On a recent trip to a local board game cafe, my teenage daughter returned to the table with Inuit: The Snow Folk. Within five minutes the family were building their tribes, catching seals and invoking the shaman to protect their people. Within 45 minutes we were online purchasing the game for our own collection. Let me explain why.
This is a set collecting, tableau-building game. Each player is a leader of one of four Inuit tribes and the aim is to build the strongest or most successful group. You will be competing for resources, calling on the spirits of the wild, and having the odd skirmish. In real life, warfare was quite uncommon as the tribes were too busy with the harsh realities of the Arctic.
Set Up And Gameplay
The game ends when the polar night falls. Points are awarded for animals caught, rites or spirits, and captured tribesmen. Players claim additional points if their tribe members have been working in another player’s tribe. Conversely, any “foreign” Inuit within your tribe will count against you.
War And Peace
On the whole, the Inuit have few battles. The harsh realities of life in the Arctic Circle mean every day is a battle for existence. Only tribes with an abundance of game could afford to fight other peoples. Inuit also contains two expansion modules. These can each be added separately or played together.
For those that like some pointed animosity then eight warrior cards can be added to the draw deck. These depict a tribe that could be ripe for plunder. There are two cards for each of the four colours. If a player should draw a warrior card they have three options.
- Ignore the card and allow it to be added to the “Great White”. This is now available for others to collect.
- Draw the card to their tribe as an action and form an alliance with that player. The card is placed to the right of your tribe and both players will be awarded two additional victory points during end game scoring.
- Draw the card to your tribe and declare war against that player. At the end of the game the total number of captives taken by each tribe is compared. Four points are awarded to the victor of this one on one battle.
If a particularly bellicose player is playing they might choose to battle a number of players. However, two tribes cannot be at war and at peace with each other at the same time. The newer card drawn, and a decision made, negates the former.
Land Of The Midnight Sun
The second expansion provides a series of player benefits throughout the game. These come into play at sunrise, midday and sunset. Beforehand, the players select a card to be added above the quarter, halfway and the three-quarter mark of the draw deck. Once revealed these actions remain until the next phase of the day comes into play. They might allow a player to draw additional cards, or perhaps view and rearrange the next three cards of the draw deck. Many of these advantages will be available to all players and assist play - much in the same way that long summer days give benefits to the Inuit tribes.
Box Art And Components
The rules are concise and well written. The font is a little small, for those of a certain age! That said, the mechanics of each action are simple. And, after a single playthrough, the rule book was quickly surplus to requirements. The rules governing the extra expansion modules are given a couple of pages each. There are useful examples of gameplay with pictures too.
Whatever strategy is chosen, there will always be some element of chance. The random draw of the deck to the “Great White” will always bring some randomness to any game. However, with a point salad of endgame scoring. And with bonus points also affecting final scores, Inuit has many ways to win. There is certainly not a “best” strategy. But after a few games it is clear that players need to have a flexible approach.
Thoughts On Inuit
The nature of having many tribe members means that there is an inevitable need for score sheet mathematics. Each player will often collect points in every category. Many games also have a point solid approach to determine the winner- Inuit is no different.