Type: Area Control

Time to play: < 1 hr (Teaching: 10 minutes)

Best played with: 4 players

Inis is, in my opinion, one of the best examples of area control games around at the moment. Below, I will cover the basics of the mechanics as well as the pro’s and con’s of the game and why this might or might not be one for you!

In short, it’s a game of exploring, attacking and building basic forts. The game adds to this a basic drafting mechanism with a small number of cards each turn. The drafting mechanic used is actually very clever – you can always switch previously drafted cards for new options available – i.e. 1 from 4 of the first options, but then 2 from 4 the second time (as opposed to adding 1 from 3). However, that’s all in the detail and it’s the core of the game that’s really interesting here.

On your turn, you will play one of these cards and follow it’s actions – move & attack, move, build, populate or draw a brown card. Moving – just shifting your units around the board to dominate regions. Moving & attacking – starting a fight (more on that later). Building – either a fort for protection or sanctuary for one of the win conditions. Populate – adding your tribes to the board. Drawing a brown card – expands the options for future rounds but essentially trades one card for another.

Winning in this game can be achieved through one of three different strategies: (a) have a person in 6 different regions, (b) have a people in regions with 6 sanctuaries or (c) have dominance over 6 people (individual units in territories you dominate). These each sound really simple, but actually they are difficult because your are all competing for these basic goals and they are easy to monitor. Secondly, your limited by the action cards you have left in your hand! Oh and if that isn’t hard enough – you need to declare “uno” and say if you have a win condition before the end of the round. There is no disguising it once you have achieved it if you do want to win (failure to declare means you won’t win).

If all of that’s not enough to think about, the game neatly adds a bonus card for each region you control. So managing to control a region that no-one else fought for, might just give you the springboard to win.

The other great mechanism is war! Fighting in this game is challenging (nearly as tough as Blood Rage’s “call in” mechanism). In this war, the first player clockwise from the player starting the fight, may hide a “tribe” in the “fort” if there is one. If there’s more than one fort, then each player going clockwise get’s the opportunity. Those armies / tribes in forts cannot be killed in the combat. That’s one way you can manage to maintain presence in 6 regions or in regions with 6 sanctuaries. Once you are into the fight, then again clockwise (but from the person starting the fight) you attack one player present. The defending player then has a choice – lose a green card or lose an army. The choice actually means that the player with the most armies won’t necessarily win – it’s a combination and in a fight with three or more players – it depends who attacks who!

This is a very simple set of rules (the rule book is very short) but combines quickly to make a very hard to calculate strategy!

The con’s of these mechanisms should be considered: (a) new players can accidentally become king makers, (b) the “uno” declaration before and (c) games can drag on as players deliberately stop the initial leader / new leader from finishing the game. These can be serious issues, as a new player when a fight breaks out can really miscalculate the options and hand the win to the leading player. This can twist the game slightly and be frustrating for experienced players who are often teaching new groups. The “uno” mechanism is surprising – most games of this type allow you to hide winning until the last minute, and that’s typically a feature that players enjoy or use to win.

However, if all of that does not put you off then what you will have is a tense card drafting mechanics with a small number of cards you can learn quickly and then a carefully planned out small map territory control. Average games will take you 45 – 75 minutes. You will also have a different map every time – random choices from a reasonable variety of small provinces.

The game will be different from other area controls due to it’s smart (a) fort system, (b) limited card actions and (c) different types of win conditions. Particularly the addition of the sanctuary win condition which is so different to a normal area control game. It’s these combinations plus the simplicity of the rules that make this the top area control game in my opinion.

Last notes:

  • If you like a simple area control game with a lot of replay-ability then this is the one for you!
  • If you can’t stand the newbie throwing the game or the drafting of cards each round – then sadly this isn’t going to be the one for you!
  • If you win at this game then well…you managed to deceive your opponents and are a deserved winner!