Monday, February 6, 2023

inTense is a study in flaws

I’ve been getting back into my backlog of games and Roll and Write in general. inTENse felt like a low key place to start.

The core of inTense is very simple. You have a four-by-four grid. You are filling it with numbers by rolling two dice at a time. Your goal is to make sums of ten.

But there’s a pile of extra details.

First of all, it’s a rolling challenge. After you add a number in a square, THEN you see if you’ve made a sum of ten. I’m used to assessing a board at the end of the game but it doesn’t really work that way in inTENse. Well, I guess you could do it that way but it would actually be harder.

Then there are four different ways of getting bonus points. At the start, each player rolls one first. That number is their bonus number. Get an extra point when you make a ten with it. Each player outlines two boxes, partially determined by a die roll. If they add up to ten at the end of the game, that’s bonus points. Add little numbers to four boxes and get extra points if they match the numbers you write during the game. And there is a four box track. You can enter numbers there and get (you guessed it) bonus points for making sets or runs.

inTENse is a ten minute bag stuffed with complexities. It’s like a house where the additions dramatically exceed the original house.  

From what I can tell, focusing on the bonuses is a more reliable way to get points than the base game play. And while you can plan ahead to focus on bonuses, I wouldn’t honestly say the complexity results in depth. The game doesn’t have a theme or an overriding mechanic to tie it all together.

While it isn’t unpleasant, I would say that inTENsense is more interesting than fun. The game hold together but the design choices feel arbitrary. 

One place it would be interesting to try would be the classroom. Not just for the math but an exercise into critical thinking.

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