Intelle: Preview

Fairway gets smart in today’s preview of the upcoming, Kickstarter campaign, Intelle. Find out if he takes control of this two-player hacking game or if he gets his system rebooted. 

Intelle is a two-player, strategy, puzzle game by Fisher Heaton Games and designer David Abelson. The game pits two players, a white hat player and black hat player, in a battle to take control of the network.  The game comes to Kickstarter this week. We previewed a print-and-play version with some of our own components.

Initial Impressions

  1. While the game has some reference to kid-like hackers, the game’s aesthetic is pretty sparse.
  2. This game is very simple to teach. A bit of a combination of tic-tac-toe meets chess with easily understood rules and game concepts.
  3. That doesn’t mean the game is simple. It’s quite the thinker with players carefully planning their routers routes to victory.

Game play

In Intelle, each player is one hacker: either the black hat or the white hat. The goal is to take control of three adjacent systems before the other player. The game consists of seven colored system hexes.  Each system hex is a tile with seven different, colored spaces.  At the start of the game, the seven system hexes are arranged in a random arrangement like the example to the right.  This will form the play area.

To start, each player is given 24 cubes of their color (black or white) and four matching control meeples.  One player is selected to go first and then the game is played over a series of turns until players run out of cubes (a tie) or a player wins by controlling three adjacent systems.

On the first turn, the starting player places one of his or her cubes on one of the colored spaces on any system, except the middle one.  After that, the next player will have to place a cube in the system matching the colored space the first player selected.  The second player can place his cube in any available space in that system. Then play returns to the first player, who has to place his or her cube in the system matching the color picked by the second player.  This continues back and forth.  If a player is forced to place in a system that doesn’t have an available space, he or she can place in any system.

Players are trying to “control” systems. A player gains control of a system in one of two ways: they control three spaces in a system forming a straight line or three spaces defining a triangle. When this happens, the first player to take “control” places one of their control markers on the system.

On the green

Abstract, two-player, puzzle fun.  We were a bit apprehensive about a game with such “limited” player choice. But man were we surprised by the depth through which players would contemplate their moves trying to ensure that they can get control over a system. Since basically everything about the game is public information, there’s no surprises except when you’ve been pulled into a trap by the other player.

To quote one player, “the game really seems like a properly-designed game of tic tac toe.” This is a good thing.  In this sense, players who play flawlessly can bring about a draw and that does happen. Players who were able to take it to the next level were able to gain an advantage.

Play time, learning time.  Games took about 5 minutes to teach, 2 minutes to set up, and about twenty minutes to play. We were able to get a whole bunch of plays in a single sitting. We had such a good time, we wanted to play a bunch of times.

Replay.  There’s a good chance that someone intrigued by the competitive puzzle aspects are going to want to play this game a bunch.

Where it comes up short

Theme, graphic design. This game was basically an abstract puzzle. The hacker theme and art was somewhat contrived. I’m not sure that the feeling of dueling hackers competing for control really comes through in the game. Similarly, I’m not sure that the graphic design or art closed the gap either. We really liked the kid-hacker illustrations, but other than box art they weren’t anywhere in our game.  Instead, there was just the somewhat ordinary circuit board on the colored system tiles.

When it comes down to the graphic design itself, it left a lot to be desired. Solid colored hexes with just plain white icons that look like they might be from The Noun Project.

In the hole

Intelle is a smart, fun and thinky game for two players. Two puzzle-loving players will find something especially interesting about this competitive puzzle game. If both players play well, no one wins. But if you’re able to lure the other player into a trap, you can turn it to your advantage. While the game isn’t big or flashy, it has a good amount of challenge, strategy and replay. If that’s your thing, you should definitely take a look at Intelle when it’s Kickstarter launches.

Intelle is in the hole for a par.

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