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Subject: How this game changed my life. Twice. rss

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Paul
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Ok, cutting to the chase - the first way this game changed my life in a significant way is that it was the game that led me here to Board Game Geek. I'd always liked games, but for the last few pre-Ingenious years I'd only been playing the likes of Scrabble or Trivial Pursuit (or much more commonly computer games). After snapping up a copy of Ingenious on release, it was an instant hit amongst my friends, and I ended up finding this site while trying to find out more about it. I ultimately registered as a Geek to post a strategy article that I had written, then went dormant for a couple of years.

You'll have to read the rest of the review to find out how Ingenious changed my life again. This is what is commonly known as a teaser, and is a cheap narrative trick to get you to read my review.


A ROSE BY ANY OTHER NAME...

Ingenious is a bit like an international spy. It uses many aliases, has a way with the ladies, packs plenty of firepower and kicks some serious ass.

Across most of the world, it is known as either Ingenious or Simply Ingenious in the local language (e.g. Einfach Genial in its native German tongue). The British version is named Mensa Connections, due to a licensing agreement with British Mensa. Since I'm a Brit and own Mensa Connections, I've used this name (or more commonly abbreviated to Connections) for a long time, but I have come to believe that the Mensa brand has hurt the success of this game in the UK. Too many times I've seen people dismiss it in the belief that it's either going to be boring, or beyond their capabilities. In recent years I've seen copies of Ingenious being more widely available (I even played a copy recently on a British cruise ship, which I found nestling amongst the likes of Monopoly and Uno), and Mensa Connections appears to be on the wane. For these reasons, and because there is a large representation of Americans on this site, I'm going to call it Ingenious for the remainder of this article, even though it makes me feel a little bit dirty.


INTRODUCTION

Ingenious is an abstract strategy game from Reiner Knizia for 1-4 players, first released in 2004. Players take turns to place tiles with two of six coloured symbols onto the board and aim to score as many points as possible on each colour track.


COMPONENTS

1 game board
4 tile racks
120 double-hexagon tiles (6 of each two-colour combination, and 5 of each double)
24 wooden scoring cubes (4 each of the six colours used within the game)
1 tile bag (with a drawstring inside the lining - sometimes people play for years without finding this!)
1 rules sheet


RULES

The two-player game uses the central white area of the board; with a third player, the light grey ring of hexagons is added, and with four players the entire board is used.

Each player has a rack of six tiles. The rules state that the youngest player goes first; in practice, especially when playing multiple games, people tend to rotate starting player. On each turn, a player plays one tile from his or her rack, scores as appropriate and then draws a replacement tile. Throughout the first round, each player must play a tile next to a different one of the six printed symbols on the board; from the second round onwards players are free to play anywhere on the board - even if this does not score, or match any other tile.

The game uses six colours, each with a distinct symbol (useful for colour-blind players); each tile is two joined hexagons, each containing one of these symbols. Players can potentially score for both symbols on the tile; counting out from each symbol, players score 1 point for that colour every matching connected symbol in each of the five straight lines leading outwards. The tile itself is not scored. Each colour is scored separately on its own colour track. There are two additional rules which generally become relevant later in the game.

1) On any turn a player reaches the maximum score of 18 on any of these colours, they declare 'Ingenious' and get to play another tile from their rack; a player can claim multiple extra moves in one turn if they achieve sufficient Ingeniouses. Once the tile(s) have been scored, the player refreshes their hand i.e. draws tiles from the bag up to a full hand of six.

2) After playing their tile(s), if a player has no tiles on their rack which contain their current lowest scoring colour (or no tiles containing any of their joint lowest scoring colours), the player may opt to swap their tiles instead of refreshing. They reveal their tiles to prove they qualify, draw a new hand of six tiles from the bag, then replace their discarded tiles into the bag.

The game ends once there are no spaces left on the board where a tile can be placed, or when any player reaches a score of 18 on all six colours. Players rank their scores from low to high; the highest low score wins. In the event of a tie, proceed to the next lowest score until a winner is determined. A draw only happens when all six ranked scores are identical.

The rules are very simple to teach, although some people struggle with the scoring.


GAMEPLAY

Ingenious can be played on many levels. Youngsters just wanting to match tiles can have a fun time, but there is much more strategic depth available if you want it. Learning to block effectively is an essential part of mastering this game, as is tile management and forward planning.

Ingenious plays very differently with different numbers of players. Rules are included for solo play as an individual challenge. This is a nice bonus, but I have never really felt the need to play solo. 2 player is where this game really shines. It can be played in as little as 15 minutes between fast players, and the tactical depth really comes into its own. There are still elements of luck involved with the tile draw, but less than many people imagine - a good player can mitigate the risks and use whatever comes out. With 3-4 players, the game becomes much more random. You have less control over the board, which can change dramatically between one turn and the next - which also leads to a slower game, as you have less idea in advance what your following move will be. It can still be fun, but for me 2p will always be the 'pure' game. Between players of similar ability there appears to be a slight advantage to the first player, so I would recommend alternating start player across multiple games.

