Today’s game is one that purely interested me because of the art. I saw one of the images in this game at Origins 2016 (maybe Gencon), on a giant poster and I immediately needed to find out what it came from. Then I heard about the game play, and I was hesitant, but the art still drew me to this game. My wife surprised me with it for Christmas last year and I’m really glad she did. Even if it’s pronounced strangely…
Inis (pronounced Inish)
Designer: Christian Martinez
Play Time: 60-90 minutes
Player Count: 2-4 players
Inis is an area control game published my Matagot. In Inis, each player is playing as a different leader of a clan trying to become the King of the island. Each turn, players will draft action cards from a limited deck of cards. The action cards are limited, and in a 3-player game there are thirteen available, while in a 4-player game there are seventeen available. Each player will get a hand of 4 cards and 1 card will be placed to the side. The cards are then drafted and the action phase begins.
Examples of Action Cards
Starting with the Brenn, (first player), each player will play one of the cards from their hand and take the action associated with that card. Play will continue around the table until each player has passed consecutively and then the next round will start. In addition to the cards that are drafted, players can earn cards by being the chieftain (majority control) in each territory and by performing actions that award ‘Epic Tale’ cards. In order to win, a player has to achieve at least one of three win conditions. They can either be present in 6 different territories, be present in territories with at least 6 sanctuaries (structures placed by actions), or by being the chieftain over 6 enemy clans. The interesting part is that once one of the win conditions has been met, the play who has met the condition must wait until their next turn and take a pretender token. This is the Inis version of calling “check,” like in chess. Once they claim a pretender token, everyone knows that they are planning to win, and that player then becomes the target as everyone else tries to stop them. If no one is able to take the win condition away by the end of the round, then that player has won the game and is the King of the Island.
Things I love:
- The balance. The best word I’ve heard used to describe the balance in this game is delicate. Now that may scare some people off, but hear me out. What I mean, is that the game can change on a dime. I’ve played it multiple times where one person had claimed a pretender token and looked like a lock to win, and one turn later, they weren’t even close to winning. You have to be very careful to both be ready to jump at the chance of victory, but also not jump too early to have someone else slide in behind you and steal victory away. It’s a very unique feel in a game that it can pivot on a dime, and randomness has nothing to do with it.
- Win conditions. Due to there being 3 different win conditions, you can have your eyes set on one path, and change in an instant if opportunity presents itself. And the best part, is that it doesn’t take all game to change strategies. You can almost always completely swap your plan within a single round, and have it be a viable strategy.
- The Artwork. Inis has some of the most beautiful, vibrant, and unique art in any game I’ve ever seen. Lots of games look similar, but the cards and box of Inis stand out. Every time I’ve played, at some point during the game, someone has had to be reminded that it is there turn because they are too caught up looking at the art on the cards in their hand.
Example Artwork of 3 of the cards
- The Tiles. The tiles are huge and jagged looking, but they are genius. They look haphazardly designed, but when slid around the table, you realize they are interlocked. You explore and place new tiles on the board, and if you bump the array when placing the tiles or touching the board, you don’t have to spend time straightening everything out. You could even turn the board 180 degrees if you needed too and everything would stay in place. I love them.
The tiles are big too. Roughly the size of 3 Catan tiles.
Things I like:
- Limited cards. Like I mentioned above, there are only a set number of cards in the game. Each time you get to the draft, you are getting cards that you’ve seen before, whether played by you or another player. You also know what cards might be coming your way, and after the draft, you know what actions other people are going to be able to take. It’s the same 13 or 17 actions each round, just shuffled between the players. It allows you to have some foresight into what to expect and allows you to plan ahead.
- The draft. Inis takes the typical draft and throws a little variation that is pretty awesome. Whenever you keep a card in the draft, you always add the kept cards to the cards you’ve received from the player next to you. You can then pass on the cards you’ve kept, instead of being stuck with them. It allows you to change strategy on the fly if cards that fit your plan better come to you. The reason this is only a ‘like’ and not a ‘love’ is because I’ve found that I don’t do it as often as I thought I would. It seems good, but I almost always want to keep the cards I held onto.
- Combat. When a player moves pieces into an adjacent territory that has another player’s pieces, a clash occurs. The best thing about clashes, is that they can be settled at any point if all players agree to stop (or never begin) clashing. This allows players to keep their figures on the board and can make for some great strategical decisions.
- Limited Figures. Each player only has 12 figures to be placed on the board. No more. It makes you really monitor your strategy because if they are all out there, you then have to switch to moving them or finding ways to kill them off to place them where you want them. Adds even more to the strategy.
- Component quality. This is a Matagot game, so it’s fantastically produced. All cards are tarot sized. Each color has 4 different molds for their figures, even though they function identically. The tiles are huge. The citadels and sanctuaries are well designed plastic models. Overall, everything is superb.
Above: Examples of the different clan minis and the 4 different sculpts. Below: (L to R) A Sanctuary, The Capital, and a Citadel.
Things I don’t like
- This game uses a lot of terms that are highly thematic, but can be difficult for new players (and sometimes experienced players) to remember. I know why games do that, but sometimes clarity can take a hit.
- Player Aid. I don’t have a huge problem with the player aid. In fact, I like it for teaching the game to new players. My problem is that it doesn’t include the win conditions. In a game with variable win conditions that can be tough to remember, it seems like an oversight.
Player Aid without win Conditions….
- Box Size. Matagot has a thing for giant boxes. It’s not that big of a complaint, but it makes storage a little difficult.
Another short list of things I dislike about a game. Sometimes I don’t realize how little I dislike about a game until I start typing. This one just hits on all cylinders for me. To the point where I had to break good things about it into both a ‘love’ and a ‘like’ category. There’s just that much that I enjoy about this one. It’s pretty awesome, and if you like area control, it’s worth checking out.
Dave’s GLG rating: 8.5/10
I couldn’t agree with Dave more on this one. The art is absolutely stunning, the quality and variability in the gameplay is fantastic, the balance is perfect, and the win conditions make it engaging the entire time. It is incredible to feel like you’re in complete control of the game and then have everything turn upside down within a few seconds. I feel like Inis really takes most people’s favorite mechanics and uses them in limited ways to enhance them. The other thing that I really enjoyed is the diplomacy aspect of battling. A lot of people don’t like games that feature diplomacy, but this embeds it into the game so that it isn’t the main objective, but it is an essential aspect. I love diplomatic games so I dig it, but those that don’t like diplomacy in games will also still be down with it. This might be one of my favorite games that I’ve played in the last year.
Cade’s GLG rating – 9.0/10
More beautiful art.
Inis is on BGG here.
Inis is on Matagot’s website here.