Buzzworthiness: Coloretto

After last week’s review of No Thanks!, here’s another of my go-to fillers:

image by BGG user nrihtar2
image by BGG user nrihtar2

Coloretto is a 2003 game from designer Michael Schacht.  The game is for 3-5 players (though there is an official 2 player variant) and takes 30 minutes to play.  It’s a basic set collection game where players are trying to collect sets of colored cards (but not too many).  I first discovered the game on the Memoirs of a Board Gamer blog, where Matthew Marquand has a very good implementation of the game.  The game is quick, simple, and provided the basis for Schacht’s 2007 Spiel des Jahres winner Zooloretto.

On your turn, you either draw a card and place it in a row, or take a row.  No row may have more than three cards in it, and you can’t take a row with fewer than one card.  The cards are divided into seven colors, with some wild cards and +2s thrown in.  Once a player has taken a row, they are out of the round until all rows have been taken, at which time everyone is back in.  Once the round end card has been revealed from the deck, the current round ends and players add up their scores.  You will get 1-3-6-10-15-21 points for your three colors that you have the most in, with points based on how many cards you have taken (wilds can be used as anything).  However, for any additional colors you have, you will lose 1-3-6-10-15-21 points.  +2 cards are worth 2 points.  You play a preset number of rounds, and the player with the highest score wins.

COMPONENTS: This is nothing more than a deck of cards.  There’s a chameleon against a different background on all cards (except for the +2s).  For a color-based game, I am impressed at how they chose to deal with the issue of color-blindness – rather than put a different symbol to represent each color as many games do, Coloretto added a different background texture for each color.  This means that you don’t have to search for a symbol to see if a color matches.  Good choice.

THEME: There is no theme here.  If you need a theme to go with these mechanics, try Zooloretto or its sequel/expansion, Aquaretto.

MECHANICS: Coloretto is a set-collection game where you are trying to collect only a limited number of sets.  The mechanics are very simple – draw a card or take a row.  Despite its simplicity, this usually confuses people at first – they think they should be doing more.  Trust me, you’re not – either you draw a card or take a row.  The game has a heavy push-your-luck element – do I take that card that will help me, or try to get more by drawing?

The only other thing to talk about mechanically is the scoring structure.  It’s an interesting mix of set-collection and set-avoidance as you attempt to collect as much as you can in certain colors while avoiding any extras in others.  Points are in a pyramid structure – 1+2+3+4+5+6.  This makes scoring fairly easy, especially since it’s obvious which sets are going to earn positive points.

STRATEGY LEVEL: The game’s simplicity lends itself to some fairly deep strategy.  You are attempting to collect certain colors and avoid others, and at the same time you are trying not to help your opponents.  Every time you draw, you know there is a possibility that the others will take that card you needed, or plop something you didn’t need on a card you really did.  You have to be wise, and accept the likelihood…nay, the certainty that you WILL take some negative cards.  So you need to weigh the probable benefits against the detriments to determine what to do.  There are a ton of crucial decisions to make in the game, from deciding which colors to go after initially (hint – try to go after ones no one else is going after) to deciding when to take rows.

ACCESSIBILITY: Coloretto is very easy to learn and play.  I would say it’s a step up in complexity from something like No Thanks!, but is still easy enough that most people will get it.  And while Zooloretto has the benefit of cuddly animals to bring people in versus the chameleons of Coloretto, I and those I’ve played with have found Coloretto charming enough to be a good game for gamers of all types.

REPLAYABILITY: I have never had two games of Coloretto that have played the same way.  The randomness of the cards prevents people from playing the same way, and there don’t seem to be any dominant strategies people can master.  You can play this game as much as you want, and it will always yield some new experiences.

SCALABILITY: I would recommend the game for 3, 4, and 5 players – it’s always very tight with all numbers.  With 3 players, you take out one of the colors.  I have not played the two-player variant.

IS IT BUZZWORTHY? Yes.  I love Coloretto.  It’s one of my favorite games of all time, and I think it is highly worth a spot in your collection – if not as a filler, then it is a perfect game to help introduce people to the wide world of games.

That’s review #5 for the year.  I seem to be publishing them on Tuesdays (which I think I’m going to start calling Reviewsdays).  Next week, my review of the third game in this loose filler trilogy will be later in the week since Tuesday is the 11th, and The Eleven has to take precedence.  Thanks for reading!

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