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Subject: MeepleTown Reviews: Indigo rss

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Derek Thompson
United States
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Indigo is a tile-laying game for 2-4 players by long-time designer Reiner Knizia (Ingenious, Lost Cities), lasting about 10 minutes per player. In the game, players use tiles covered with different overlapping pathways to move gems from the center of the board to the edge of the board. Sounds interesting, but is the game any good? Here’s a reminder of my scoring categories:

Components – Does the game look nice? Are the bits worth the money? Do they add to the game?
Accessibility – How easy is the game to teach, or to feel like you know what you are doing?
Depth – Does the gameplay allow for deeper strategies, or does the game play itself?
Theme – Does the game give a sense of immersion? Can you imagine the setting described in the game?
Fun – Is the game actually enjoyable? Do you find yourself smiling, laughing, or having some sense of satisfaction when it’s over?

Components: This box is rather large! The came consists of a central board, four player screens, cardboard chips to mark the goals, 24 small gemstones, and 61 pathway tiles. These tiles are huge! They are extremely chunky and the paths of them are very clear, despite intertwining and overlapping with each other. The game is absolutely beautiful to watch and to play, as the tiles make a new curvy design throughout each game. My only complaint is that the large box and huge components might give the impression that this is a more serious game than it is – it’s really just a 20- or 30-minute filler, not a game you clear the whole night for. Fortunately, the low $35 MSRP puts things back in perspective, and is more than justifiable for a game that looks this good.

Accessibility: The game is very similar in concept to older games Metro and Tsuro - your tiles have various interlocking paths on them, and laying the tiles causes items on the board to move. While in Tsuro, you’re trying to keep your own pawn away from the edge of the board for as long as possible, in Indigo you are instead trying to move gems from the center of the board towards specific edges of the board. Another unique aspect of Indigo is that these edge areas, or “goals”, are marked for different players – with two players, each player has their own set of goals, while with four players, you share a goal with each other player, and you can choose either option with three players.

Actually playing the game is a cinch. On your turn, you lay a tile on the board (it needn’t be connected to other tiles). If any path on the tile connects to where a gem is currently laid, the gem “slides” through the path on the tile to the corresponding edge of the tile. Eventually, the gems are moved to the edges of the board, and if they end up in one of your goals, you keep the game for yourself (if it’s a shared goal, the other player takes a gem from the leftover stock). If gems collide on the board, they are both removed from play and awarded to no one. Easy-to-grab gems on the edges are worth one point, while the gems in the middle are worth two, except for the last gem to appear, which is worth five. The game ends simply when the gems run out or the board is full.

I make a big fuss about games being as simple as possible – and this one fits the bill. I could teach it to just about anyone, and I’m confident that they will have a surface-level understanding of how to play well during the first game.

Depth: First, keep in mind that Indigo is a rather short game with very simple rules. Given that, I think the game has a lot of room for clever play – with a couple of caveats.

First, I don’t like the shared goals. I find that the game can be too easily decided by which of your opponents you decide to “give” some free points, which undermines the strategy present in the game. Others may feel differently. However, shared goals are only a necessity with four players – and I found the game a little too chaotic at that player count anyway. With two or three players, the game is much better, with much more control from one move to the next and no necessity for shared goals.

Second, we found that it was a little too easy to force ties (by making gems collide) with two players than we would have liked, since it wasn’t too hard to keep track of player scores. I asked Dr. Knizia about this, and he said that he believes draws in two-player games become less common as players learn the intricacies of the game.

Neither of those nitpicks are deal-breakers, and the game is still a very interesting game with tough decisions despite its short playing time.

Theme: Well, there isn’t one. Ostensibly the game is about precious gems and the box has an Eastern look, but that’s about it. This isn’t really that upsetting – I’ve commented before that maybe people would appreciate more honesty from publishers about Dr. Knizia’s lack of theme – look at his most successful games, Keltis and Ingenious, which were marketed as abstracts. However, if you’re going to put a veneer on there, it seems ridiculous that a more obvious theme wasn’t picked: for example, trains or cars moving along tracks or roads. However, no theme would hide the obvious fact that this is ultimately an abstract game, so given that, I enjoy the gorgeous artwork and components that are included.

Fun: It all depends on what you’re looking for in a game. This is not quite a brain-burner, and it’s not a laugh-out-loud romp. It’s a medium strategy game with very simple rules that you could easily teach to your family or casual gamer friends when you need something short to pass the time between the bigger events. I would compare it to the same level of difficulty and audience as Qwirkle, although Qwirkle runs a little longer in play time and the games aren’t all that similar.

I bought Indigo on a whim based on Reiner Knizia’s pedigree – not because of his heavy games of years past like Tigris & Euphrates and Amun-Re, but because of his recent record of fun, simple family games like Keltis and Ingenious. If you can relate, then I can easily recommend Indigo.

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