Indigo

Reiner Knizia

Publisher: Ravensburger

I almost forgot how good Ravensburger components were back in those days (Photo credits: Eric Martin @BGG)

Indigo is Knizia’s take on the tile-laying network connection game. This game is most similar to Tsuro, Metro, Linie 1, San Francisco, Streetcar and others in this genre where players play tiles on a common board to build a shared network. Points are often scored for completing connections or for delivering items from point A to point B. However, Knizia sort of bucks the trend by changing how scores are tabulated and making this a semi co-op game which I believe is a first for its kind.

This type of network connection and route building design feels dated. Not many games from this genre have come out recently and none that I know received any accolades for innovation. Indigo itself is not exactly new. since it was published in 2013. In the game, players add tiles to the board in hopes of completing a route to move one of the gem stones to their home base, which is found on the edges of a hexagonal board. Gemstones are of three types: yellow scores 1 point and are distributed to all corners of the hexagonal board. Green and blue gemstones are worth 2 and 3 points respectively and are found in the middle of the board. There is only one blue gemstone which is surrounded by five green ones. The blue gemstone moves last and can only be shifted once all the green ones are claimed.

Players draw two tiles and play one. This is the more “strategic” variant and one that you should just use, always. Tiles are also hexagonal and can be placed anywhere on the board to form connections. If the tile adds to a track for which is a gemstone is located on one end, then the gemstone is moved down the track as far as it can go. In that way, the gemstone is always on the move, searching for one of the edges of the board which is a players home base. As tiles are added, new tracks are formed and the gemstones can be shunted from one tile to the next. Until the last tile is placed to complete the route, it can be hard to tell which edge the gemstone will exit. Once the gemstone reaches the edge, players will claim it for points and hide it behind a screen. Why the need for a screen? I am not entirely sure.

So where is the novelty, you say? Well, in typical Knizia fashion, the twist lies in scoring. Each edge of the board is owned by not one but two players. All edges of the board are shared which means in a 4 player game, you will share one exit with 3 other players. This immediately turns the game on its head. Instead of winning a gem outright via a solo effort, you are hoping for a willing partner which will cooperate and move the gem to an exit you both share. But wait, if you add a single tile, the gem can also be easily shunted to a different exit which you share with different player. Easy enough to change direction for an instant opportunity to backstab your previous partner! Moreover, if a person is in the lead, you don’t necessarily want to benefit the leader. A gemstone that exits an edge scores points for both players that co-own that edge. Extra gemstones are available on the side for both players. The game ends when all gemstones are taken.

That Indigo is a short game is also a credit to the designer. The transient co-op nature of the game is quite intriguing but also chaotic. Tracks can be convoluted and direction of moving gems can be altered by placement of a single tile. Transient partnerships are important in as much as moving a single gem and should be rapidly dissolved for the next best available opportunity. It is also common to have multiple on going partnerships for movement of different gems. The transient coop factor is by far the best aspect of the game and as such, I feel the game is best for four players.

Overall, Indigo is a light distraction and the best network tile laying game I have. I don’t necessarily enjoy this mechanism and Indigo stands out as the one and probably only game I will own from this genre. A recent review by Brandon Kempf from the Opinionated Gamers blog reaffirmed my love for Indigo as a light family game. Regardless of whether you enjoy Indigo, one thing is for certain, the completed board is one of the most gorgeous boards I have seen.

Initial impressions: Good

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