When I first learned about Inotaizu, the historical theme interested me. I was not previously aware of Tadataka Ino, and the idea of a game involving cartography in Japan during the 1800s intrigued me. I was charmed by the box art and after reading the review "Surveying the Innovative Inotaizu game" I decided to take a chance and contacted the designer Kenichi Tanabe to order the game.
I don't want to duplicate the work of the other review; instead, here's a brief description of the game:
Each player (in colors Blue, Red, White, and Yellow) gets 20 ryo (paper money in 1s and 5s), 6 action cards, 5 discs used on the main board, 3 assistants, and 8 cubes.
There's 5 rounds of play. Each round has 6 phases, but players only make decisions during phase 1 and 2. The other phases are quickly done.
There's two boards.
The main board is the focus of phase 1 and contains a main score track and three progress tracks.
The "round board" is the focus of phase 2 and marks the progress of the game.
In phase 1, players turns placing action cards on the main board and eventually "claim action rows" to have actions used in phase 2.
In phase 2, actions gathered in phase 1 are taken. Action usually have multiple options, so you'll have to decide which option to use.
Actions can do many things and generally cost ryo, so there's a lot to think about.
Instead of going over all the actions here, I'd like to point out three things:
1. Assistants are sent to the map tiles adjacent to the round board. There's ten maps in play at any one time, and 22 different maps total.
2. Map tiles with assistants can then be surveyed by marking them with cubes (there's 2 to 4 circles on the maps for this) which indicate the progress of time.
3. Map tiles fully surveyed are then scored based on placed the cubes. Scored tiles are removed from the game and replaced by new tiles.
In phase 3, dice are rolled which represent Tadataka Ino's surveying. This adds brown cubes to map tiles. These cubes act like another player and can complete map tiles and cause them to be scored, but the brown cubes themselves have no value to the players.
In phase 4 completed map tiles are scored, in phase 5 players earn income, and in phase 6 some additional scoring happens.
At the end of five rounds some additional final scoring occurs that can change the balance of the game.
If I had to describe Inotaizu using other games I own, I'd say it mixes something like the distribution round of At the Gates of Loyang, placement of people in a way that if you squint might remind you of Carcassonne, and managing time, actions, and money like Le Harve.
In At the Gates of Loyang, each round has a "distribution phase" where players get dealed cards, and then take turns placing these cards in a common Courtyard, and eventually leave the distribution phase by claiming one card still remaining in their hand with a card that had been placed in the Courtyard. In Inotaizu, each player has six cards that allow various actions. During "phase 1," they take turns placing these cards on the main board and then deciding if they want to claim a row of actions and leave the phase, or remain in the phase and risk another player claiming a row first. However, if you claim a row and leave the phase you won't have as many actions, and other players might have an advantage. The mechanisms of the two games are quite different, but both games have an idea of starting with one set of potential actions and interacting with the other players to resolve that into actual actions.
In Carcassonne you place meeples on tiles to score a feature on that tile. In Inotaizu you place assistants on tiles in order to place cubes to score. Unlike Carcassonne, multiple players can be on the same tile, and if two or more players manage to get cubes on a tile they share in the scoring of that tile. This feels a little like how in Carcassonne players can have meeples on separate features on separate tiles that eventually get connected and they share points if no one has a majority. It's really nothing like Carcassonne overall, but just this one aspect feels similar to me.
In Le Harve, the enemies are time and money. No matter what you only have a certain number of actions to gather resources and pull off your strategy. The main point of the game is to earn money, and buying buildings and ships can save you valuable actions. In Inotaizu, you'll never have more than 25 actions in a game. There's many things you'd like to do, but you can't do them all because most actions cost ryo and you never have enough. In the final scoring of the game the player with the most money gains points, and the player with the least money loses points. In both games I'm trying to plan out how many actions I have left and trying to manage my money effectively.
I'm not saying that if you like the three games I mentioned you'll like Inotaizu, as they are very different games overall. I happen to like all the mentioned games, but the point of those comparisons is to give an idea to someone who hasn't seen Inotaizu something for comparison. These particular elements stood out for me.
