2–5 players / Ages 8+
Illusion is a very simple game to play, but a tough game to explain. Players take turns trying to arrange cards in order of how much of a particular color occupies those cards. Sounds easy enough, right?
The designs on these cards are insane! Some are symmetrical and geometrically pleasing, while others are—hmm, how to put this nicely?—an absolute visual train wreck.
It’s a visual game, so it might be easier to explain the gameplay with pictures:
In the example above, we’re trying to arrange the cards such that the card on the left (the bear face?) has less yellow than the card to its right, and that one has less yellow than the card to its right, and that one has less yellow than the card all the way to the right. The question is this: where would you place the card that our hand model is holding so as not to ruin the sequence?
Here’s what the backs of these cards look like. The numbers to pay attention to are the ones pertaining to how much yellow is on each card. You placed the new card correctly if you placed it fourth in the sequence, or one from the end.
When it’s your turn, you have two options. You can either
- take the card on top of the draw pile and place it correctly in the sequence, or
- yell out, “I don’t believe it!”
You do option 1 if you think the sequence to that point is correct, and you do option 2 if you think the sequence is already out of whack.
Okay, enough over-explaining! Let’s see what we had to say about this game:
Ivan, Media Coordinator: We played a game called Illusion. Let’s discuss it.
Evan, Social Media Specialist: Or at least we thought we played a game…👀
Hannah, Staff Specialist: It’s all about the PERCENTAGES!
Evan: 100 percent agree, Hannah. 💯
Hannah: The variety of pattern/lack thereof and geometric forms really makes this work. Couldn’t help but want to add a Rorschach element to it, too.
Ivan: It’s a great game. Each round starts easy and gets progressively harder as more and more cards get played. It’s very simple, but it’s also kind of difficult to explain!
Evan: The rules themselves are simple, but the calculations you end up having to make to determine which card has a higher percentage of the color get really complicated because of just how different the patterns and shapes are between cards.
Ivan: I’m proud to say that we got better as the game went along.
Evan: Yeah, the number of cards assembled without a mistake slowly increased as we played. I won’t give the exact number, because TIPsters will probably blow us out of the water in no time.
Ivan: Oh, absolutely.
Hannah: I wanted to measure. I mean really, how do you know whether those percentages are right? For me, this was an exercise in suspending disbelief.
Ivan: I do wonder how precise the makers of the game actually were. I trust them. Hannah is clearly more skeptical.
Evan: I’d love to see the process they used for each card to nail down the percentages. Geometry lovers, are you with me??
Ivan: There are some wild shapes and patterns (and absences of patterns). I don’t think I ever reached that level of geometry in school.
And we should point out that, even though we’re invoking geometry and percentages, this is really a game you can play with small kids. The suggestion on the box is 8+.
Evan: Right, as long as you can eyeball and guesstimate (very technical terms), you can make a run at this one. Some may just go with gut feelings, and others will try to do quasi-calculations mid-game.
Ivan: You know, Evan, you were appealing to the geometry lovers out there earlier. I’d like to see a computer science lover create an algorithm to calculate the percentage that a particular color occupies within a particular space. I guess they calculate pixels?
Evan: I don’t want to speak for the editors of Navigator, but I’d think that would merit one’s own feature story.
Ivan: Automatic admission to Duke University for anyone who writes that code!
[Note to self: erase that line when editing.]
Evan: [Note to Ivan: also erase the one that says “note to self.”]
Katy, Director of Marketing: Good grief. You guys are such nerds! (And that’s your best quality!)
I found this game diabolical and fascinating. It may be my favorite game yet that we’ve reviewed. This is not your 6th-grade spatial test, people. It is way harder.
For any parents reading this—the concept might be hard for younger kids, even gifted ones, but my colleague Ivan said something that made a light bulb go off for me: “Just imagine that every color except the target color is white, and then rank the cards from the least amount of the target color to the greatest amount.”
After Ivan explained that to me, I was able to beat him. Heh. Heh. Heh.
(Ivan, we definitely need to include a graphic with this that shows the different patterns of color on each card and what the color card looks like! It might be fun to offer a side-by-side comparison of two cards and let people guess, and then tell them if they are right or not.)
Ivan: As you were typing that, Evan and I were off doing a photo shoot for that very purpose.
Evan: Moving on, how do you think a game like this compares to some of the others we’ve reviewed?
Katy: I think it’s a strong contender for best game yet, with a caveat for parents: the rules are incredibly simple, but the challenge is great. 🙂 If you have a child who frustrates easily, you will likely need to offer some hands-on pep talks and discussions about the challenge after each round to encourage them to hang in there until they get it. On the other hand, gifted kids often ace everything and that does not foster resilience. This might be a great way to accustom your child to not being good at something but hanging in there until you are. In fact, now that I think of it—perfect game for TIPsters!
Ivan: I think that’s very well put, Katy. You’re going to run into some instances in which you just don’t believe the numbers.
It turns out this game is pretty similar to On the Dot, which Evan and I reviewed last month. I prefer this one myself, though I would love to see Katy test her self-proclaimed world-class spatial reasoning skills with a game of On the Dot.
Evan: You guys hit it on the dot…err, nose.
Katy: Ivan, I think you meant, “I would love to see Katy test her world-proclaimed in-a-class-by-herself spatial reasoning skills with a game of On the Dot.”
Ivan: Whatever you say, boss!