The Genius Gems is another game in The Happy Puzzle Company's Genius Collection series alongside Genius Square and Genius Star. Whereas those were polyomino games, the challenge in Genius Gems is pattern matching, and you're either playing solitaire - racing against the clock - or you're playing a competitive two-player game where players are racing each other to be the first to solve the puzzle.
The components in all the Genius Collection games are good but those in The Genius Gems really stand out. Each player has 10 double-sided three-hex tiles. These each have two of five colours: two hexes in one colour, one hex in the other. The colours are the same on both sides but the number of each is reversed; so if a tile has two yellow and one green hex on one side, it will have two green and one yellow on the reverse.
The target to complete (ie: puzzle to solve), in terms of pattern matching, is determined by rolling five custom six-sided dice. These show a different pattern of hexes on each face. Again, this is where the quality of this game's production stands out. The obvious choice would've been to supply five coloured dice - one for each colour of gem. Instead, this game comes with a uniquely designed dice shaker: you drop in the dice, fit on the base, shake it and lay it flat. The dice then fall into place in each of the five colour slots on the base, and that becomes players' target for the game.
After you've played The Genius Gems a few times, you begin to work out a strategy for speeding up your problem-solving. Once you've made the required pattern for, say, orange, then you can free up all the other tiles with orange on them for use in making the patterns required for the other colours on those tiles. Most of the pattern combinations generated using the white dice have multiple solutions so this is a strategy that will work much of the time. Don't get too cocky tho'. With five white dice you're only playing at designer Rob Fisher's easiest setting... You can step up the difficulty by one, two or three of the black 'dastardly' dice that demand patterns that are harder to achieve at the same time as the others required by the dice. There's even a red 'devilish' dice that's even more demanding. With various combinations of white, black and red dice, The Genius Gems then can be played at eight different levels of difficulty! We're promised that there's a solution for every possible combination, even those generated with the red and all three black dice, but at the harder levels there's likely to be only a single workable solution!
We've previously enjoyed both Genius Square and Genius Star as both solitaire and two-player games but The Genius Gems has the edge on both of them and has become our firm favourite. From the custom dice shaker to the colourful triple-hex tiles, The Genius Gems is aesthetically pleasing but there's a design elegance too in the ease with which you can scale up the level of challenge.