Inis. I coveted it. I swooned over it. I was starry-eyed-head-over-heels in love with it. And I hadn’t even played yet. I didn’t go out of my way to read reviews or look at photos, I wanted to be surprised and I’d pretty much made up my mind I’m going to like this game. Not just because it looked epic and gorgeous (and it is an undeniable beautiful game) but because I really enjoy area control games and I don’t play enough of them. As I mentioned in my Essen ‘fantasy wishlist’ video last year I was weighing up Cyclades and Kemet for quite some time and not really knowing which to go for, and then Magatot brought us Inis and I thought ‘Yes! This is the one!’
Well it’s a month and a good few plays later so now I need to ask the question…was it worth the wait? Well if I say no I’m going to look just a little bit silly now aren’t I?! Luckily it’s not a no. It’s not a no but… it’s complicated. I’m still trying to get my head around it. In the sense that for a game which has fairly straightforward game play there’s a lot going on, and it’s good stuff, but it’s taking some time to click into place for me. I didn’t have the ‘this is amaaaaaazing’ reaction that I tend to have with some games that I instantly fall in love after playing, but I can tell you that every time I’ve finished I want to play again. Which of course is a very good sign and I think it’s a very clever game indeed.
As with most of my posts about ‘big’ games- those that have been well covered and are pretty well known, I won’t go into the rules and game play, I only tend to do that with games that haven’t had tons of coverage, or Kickstarter games that are brand new and perhaps unfamiliar to you. As always there is a link above if you want to find out more about how the game plays and there’s also multi language rule books on the publishers website. What I will tell you is a few things that have stood out for me in the games that I’ve played so far and my overall thoughts. (Also please note that I’m basing these opinions on a two player game at this stage. This is important as there are couple of minor variations for two player only.)
- It is a highly tactical game. You have to keep your wits about you and strategise from the get-go. During a couple of games when I’ve been tired I’ve taken my eyes off of the ball for a moment, then I’ve realised I’ve missed an opportune moment or pretty much handed the victory to my opponent. It really isn’t a case of moving your clans around and seeing what happens, you need to be really focused and have a plan. Sometimes I haven’t done this and I’ve unceremoniously lost. There’s three victory conditions that can win you the game. I’ve found that the best thing to do is figure out in advance which one you’re going to try for and go with it, but not stick to it too rigidly, because when the clashes start then the course of things can change. Tactical but flexible, that’s my motto! And I like it.
- The card drafting. The way the system works gives you two opportunities to change your mind about your selection, two chances of being ‘stuck’ with a card that you didn’t particularly want, but enough choice to decide what you do want to have (depending on what you plan to do each round) and a high probability of getting hold of a few sought after cards. So it’s a good balance I feel.
- You only have a hand of six action cards (two player only) and you need to play them very wisely. I love the Geish card- he basically says ‘Oh you want to do that? I don’t think so sunshine!‘ and there’s nothing more satisfying than your opponent taking an action and you putting a Geish down. I know, I’m a meanie. Of course on a few occasions I’ve been on the receiving end of it and it’s highly annoying. But then there’s the Druid who allows you to search the discarded action cards and add one to your hand. So if you haven’t lost any action cards during a clash then you essentially receive an additional action. This is really handy if someone Geished you because you can waste that by redrawing the card you lost. Or a better one. Mwuh hu ha!
- However this brings me on to the Epic Tale cards. There are significantly more of these and a few ways to get them during the game. In the case of the Epic Tales you really have no idea what your opponent will have up their sleeve once they get one. Then you also have that decision of the best time to play them. Big hint- many Epic Tales will really save your ass from losing clans and action cards during a clash. Others do all sorts of cool things to alter your fate. There’s also the territory cards. Once you are the Chieftain over a territory (you have more clans there than your opponent) you are allowed to take the corresponding card, and again these can come in super useful at times with the special abilities they provide.
- As I mentioned I’ve only played this two player so far and it’s brutal. When you are forced into the position of having to clash, say you migrated onto an adjacent territory with your opponent’s clans present, then you decide between you whether to clash. And if your opponent wants to and you don’t then basically you don’t have a choice. That’s when it’s good to have a handy Epic Tale. So prepare for some heavy confrontation in a two player. I’m very interested to find out what this could be like with a larger group.
- I think my favourite territory so far is ‘Gates of Tir Na Nog’. Whilst you’re present in this territory you flip the ‘Flock of Crows’ token (which is used to determine the direction of play in a 2-4 game but in a two player you do not need to use the token unless this territory is on the table.) If the direction changes you must lose a clan from the territory and draw an Epic Tale card. So this is an interesting one, you could use it to accumulate Epic cards but it’s a risky place to be hanging about y’know? This territory also ties in with the Celtic legend, some of which are fabulously detailed at the start of the rule book. Gates of Tir Na Nog relates to ‘The Otherworld’ Epic Tale and refers to a land of ‘gods, dead people and endless joy…’
- I was thinking at one point that I wish there were just a few more action cards to choose from, because you’re repeating the same actions between you every round. But in a way it’s nice not to have tons of cards to remember and consider. The limited amount also gives you an idea of what your opponent is holding; this enhances your chances of figuring out what they’re up to. Also, in my opinion it’s more of a challenge to only have the six cards available to you, because as I mentioned above you are then in the position of having to play them carefully.
- Deeds are also desirable. If you manage to pick up one of these during the game they will decrease the number of clans/sanctuaries/land tiles you need to be present on to 5 instead of 6, making victory all the more possible. Happy days.
- The cards although awkwardly sized for sleeving, and the tiles- that are a difficult shape when shuffling- make up for the practicality they lack with gorgeously illustrated and detailed artwork. It is really lovely, and the cards in their size and art style remind me of Tarot cards a great deal. Absolutely love this about the game.
- I certainly hope to see some expansions in the future. I’d love to see one that draws further on the ‘otherworld’ aspect with abilities to transport (teleport?) you around the board, or specific gods or spirits to conjure into your clashes on the board.
So there’s my thoughts on Inis! An overall very positive and interesting gaming experience, that was well worth the swooning for in my opinion. I also made an unboxing video at the start of the month if you fancy and this can be found here. Thanks for reading!