Dale Yu: Review of QIN

QIN is a new release from Eggertspiele (being distributed by R&R Games in the US) from Essen 2012.  It’s an abstract design from Reiner Knizia, supposedly set in the Era of Warring States in ancient China… And before you ask, it’s pronounced “Chin” – you know, like that thing at the end of your face.

Designer: Reiner Knizia
Publisher: Eggertspiele (distributed domestically by R&R Games)
Players: 2-4
Ages: 8+
Time: 20-30 minutes

Times Played: 5 with review copy provided by R&R games, 15+ times on iPad with app purchased from App Store


QIN is a typical Knizia abstract – a solid design with a theme loosely pasted on.  Being a non-theme guy, I’d be just as happy if this were themeless like Einfach Genial, but I definitely understand that most gamers prefer the thematic art in their games.

In QIN, players try to place all of their pagodas (scoring markers) to the board.  The number of scoring markers changes based on the number of players in the game (24 in 2p, 19 in 3p, and 15 in 4p).  These pagodas are placed on the board to mark control over different regions on the board.

The mechanics of the game are fairly simple.  Each player starts the game with a hand of three tiles.  These tiles are like dominoes, being split in half.  Each half of the tile is either red, blue or yellow.  There are an equal distribution of the six different permutations of these 3 colors in the game.

The board is two sided offering a little variety in gameplay.  Both sides have one starting space in each of the three colors, but only one of the boards has water spaces which limit the placement of tiles.

Screen shot of game in progress from iOS version

Screen shot of game in progress from iOS version

On your turn, you choose one of the tiles from your hand and play it to the board – when you place it, you must be orthogonally adjacent to an existing tile or colored starting space.  If you create a province, that is an area of at least 2 spaces of the same color, you place a pagoda on that province.  (If you place a piece which has both sides of the same color, you pretty much have created a province on that tile alone!) If you have expanded an existing province so that it now has at least 5 spaces in area, the owner of that province is able to place a second pagoda down on the newly created “major province”.

If the tile is placed between two existing provinces of the same color and joins them, the player which controlled the larger province prior to merging controls the newly formed major province and places a second marker on the board while removing the marker of the player from the smaller region.  Major provinces can never be joined with each other, so once you have controlled a major province, those pagodas are permanently on the board.

The final element of the board are the villages – these are scattered around the board and are either one or two squares in size.  Once a village is adjacent to at least one province, the player who has the most pagodas in those adjacent provinces controls the village.  In order for someone to take over control of a village, they would have to have more pagodas than the current controller – a tie in pagodas would not change ownership of that village.

Once you have played your tile and then possibly played pagodas, you draw a tile to bring your hand back to three.  Then the next player takes his turn, having the same options…  This continues until someone is able to place their final pagoda from their supply.

My thoughts on the game

QIN is a super simple game – but like many of Herr Knizia’s abstract games, I find that I like them better when they are simpler.  It takes about 2 minutes to explain the game to someone, and there is enough going on in the game to keep gamers of all levels interested.  I also much prefer this simpler scoring system than the byzantine victory conditions of Samurai or the sometimes-confusing-to-newbies scoring of Einfach Genial.

There is definitely a luck element to the game, and the player that is best able to randomly draw tiles that help him will win – especially getting more of the single color tiles than your opponents. But I’ve found that there is plenty of room for good tactical plays to be made.

There is a legitimate issue with L-R binding here, as an inattentive player can leave plenty of opportunities for the next player in order. In fact, much of the game revolves around trying to keep your opponents (but specifically the next player in order) for getting good opportunities.  For instance, if you have to leave an unmatched end out for your opponent, try to put it near a province of the same color controlled by someone else to perhaps to lead to some competition for space or a possible merging of provinces which would at least hurt one of your opponents.

The game plays quickly, with most turns taking about 15-30 seconds, and the entire game coming in around 15-20 minutes.  This lengthof game is perfect for me given the weight, and this has turned out to be a nice choice for a filler or closer at game night.

