Kulkmann's G@mebox - www.boardgame.de



Reiner Knizia


No. of Players:
2 - 4



It is always astonishing to see how many new games by Reiner Knizia are released every year, and indeed there are few authors with a creative ability which compares to this author. Taking complex or straightforward designs, Reiner Knizia always is able to make use of the one or other ingenious idea to create something innovative and interesting, and this special knack always stirs the players' anticipation when a new Knizia game comes onto the table.

This time the two to four players are taken back to ancient China, to the Era of Warring States. However, if you expect Qin to be a game about detailed military conflicts, you will be surprised that there are no armies to be moved or battles to be fought, but instead the game is focused on the seemingly simple placement of landscape tiles.

These rectangular landscape tiles always feature two province spaces, with the provinces showing the colours red, yellow or blue or a combination of two of these colours. At the beginning of the game each player receives 15 to 24 Pagoda-figures (depending on the number of players), and in addition each player gets a randomly drawn starting "hand" of three landscape tiles. All the remaining tiles have been shuffled as well, and the have been placed face down next to the gameboard as a stockpile for future drawing.


The gameboard features a grid of square-sized spaces, and here the players will place landscape tiles from their hand in order to found new provinces. During his turn, each player places one of the three landscape tiles from his hand onto the gameboard, and then the player once again draws a new hidden tile from the stocks in order to replenish his hand once again to hold three tiles. As a rule, new tiles only may be placed next to an already placed province, and so the gameboard features three starting places from which the players may begin placing new tiles.

As indicated, each landscape tile shows two provinces, and these may be either of the same or of different colours. These colours are not assigned to the players, but instead the players try to place tiles in a way to create areas of two or more provinces which are of the same colour. Whenever a player uses a landscape tile to create one or two such areas with at least two provinces of the same colour, he may place one of his pagodas into these areas in order to symbolize his ownership. However, apart from mere ownership it is even more important that the players reduce their own stockpile of pagodas this way, since the first player who succeeds in placing his last pagoda will be declared the winner of the game!

If an area of same-colour provinces reaches a size of five or more provinces, this area now is considered to be a "major province", allowing the player who owns this area to add an additional pagoda which is placed on top of his already present pagoda. So, a "major province" may be used to get rid not of not one but actually two pagodas!

However, gameplay gets more interesting by the events which occur when areas owned by different players are joined together by the placement of a landscape tile. In this case the owner of the newly united area is the player whose area consisted of most provinces immediately before the areas where joined, thus forcing the loosing player(s) to return his/their pagoda from the board to their stockpile. Thus, the clever placement of a landscape tile may lead to an absorbing of smaller areas, thus delaying the owners of the absorbed areas in their efforts to place all their pagodas onto the gameboard . The only possibility for a player to defend against such a move is by taking precautions to enlarge endangered areas to the size of a "major province", because an area of this size can only absorb smaller areas, but it is immune to being absorbed itself.

An additional source of competition for the players are the cities which are distributed all over the gameboard. These cities have a size of one or two squares, and they may not be covered by the use of landscape tiles. Instead, the players constantly need to check if they have one or more pagodas in areas adjacent to a city, and the player who has most pagodas in areas next to a city is allowed to place one of his pagodas into this city. Thus, the ownership of a city is determined indirectly through the layout and ownership of the provinces around the city.

As a matter of fact these are all the mechanisms on which the game operates, and the rules easily fit onto one double-sided sheet of paper with lots of illustrative examples. However, in contrast to the important size of provinces in the game the size of the rules does not really matter, because Qin succeeds in presenting itself as a challenging tactical contest without offering the players an overburdening lot of tactical choices. As playtesting revealed, the players mainly will focus their actions on short term goals because it is nearly impossible to predict how the situation on the gameboard will change during the turn(s) of the other player(s). The game plays well with two, three or even for players, but this comes at the price that the players may see the intentions they have followed with their last tile placement thwarted by the following placements of the other players. However, Knizia's mastermind can becomes visible by the fact that even such a spoiling of a player's original intentions does not matter, because the active player always will find ample possibilities how he may use his next turn to do something profitable. In fact, the number of possible sites to make the next placement usually is considerably high, and so the players need to decide which placement may be more profitable than all others.

It is due to this effect that a round of Qin usually remains quite tight from beginning right until the end, and so the players have to focus on making a few well-timed, decisive placements in order to secure victory. Sometimes a player succeeds in getting a considerable lead due to two or three of such placements in the middle of the game, and in a two-player game it will now be quite hard for the opposing player to catch up again. This is a bit different with three or four players, since here the leading player usually will see some more or less orchestrated tries of the other players to stop him. However, with each of these players still following his own ends it is not too certain that the leading player really will be stopped.

Due to the relatively short duration of a game, Qin is best played several games in a row with the players adding up their final scores. Here the two-sided gameboard offers some variation, since the backside of the board displays a slightly different landscape, with the starting spaces being located at one edge of the board and additionally featuring some lakes which function as obstacles because they may not be coved by a placed tile.

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Copyright © 2012 Frank Schulte-Kulkmann, Essen, Germany