Friday, June 6, 2014

Coloretto, by Michael Schacht

Elegant: adjective
1) pleasingly graceful and stylish in appearance or manner.
2) pleasingly ingenious and simple.

Coloretto is an elegant game, as much or more than any other I’ve learned recently. I think of “elegance” as referring to a game I can learn very easily, but that is enjoyable enough to warrant multiple plays. An elegant game has a certain feel, it tickles the senses in a certain way. If you’ve felt that before, you’ll know exactly what I mean.

Simple and fun, easy to teach and worth playing multiple times – these are the things that get my attention when I learn a new game. I’m always looking for things to bring to the table between long games or with family, and Coloretto fits the bill perfectly. It’s also a “press your luck” game that doesn’t feel like it’s high-pressure, so it’s a neat way to introduce people to the idea of making decisions based on the chance of good outcomes without overwhelming them with numbers or rules.

In Coloretto, players compete to collect sets of cards that are worth points at the end of the game. Once the final round is over, players score points based on how many cards they have of the three colors they’ve collected the most of, then lose points for cards of all other colors. Scores can be augmented by joker cards (count as any color at the end of the game) and “+2” cards that add 2 to a player’s score at the end of the game. 

At the end of the game, players add up their cards of each color. The three largest stacks score positively based on the scoring chart in the image to the right. The rest of the colored stacks score negative points in the same way. Joker cards can be any color, and "+2" cards add 2 points per card. The player with the most points is the winner.

More cards of a color
means more points
To begin the game and each subsequent round, a number of “row” cards equal to the number of players are placed in the middle of the board. These cards are used to stack cards during play. The colored cards, joker cards, and +2 cards are shuffled together. 15 cards are removed randomly and placed in a stack, then the “last round” card is placed on top. The rest of the deck is placed on top of the last round card.

The first player draws a card from the top of the deck and places it on any of the rows. Then, each subsequent player has a choice of two options:

1) Draw a card and place it on any row that doesn’t already have three cards (if all available rows are full, the player can’t take this option)

2) Take all cards from one of the rows, and flip over the row card to show it’s been taken. 

Play continues clockwise until only one row is left. If the row has fewer than three cards, the last player can choose to continue drawing cards and placing them on that row (we call it spinning!) until the row has three cards, then the row must be taken.

Once the last player has taken the last row, the row cards are replaced, and the player who went out last in the round begins the next round. Play continues until the “last round” card is revealed, which signals the last round of the game. After the round, players score their points, and the highest score is the winner!

I learned this game – and played it three times – in a 45-minute break I had before doing an episode of The Nerd Nighters this week. My dear friends (in fact, the couple who introduced me to hobby board games in the first place) were even nice enough to let me squeeze out a win in the second game I played!

Coloretto is simple and quick, but there’s enough thought that goes into the “press your luck” feel to create meaningful choices. There are three choices I consistently encountered in the game:
It's the last round!

1) Should I take this stack of fewer than three cards that will increase my score, or put another card in a row and hope to have my stack improved?

2) Where should I place a card I’ve drawn? Which stack is most likely to help me, and is least likely to be claimed by another player before it’s my turn again?

3) Once every other player has gone out, should I “spin” and press my luck to see if I get cards I need (when the last remaining stack has fewer than three cards)? 

Though I haven’t played a game with more than three players, I’d imagine that adding rows only increases the number of choices you make during the game and creates more interesting situations. There are two-player rules as well that involve rows with further restrictions on the number of cards they can hold – the rules sound neat, and I’ll play through them with Amy the first chance I get.

Impressive credentials!
Because I’ve had the incredibly good fortune of talking game design with some long-time designers, there are things I’ve learned to notice about games that I never would have thought of on my own. I immediately noticed that Coloretto doesn’t require any reading – the cards are simply “of a color” or “of many color” or say “+2” on them. The rules are simple enough that they can be taught by example, and the choices are simple enough as to be communicated without major language issues.

Simply put, it’s possible to play Coloretto without talking, which means it’s a game that can be played across a language barrier, or with kids who can’t read yet. That makes this an incredibly flexible game that fills multiple roles in a game collection!  As soon as I can make it to my Friendly Local Game Store I’m picking up Coloretto and permanently adding it to my box of games that we take to the Ronald McDonald House for game nights with families and kids. I’m also tossing it in my backpack for games to play at conventions. I think it’s a top-tier game for its class – small and simple – and should absolutely be added to your collection if you enjoy card games. 

Ryan Metzler reviews Coloretto at The Dice Tower

A review of Coloretto at

Coloretto info at Funagain Games' website

JR Honeycutt is a full-time husband and game-player, and co-host of The Nerd Nighters. You can find him on Twitter at @JayAhre or at a Friendly Local Game Store in Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas. 

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