Yinsh Review

Yinsh game in play

One of the newest board games that I have been able to play has been Yinsh, so I figure its time for a review

In Yinsh, each of the players starts with 5 rings of their color, and the object is to have 5 dots in a row of their color. The first person to do this 3 times is the winner. In order to get dots, you are able to place a dot inside any of your rings. Once you have placed the dot, you must then "jump" your ring to another location along any of the lines that it intersects. There are some rules about jumping, but you essentially are able to jump over already placed dots while doing this, but all the dots that are jumped are flipped over to the other side - both yours and your opponents. This continues until someone gets 5 dots in a row. At that point, the 5 dots are removed from the board, and the player who successfully got the 5 in a row must remove one of his rings and place it on the scoring track. This then leaves that player at a disadvantage as the game continues because he will have less movement options and defensive abilities (a player cannot jump over a ring, so you can put them in the way of your opponent in order to prevent him from jumping your dots).

Yinsh really forces players to think differently. There is no luck involved in the game - the entire outcome rests on the plays of each player, similarly to Chess, Othello, Hive and several other games. Along with this, the strategy in Yinsh is far different from most traditional board games, which I count as a definite advantage for the game.  You must think through spatial strategies as opposed to normal point gathering (or war) strategies.

Another very nice thing about Yinsh is that it is an awesome balance between easy to learn and difficult to master. After playing a few games, I knew how all of the mechanics worked, but I still did not feel like I was very good at the game - and yet, I still enjoyed playing it.  I know that it is often common to like or dislike a game based on how well you do in your first few plays, but I do not think that people will form their opinion this way in Yinsh.

A third nice feature of Yinsh is that nobody really "dominates" the game. Even if I were to play it against someone that was much better than myself, I do not think that I would ever get the hopeless feeling that comes with watching your opponent have an insurmountable advantage in a game (like in Monopoly when your opponent has everything and you have a single railroad). In Yinsh, because of how quickly the dots can flip and the fact that winning gives you a disadvantage, there is always the feeling of hope, even if your opponent is winning 2 rings to none.

The only thing I can think of to say in the way of "con's" for Yinsh is that some people may not like the spatial reasoning of the game. If you do not like games like this where you must determine the best placement of pieces and flipping pieces, etc, then you will not enjoy this game.

Overall, I give Yinsh a 9.0/10. It is a nice, simple game that I can see myself playing often and enjoying, and I would recommend that everyone try it out for themselves.  I try to reserve 9.0 and above for games that I can see people getting together with the sole intention of playing that game (which is why as an example, Tsuro did not get as high of a score even though it is a great game), and the more I think about Yinsh the more I see it being able to fall into that category.

If you want another opinion on Yinsh, check out this Yinsh Review from the Board Game Family. Or, if you want to read about similar games, you might check out Gipf, Pentago, and Ingenious.


  1. Yinsh is on my Christmas wish list. Your review just confirms that I should keep it at the top of that list.

  2. I used to hate Yinsh at first but once you realise that it is more about strategy than about tactic things become a lot more fun.
    The basic strategy is to build up your position and to build it up in a way that can not be attacked you need to do gradually build up from the sides of the board towards the center. Don't start randomly setting your pieces and don't start in the center. Remember that it is not necessaryly a bad thing to let your opponent lead in number of Yinsh made : he'll be handicapped and it may very well be that handicap that eventually allows you to win.