Inkognito, designed by Alex Randolph and Leo Colovini, was first published by MB in 1988, and soon established itself as a classic deduction game, with millions of copies sold across the World.
The game is set during a Venetian carnival, in a romantic age of spies, microfilms, hot-air balloons and fast speed-boats. As a secret agent, you will have to collect clues, use your deduction skills to recognize your friends and confound your foes, and find out what is the secret mission that will give victory to your team.
Players play in teams, but do not know who is a friend and who is an enemy. To win, you need to be able to figure out who your partner is, and exchange with him or her the secret code indicating your mission, before your opponents manage to do the same.
The New Edition
Inkognito is coming back in 2013 from Ares Games, in a new and improved edition. We tried to be very respectful of this beloved classic, and decided to keep changes to those strictly necessary, to avoid breaking the charm of the original game.
We decided that the game needed a restilying of the graphic design, but we wanted to keep the original art by Studio Tapiro, that granted a “Most beautiful game” reward to the game by the Spiel des Jahres jury. So, we asked Universal Head, the New Zealand graphic design studio headed by Peter Gifford, to bring the design to state-of-the-art standards. We were very pleased by the treatment that Universal Head gave to our Aztlán game, and we were sure that Peter could do very well with Inkognito.
A new logo was designed, the lay-out was revised for both rules and game box, giving a fresh new look to the beautiful art - Art that in itself was little affected by the passage of time.
All the game components were revised to make them consistent with each other and with the setting, including the game board - a beautiful map of Venice - making it even more clear and usable. The “passports” (the screen that helps the players to keep secret all the information) were reorganized, too. Even the small cards used to pass the clues to other players were restyled, making them both clear and attractive.
We kept the wonderful and original game pieces, including the amazing “Phantom of Prophecy” randomizer, and the masked figures of the agents. They are so beautiful they still outperform most gaming figures manufactured today, and are perfectly suited to the game play and setting - It was impossible to think of better figures for this game!
The most important changes we did, working with Leo Colovini, are small but critical tweaks to the game play. One of the most important changes affects one of the key features of the game, the random movement system based upon the Phantom of Prophecy.
The Phantom of Prophecy is the famous and “scary” game piece that is rolled by each player at the beginning of a turn, to determine the movements available to his or her agents.
The Phantom is shaken, three colored balls appear at the bottom, and they indicate which are the three moves available to the player. While at first glance this is just what happened in the original, the movement system has been altered in an important way, to fix one of the few complaints raised about the original edition of the game.
In Inkognito, a player has different possibilities to move a figure. He can move it one space on a land route (orange ball) or on a water route (light blue ball). If the black ball comes up, the player can move the Ambassador figure instead of an agent. This is just as it was in the original version (except the choice of colors, altered slightly from the original to make the movement colors different from the player’s color).
In the old edition, the white ball indicated a lost move, and a yellow ball indicated a wildcard, good both for a land or water route. This system, however, was sometimes very frustrating. There are 3 white balls in the randomizer, and losing a turn almost completely was a real possibility. This slowed down the game without adding any fun!
So, we introduced a simple change, that however had a very important effect on the flow of the game. The 3 white balls were “promoted” to wildcards, usable both for land and water movement. There will be no “lost turns” in the new Inkognito – during every turn, a player will be able to make the game progress towards its conclusion.
What to do, then, with the one ball which provided the best result? We decided to give it an even more powerful and “tricky” effect – when this ball (now purple colored) comes up, you can move one of your opponent’s figures one space on land or water. This opens up new game strategies and twists, especially in the end game, as you now have more ways to thwart or help the achievement of a mission.
The other important change was a new variant to make Inkognito playable by 5 players. At the core, Inkognito is a 4-players game, where two teams of two players confront each other.
In the original version of Inkognito, there was a fun 3-players variant, that has been confirmed in this new version. In this variant, one player does not have a team mate, but at the start of the game you don’t know if you are alone or not. If you find out you’re alone, your goal becomes to flee the city, before it’s too late!
We decided that it would be great if Inkognito could be playable by 5-players, increasing the range of players’ numbers to the “magic number” of “3-5”. We managed to do this by introducing a new variant, where the Ambassador (who is just a "supporting" character in the normal game) is controlled by one of the players.
Even in the normal game, the Ambassador is an intriguing figure. He wants to collect information about everybody, and he loves gossip – So, he shares information with all the agents. In practice, every player can ask the Ambassador about any other player.
We decided that this concept could still remain in our 3-players variant. The fifth player assumes the role of the Ambassador, moving it during his turn. He can still gather clues when the other players question the Ambassador during their turn, however! And the other players can still gather clues from him.
The goal of the Ambassador's player is to know everything about the other characters, guessing their identities and builds. If the Ambassador achieves “perfect knowledge” before a team accomplishes its secret missions, he wins the game.
This variant opens more game possibilities, with a change of perspective for all the players: The Ambassador is not anymore just an ally during the game, but he is also an opponent - now, getting information from him can backfire. Each time a player asks the Ambassador a question, he will get a clue, but so does the Ambassador’s player, as the clue card will be shown to both players. This new variant proved to be really funny, and the players must now be even more careful with their movements and questions than in a normal game.
A few last words
Over the years, Inkognito achieved a well-deserved status as a classic. It is the game that launched Leo Colovini’s career as a game designer. It is one of the recognized masterpieces of the late Alex Randolph, a master of game design, and the person who probably did the most in the game industry to turn game inventors from obscure figures never mentioned in a game to the authorial status they justly have today.
It is a game which is held dear by a whole generation of gamers. For this reason, we wanted to create a beautiful new edition, but without “breaking the spell” of the original. Our effort has been already rewarded by the amazing network of partners who joined us in this release – the game will be published at the same time in 10 languages, from 7 different companies around the World.
In September, it will be your turn to play and enjoy this new edition, and to judge if it succeeded in the difficult goal of improving an already great game!