Isolate is an elegant little strategy game from Educational Insights (makers of the award-winning games Rumis, Blokus, and Space Faces) for 2 or 4 players, from first grade to adult. It can take from 20 minutes to an hour for a game. The two-player version is as good as the four, and the strategy different enough to make it worth trying both.

There are 4 tiles (housed more or less conveniently in the inside of the board) of each of 4 different colors. Each player selects a color. Players then take turns adding tiles to the board – the only rule being that a new tile must be adjacent to one already played. After all the tiles are placed, the object becomes to move columns of tiles so as to isolate your color tile from other tiles on the board. As soon as your color tile is isolated, it is removed from the board, and added to your wins collection.

The game continues, each player sliding a column of adjacent tiles. If more than one, or a cluster of tiles is isolated from the main group, all those tiles are returned to their owners. This adds to the strategic depth of the game as you have to constantly be on the lookout to make sure that your move doesn’t inadvertently help other players (unless you find yourself in the thrall of self-defeating magnanimity).

The perceptual challenge is often as deep as the strategic – just being able to envision the consequences of a move requires you to perceive the entire array of tiles, in each permutation, as each possible move is considered. Just the kind of task that children are often better able to accomplish than adults – making the game of interest to the whole family. All in all, we found Isolate to be well-made, challenging and inviting.

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