Inuit: The Snow Folk
- 2-4 players
- 45 minutes
- Designed by Konnov, Paltsev, Shklyarov, Trehgrannik,
- Published by Board & Dice
- Review copy provided by the publisher
- Played 5 times
Games that are set in a specific culture tend to be careful these days about not offending the culture involved while promoting them at the same time. This balance is difficult to maintain as the game is about having fun while not poking fun. Sometimes making the game quite thematic to the history of a culture can prevent a game from being enjoyable; otherwise a game may take liberties with a culture and provoke a storm. The publisher decided to tackle this up front in the game by having an Inuit consultant engaged who commented on the game’s cultural links. Perhaps this is the way to do this because the storm appears not to be happening. But what’s the game like?
Inuit is a card drafting game set in the culture of these people. The cards are added to a tableau board while shows the strength of different actions by the number of people who are allocated to that task. At first glance the drafting options appear obvious.
In order to gather more cards (which is generally good), you need more villagers. The game distinguishes these villagers by their roles, so when you add more villagers from the drafting area (called The Great White) you have to decide what they will do. Elders will allow you to draw more people cards; Shaman will allow you to take more Rites and Spirit cards; Warriors will allow you to take any card and add it to your village scoring one point for each card. If you want to hunt whales, bears or seals then you allocate your villagers to one of these roles. Finally, scouts allow you to draw more cards to the Great White each turn, which is useful so that you can gain more points from your chosen path. Your village provides one of each of these roles to begin the game but adding more people to a role increases the number of those cards that you can draw each turn. This allows you to control how you gather cards (and therefore earn victory points).
The game end victory points are earned in a variety of ways. Each person in your village earns points if they are from your colour (2 for adults and one for children) but lose you points if the colours do not match your own colour. Hunting whales, bears or seals earns 2-4 points, while the shamans contribution is to gain specific points for spirits such as increasing points for each whale that you hunted. Children are as competent as adults in any role (not sure if this a cultural thing) and the only difference is their victory points.
The game plays pretty fast. The box says 45 minutes and I’d say that’s fairly accurate as even for 4 players the game only lasts until a Polar Nightfall card is drawn from the bottom 10 cards. The speed of cards being drawn depends on which ones come up quickly and how players have focused their villagers to carry out those tasks.
My thoughts on the game:
When I first laid out the game I thought that there would be few decisions and I was puzzled why it may be any good. Then I realised that the key issue is what each card can add and how you want to build up your village. The main operation of the game is card drafting and while this is not my favourite game system, it works well enough here.
The games I have played have seen a wide number of cards drafted each turn as each game unfolds. Sometimes many of the cards are taken leaving only a few to be added to, while in other games only a few cards are taken each turn and the number of cards in the selection row increases. This encourages someone to take the warriors action which hoovers up the cards and adds them as points to make a large warrior score. The warrior does not have to concern themselves with which cards as they all count one victory point and a player using this task on their turn will obviously take cards to reduce the next player’s options. This denial strategy is not great fun but within the context of the game it works but it is the least enjoyable aspect of the game for me.
Once you have recruited a number of elders you can focus on some of the routes to score points. The outcome of this is due to chance as you don’t know what cards will be drawn though you can offset this by adding more scouts. Also, the player count makes a big difference. With only two players you can nearly divide and conquer (you take the bears and I’ll take the whales), but with four players the game often boils down to doing something else that another player isn’t doing. Which I don’t find very satisfying so I think the game plays best at 3 people.
The game has not been a universal success among the groups I have played with. Generally, the gamers who are new to gaming or prefer a lighter game have enjoyed the game, while the strategy gamers have played but clearly not enjoyed the game, so I think this one will suit the former set much more. The game is easy to learn and features very clear graphics, so it is easy to pick up what is going on within a few minutes and I think this is why the game suits people who prefer an easier game overhead.
Surprisingly the game includes two expansions – module 1 adds conflict between different villagers and legendary characters who have special abilities that can score significantly greater points. Module 2 adds seasons with season cards – sunrise, high sun and sunset and only one (from a choice of four) is used from each season which modify the choices on drawing cards.
The reason for my surprise is that often these additions come out as an expansion so it is pleasing to see them in the base game. As to their value in the game I am more dubious. The base game is a clean family friendly game that you can play with anyone, as it’s easy to teach and play. Adding conflict in the game takes the game into different territory and I‘m not sure that’s more interesting or necessary. The change in points are not as substantial as I suspected and games I’ve played with the conflict aspects have an edge, which isn’t warranted. You only have to decide whether to gain more points against an opponent when scoring the weapons so “declaring war” hardly seems the right phrase to use. It really isn’t war like and I would have used a lesser phrase to describe the impact of conflict cards. The other expansions add minor changes to the game and I will use the Legendary character cards as these provide some additional decisions without changing the pace or the nature of the game.
I enjoyed the game much more than I expected to as the game is easy to assimilate and well presented. My own tastes are for more complex games, but the game is pleasant enough to play. If your gaming group needs an easy introduction to card drafting that plays quickly this could be the game for you.
Thoughts from The Opinionated Gamers
Dale Y: Unlike Alan, I have found that I am tending towards lighter fare as I grow older. I think the decisions in building up your little village that could are pretty interesting – as you progress through the game, you have the opportunity to choose cards that can score you points or you can choose to add villagers to your board to give you stronger actions in the future. A lot of what you choose will be a tactical decision – a lot will depend on the cards available to you when your turn comes up.
I personally like the Scout action which allows me to try to draw better cards into the display on my turn; but it is a double edged sword to a degree because if I flip over too many cards (and end up not choosing them), I will leave a better selection for my opponents on subsequent turns. As the Scout action happens one card at a time, you can flip one over, assess your action possibilities and then make a decision whether or not to draw more.
The interaction in the game is mostly indirect, though a few of the Rite cards can cause your opponents to discard things from their village. Additionally, you can prevent an opponent from scoring by choosing cards of their color to score for your Warrior. While this does somewhat trip my standing beef with targeted attacks, the fact that you are limited in action to what is flipped up in the tableau makes this acceptable.
The game is a slow but steady procession forward. Your village gets slowly stronger throughout the game, and you have to be lucky (or have a lot of scouts) to take advantage of opportunity when it presents itself. It certainly helps to keep an eye on what your RHO is doing, and try to specialize in something that the RHO is not doing well – as it will be quite likely that you’ll get a lot of leftovers in that category.
The game moves along quickly, with each turn taking a short amount of time. There is a little bit of planning that you can do when it is not your turn, but given the nature of the card draws and replenishment, the bulk of your thinking has to be done when you can see the full tableau that is available to you. But, even with that restriction – turns seem to fly by.
At this point, not sure if it is a keeper or not, but it would be an interesting game to keep to use as an introductory sort game in the genre. It’s easy enough to teach, and at least as of now, it has not outstayed its welcome on the table.
Ratings from The Opinionated Gamers:
- I love it.
- I like it. Dale, Craig V.
- Neutral Alan
- Not for Me…