“Love is a game
for the next x or o.”
― Lang Leav
In the past couple of years Bruno Cathala has quickly become one of my favourite modern boardgame designers. He’s incredibly prolific. In the past year alone (and I haven’t played most of these yet) he’s released Five Tribes, Abyss, Dragon Run, Madame Ching, Desperados of Dice Town, Cyclades: Titans, and Haru Ichiban. You’d be forgiven if you missed one of his titles along the way.
So is the case for me and Niya, a little game designed by Cathala and published by Blue Orange Games, most famous for their line of Spot It! titles. Published in 2012, this small game flew right by my radar, but is it worth circling back and investigating?
Niya is Tic Tac Toe, with a bit of a twist.
There’s a grid of tiles – 4 x 4, so 16 in total. Each player has a set of eight tokens. The first player sets down a token on a tile, and takes that tile. The next player can then place his token, but he is limited to choosing a tile that contains at least one of the elements shown on the last tile taken by the other player.
You see, every tile has artwork with two elements on it. There could be leaves and rain, or a pine tree and a bird, or rain and a pine tree. Every element (of which there are 8) appears on four tiles with four other elements. This makes the Tic Tac Toe game a bit more strategic, and gives players a modicum of control over where their opponent could possibly play a token… though sometimes you aren’t given much of a choice.
Niya is, I’ve read, a simplified reimagining of one of Cathalas other Blue Orange games… Kamon. That title is slightly more abstract, with a “board” that contains tokens (about twice as many) with symbols instead of artwork. That’s not to say Niya isn’t abstract, but it covers it up a little better with the oriental garden theme.
The components are lovely. The game comes in a beautiful little tin (it’s beautiful, get over it, tin haters) inlaid with black velvet. It has nice cardboard tiles and gorgeous bakelite player tokens in red and black.
Obviously this is a light filler game for two players, as it takes about 10-15 minutes to complete a game. Is it worth your time and money? That depends. I like the simplicity, but I also know that the competition in the light filler microgame market is fierce right now. Amongst fillers, I would rate Niya a solid 7/10. It knows what it wants to be, it does it well, and it does it in a tiny and portable little package.