R&R Games, 2012

Wow, that was a lot longer hiaitus than I originally planned. Miss me? This week, we’ll take a look at Qin from R&R Games by Reiner Knizia. Loosely based on the Qin dynasty over 2000 years ago in China, the players colonize the Chinese hinterlands by founding provinces and absorbing remote villages into their empires. They build pagodas as a sign of their authority. The first person to place all of their pagodas wins.

The large game board has 2 sides. For the initial game it is recommended that you play the slightly easier “bird” board. This board has grassland spaces, where you place tiles, provinces (in red, yellow and blue) that are the start spaces for players to begin expanding their empire and villages that the players will attempt to conquer. The more difficult “lion” board adds in ponds that block tile placement.

Tiles consist of two squares each (variations of red, blue and yellow combinations). Each player will start with a number of pagodas based on number of players and three tiles. The game suggests that the youngest player plays first, but any arbitrary means will suffice. On their turn, each player will place a tile, and place pagodas to claim territory. By placing a tile you can create a province if you have created an unclaimed territory of two or more same colored province spaces (placing one pagoda), or they can expand a province that they already own. If they expand their province to 5 or more of the same color, they can place a 2nd pagoda. If their province lies adjacent to a village, and they have more pagodas adjoining the village than any other player, they may claim that village. Or, if they join two separate provinces of the same color, and their province has more spaces that the one they join, then they can absorb that province into their own. The game ends as soon as one player places their last pagoda. They win! There are a few more fiddly bits to the rules, which you can figure out when you purchase the game.

This is a really nicely balanced game with a fair amount of options and strategy, yet is deceptively simple. If a player happens to get a double color tile (two blue, two red, etc.) often, this can shift the balance in their favor, which is the only complaint that we have. Might have been a little better with fewer doubles, to make it more challenging, but that is nitpicking, as it isn’t a big problem, and can be overcome by smart play. I’ve seen a couple reviews of this, and should note that no province can ever have more than two pagodas, so you have to spread out and work many different areas of the board in order to win. One review stated that you could keep stacking pagodas, which would be a variant you could try, but isn’t in the rules.

The game is well crafted, with nice art and lots of cute little pagodas that are fun to play with. A good helping of strategy without mind-numbing boredom. In most games like this, you have to play tiles next to the same color as the one you are playing. That is NOT the case in Qin, which can trip up seasoned players a little.

Overall, a really nice game. Plays quickly and easily. Recommended.