Reviewed by Herb Levy
INTELLE: HACK OR BE HACKED (Fisher-Heaton Games, 2 players, ages 10 and up, 15 minutes; $23.95)
In these days, computers are an essential part of our lives. Not only is this true on a personal level but it is certainly true for corporations. What is also true is that hacking those computers and computer systems has become a serious threat. That is the premise of Intelle: Hack or Be Hacked, a new two player design from David Abelson. where one player is the “Black Hat”, determined to infiltrate and bring down the “Corporation”, while the other player is the “White Hat” employed by the Corporation to protect its valuable data and stop the attack!
The “board” of the game is a set of 7 large hexagonal tiles, randomly placed so that the center hex is surrounded by the six others. Each of these tiles represents a different color. Within each tile are seven small hexes (symbolizing different types of data) in the game’s 7 colors. The Black Hat player has a set of cubes and meeples in black while the White Hat player has pieces in white. The goal is to control THREE adjacent tiles. The player who can do so wins!
The starting player is chosen randomly (we let black play first as the Black Hat is, after all, the aggressor) and places one of his cubes (a “code block” in game terms) on any small hex on any of the large tiles (except for the center tile). The color of the hex where the cube is placed indicates which color tile the OTHER player MUST place one of his/her cubes. (So, if the Black Hat places a cube on a blue hex, white MUST play a cube on any open hex on the BLUE tile. All colors have their own individual icons which is a good thing as orange and red tend to look similar.) Once a spot is occupied, that spot may not be taken again. This goes back and forth as players try to get their cubes into certain configurations.
If any player manages to get three cubes on a tile in a straight line OR in a triangle, that player now has control of that tile. (“Spilling” over onto another tile does not count.) A meeple of that player’s color is placed on the tile to show control. Cubes may still be placed on the tile but control, once established, can not be lost.
Play continues until one player manages to control three ADJACENT tiles. (It is actually possible to control FOUR tiles and not win due to them not being adjacent!) If no one manages that goal, then the game is a draw. With a quick playing time (15 minutes is accurate), a second play as a “tie-breaker” is an easy call.
Although ostensibly about computer hacking, Intelle is really a pure abstract game with a very powerful and addictive game mechanism. You don’t decide your next move. Rather, you decide your OPPONENT’s next move! When the game begins and the board is wide open, it doesn’t seem to matter much where you place your cubes. But each turn moves quickly and, as the board begins to fill, planning is not only possible but essential. With judicious thought, you can force your opponent onto a tile where only colors, advantageous to YOU, are available for his/her play thereby allowing you to claim a tile and make winning connections. Not only that, but if you force your opponent into allowing you to place a cube on a tile already filled, you can place your cube ANYWHERE, a tremendous advantage in making that needed configuration and claiming control of a tile. As in chess, the ability to see ahead a move or two (or three) is the critical difference between a win and a loss.
Looking for a game with a lot of play value in a small package but don’t know what to choose? Put this on your list. The rules are simple and the menu of actions is limited to one: place a cube! But the game rapidly evolves into something with a surprising amount of depth making Intelle: Hack or Be Hacked an very intelligent choice. – – – – – – – Herb Levy
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