Some final points:
* I like how you can interfere with other players but it doesn't feel extremely confrontational. If someone places an action and takes a row you wanted, then you'll still get other actions and you will likely have more actions than that other player. If someone is getting close to finishing a larger map tile you may be able to get your assistant there and place the final cube to get some of the awarded points.
* I like the phase 3 Ino mechanism as it adds a bit of randomness to the game but not enough to overwhelm anything.
* I really like the number of different things to do. The three progress tracks are interesting to me.
* I love that this plays much faster than Le Harve. I like Le Harve better overall, but this is a great shorter game that works similar areas of my brain in different ways.
I've written a session report that I hope gives some idea of how the game plays.
- Last edited Sat May 8, 2010 5:16 am (Total Number of Edits: 1)
- Posted Sat May 8, 2010 12:21 am
I really appreciate the review. I've been eyeing this game for a little while now. I've really loved the one programming game that I've tried, Space Alert, and this looks to have a bit of that, but with opponent interaction, as well.
The one thing I'd love to know is how complex the decisions/strategies are. The last time I splurged on a game that looked intriguing, Peloponnes, it turned out to be substantially lighter than I thought. Just on depth/challenge/complexity, is this closer to Ticket to Ride or Le Havre in your eyes?
Also, how long does an average game take you?
The box claims 60-90 minutes, but I think it's probably closer to 45-60 mins once you've played a couple of times. The game I recorded the other day for the session report took a little over an hour, and that was with my taking notes and pictures. Previously, the longest part of games was deciphering the rules, but I've rewritten the English rules and Kenichi is now including those rules so I hope that helps people get acclimated to the game quickly.
The game could easily take longer if someone is prone to AP, but if that was a a problem I'd add a timer or mock the AP player into putting a card down or taking an action.
Inotaizu is between Ticket to Ride and Le Harve in complexity, I'd say closer to Le Harve but honestly, I don't even find Le Harve really complex.
In a way, I think of Le Harve is sort of like Ticket to Ride mixed with a CCG like Magic the Gathering or Pokemon. In Ticket to Ride you either draw cards or play a track. Likewise, in Le Harve you either take a resource or enter a building. The complexity of Le Harve is that you generally have a lot of options to choose from. But each individual option isn't that hard to understand: enter the Bakehouse building and turn your wheat into bread, for example. The trick of Le Harve is in figuring out the order to do things just like in Magic you can generally figure out what each individual card does, but figuring out how to combo cards to maximize their benefits isn't immediately obvious.
Inotaizu revolves around the actions you can take, but there's only six cards. Four of the six cards have multiple options on the front, and all six have one additional option on the back, but the total number of action choices to learn is 12 total on the cards.
I took a picture of the action cards and described them:
So if you have card four as your action, you have to decide if you want to spend 5 ryo to place two assistants, or 8 ryo to place three assistants, or do the reverse action and spend 2 ryo to place one assistant. None of these actions is hard to understand by itself.
But consider this situation:
You're playing Blue and this is the round board going into round 3. You have no assistants on the board right now so you need to place some. How many do you place? Where? Do you place assistants on the map tiles occupied by Yellow as both Government 3 and Ino 2 tiles need one cube to complete and you can possibly match Yellow for those points? Do you join Red on the Farmer 4 and Government 4 and try to get cubes there since Red hasn't made progress there yet? Or do you go after one of the other map tiles? If you are Yellow and Blue joins you, do you try to finish the tiles first, or take an action to move your assistant elsewhere and start a new map?
Once you figure out what you want to do, you need to figure out which cards to play where, anticipating where the other players might play and having backup plans if someone claims a row you had hoped for. Then once you are in phase 2, you need to be adjustable and change your plans if necessary to compensate for the other players doing things you didn't expect or for not having the right action at the right time.
- Last edited Sat May 8, 2010 5:19 am (Total Number of Edits: 4)
- Posted Sat May 8, 2010 4:49 am