I could talk about the theme here. Write down a thematic flavour text. Let’s do that. There’s war! Battle. Uhm, China and pagodas. Higher pagodas and the blue and the red empire clash, politics. And War! War. Here you go, a thematic flavour text.
Qin, the family-style, tile-laying game from Reiner Knizia has no theme. Knizia isn’t known for its thematic games, but when you play some of his games you can see some theme shining through the clouds of mechanisms. Here, it’s very difficult to do, to make up a story, add meaning to the actions you take. That isn’t bad. Just a fact. (Or an opinion.)
The game is all about getting rid of your pagodas. You have a board that is divided in squares. There are three coloured squares in the middle of the board and spread over the board you find darker squares that are considered villages. Every player gets three tiles that he keeps hidden from the other players. A tile consist of two squares that can be blue, red or yellow.
In your turn you place a tile. If you create an area of two or more squares of the same colour, you can place a pagoda on the area you created. When you create an area that is five or more squares big, you can place another pagoda on your pagoda that’s already there. That area is now safe.
Safe from what? Safe from the conquering hordes, the other players. When a player connects two areas of the same colour he checks which area is bigger, before the placement of the connecting tile. The player with the smallest area removes his pagoda from the board and the total area is now controlled by the victorious player.
The villages that I mentioned earlier can also be controlled. When you are the player with the most pagodas in the areas surrounding a village you control that village and you can place one of your pagodas there. When another player manages to get more pagodas than you have, then your pagoda is replaced with a pagoda of the other player.
When one player placed his or her last pagoda on the board, the game ends and that player is the winner of the game.
Well, I know that this isn’t one of Knizia’s most difficult, innovative or original games, but I do enjoy this one. I played it many times on my iPad and also as a real board game it got some playtime.
I like that you have to balance the size of your areas. Ideally you want loads of small, different coloured, areas, so that you can get rid of your pagodas quickly. However, you do want them to be big enough, so that they can’t be taken over very easily by other players. But, an area that’s too big makes no sense, because the most pagodas you can place in one area is two, so after that it’s no use to get any bigger. Yes, you can take over other areas, but how much will it benefit you?
So, you can actively work against each other. Either by taking over areas or by preventing expansion of certain areas by playing other coloured tiles next to it.
Because you draw tiles, there will always be an element of luck in this game. Sometimes you will draw exactly the tile you need, sometimes you don’t. That’s just the way it works, that’s also why this game is more a family game than a heavy gamers game. There’s that elements of luck and the options you have during a turn are pretty limited.
The thing is that most of Knizia’s games have a pretty simple rule set, and in most of his games you have limited options in your turn. So, although I do think that Qin is a fine game, I probably prefer to play his other, deeper, games and will also enjoy them more. Games like, Tigris & Euphrates, Samurai or even Keltis, which is not incredibly deep, but they all have a bit more character than Qin. Your decisions seem to matter more in those games. Too many times, when another player placed his tile on the spot I thought of, I thought ‘Oh you placed your tile there, oh well, I just place it there then… No problem..’
So, Qin, a fine game; it is fun, it’s quick, it’s easy, but it lacks the character to stand out from the crowd.
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