Inis was one of the games at last year’s Essen that everyone was talking about. I had an early look at the game at the press preview. Lots of others were fawning over the artwork. I was more ‘meh’. To me the artwork seemed a little fey. I was shown the mechanics of the game by the publishers, Matagot, but it didn’t grab me. Essen had other attractions, and plenty of them, so I let Inis pass me by.
When eventually it trickled out to retailers in the UK, my friends were eager to snap the game up but I remained unexcited.
Problem is, that is now a cause for regret. Having been enticed into a number of plays of the game, I realise that the hype was entirely justified. Inis is a damn good game.
Some of my initial dislikes remain. Personally, I still don’t find the artwork all that appealing. I still think the crinkly fjord-cut of the tiles is an unnecessary affectation that could increase the chance of them becoming worn or damaged. The core game design itself tho’ is very clever.
Because it involves putting out occupying and building on tiles, Inis has the look of a ‘4X’ game (eXplore, eXpand, eXploit, eXterminate) but it really isn’t. Inis is an area control, card drafting and hand management game with surprisingly simple rules and multiple seemingly easily achieved victory conditions. For example, you can win simply by having one of your clan figures in six different territories; you don’t even have to control any of them (figures from rival clans may co-exist in the same territory). Players can feel they are tantalisingly close to victory only to have a rival snatch a win in a turn by securing one, or sometimes more than one, of the victory conditions.
Throughout the game, players need to make their own judgement calls over whether to participate in combat (removing clan figures) or whether to co-exist with a rival. The game is engrossing and it can involve some quite subtle tactics: you’ll find it has a closer affinity to chess than it has to Risk.
So, I find I am often playing Inis. I find when I’m with other groups that it’s a game I want to evangelise and introduce others to. For a long time I couldn't because I missed the chance to pick up a copy, but I have now finally succumbed and have added the game to my collection.