Review – Inside Job
|Category||Trick-Taking, Social Deduction|
|Player Count||3-5 (with 2-player variant)|
Inside Job is a social deduction, trick-taking game from KOSMOS, which comes on the heels of their smash hit trick-taking series, The Crew. Inside Job is touted as “mostly cooperative,” because one of the players has traitorous intentions. Let’s see how it works!
Inside Job mashes up trick-taking and social deduction, an unusual combination to be sure.
At the start of this game, each player receives a secret team affiliation, and in doing so, a random player is chosen to be the Insider (i.e. the traitor). The game is played using a deck of 52 cards, numbered 1-13 in 4 suits. To begin the game, each player receives a hand of cards and an intel token.
The Insider’s goal is to collect a certain number of intel, and the Agents’ goal is to complete a certain number of missions. Alternatively, if neither side fulfills their objective by the end of the game, the Agents can win by correctly guessing who the Insider is.
The trick-taking of Inside Job is fairly standard: the starting player plays a card, then the other players must follow suit if able, and the highest card of the led suit wins the trick, unless it was trumped. What’s different here is that the Insider need not follow suit—the Insider can play any card he/she likes.
In the central display is a deck of mission cards, each of which lists an objective and a trump suit. At the start of each trick, the first player draws 2 mission cards and chooses 1 to use, discarding the other face-down. The trick is then played, and whoever wins it takes an intel token. This token is awarded whether or not the mission was successful, but if it was indeed successful, the Agents also add the mission card to their scoring area.
Play continues in this manner until either side accomplishes their goal. In the event that neither side does this, play ends when everyone has 1 or 2 cards remaining, depending upon the number of players. In this case, a vote takes place in which everyone simultaneously points to another player. If the Insider has the most people pointing at him/her, the Agents win. Otherwise, the Insider wins.
As an added wrinkle, the game allows players to use a wager variant, in which they can bet intel tokens to play their card as though it was trump. This is helpful for the sake of winning tricks, but it’s risky because the Insider can end up with these intel tokens if he/she wins the trick. There are also a number of special role cards that can shake things up even more, as well as “risky missions,” which give the Insider a slight edge.
Inside Job feels to me like a cousin of The Crew, with its mission-based, cooperative(ish) trick-taking. The addition of a hidden traitor gives Inside Job a different kind of metagame, as players have to think about who is trying to sabotage things (or, in the case of the Insider, how and when to sabotage things).
This game is not as deeply psychological as, say, The Resistance, but the presence of a traitor does change the overall trick-taking dynamic. When someone doesn’t follow suit, is it because they genuinely can’t, or because they are trying to throw a mission? And if a tough mission gets chosen, was it because both of the player’s options were tough, or because the player wanted the team to fail? Questions like these keep this game engaging.
Additionally, players in Inside Job are more inclined to watch what their opponents play than in any other trick-taking game I know. If someone breaks suit, say by playing a pink card on a blue-led trick, but then that person plays a blue card later on, they have essentially outed themself as the Insider. Thus, the Insider needs to be careful, and the Agents need to be eagle-eyed.
The production of this game is functional, but nothing eye-catching. The box art is quite generic, and the cards and tokens are just that—cards and tokens. To be fair, The Crew is also just cards and tokens, but I much prefer the overall look and graphic design of that series. The imagery in those games is much more dynamic than what’s in this box.
Still, Inside Job is a good game. It’s interesting—this game’s trick-taking and social deduction mechanisms are both very run-of-the-mill, but the game somehow feels fresh. It is a mechanical combination I haven’t seen before, and it works pretty well. I do worry that Inside Job will get overlooked in the shadow of The Crew, but I hope not, because it’s a unique game in its own right.
For fans of social deduction, this is definitely one to try. For fans of trick-taking, the enjoyment will largely depend on your opinion of social deduction, and whether you are okay with a hidden traitor making the trick-taking more chaotic. If it sounds like a game you might enjoy, give it a try.
A review copy was provided by KOSMOS.
The Bottom Line
Inside Job mashes up a pair of tried-and-true mechanisms to create something fresh. Recommended, particularly for fans of social deduction.