INKOGNITO - A CARNIVAL of SPIES in VENICE
In 1988 INKOGNITO by Alex Randolph & Leo Colovini was awarded the GAME of the YEAR Trophy for the most
beautiful game. Since then it has been published and republished more times than most other repeated games and by
some of the most respected and best known games companies, including Abacusspiele, Winning Moves, Rio Grande,
Milton Bradley, Venice Connection and now by the fairly new but already most capable, ARES GAMES.
Despite being produced by such luminaries it is mostly, in my opinion a family game, much like SCOTLAND YARD,
The FURY of DRACULA, The GREAT MUSEUM CAPER and many more. It is a game that should be placed with
collections alongside Monopoly, Cluedo and Happy Families - of which the latter two it has much to owe to.
The players each control four pieces though only one, determined randomly and secretly, is their real identity, plus they
have, again secret and random, one half of a mission - denoted by a letter A,B,C or D. The idea of the game is to find out
who your partner is, decode the mission, and race to the location on your Passport (player shield) shown by the joined
combination of the two letters.
The pieces in this latest version are plastic but excellently designed - you can see how well made they are as for the first
game you actually have to assemble them like toys from a Kinder Egg - base, body (2 parts), hat and mask. Although the
pieces are so very good, the board - a map of Venice - is lovely yet somehow with all the space available it looks cramped
and crowded when all the pieces are in play. The Phantom of Prophecy also needs to be assembled and the coloured balls
placed inside it.
In the Phantom of Prophecy are 10 coloured balls:- 3 white, 2 black, 2 orange, 2 blue and 1 purple - these are what determine
the player's available movement for the turn, the PoP is shaken and settled by each player at the beginning of their turn for this
sole purpose. There are three windows on the PoP through which the colour of the balls can be seen, the order of the windows
/balls i.e. left to right, right to left, centre either-way, is not important as the movement can be made in any order as long as each
colour is only once.
Orange allows the player to move one of their own figures on the board one space along the orange (land) movement lines.
Blue allows the player to move one of their own figures on the board one space along the blue (water) movement lines.
White allows the player to move one of their own figures on the board one space along the orange (land) or blue (water) lines.
Purple allows the player to move oneopponent's figure on the board one space along the orange (land) or blue (water) lines.
Black allows you to move the Ambassador (the black pawn) one space on land or water.
The game is about deduction and bluff as well as becoming a race to the finish. As I said previously though it is more a family game
than a gamer's game, despite the validity of the two main authors. It is similar in its deducing as 221b Baker Street or Cluedo (Clue
in the USA) without having to visit different rooms/buildings, all meetings take place on the Venice streets or canals. Maybe it is
because there are no special or visual places to visit that makes whatever difference between Inkognito and Cluedo there is.
When you land your piece onto an opponent's piece you get to move that (opponent's) piece to another unoccupied space anywhere.
But before you do you may ask a question of that player. You may ask either about the character's build or the characters identity- a
little like "have you Mr Bun the Baker" except that instead of a direct answer you will be shown three cards of which at least one must
be correct. You note these answers down on your crib sheet.
If you land one of your pieces on the Black pawn you get to choose which player answers your question and they in turn show only two
cards instead of three and of course at least one must be correct. Of course apart from noting which cards you have seen from other players
you must also note which cards you have shown them - it is easy to show 3 cards one time and another totally different set of cards the
next time they approach you, in which case you will almost certainly have given away one, if not two, of your secrets.
Alex Randolph was (sadly he passed in 2004) a master of the old school of classic games design while Venice-born Colovini is a master
of the later resurgence of european boardgames. Together they have created a game that to me is basically a family game but to others is
an enigma that cannot be classified because it - in their opinion - touches both family and strategy. I include this in my review because in
truth I guess it is a game you will have to make your own mind up over. Obviously the strategy games based ARES have revised it because
they see its complexities otherwise it wouldn't fit into their catalogue.
One of the concerns we had playing it was that because you have 4 pieces each on the board the chances are that you are going to question an
opponent virtually every round and thus it is quite easy to discover who your partner is and then the Mission. After this it is just luck (with the
Phantom of Prophecty results getting to the final location with your actual piece - not one of the substitutes.
INKOGNITO is a lot different to the other games ARES are known for and will be a surprise for many players who purchase games on the
reputation and past productions of the publishing company. It is definitely a horses for course game.