Reiner Knizia has 712 (and counting) design credits. Ingenious is just one out of that bunch. What makes it special is that it has been in print for a large part of the nearly twenty years since it was first released.
So why has it been in print that long? And is it more special than Knizia’s other titles?
In Ingenious, players will be taking turns adding tiles onto a hexagonal grid. These tiles are two hexagons welded together on one side, making for a ten-sided tile. On each title there will be two colors (also represented as shapes to make the game colorblind friendly). When a tile is placed onto the board, the player who placed it then counts out from each edge of the hexagon. If off of that edge, along a straight line, there are one or more unblocked hexagons with that color, then you get that number of hexagons in points of that color.
Here’s the twist: At the end of the game, each player looks at how many points they got of each of the six colors. Whichever color you got the least amount of points in determines your final score. If I got 18 points in five different colors, but seven points in the final color, my final score for the game is seven.
After you place a tile, you draw a new tile to your hand of six. If, before you draw, you have no tiles with your lowest scoring color on it, you can wipe your entire hand and get six brand new tiles.
Lay your tiles with precision, plan your moves accordingly, and draw well to win Ingenious.
Knizia is known for several other phenomenal titles. Ra, Modern Art, Medici, Zoo Vadis, Through the Desert, Tigris & Euphrates… the list goes on forever. So why play Ingenious over the other titles?
First, this is one of the only titles I’ve played from the Good Doctor that feels entirely family friendly. This game has an air to it that reminds me of the family games that were being put out in the ‘80s and ‘90s. Abstract, simple rules, with a twist. If you told me that this was a Milton Bradley, Mattel, or Hasbro title, I wouldn’t bat an eye. This game just feels like something I played with my grandparents growing up. I can almost imagine it on the shelf beside Blokus, Masterpiece, and Whosit?.
Second, this game is so satisfying. After each player takes their first turn, you get points every turn. Even if they’re not in the color you think is ideal, very rarely are points going to be a complete waste. There have been several times that I feel that getting three more green points is an absolute waste, only to realize that several turns later I needed those points. But don’t be fooled, this game is not won by people without a plan. Waiting until the final turns to try to steer yourself towards victory is going to end with you in dead last. There’s nothing more satisfying than realizing that you’ve won this game. The stories that are told around the table after each play are enthralling, and often filled with as much heartbreak as there is excitement and pride.
Finally, this game is quick. My partner and I have played this game several times now while we wait for dinner to arrive, for laundry to be finished, etc… because we know that we can be done in 20-30 minutes with an incredible game under our belts. Usually, quicker titles take advantage of their shorter runtime by making the game more viable to swingy, lopsided plays, but Ingenious has the confidence to wear its identity on its sleeve and be consistent the entire time.
Honestly my biggest criticism of the game is the variance of editions, and its size. This Kosmos version has a great, linen board with a linen box, and the tile trays hold the tiles better than other editions I’ve played. The issue is that these tiles do not have the inlays of older editions, making them less enjoyable to hold and maneuver. A minor complaint, sure, but with the first version of this game ever produced having that, this feels like a step back. More importantly, however, is the incredibly frustrating scoreboards. Having plastic pieces to push through pre-punched cardboard to keep track of score is beyond frustrating. During my first play through with this copy, we spent an equal amount of time just trying to move these pieces out of the little circles to move them forward.
Ingenious is the family version of Knizia genius. If you’re used to playing his heavier abstracts like Tigris & Euphrates, this title may not bring anything new to the table for you. However, if you enjoy the ethos of Knizia’s designs but want to be able to experience them in a more concentrated form and in a form you can show your grandparents, this is the perfect title for you. This is staying in my collection for years to come, and my grandma may have gotten a copy for Christmas.
Final Score: 4 Stars – Abstract Knizia Goodness.
• Competitive play and multiple tie breakers
• Inconsistencies between editions
• Tiles will shift. A lot.