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EINFACH GENIAL

Reviewed by Herb Levy

(Kosmos, 1-4 players, ages 10 and up, 30-60 minutes; $39.95)

 

People do not always view games the same way and sometimes, gaming “attitudes” do not mesh well. You have your “serious” gamers (who look upon games as intellectual challenges and “serious business”), casual gamers (who play for “fun” with winning purely a secondary consideration) and non-gamers (those unfortunate few who wouldn’t touch a game with a 10 foot pole)! Yet, there are a handful of games that, miraculously, manage to span these gaps. I call this type of game the “non-gamer gamer’s game”. WIth Einfach Genial, yet another new design from the prolific Reiner Knizia, we have a wonderful entry into that genre.einfgenbox

The deep square box holds a variety of high quality components including a large, mounted board and 120 game tiles, double-hex in shape, having, on each hex, one of six possible colors and designs: green circle, blue star, orange hexagon, yellow sun, purple circle and red starburst. (Some tiles have two of the same symbols). Scoreboards depict six lines, one for each tile color, with possible scores ranging from 0 to 18.

Each player draws six game tiles from the bag and places them on his tile tray so that no other player can see them. He also places six scoring counters on the “0” line for each of the six symbols/colors in the game on his score board. With the youngest player leading the way, play begins.

In turn, a player places a game tile from his rack onto the game board. He then moves his scoring marker the appropriate number of spaces on his score board and then concludes his turn by drawing a new game tile from the bag. Play then proceeds clockwise to the next player.

The board of the game is a giant hexagon subdivided into small hexagons, just the right size to hold the double-hex tiles. Tile placement is mandatory. No “passing” is allowed. Placing your tile is guided by several requirements. Tiles are only placed on empty board spaces and, although they do not have to connect with existing tiles, you only score points for making connections.einfachgenial

Connections are calculated by “drawing a straight line”. As the tile consists of two joined hexagons, there are 5 directions NOT connected. In each of these 5 directions, count the number of adjacent symbols that match the symbol on the tile. (So, for example, if you played a green circle that is adjacent to a total of four green circles in a straight, uninterrupted, line from each of the 5 available directions, you would score 4 points for green and move your score marker on the green line ahead 4 spaces.) This is done for the second symbol on the tile as well. Should a player manage to reach 18 points in any color, his reward is a bonus turn. He can now play another tile from his hand. Hit 18 again (with a different color) and you get another bonus turn. Replenishing tiles only occurs after he has finished playing all bonus turns. Once you hit 18, you score no more points for that color.

When no more tiles can be played on the board (there aren’t two adjoining spaces left), a winner is declared in true Knizia fashion. In a procedure lifted from Knizia’s own Euphrat & Tigris (Spring 1998 GA REPORT), a player’s final score is the number on his score board in his WEAKEST area! So, if you’ve scored 18 on every color but only 3 in yellow, your final score is 3! (On the other hand, manage to score 18 in all six colors and you notch an immediate win!)

The game can be played by teams (two players each) as well as being suitable for solitaire play. When playing solo, the object is to score 18 in all six colors.

While the game play almost seems to play itself, there are subtle strategies here making such a snap judgment incorrect. You have to decide when to “open up” a color (you don’t wish to score 1 or 2 points in a color only to see your opponents benefit from lines you’ve created and score 5 or 6). When to block a line which is a high point generator is another consideration. And, of course, since your score is based on your weakest color, colors that benefit you may not be as valuable to your opponents creating still more choices for you to make.

As the colorful tiles are placed, the board takes on a life of its own as the colors flow across the field of play. If I were in charge of marketing, I would have added a theme to capture the flow of color. That old Avalon Hill title, Amoeba Wars, from 1981, would have worked quite well here. Still, Einfach Genial which translates as “Simply Ingenious” is aptly named. The rules are simple, the strategy clear with some choices to be made, the presentation appealing: an ingenious package and well worth the price of admission for all kinds of gamers. – – – – – – – – – – Herb Levy


 

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