I have also very much enjoyed the iPad implementation of the game – mostly as a solo game, though it does have a pass and play option.  I’ll be interested to see how this iOS version affects sales of the game as this is one of the  few games that I know of which has the iOS debut coincide with the release of the game itself.

Opinions from Other Opinionated Gamers

Ben McJunkin:  Although I am huge fan of some of Reiner Knizia’s classic games, I have generally been disappointed by his recent work.  For that reason, I likely would have overlooked Qin entirely had I not needed to fill a few minutes between games at BGG.con.   To my surprise, Qin was delightful.  Reminiscent of Knizia’s unofficial tile-laying trilogy (and, frankly, a better fit for that series than Through the Desert), I can see myself playing this with some frequency as a simple filler.  I do have two minor complaints:  First, as someone who enjoys a little conflict now and then, I may have preferred larger thresholds before areas become protected from one’s opponents.  Five spaces seems a little too easy to achieve.  Second, given the simplicity of the game and the fixed board, I expect certain patterns of play will emerge over time, leading to the outcome between skilled experienced players being largely tile-draw dependant.  Frankly, given the simplicity of the game, the iOS adaptation (with the corresponding ability to tailor your opponents’ skill) is probably the best way for most people to experience Qin.  But I am something of a dinosaur and my preference for the tactile, tangible aspects of the hobby led me to purchase the game itself (box and all).  Needless to say, I like it.

Greg Schloesser:  Like Ben, I have not been as enthralled with Knizia’s recent designs.  I long for the days when he produced such in-depth strategy games as Tigris & Euphrates or Amun-Re.  I am not denying the cleverness of his recent designs, but they just don’t excite me anywhere near as much.

That being said, I enjoyed my one playing of Qin.  There are some interesting placement decisions to be made, but as Dale points-out, there is a very large luck-of-the-draw factor, as well as a problem of being seated next to a less-than-astute opponent.  The game seems well suited as an introductory game, or as a light diversion between more meatier fare.

Jennifer Geske: I first played the game as a prototype at this year’s GOF and liked it. I picked it up at Essen and played it a few more times at Sasquatch, as it is a quick game to teach and play for folks looking for one more game at the end of the day. I agree with the comments regarding the luck of the draw for determining winners, but the game is still fun to play at a tactical level, and the results are often close enough that several players are still in it until the last round. It is a light-weight game that is accessible and still offers interesting decisions.

Larry:  Reminiscent of the games Knizia used to crank out with great regularity:  clever, elegant, and quite good.  This is a pure abstract, a genre that I’m not that fond of, but the tug of war over the villages adds enough interest for me that I’m willing to play this.  The fact that you seem to be more concerned over not setting up your opponent, rather than pursuing bold offensive moves, is a little disappointing.  Interestingly, the side of the board for “experienced players”, with its scattered and smaller villages, looks as if it might inspire more dynamic play, so I’ll have to try that side the next time I play.  It’s still too abstract to become a favorite, but it’s good to see that the Good Doctor can still produce a simple and appealing game like this one.

Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers
I love it!
I like it. Dale Yu, Ben McJunkin, Jennifer Geske, Greg Schloesser, Larry
Neutral. Luke Hedgren
Not for me…

About Dale Yu

Dale Yu is the Editor of the Opinionated Gamers. He can occasionally be found working as a volunteer administrator for BoardGameGeek, and he previously wrote for BoardGame News.
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1 Response to Dale Yu: Review of QIN

  1. Frank Hamrick says:

    Qin has been one of the early surprises for me from this year’s Essen crop. I’ve played the board version some 5-6 times, and the iPad version dozens of times. The simplicity of mechanics to depth of play ratio is one of the things that attracts me to this game. When simple mechanics create strategic/tactical depth you have a winner – and Qin does that quite well.
    Further, I call this a “quiet” game, in that you can actually relax and enjoy game-play without having to think of a score of rules, options, consequences, and choices. (It’s a great game to ‘unwind’ after a tense brain-burner such as Terra Mystica, etc.)
    Finally, the game is short and can be played in 15-20 minutes. All of these are plusses for me.

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