Designed by John Keyworth, with art by Kwanchai Moriya, Inkling is a novel word/party game from Osprey that calls on players' inventiveness and powers of deduction.
In Inkling, each of the three or more players has a word card that lists six words. These are the words they are trying to communicate to the players to their immediate left and right. Over the course of three rounds, you'll be attempting to spell out words by creating a tableau that uses your (initially) eight ink cards. These show letters but they won't give you all (or necessarily even any) of those you'll need to spell the words. The trick then is to use the ink cards in various combinations or orientations to suggest your intended words.
Because you each have six words on your card which you are trying to communicate over just three rounds, you’re going to want to try to get across multiple words per round by, for example, laying them out crossword style. In this way, you might hope that players will use the answer for one word to deduce a second word which isn’t set out quite as clearly, perhaps because you’ve had to leave gaps or have placed an ink card face down to avoid using it. You’ll probably need to be creative in your use of ink cards: some can be used to represent different letters depending on their orientation (so, for example, a Z can be rotated to look like an N); others will need to be played in combination or with part of the card obscured (for example, to turn an R into a P).
As in Between Two Cities and Between Two Castles of Mad King Ludwig (Stonemaier / Bezier), 'neighbour scoring' is semi-cooperative. You score the value of every word that your neighbours correctly guess and for the words you get right on each of your neighbours' word cards, so every player is directly incentivised to do as well as they can both in communicating their words and deducing those of both their neighbours.
We've especially appreciated this game's pace: you're all laying out ink cards and guessing at your neighbouring players' cards simultaneously, so you can realistically expect games to take no more than 15-20 minutes regardless of the number of players. With its left & right interactions, Inkling is clearly designed to be played by at least three players but there’s actually no set upper limit. There are 108 ink cards, so that comfortably accommodates six players. Even allowing for every player to make their permitted two discards each round, you could still probably push the player count to seven. There are no two-player rules in the box but it wouldn’t demand a huge leap in inventiveness to devise a way of playing with two as a fully cooperative game. And with 108 word cards, Inkling has masses of replayability. Our one gripe is that you’ll quickly run out of scoresheets: the game comes with a pad of 120 but you’ll need one per player so it won’t take long to burn through that pad. We’d have much preferred it if Inkling had come with dry-wipe boards. At Board’s Eye View, we’ve made our own by laminating some of the scoresheets.
Inkling can feel like a daunting challenge on first play, especially if you are missing key letters that are hard to fabricate. If you find players are initially stymied, try giving them all an extra couple of ink cards while they get the hang of the game. Players will soon appreciate that Inkling is a cleverly designed game that genuinely feels different to any of the other word or party games they've played. And with its word deduction mechanic, it's a game that should appeal to all those who have grown addicted to their daily diet of Wordle!