Ingenious Review

A game that I initially tried because there was an iPhone app for it was Ingenious (and if you notice from the picture, I actually had the Travel Edition).

Ingenious is an abstract spatial reasoning game. The game is played on a hexagonal shaped board in which players alternate placing pieces that are two hexes put together (like hex dominoes). After the first placement (in which players must place next to the symbols built into the board), the pieces can be placed anywhere on the board, but will primarily be placed next to other pieces with matching symbols. Once a piece is placed, you score points based on how many of the corresponding symbol are connected to the newly placed piece in each of the five lines beginning at the new tile (not going through the other half of the tile). If the newly placed tile causes the active player to score 18 in any of his colors, he can immediately place again. If not, he draws a new tile and then the other player takes his turn. Play goes on like this until no more tiles can be laid; at this point, whichever player has the highest number of points in his lowest scoring color/symbol is the winner (yes, it is by Reiner Knizia, in case you were wondering by this mechanic).

Let's begin with the paragraph that is in each of my spatial reasoning reviews: I don't really know how to express what I like about these games. I think other people had this issue, too, which is why they termed these games "abstract". So, if the rest of this review seems more like "rambling" (even more than normal) than it does "concise thoughts", you'll just have to get over that.

I really like how the placement of pieces works in the game. Especially because you can use pieces both offensively and defensively (and I imagine if I get better at the game, I'll be able to use them as both at the same time). You can use the pieces offensively by placing a color next to pre-existing tiles of the same color - this scores points and continuing the line of colors, but this also leaves it open for your opponent (or you on a future turn) to be able to score even more points. You can also play defensively by cutting off a long line of a single color by placing a different color at the end of it. However, then nobody will be able to score that line anymore. The ideal situation is to be able to place your tile in such a way as to be able to score the long line and then have the second half of your tile block off any future scoring of this line (preferably while scoring it's color, too). That would prevent your opponent from being able to easily earn points in one of the colors - which would then probably turn out to be his lowest scoring color.

Another thing that I like about Ingenious is the "Ingenious bonus". This is where you get to place two tiles in a row if the first tile caused one of your colors to finally be 18 points (the highest score on a specific color). Having 18 points in a color doesn't really help you in the game - after all, if a color has it's maximum number of points, then it won't be your lowest, and so it won't be the one that scores. However, with the Ingenious bonus, it is just rewarding enough to tempt you into scoring extra in that color. If I have a color that is around 15, I will start looking to get the Ingenious bonus in order to be able to go again - I'm not convinced it helps me very much strategically, I just really like getting to go twice in a row.

A final pro that I will mention is that I really like scoring based on your least valuable color.  Whereas I have seen this mechanic in other games, it seems to work the best in Ingenious.  Because of this mechanic, each player must make sure that they don't simply ignore one color.  More specifically (since each tile only has two colors on it) they must make sure that they don't ignore one color for too long.  You will probably not evenly place your colors throughout the game - you just have to make sure that as you place them you are planning ahead to where you will be able to score points on your other colors.  And one thing that helps in this (that I haven't mentioned yet) is that if you don't have any tiles matching the color that you have the least points in, you can discard all of your tiles and draw six new ones at the end of your turn.  This helps prevent the "score based on your lowest value" mechanic from causing you to lose simply because of what you draw.

I can't really think of any specific cons for Ingenious. I enjoy the game, but not quite as much as some other spatial reasoning games. I think this is really when my inability to speak in a very intelligent manner about the genre comes into play. I like the game, but there is just something about it that I didn't like quite as much as some of the others; and that's why it won't get quite as good of a score. However, don't hear me saying that it's not a good game, because it definitely is.

I'm sure that there's a lot more that I should say about the game, and that I'm not doing it justice by any means, but honestly I don't really have much more to add to this review. One thing that I will note is that I'm not a fan of the Travel Edition - I don't recommend buying it unless you actually intend to play it while traveling. The pieces are very small and it is a nuisance to try to pick them up. I didn't factor this into the score, though, since it is about the edition that I have and not about the game itself.

Overall, I give Ingenious an 8.0/10. It is a very solid abstract spatial reasoning game that I will continue to play. I still prefer Dvonn (which is growing on me more all the time), Yinsh, and Abalone, but Ingenious is a very solid title that I plan to continue playing for quite a while (though I did go ahead and replace my Travel Edition with the full-sized version).

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