It takes a lot of guts to use a positive adjective as the name of your game, but that's what happened with Ingenious. Fortunately the game lives up to its name. This is a game that's fun, very easy to learn, and deceptiely simple.

The board is a giant hexagon composed of smaller hexagons; four-player games use all the spaces, three-player games don't use the outside ring, and two-player games don't use the outside two rings. Each side has a space with one of the game's colors: red, orange, green, blue, purple, or yellow. (Each color also has a different symbol, making them very distinct.)

Each player gets six tiles (each tile is two hexagons together, with the same or two different colors) which are held on plastic holders like those used in Scrabble. Players also have a score card, showing the colors and with spaces for scores from 0 to 18, plus color markers to keep track of the score.

On a player's turn they place a tile on the board. The player scores a point for each matching color space radiating in a straight line in five directions from the color on the placed tile (players don't score points off the placed tile itself), than advancing the color marker up their score card. If a player's color marker reaches 18, that player can play and score a second tile. A player then draws replacement tiles for each tile they played; if a player has no tiles with their lowest-point color, the player can discard all their tiles and draw six new tiles.

The game ends if a person scores 18 points in all six colors (that person wins) or when no new tiles can be played on the board. If the latter happens, each player's score is the point value of their lowest color, and the person with the highest score wins; if there's a tie, the tied players compare their next-lowest color.

Ingenious works very well on several levels. This game takes almost no time to set up, explain, or start playing, and each game is pretty quick. By having the colors very distinct and with different shapes, the board is bright and very easy to distinguish between the six different options for each player. The plastic tiles won't bend or color, and they fit together very well on the board. Best of all is the scoring system. Instead of players focusing on one color all game or going for the most points in a color, they are constantly working to improve their worst color, and then improving their new worst color. There's a decent amount of strategy here -- blocking other players, getting six new tiles or working with one's current ones, when go go for 18 points and place a second tile -- and the replay factor is quite high. Ingenious is very enjoyable, a fast-playing and simple-yet-challenging competition for one to four people.

Overall grade: A-
Reviewed by James Lynch

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