We continued on our way. Everywhere there was water, cool wind chilled us into the bones, but we still had faith in our chief. We followed him across the river. We would go anywhere, if he told us we will find a new homeland there. The old island ceased to be safe, so we had to leave for better or worse.
And we shall all provide help in looking for a new one with our clan in the board game Inis. It belongs to immensely popular series of Matagot games (Kemet, Cyclades, Korrigans). Creator of this new massive box is Christian Martinez and the game was released in 2016, decorated with illustrations by Jim Fitzpatrick and Dimitri Bielik. Distribution for Europe is done by Esdevium Games.
Somehow we have already indicated, that the box will be huge. But above all, a really interesting Celtic illustration is important, which dominates its lid with chief of one of the clans and heroic look. Inside, most of the space is occupied by a flood of huge terrain boards (that have to be punched out first). They have very irregular shapes, but they fit very well together, when playing. To build a starting board, players will use as many tiles as there is participants in the game. You just need to connect them into some shape and others tokens will make the supply aside. One of the tiles will be selected by the players as location for capital city and plastic miniatures of the city and temple are placed there. Each of locations also comes with its card. Players should finght those representing starting tiles and create offer with them next to the map.
Each of the rivals chooses their color and gets a dozen clan miniatures. These are members of his clan, that he places in front of himself and then players alternate in their placement on the map. Each player will have two characters on the board, keeping the rest in front of him. The luck (tokens) then decides on the direction of playing order and everything can start with remaining tokens within reach of all participants.
Individual round starts always with the preparation phase. At the beginning, players will appoint a new Chief among themselves, who is called Brenn. For the first round, his identity is determined in advance and later, he changes only if control over the territory with the capital has changed. If control of any of the territories has changed during the previous turn, players must pass territory card to the one, who is now in majority. Location always gives its owner some advantage. Each territory has its unmistakable name and possibly even some special condition listed directly on the board.
Brenn then takes a deck of action cards, shuffles them and distributes four to each of the participants. There is always exact number of cards to choose from, because cards for a higher number of opponents are always removed before game starts. However, cards will not be kept all by the players – they will choose one and pass the rest to their neighbour, who does the same with his cards. Like this, players gradually choose four cards by choosing and passing remainder on.
Now comes the time for much more interesting phase of each round – a season. From that moment on, players alternate in choosing one of two available actions. Actually its almost like a one action, because the other is taking a pretender token. They do these actions gradually, one at a time, until they all give up the chance of having another go.
First option is the main choice, always providing selection of cards in hand. We mean not only the action cards, that the players have drawn up for current turn, but also benefits from the controlled territories and epic story cards. All cards are set aside after play, although they return into the next round.
Action cards offer players various opportunities. Using them, players can build, move units or add new ones on the board. Above all, however, there are also cards, that offer a chance to explore the island and discover new territories. The player will then attach this new tile whereever he chooses to (always connecting to two other locations). Action cards are also one of the few ways to win epic cards. But even territories offer different actions.
Whenever warriors of two enemy clans find themselves in one area, battle will take place. Even before the fight, it is possible to hide. If there is a citadel in the territory, up to two pieces of a clan might hide there. After that, defending player must choose the victim – either throw the action card from his hand or remove one of his pieces from the territory. Instead of attacking, player on turn can choose a retreat variant and move some of his pieces to neighboring territories (but he must be in control o this location for these purposes). The last option is to use some of the epic tale cards, that offer some special maneuvers.
Game then continues with the next round preparation phase. Right now, the victory conditions are also checked. There are three options to choose from, which can be fulfilled (one is enough). The number six is always important – one of the conditions is to have fighters on six map territories. If players visits at least six shrines at the same time, he fulfills the second condition. The last one is to be a Chief of some terrains and have six (or more) enemy clans hosted (and under control) here. In addition, players can get deeds during gameplay through their heroic acts, which make it easier to meet the conditions.
But that alone is not enough to win! At least not immediately. When a player has completed at least one option to promise him a win, he can take the aspirant (pretender) token at the start of the next round. Now he has a clear task ahead of himself – to hold his fulfilled condition until the start of the next turn. If he succeeds, then he can celebrate the victory. Otherwise, he must return the token and match continues.
Inis is an absolutely unique game. If you should describe to someone how it plays, you will be able to explain it in five minutes. This is because, in addition to the preparatory phase, it is just playing cards and they are always wearing their effects clearly described. All questions then turn to winning conditions.
But it does not mean that the game as such is simple and everyone will be immediately clear, what to do in their turn. There are always several cards to choose from and, above all, their use brings a lot of choices – where to put new pieces and how to move the existing ones? And do you want to attack an opponent or rather go for control of the currently abandoned territory?
Or you’d better explore your surroundings? And of course, this must happen sooner or later, because there is not enough territories to fight for at first. Some locations are more valuable, but chief of each location may be only one player – the one who has most of his miniatures there. And so the influence is constantly pouring up and down and the battles are raging without an end in sight.
Players will get all the necessary means to fight, but how conflicting they make their game depends only on themselves. But without conflicts, its only half the fun. But in any case, fighting is far from the mainstay of Inis.
All the winning conditions are very similar, but it is not easy to hold any of them for one whole round. At the same time, the player publicly announces his attack on the victory, as he must take the pretender token. And so he draws a big red target on his back. All opponents will stop their plans and have a clear task – to make it impossible for him to win.
An absolutely crucial moment of each round is the draft at the beginning. It is just the profit of the right action cards (their knowledge is essential), that makes it possible to work quickly and dominate several territories. There are not so many tactical options themselves in the game. Despite all this, the game has a very solid replayability, because it always takes place in different territories and with other epic cards. It usually makes for a completely different experience.
At the same time, it should also be mentioned, that the length of a match is often difficult to estimate. However, if we should at least tell you game time, expect it to be between one and two hours. As time goes on, players get deeds and thanks to them, a discount on the final conditions. This will ultimately make their fulfillment easier. But until then, each attempt at victory is hanging on the hair, that other players will cut several times in a row. At the same time, this mechanism creates incredible tension, because one after another, all players will test their chances of winning. In the end, it will still only be one to grab it.
The game is best in higher numbers, where all decisions have much more weight. At the same time, however, each act has a much shorter duration, before something changes again. Participants may feel like they can not affect the map enough and everything on it, such as with two players (there is much more control in duel).
Processing is absolutely brilliant. Beautiful and huge tiles mean that the game is challenging to space on table, but it makes Inis into a really beautiful game. The cards are great and creators did add minitaures and everything that will make you happy with this game. Even the rules are structured well and clearly.
Inis is not about making your way to victory. Carefully, step by step. This is a game, in which you must surprise rivals. This is a game, where inconspicuity is important. At the right time, you must attack, so that others can no longer react to your victory. Inis offers a unique experience in beautiful form and although it is not a game for everyone, it is definitely excellent and really fun to play.
+ full options but simple
+ fantastic processing
+ constantly close to victory and yet so far away
+ conflict if you want
+ variable matches
- unpredictable game time
- sometimes feeling of less control