100 years ago, a Master of Game Design was born: Alex Randolph (1922-2004), author of the 1982 "Spiel des Jahres"-winner “Sagaland”, “Twixt”, and many other games, and probably the person who 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.

The game designer Alex Randolph.

To celebrate his 100th anniversary, Ares Games brought back one of his most beloved games, the classic Inkognito, co-authored with Leo Colovini. The game is now available and we post here an article published by Meeple Monthly magazine, July 2022 issue, where Dario di Toffoli, co-founder of the Venice Connection design studio with Randolph and Leo Colovini, and a close friend of Randolph for many years – shared his memories.

“Randolph was one of those people who allowed you to love mankind. Spending time with him was a fortune, it meant enriching the mind and soul. He had a lovable, but difficult and unpredictable character. He didn’t care about the money, but he was able to drive a publisher crazy about the terms of his contracts; he was brilliant, but sometimes he needed help to do the simpler things; he was young and strong until his death in 2004.

He was truly the Master for us, and not just in terms of games. When he was telling you something, there was always a kind of magic, a combination of poetry, philosophy and ideas about life, and all these things were poured into his games; so they are rich in poetry, in philosophy and in culture… they aren’t just games.

Many people are curious about what led Alex to settle in Venice in 1972. Well, he lived here for some years when he was a little child, but this is not the main reason. Point is he fell in love with the two different nets which are superimposed on each other in the city: the net of streets, which is peculiar, and the net of canals, which is peculiar as well. So, he simply decided to stay. Many people also ask about how was a typical working day for Alex, even if “work” is not the correct word, he never worked, he was an artist who created his works of art. That said, he “worked” in a very fascinating studio, with thousands of little pieces of any kind. A chaotic, magic place from which he created the order of the rules of his games.

Going through his games is not easy because there are so many, and many of them are authentic masterpieces of genius and refinement. If I have to choose, I must definitely mention two of the most beloved ones, Twixt and Sagaland. And obviously Inkognito - developed with his “disciple” Leo Colovini. Another game I like to remember is The Venice Connection, a little tile game in which you must form Venetian canals. This was the first game published by Venice Connection, the little company we created in 1995.

Alex was the inventor of the profession of game author; today, thanks to him, there are many professional game authors. “On the shoulder of giants”, we say, and Alex was one of those giants.”

The board game Inkognito, designed by Alex Randolph with Leo Colovini.

Inkognito - The game

Inkognito – Conspiracy in Venice is a deduction board game set during a Venetian carnival, in a romantic age of spies, microfilms, hot-air balloons, and fast speed-boats. First published by Hasbro under the MB brand in 1988, and later by Winning Moves, the game won the Spiel des Jahres Special Award "Beautiful Game" of that year, and it has been played and appreciated by millions of players all over the world. Ares Games relaunched the game in 2013 with a new look and with a new and exciting 5-players variant. This new edition was published in 10 different languages. Now, the English edition, which was sold out for years, is coming back for this special occasion.

In Inkognito, competing pairs of Spies are sent on a mission, to complete a secret objective, but neither player know their objective or their ally at the outset of the game. As a secret agent, or the mysterious Ambassador, they must collect clues, using their deduction skills to recognize their friends and confound their foes, and discover the secret mission that will give victory to their team. Wearing a mask, they move stealthily through the city’s streets and canals, searching for top secret information.

The masked figures of Inkognito.

The edition by Ares Games limited changes to those strictly necessary, to avoid breaking the charm of the original game. A new logo was designed, and the lay-out was revised for both the rules and game box, giving a fresh new look to the beautiful art. All the components were revised, including the game board; illustrating a beautiful map of Venice, which was improved to be even more clear and usable.

In gameplay, small but critical tweaks were performed, working closely with the co-author, Leo Colovini. There is a simple, but important change in the random movement system based upon the Phantom of Prophecy, to open new game strategies and twists; and the new variant to make the game playable by up to 5 players.

Tags: , , ,