Some common complaints about the components are that both the board and the scoring tracks are susceptible to great disruption if knocked. Jostling the tile rack can also cause a cascade of tiles all over the place. Fair comments. These were addressed in the 2-player travel version, but they also altered the tile mix and drastically hurt the dynamics of the game. As long as you play reasonably carefully, the knockability shouldn't be too much of a problem.


CONCLUSION

I have literally played this game many hundreds of times; it's quick and has a 'just one more' factor which often leads to multiple plays within a session. Although it doesn't hit the table very often any more, that's not a poor reflection on Ingenious itself, and it will always remain a firm 10 in my rankings. Which leads me on to the second way this game changed my life.

Thanks to an Ingenious tournament, I met a wonderful girl who later became my girlfriend, and then my fiancee - I look forward to the day I can call her my wife. She introduced me to more board games, which led to me replacing my Ingenious obsession with a more rounded boardgame obsession in general. She means the world to me, and no matter what gaming delights are created in the future, Ingenious will always hold a special place in my heart for introducing me to the love of my life.
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Andy Andersen
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Re: How this game change my life. Twice.
Good story and even better game. My wife and I found this early in our "return to gaming" tour. We still play it fairly frequently.

edit: Great story and.......................
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"Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle." - Philo
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"Men do not quit playing because they grow old; they grow old because they quit playing." - Oliver Wendell Holmes, Associate Justice of the Supreme Court
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Re: How this game change my life. Twice.
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chris schott
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Re: How this game change my life. Twice.
An assassin once made an attempt on my life, but the bullet was stopped by a copy of Ingenious that I had stuffed in my pants, thus saving my life.
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Henrik Lantz
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Re: How this game change my life. Twice.
This is just a great review. Wonderful!
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Charles Hasegawa
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Re: How this game change my life. Twice.
spacerx wrote:
An assassin once made an attempt on my life, but the bullet was stopped by a copy of Ingenious that I had stuffed in my pants, thus saving my life.

What kind of assassin shoots you in the pants?
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Randall Bart
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Baseball been bery bery good to me
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Re: How this game change my life. Twice.
Tatsu wrote:
What kind of assassin shoots you in the pants?

A very short one.
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Paul
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Re: How this game change my life. Twice.
Well, I'm ashamed of myself. I hate making typos...to have one in the actual title is just inexcusable!
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Paul
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fitzyfitz wrote:
Well, I'm ashamed of myself. I hate making typos...to have one in the actual title is just inexcusable!


And for some reason I thought you couldn't change a thread title. Glad to be proved wrong.
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Peter Rice
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You should have recognized the assassin before he shot; his gun was cocked.
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John Heynes
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The table bump issue doesn't really affect the color scoring track in the new version because they have upgraded it to have pegs which keep everything in place.
 
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Johan Haglert
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Can one build much of a strategy in this game (guess placing so you get a better chance of grabbing more of the color you lacks the most the next turn) or is it mostly tactical there you place where it seems the best for this round and that's it?

Guess one could also look at the other peoples .. or well, you don't see their chips so no ..

What I'm fishing for is how "deep" it is. To just lay a tile feels like it may be more fun because you don't need to think much but on the other side why does it wear the mensa label if that's all there is to it?
 
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Johan Haglert
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Ahhh.. You can block availability of the tiles the others lack by trying to build them in. Interesting. Are there any other strategic elements going on?

Edit: Uhm... And then there's blocking potential good rows for someone lacking in them vs focusing on your own scoring I suppose.
 
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Paul
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To answer your questions, the game can be played on different levels. Some people just try and get the best score they can achieve this round. Others may play tactically, attempting to block their opponents or gain an advantage in a particular colour. At a higher level, there are more strategic options available whereby you can plan a few moves ahead: building formations on the board which will complement your own tiles for future moves; holding back key tiles to place at an opportune moment; systematically blocking off a colour in which your opponent is weak; choosing whether to swap tiles and managing your hand to enable this if you want to; planning for gaining points in colours where you are weak (and this doesn't necessarily mean grabbing them at the first opportunity).

Realistically you won't be in a position to accurately plan more than two or three turns ahead in detail, but there are broader strategic elements such as recognising early on which colour is likely to be the lowest-scoring at the end of the game, or capitalising on any flaws you see in your opponent's style (such as failing to block). It's difficult to explain to people, they either seem to 'get it' or not. There's certainly enough depth here to distinguish between players of differing abilities. A good player will usually defeat a weaker one, which to my mind proves that the best choices aren't always obvious.

Of course, this only really works well with the 2-player game. In 3 and especially 4 player games your moves are more likely to react to what's currently on the board. You can still try and apply similar strategies but they become more diluted.
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