I’m starting to feel like the president of the Reiner Knizia Fan Club, as I’ve raved about two games he designed, the card game Lost Cities and the Samurai app (an adaptation of a board game he published in 1998). I’ll now do the same about the app for Ingenious, another award-winning board game that is a perfect candidate for adaptation because the machine can ensure the scoring is done accurately. And since Ingenious plays very quickly, it’s become my go-to app when I know I have just a few minutes for a quick game. At $1.99 for iPhone (or $3.99 for the iPad) it’s a steal given how often I play it.
Ingenious is an abstract game, meaning there’s no theme or graphics, just a large hexagonal board made up of smaller hexes, with six per side. Each vertex is filled with a single color, each color unique (that’s six colors for the Jack Morris voters in the audience). Players place two-hex pieces on the board – most contain two colors but some contain two hexes of the same color – and receive points for placing them adjacent to the same colors on the board, including any pieces beyond the immediate piece that extend out in a straight line from the piece the player just placed. Points accumulate in each color, so each player has six separate scores.
The twist, however, makes the game … well, I’ll call it clever. The winner is the player with the best “lowest” score among his six. If you neglect one of the six colors, you’ll lose. There is some benefit to maxing out a color at 18 points, as you get a bonus turn after doing so, but chasing 18s may leave you too unbalanced and you can absolutely win a game without reaching 18 in any color even if your opponent does.
For example, in that screenshot above, the player has a tile with red on one half and purple on the other. If he played that tile in the one open space on the top right with the purple side at the top, he’d get four points in purple (adjacent to two tiles, each of which extends out in a straight line for one more tile) and four points in red (adjacent to the top-left red tile, adjacent to the tile below that plus two more extending down and to the right in a straight line). And since red is his lowest color, that’s probably his best play.
The Ingenious app plays just two players and has no online component, but the AI has three levels and is very competitive, with the hardest level considering what you need in late-game moves and blocking you if possible. There is a solitaire mode which I haven’t played (I’d much rather play an AI opponent than a modified game for solo play).
My only real criticism of the app is that rotating tiles can be a little tricky. To move a tile into place, you just drag it, which works fine, but to rotate it, you have to make arcs around the tile, which only works well if the tile is well away from the bottom edge. If you’re placing it towards the bottom of the board, it’s better to press and hold on the tile until it pops to the foreground, rotate it there, and then drag and place. It’s a minor nuisance overall for a very simple but consistently challenging app.
I’ve never played the original board game Ingenious, which appears to play up to four players, but would be curious to hear any of your thoughts on it and how it differs with more than two players.