What will they risk to unravel the secrets of The Initiative?
It must have been liberating for Corey Konieczka to form his own company free from the requirements of Star Wars licences and Arkham Horror retreads, and I think we can share that sense of freedom in his decision to name it Unexpected Games. And this first 2021 release, The Initiative, positively revels in being different. On the surface it’s a simple system of card play married to a campaign of codes and puzzles, but there’s a delightful sense of playfulness here, from the very meta comic book-driven story about 90s teenagers discovering a mysterious boardgame, to the ingenious plastic stand with little advent-calendar doors that lets you reveal the code solutions step by step.
To be honest, I wasn’t expecting to like The Initiative, because I’ve never enjoyed codes and puzzles in the slightest. But it very quickly won me over. The short play time is great and you can complete a run of games in one sitting. The codes are just hard enough to be interesting and simple enough not to be frustrating, and so far there’s been one moment that made me grin with the cleverness of it. There’s a great sense of satisfaction when you crack a puzzle – even for me!
Perhaps the story is a bit light (the game is rated 8 years and up, after all), but I’m about seven games in and very much looking forward to the next play, and the next, and the next. There are plenty of far more complicated games that don’t hold my interest as long.
For more information check out my full video review, and here’s my short rules reference sheet – just one page. Be warned that it includes some rules that aren’t revealed right at the start of the game, so if you want to be fully surprised at the game’s developments, don’t use it until they are!