GAME REVIEW: Iota

Quirkle – in both classic and Cubes format – is one of our favourite games to share. Portable, quick to learn, and easy to score. Iota takes the portability to extremes, but is notably more complex in how it plays – without being that much trickier to learn. Sounds like a winning combination, doesn’t it?

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So teeny!

What is Iota?

Iota, from American publisher Gamewright, is a tile-laying game played by laying cards to form sets (lines) of four. What differentiates it from the widely-known Quirkle is that each tile card has three unique properties, rather than two – colour, shape, and number.

Cards are blue, green, red or yellow, with a cross, circle, square or triangle and numbered 1-4. Having three properties offers a wide range of options on what combinations you can lay out; you could have a row of red tiles, a row of red triangles, a row of red cards numbered ‘1’, or a row of cards which all have different numbers, shapes and colours.

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A line of 1s, a line of squares, a line of crosses, a line of 3s. All legal!

What’s in the Box?

The packaging is fantastic for travel – the whole thing is about 2 inches x 2 inches x 1 inch in the metal tin. In there, you get 66 cards and a rule booklet. Play surface not included – clear more space than you’d expect, as the tile patterns you lay can get pretty sprawling. Iota’s tagline is “the great big game in the teeny-weeny tin”, and it’s not kidding!

The cards are very simple (this is where we normally talk about art style and such), but the good news is that the cards are pretty high quality, and feel like they’ll stand up to quite a few play-throughs.

Playing Iota

Players take turns to lay tiles with common properties, as mentioned above. Each player starts with a hand of four, and replenishes at the end of their turn – the first player is the one who can lay the longest starting line.

Players score points based on the number on each card – so playing a 1, 2, and 3 would net 6 points. You double-count tiles which are part of two different lines when you play them, so adding onto the right line can really amp up the points you earn. Each line can only have four cards at maximum, and you get double points for the turn for completing a row of four. You get double again for playing all four in one go.

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A simple move for 4 points – 3 + 1.

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Finish a row of 4, and start a line of yellow 4s at the same time. (3 + 2 + 1 + 4) + (4 + 4) – all doubled for finishing a row – 36 points with one tile!

The deck has two wild cards, which are hugely powerful. The key thing to remember is that, if they’re part of two lines, they must count for the same card in both.

Play continues until there are no tiles left to draw from the deck; the first player to empty their hand completely gets double points for that turn, and ends the game.

Scoring is simply a matter of who has the most points at the end!

Strategy Tips

  • Hers – be constantly aware of which rows are available, and don’t be afraid to hold back cards to score big points with better combos.
  • His – remember that there’s only one of each card – no two have identical colour, number AND shape. Watch the board to see what open rows and combos are actually unfinishable.

Our Assessment

Iota has great replay value, it’s pretty easy to learn and it plays quickly – so it’s a good interim between larger games or if you only have time for a shorter session. It’s very affordable, and perfect for travelling as long as you have access to a large flat surface where you’re going. That same simplicity is the only thing that keeps it from being really engrossing and imagination-gripping.

We’ll give it a 7/10.

The Basics

  • 2-4 players.
  • 30 minutes.
  • 8+ years old.
  • $9-15 CAD.
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