'Ingenious' - A Cleverly Designed Game


Reading Time: 5 minutes

Discover the cleverness of game design with Ingenious!

What Is Ingenious?

Ingenious is an abstract family game for 1-4 players, ages 8 and up, that plays in 30-45 minutes. It is easy to teach, simple to learn, and its colorful appearance appeals to all. Designed by Reiner Knizia and published by KOSMOS, you can purchase it for $39.95 through their online store or at other game retailers.

Ingenious Components

Here’s what comes in the box:

  • 1 Game board
  • 120 Tiles
  • 1 Cloth bag
  • 4 Tile racks
  • 4 Score boards
  • 24 Score pegs

Overall, the components are of good quality. The game board is a quad-fold board covered in hexagons. It lays flat on the table and the symbology and colors are easy to read. By shading the outer two rows of hexagons, the board clearly defines the limits for playing a 2-player, 3-player, or 4-player game. My favorite components are the tiles, which are a black, double hexagon shape with bold, colored symbols on them. When you place them in the bag and mix them up, they make a nice clinking noise. The tile racks are nothing to write home about, but they do their job well. They are exactly the length you need to hold your tiles during play, nor more, no less.

Colorful components. Photo by Michael G. Pistiolas

My one complaint about the components would be the score boards. They are cardboard and each one has 114 little holes for tracking scoring. During my first few plays, I had trouble inserting and removing the pegs easily. The boards felt stiff and I had to really push each peg to make sure that it was securely in the hole. Considering that you will be moving one or two pegs a turn, the score boards get a lot of use and I would have preferred a more manageable plastic board instead. However, I did notice that as I played more games, it became easier to take the pegs in and out as the holes loosened up with use.

Player boards and pegs. Photo by Michael G. Pistiolas

How to Play Ingenious

Objective

Before explaining the rules, it is important to understand the victory condition because that is what truly makes Ingenious, well… ingenious! Throughout the game, you will be moving six different colored pegs across your individual score board. When the game ends, your score is equal to your lowest value peg. That being said, it is important in this game to advance all of your pegs as far as possible instead of focusing on just a few of the colors.

Setup

Unfold the game board in the center of the table and give each player a tile rack, a player board, and 6 colored pegs (1 of each color), which will be placed in the “0” column on the player board. Put all the tiles into the bag, mix them up, and then each player draws out six tiles and places them in their tile rack. At this point, you are ready to begin.

Player Turn

On their turn, each player will take one of their tiles from their rack and place it on the board, covering up two empty hexagons. The tile must be placed so that at least one of its symbols is adjacent to a matching symbol already on the board. In the first round, players will lay their first tile next to one of the six symbols printed on the board, and no two players may begin next to the same symbol. After the first round, however, players are free to lay their tiles on any empty spaces as long as they match one of the symbols on their tile.

Players play tiles, matching like symbols. Photo by Michael G. Pistiolas

After placing a tile, the player will score points. To do this, choose one side of your tile and count all the connected, matching symbols, radiating out in all five directions from that symbol. Then do the same for the symbol on the other half of the tile. Move the matching colored peg(s) on your player board based on the points scored. If a player ever gets one of their pegs to 18, (the highest value possible), they may lay an additional tile on the board that turn.

Lowest value peg is your final score. Photo by Michael G. Pistiolas

At the end of your turn, draw tiles back up to a total of six. Typically, you will only draw one tile, or possibly two if you had reached a score of 18 during that turn. However, players may also choose to discard all of their tiles, but only after revealing that none of their tiles have the symbol matching their lowest valued one. This allows a player to draw a new hand of six tiles in hopes of getting some that will increase their lowest score.

Tile rack fits exactly 6 tiles… no less, no more. Photo by Michael G. Pistiolas

Game End

When there are no longer any available spaces to lay a tile on the board, or if a player scores 18 on all six symbols, then the game is over. Compare the value of everyone’s lowest score, and whoever has the highest value wins! If there is a tie, you compare the next lowest value peg to determine the winner, and so on.

Game over! Photo by Michael G. Pistiolas

Why You Should Play Ingenious

Ingenious was not a game I had heard of before despite it being around since 2004. And while I am not typically a huge fan of abstract games, I was very surprised by this one. The obvious appeal of this game is the clever scoring mechanic. The fact that the lowest value peg is your final score really forces players to try to equally increase all six symbols throughout the game. And since everyone’s score is visible, it also introduces just a pinch of “take that” into the game, offering players the option to play tiles so that they block spaces that an opponent might need to improve their lowest score.

Besides that, I loved how easily and quickly you can get Ingenious to the table. The rules are simple and you can be set up and playing within five minutes. However, within this simple design are strategic choices as to what tiles to lay and where on the board. Do you play a tile that will garner you lots of points, or one that will block an opponent? Despite the fact that sometimes a player might have several playable options, the game still moves along at a steady pace. This game doesn’t encourage analysis paralysis because the best decision is typically to try and increase one of your lower valued pegs.

Ingenious also comes with solo rules, which I tried. To give a brief explanation, you chain two score boards together and play by the same rules, trying to get your highest score, which is, again, defined by your lowest valued peg. I found the solo play to be very relaxing. This is one of those games where there isn’t any pressure or nail-biting decisions. You play what tile is best for you at that time and move on. And because the setup is so quick, you can easily play a solo game in 30 minutes from box open to box close.

My family and I really enjoyed the clever design and gameplay of Ingenious. It’s one that I wish I had been introduced to much earlier and one that will continue to hit the table during family game nights! I encourage you to give it a try as well.

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Disclosure: GeekDad received a copy of this game for review purposes.

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