be kept secret from the other players. Each design is given a number by putting it in a numbered card sleeve. Then all designs are pooled and shuffled face down.
After this preparation comes a series of discussion rounds. One player is the moderator of the round. He draws a campaign theme from a deck of campaign cards. These are in German, and written in a tongue-in-cheek style. There's quite a lot of variation in the themes: the front page for a hardware mailorder catalog, advertising for an insurance company, a book cover for a vampire story, ... A few themes are not really suited for children: e.g. a detective agency specialising in proving adultery.
Three candidate designs for the theme are chosen at random from the pool. Then players discuss which candidate they consider best suited to the theme. When the moderator considers the discussion finished, everyone secretely votes. Each player has three points to distribute. He must give two of those to one design, and the remaining point to an other. All votes are revealed simultaneously. The points for each design are added and noted on the design. There's a bonus for consensus: players who gave two points to the same design receive game points.
After the discussion and the vote each player in turn, and starting with the moderator, gets a chance to identify a design. If you think for example that the yellow player made design nr. 6, then you put one of your meeples in a grid on the board, in the yellow box of row nr. 6. There can be at most one meeple in each box of the grid.
That ends the discussion round. The theme and the three designs are discarded. The moderator role goes to the player left of the previous moderator. A new round starts by drawing a new theme from the deck and three new candidate designs from the pool. When the pool is empty, all designs are reshuffled, and a second series of discussion rounds begins. Thus, each design is candidate for two different themes, and receives points twice.
The game ends when the pool is empty for the second time. For scoring, each design is considered in turn. Its designer claims it, and he adds its points to his score. If the design was identified correctly during the game, the identifying player receives 5 points. Otherwise, the designer receives 5 points. The player with most points wins (surprise, surprise).

Appreciation

The style of the game is dated, but the material is of good quality. The card sleeves are nice; without them the handling of the designs would be a lot more fiddly. There's plenty of drawing paper in the box, a pencil for each player, and even a die, which has no real function in the game. My only peeve is the score meeple for the brown player: its color is quite different from the brown that is used on the cards, and not much different from the red score meeple. The instructions are well written.
What I like best about the game is the drawing and the discussions. It's fun and revealing to see what drawings your children come up with, when they have to draw something that should convey "general purpose happiness". Airplanes and horses are favourites. And then things they see in real life commercial imagery: happy faces, or the word "NEW!". It's an exercise in creativity, and it makes you a bit more aware of the tricks in real commercials.
The discussions can be fun and tense. Do you try to advocate your own design, even if it's clearly not the best fit for the subject? How to choose between three poor alternatives? (Like an airplane, a horse, and a flower, when you need a billboard to advertise toothpaste. "Air hostesses have a beautiful smile." "Well yes, but that's a plane there and not a hostess. Flowers smell good. Maybe the toothpaste gives you a nice smelling breath." "I don't want my mouth to smell like flowers.") It's an exercise in arguing your opinion, and listening to the others. Often we can't agree, even with the incentive of the consensus points.
The German text on the cards is hard to translate faithfully (we're native Dutch speakers), but the essence of the text is usually quite clear. Also, the fact that the children can't read the cards makes it easy to modify the themes you don't want them to hear.
The scoring adds tension to the game, but feels a bit unbalanced. The identification points can add up to a lot, and getting them seems to be more a matter of luck in the turn order than of skill. The rules don't forbid identifying your own designs. That's an easy five points if you have the chance to do so. So we reduced the points for identification to four, and made a house rule that you can't identify your own designs.
To conclude: I like this game as a family game. It's fun, and there can be an educational side effect without that being blatantly obvious. I'm happy with my prize.
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