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Subject: Session Report rss

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Yehuda Berlinger
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Josh 14, Jon 11, Binyamin 9, Nadine 7

Michal 11, Itamar 10

I was happy and surprised when I saw this new game from Reiner Knizia already translated and showing up in stores in Israel. A new game, and a supposedly good one at that, already on Israel's shelves, and in the normal toy stores, to boot. If you want to buy it here, it is called Hiburim and it is a reasonable price of 165 NIS which is about $35.

Binyamin brought it over and it is every bit as good as Blokus, another recent tile-laying game. There are many differences, of course. We are talking Knizia, here. That means that everyone is playing is all the colors at once and your score is your progress in your lowest color. For convenience, each color is also associated with a unique shape.

Each player has a hand of six domino-like tiles. Each tile is built from two attached hexagons, and each hexagon has one of the six colors on it. Unlike dominoes, however, you can place the tile anywhere you want on the hexagonal grid board. Each time you play, you score as follows: for each side of the piece played, count the number of other tiles with the same color in an uninterrupted straight line radiating out from that side of the tile. The lines radiate in five directions from the hexagonal side of your piece, not counting the side attached to the other half of your tile. Score that many points in that color.

A simple illustration clarifies this easily, of course.

There are two special rules: If you find yourself with no tiles of the color as your least color, you may exchange all of your tiles and draw back up to six, instead of just drawing back up to six as usual. And if you reach 18 in a color, then anytime you play a tile which scores points in that color, you don't get the points in that color (18 is the max) but instead you get to place an additional tile. You can play all six tiles in one round this way, if you are so lucky.

That last one is incredibly important, and it is worth you while to get to 18 as soon as possible in at least one color. Odds being what they are, you then will likely always be able to play at least three tiles a round instead of just one.

Update: I took a gander at BGG and it looks like we played with a major rule wrong. The rules seem to indicate that you get the bonus tile only once when reaching 18, and not endlessly each time you play more points in the color. I think this makes more sense.

The game ends when there is no legal space left to play, or someone gets to 18 in all of his or her colors.

The obvious question is: how much is luck, and how much is tactics (there is no strategy here, other than "get to 18 in a color as soon as possible")? And the answer is: I can't tell from one play, but I think there may be a lot less luck than appears. For one thing, because you can play wherever you want, you can carefully play to block lines of color that you no longer need but others do. Also, having a hand of 6 tiles is a great mitigation; it would be much different if you just picked a tile from the pool each round.

However, as usual in games like this, with equally matched players, the luck becomes more pronounced rather than less pronounced as the game continues and you are waiting for that specific piece or handful of pieces. The first one to draw it then gains a huge advantage. Also, the one to control the final positions on the board also has a huge advantage, and it is not clear to me how much control one has over this. Obviously more in two-player than in four-player.

Update: I took a gander at BGG and discovered that it is common for new players to play "nice", resulting in high scores. Once we start playing more cutthroat, blocking lines of tiles and so on, it should become more tense. I'm trying to figure out how you can block others effectively (as opposed to just generally) without having to sacrifice your point scoring in the process.

Anyway, I certainly enjoyed my first playing and look forward to playing again. In our game, I was first to get to 18 in a color, quickly followed by Josh. Even though we were both now playing three tiles per round compared to one by the other players, we technically weren't winning yet, because our lowest colors were still on par with them. Therefore, the person who would play the last tile would decide who won and that was Josh. Who won.

Later in the evening, Itamar and Michal showed up and they played this 2-player while waiting for another game to open up. I believe they enjoyed it.
 
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Randall Bart
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Shade_Jon wrote:
And if you reach 18 in a color, then anytime you play a tile which scores points in that color, you don't get the points in that color (18 is the max) but instead you get to place an additional tile. You can play all six tiles in one round this way, if you are so lucky.


You can only get Ingenious once per color.
 
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