2016 turned out to be one of the biggest years for board games. We saw some of our favorite developers hit the shelves yet again with a couple of fresh faces thrown into the mix. It was hard to choose just a couple of games to spotlight on the list, but here is just one that you need to play. Stay tuned for the full list coming soon.
There is an elegant simplicity to Inis‘ surface that contains a layered level of strategy and immersion which draws players in. This a medium-weight strategy game that has the sensibility of games like Smallworld or Blood Rage, but broadens the themes involved beyond mere slaughter, death, and conquest.
Set in Ireland, you control one of Emerald Isle’s formative groups, contending with the other players to be the high king. You win by control, though that doesn’t always involve slaughter and confrontation. You need win over the populace, building and controlling sanctuaries and citadels. You need to explore new lands, which is a gamble as your map changes from game-to-game, with the lands unfolding as the game is played.
Speaking of the map, that charming simplicity alluded to earlier is exemplified perfectly with the map. The map begins with 3 lands, all adjacent to each other, but grow as new lands are explored (at least one new land is added every game turn). Furthermore, new lands may offer effects in-game. The bigger the map, however, the more challenging it is to move armies across the lands and grow your control. The map pieces encapsulate that simple elegance of Inis‘ overall design:
Beyond the remarkable map design, the game boasts some fantastic components. The detail is fine enough that I’ll be throwing paint on this figs for fun, though I’ll retain the distinctive blue/white/orange/green color scheme (flag colors of Ireland, no less). Additionally, the art in the game is beautiful, from the cards to the landscapes on the map tiles. These little details really help draw players in and immerse them in the world.
Mechanically, Inis is very reminiscent of Smallworld, though moving into a shared territory doesn’t automatically trigger battles, and as a result multiple players can have units in the same territory. Furthermore, the game isn’t simply won by singularly conquering. Like Blood Rage, there are many paths to victory. Blindly clashing on the battlefield doesn’t guarantee victory, and can hinder players. Instead, players are offered actions during the Assembly (the first part of the turn where action cards are drafted) which they play during the Season (the second part of the game turn where actions occur.) On top of that, victors are determined at the beginning of the turn during The Assembly, but players must effectively declare, by taking a Pretender Token as one of their actions during The Season if they are going to try to make a claim to the crown for the land (and win), essentially painting a big red target on their back as other players respond.
The game is simple enough to be be easily learned from its 10 pages of rules, while also offering substantial strategic play, satisfying enough for most mid-weight Eurogame fans. It’s easy to set up and take down, plays in about an hour (making it high on the scale of fun efficiency), the game quality meets that high expectation of an Asmodee game. In the end, the game is beautiful, immersive, strategic and fun, making it a joyous experience, making it worthy of Geek & Sundry’s 2016 Board Games of the Year title.
What hour-long games ended up on your favorite list this year? Let us know in the comments!
Featured & Blog Image Credits: Teri Litorco
Teri Litorco’s new year’s resolution is to paint at least 3 tabletop games’ components to completion, though she always seems to get distracted. Last year’s resolution got derailed by her writing of her book, The Civilized Guide to Tabletop Gaming, and her propensity to overshare on social media: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.