Reiner Knizia’s Qin is an abstract game of strategy and dominance with Chinese thematic elements for up to 4 players, unique in that the digital and physical game have been launched at the same time.
Mechanically, the game involves laying down domino-like tiles; each tile a combination two from blue, red, and yellow. These must be played next to an existing piece, though need not be the same colour. Laying a colour next to others of the same colours joins them; any section with two or more of the same colours is automatically claimed by the person who laid the tile. By joining two blocks of the same color, a battle for dominance will occur; the largest original claimant becomes the new ruler of the joined lands, and the losing piece is returned to it’s owner. Major provinces are an exeption to this rule; once a province has reached 5 or more pieces – it becomes a major province and can no longer be conquered.
Players begin with a set number of pagados to place; the winner is the player who places all first, or whomever places the most at the game end (when no more tiles can be laid).
Therein lies the core game mechanic; creating lots of small provinces will enable you to place the most pagodas, but they’ll be vulnerable to attack. Creating large and powerful provinces will enable you to muscle out and take over other lands, returning pagodas to their respective owners, but won’t actually win you the game
There’s also a wildcard thrown in; a number of fixed position provinces already on the map. When you build a pagoda next to these, you also claim these as a bonus, placing another pagoda. If this province is captured later, the adjoining bonus province also changes hands, so protecting these is important.
The menu system is skeumorphic; it’s beautiful no doubt, but it took me a while to figure out that the instruction booklet is actually a link to the instructions and not just a nice background. The instructions provided are copy pasted directly from the board game, with no adjustments in language to account for the fact that it’s a digital conversion; a small point perhaps, but something that bugged me. The in-game graphics are functional, but certainly nothing stunning; and while an appropriate score accompanies the game, there are no sound effects.
Helpfully, the game autosaves your progress; and you can have more than one game going on at any one time. Unfortunately, the 1.01 update which fixed a number of critical bugs also managed to nuke my games in progress (which had previously been unfinishable due to aforementioned bugs).
Though multiplayer is present, I also experienced a few bugs there; a dialog informed me that a match couldn’t be started, yet after clearing that it was obvious a match had been started, as it was listed in my in-progress games.
Should you buy it?
Ignoring the bugs, it’s a solid implementation; so fans of the physical game will likely appreciate the iPad experience and Game Center integration.
Personally, I found the gameplay to be frustrating; I felt it tries so hard to be a cerebral and engaging experiencing, yet the core mechanic just doesn’t work that well. In short, it just wasn’t for me – but I realise how subjective this is and you may really enjoy it. Technically though, I can’t fault the game or the implementation, so I suggest you read around a little more before deciding on this one to suit if it’s something you’ll enjoy.