It’s weird; I think I’ve reviewed most of the Oink games that I own, now. What a whirlwind. I might not have published them all, but I’ve reviewed more than half of them, at least. Guess I’ll have to find a new game series to immerse myself fully into. Maybe I’ll go back to Carcassonne? Power through Nocturne, the next Dominion expansion? Maybe even finally get into Kingdom Builder: Harvest? Who knows; world’s my oyster. I might actually start doing games from EmperorS4, given how much I’ve been enjoying Mystery of the Temples, lately…
Anyways, in Nine Tiles, there’s … not really a narrative. Instead, you’re playing a pattern-matching whirlwind speed game, trying to make your grid match the given Pattern Card before your opponents can get there. Are you the quickest they is? Do you even get that reference? If not, well, are you good at flipping tiles? One way to find out!
The game’s setup is pretty simple. First, shuffle the Pattern Cards:
And put them into a stack. Next, give each player a set of, as you might have guessed, nine tiles:
It’s important to note that each tile has a different symbol on the back:
You can differentiate between the sets by looking at the number of dots in the corner of each tile. There should be 9 1-dot, 9 2-dot, and so on. Each of those makes a set. You can also play an up-to-8-player game by buying a second set of Nine Tiles, if you want to inflict that upon yourself.
Once everyone’s got them (you can hold the tiles in your hand or put them in a line or a 3×3 grid or whatever floats your boat), you’re essentially ready to start!
So, the game can be played in one of two ways. First to five or Endurance. I prefer Endurance Mode, but there’s no real difference between them.
Either way, one player (either a random player or the player who won the last round) flips a Pattern Card. Your goal is to make your set of nine tiles match the set shown on the Pattern Card by shifting them around or flipping them. You do not have to adhere to the grid when you’re moving tiles around; feel free to completely disassemble the grid or do whatever you need. The key thing is that you need to have something that has the same symbols face-up and in a rough 3×3 grid. Once you have done so, touch the Pattern Card to claim it.
If you’re correct like so, you claim it successfully!
You’ll flip the next Pattern Card when you’re ready.
If you’re incorrect, like so, oh no!
You still take the Pattern Card, but keep it face-down as a penalty.
Generally you play until one player has taken 5 Pattern Cards face-up. Count the number of Pattern Cards each player has taken and then subtract the number of penalties. The player with the most points wins!
If you’d prefer Endurance Mode, just use the entire deck, rather than playing first to five cards. It takes a fair bit longer, but, I mean, it’s fun. Just gotta be the fastest!
Player Count Differences
No real difference at any player count, other than more contention for the Pattern Card. You don’t really affect any other player’s tiles, if I’m being honest, so you’re kind of all just rapidly competing for the same resource, kind of like Blend Off!.
- Be fast. It’s not really a strategic thing as much as a skill thing, but the fastest player is going to take the Pattern Card, so you want to make sure you’re quickly flipping your tiles. Sometimes you’re going to want to go for the Pattern Card once you think you have the right configuration, but it pays to double-check your work, in this game…
- Be careful. Don’t be too careful, but remember that every Pattern Card you go for incorrectly is -1 point, which can really hurt you in a game. You do not want to be taking penalties if you can avoid it, so don’t hit the Pattern Card until you’re either sure or you absolutely have to do so.
- Try to learn the pathways. Each tile has another symbol on its back. You should learn which ones have which symbol so that you can replace them as you need to in order to construct the grid. I find this is the most helpful way to meaningfully increase your speed, since once you know you don’t need to guess-and-check as much.
That’s about all you can do. It IS a speed game, after all.
Pros, Mehs, and Cons
- Super easy to learn. Flip and shift tiles until you match the card. There, you win.
- Super fast to play. Unless you play Endurance Mode, that is, but it shouldn’t take all that long to hit a winner in any case. You can also adjust the point threshold if you’d like for it to take more or less time.
- Good warmup game. It’s got some nice pattern-recognition similarities to Set that make it appealing to a variety of gamers and it’s extremely simple to pick up. Both are things that, combined, make for a good game to start with. I wouldn’t finish the night up with this because it’s hard to play when you’re tired.
- Bright and colorful. As I’d expect from an Oink game. The box isn’t as bright as the others, but is still kind of an interesting off-white color, which still makes it stand out on the shelf. I like it. The tiles are also nice and colorful, which is also good. They’re also all different symbols so you can play this even if you’re colorblind, which is nice.
- Easy to transport. Again, as I’d expect from an Oink game. It’s nice that the box size is pretty standardized.
- Tiny square cards. They’re the worst. Hard to shuffle, tiny in the hand, and it’s easy to spin them around by mistake.
- Not everyone is going to like a real-time speed game. I find this genre of game to be one of the most polarizing (along with social deduction). Some people don’t like the high stress of playing real-time (knocking out games like Magic Maze, Captain Sonar, and BEEEEES!), and you’ll have trouble selling them on it. I find this game to be fun, but you should be mindful of what kinds of games your group likes before presenting this to them.
Overall: 8 / 10
Overall, I think Nine Tiles is a lot of fun! It’s a great little game to break out to warm up or to spend some time while waiting for something else. It’s pretty simple to understand (but challenging to play), so it’s a great filler game, in my opinion. I was pretty excited about it the first time I got to try it, and I’d recommend that you check it out! Naturally, real-time games aren’t necessarily appealing to everyone, but if it seems like it’d be up your alley, it’s a great real-time filler!