20/02/2021

Inis: Becoming the ruler in Celtic’s folklore [Review]

Playing this game in 2020 was a mere coincidence. I bought Inis a year before it was played, and it went straight to another of my board game cupboards due to its size. Within, it became a hermit, concealed and forgotten until the faithful weekend in November. It was the day when I decided to rotate some games and crossing some titles out of my pile of shame.

The play through video on YouTube gave me the impression that I’d have taken quite a long time to explain the game. However, the gamers in my group could grasp Inis’ concept faster than I expected. I understood how teachers feel when successfully taught their students. Our first game lasted for 2.5 hours, and tutorial, and that included the tutorial, too. We were happy with the game. Read until the end to know why we thought Inis is an elegant, brilliant, and well-balanced game.

WHAT IS INIS?

Inis is an area control and card-drafting game with the thick Celtic culture wrapping the whole play. Matagot made sure that the artworks, names, and card effects relate with the ancient Ireland lore. For example, the goddess of war and phantom queen, The Mórrígan, can alter the state of war and transfigure into a crow. Her Epic Tale card grants the skill to change the turn direction until the round ends, and the ability to start a war between players in an area.

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INIS’ DIFFERENT CARD DRAFTING MECHANIC

There are 17 Season cards in Inis. The Brenn (first player) must flip the Flock of Crows coin in the Assembly phase to decide the turn direction during this round. Then, the cards are distributed to each player, leaving a card face down. The drafting process begins, and it is different when compared to similar games in the market. In Inis, players may put back the cards they have drafted to the pool.

First, each player gets four cards initially and keep one while giving the rest to the next player. Second, from the new card set in hand, players keep two of them and give the other ones to the other player. This is repeated once again, and now players take three and give the last one to the other. While doing so, they also get the last card from another player. In the end, they are all still holding four cards. Inis offers flexibility when drafting cards, and I think this is pretty smart!

HOW TO WIN THE GAME

Area control is the main driver to win Inis. You can take one out of three ways to victory: control six area or more, or present in an area with a total of six Sanctuaries or more, or become the Chieftain in an area with six opponents’ figures or more.

What’s more unique is the compulsory action to take the Pretender token during the winning player’s turn. If it’s not settled, then the game continues after the Victory check in the Assembly phase. In my opinion, this token acts as the ‘checkmate’ like chess.

The Pretender token shows a glimpse of brilliance in Inis. I am impressed with how it demands players not only to think about how to fulfil the winning condition, but also to consider when to take this token.

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Of course, my opponents would do anything before the round ended to prevent me from winning whenever I took the Pretender token. It is natural to question, “How did you win Inis, then?” The answer lies in tempo. It is closely related to take pass as an action besides playing Season card and taking this token. It is obligatory to know when to pass and delay taking any other action. By doing this, you can spectate what your opponents are planning.

However, passing does not necessarily the solution for all problems in Inis. Your opponent may pass as well, and when all players pass consecutively, the round ends, and all the Season cards in your hands are discarded. Pretty smart, right?

THE SEASON CARDS AND WAR CONCEPT

The card effects in Season cards will be the part of your actions in each round. You can plan strategy with Advantage and Epic Tale cards. The first one can be obtained by becoming a Chieftain, the latter one by playing several Season cards. All cards can help players to defend, attack, and to change place. With a total of 63 cards, you can always do experiments. It’s fun and easy to understand. During the gameplay, we didn’t find any overpower cards. They were always useful as long as played in the right time and condition.

In Inis, an Instigator starts a war (clash) by moving in to an area with a card with a specific double-sword icon. Before the war begins, the Instigator opens discussion between players. To prevent the clash, all players (including the Instigator) need to agree to hold peace. If the war still erupts, then players’ manoeuvres are repeated until there is only one player left in the  location, or when all players once again agree to keep peace.

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Inis’ war concept is compelling. Maybe, you had to go gung-ho in other games, and whatever the reason, whenever you meet another player, you initiated the clash. There was no negotiation to bring peace, too. These kinds of things were not the ones we encountered in this game. We could stop the war via negotiation, and often happened when each of us did not want to lose our control over a territory. Or maybe because my Season cards in hands were too good to be wasted. Sounds interesting, right?

MORE PERSONAL OPINION TOWARDS INIS

Our Inis’ game flow was pretty dynamic. There were lots of unexpected things happened, and it did capture our heart.

This game felt like a chess and its whole elegance. We could not play Inis recklessly, and the game demanded us to keep planning for long-term strategies. Players needed to know when to defend and let go some of their Clan figures. My experience taught me not to get ahead straight away. You have to lie low and set the tempo. At some point, you can do an all-out attack with deathly combo, while rendering your opponent paralysed in fear, and inevitably win the game.

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I am pretty sure every session will feel different in Inis. This game’s replay value is pretty good, especially with so many card combinations for all kind of situation. Players can win different fashions here. You will feel satisfied whenever you win in Inis.

We have non-stop praised the artwork, especially the ones printed on the oversized cards and the Territory tiles. These tiles are designed in a cool way, because we could always rotate them, but they still looked seamlessly connecting with each other. They were precise albeit looked random.

I have played around 110 board games in a two-year span, and I have crowned it the Top #1 position among them. I don’t think it will come out of the top 10 position forever.

Score: Perfect

You can look on Board Game Geek for the Inis’ card explanation in Bahasa.

Editor: Stephan Celebesario Sonny

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