Yinsh is an abstract 2-player strategy game within the so-called “Gipf” series by Kris Burm. It’s on rank 2 for abstract games on boardgamegeek, followed by two other games from the Gipf series.
In Yinsh two players compete to lay down 3 rings of their own color. In order to do so they need to complete a straight and continuous row of 5 tiles with their own color face-up. When a ring jumps over tiles, the respective tiles are flipped over to the other color.
That’s basically it, you now know 80% of the rules already. Yet this game is so deep!
The game has no luck factor at all and due to the flipping of tokens its gameplay is very dynamic. Having many colors of your own face-up is good but it makes it easier for your opponent to flip several tokens to their color with a single move. Also laying down rings brings you closer to victory but it reduces your options since you have one ring less to move around the board.
I think the game is very deep. It feels a bit more tactical and less strategic than games like chess and especially go, because the situation on the board changes so quickly. This makes it more challenging to plan ahead.
Concluding, I think this is a very good and elegant abstract game that also appeals to more casual gamers who might not be interested in chess or go. The reason is that it is easier to teach and after two minutes you can start and play and you actually feel you have a little bit of a clue whereas in chess you need a bit to memorize how all pieces move. In addition, the dynamic swings appeals to more casual gamers.
Finally, losing does not feel as bad as in other abstract games (like chess, where your king gets “killed”) because you were just 1-2 rings away from victory. 1-2 rings can mean you had no chance at all but it doesn’t feel like it. I can easily finish a game of Yinsh within 15-20 minutes and usually will play several games in a “row” (pun intended 😉 ).