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Subject: Coloretto - a Light Bites review rss

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Mike Poole
United Kingdom
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Light Bites – Amuse-Bouche Reviews.
Enough that you get a taste, not too much that you choke.


What’s it about?


Really, nothing. The box may well have a picture of a chameleon on the cover but it has nothing at all to do with anything in this small box, set-collecting filler. There is no attempt at all in the rule book to explain what the little fellow is doing there on the cover in full multi-coloured view while two chameleon assassins sneak up on him from below. Maybe they don’t like the fact he shows off so much. I don’t blame them.

Anyway now that we’ve cleared up the fact that there is no theme present here, not even in the slightest, does Coloretto blend in with the masses of other fillers or is it a shining beacon of polychromatic goodness?

So, what happens?

To get a game of Coloretto up and running, you give each player a scoring card, shuffle the deck of cards which includes chameleon cards in 7 colours, several multi-coloured joker chameleons, some ‘+2’ cards and a shiny golden chameleon card (at least in the edition which I am referring to which is the 10 year anniversary edition). You also give each player a card of a different colour as a starting card and then make a mini deck of 15 cards, on top of which you put the last round card. Place the remainder of the deck on this mini deck to form the draw deck and set out one row marker card for each player. You are now officially good to go.

On your turn, you’ve got two options. Yes, only two options. Reveal the top card from the deck and place it in a row or take the cards in a row. Each row can hold up to three cards, no more, so if all the rows are full your only option is which row to take.

So why would you take a row? Well this is where the funky scoring comes in. You are trying to collect sets of cards of the same colour but only the first three sets count positively. Any additional sets collected count as negative points. The more cards you have in the set, the more points you get, whether they be plus or minus points. A single card will get you 1 point , a set of 2 cards = 3 points, 3 cards = 6 points, right up to a set of 6 cards netting you the maximum of 21 points.

Occasionally a ‘+2’ card is revealed and placed, which gives the person taking the cards in that row, shock-horror, two additional points at the end of the game. The joker chameleons, aside from being entertaining comedians in their own right, are wild cards which can be used as one of any colour. The golden joker means that in addition to using this card as a wild card, you get one additional card, sight-unseen, from the top of the deck. Could be good for you, could be bad. Are you feeling lucky, punk? Well, if not, then just change colour, disappear off into the background, and pick another row.

When the last round card is revealed then the current round is completed and the scores are totted up to see who is the king chameleon.

Any good?

By jove, yes. Exceedingly good. But how can something be so good when you’ve only got two simple and straightforward options – reveal and place a card or take a row - I hear you ask? How indeed.

Well, it’s because those two meagre options throw up some delicious decisions to be made. Because, and this is where this game shows its real chameleon character, those decisions can be nasty. In fact, downright evil. You see while this might look like a nice fluffy light game with colourful artwork it hides a dark heart.

When you are deciding which row to place the card into you can just look to see which row you’d like to take and either place it there if you want it and hope to pick it up later, or if you don’t want it, just not put it in that row. That is a perfectly legitimate way to play.

However, you can also look around the table at what other people have and you can poison those rows for other people. After a while you can see what people are collecting and you can throw a card into a row that makes it considerably less appealing for them. You can take cards that you didn’t really want but your sole reason is to stop someone else getting them and scoring big. You can ‘invite’ people to take rows that you don’t want by making it more appealing for them by adding cards they are collecting into it thereby increasing your odds of picking up what you want.

And this decision then feeds into the next, injecting yet more tension into the mix, namely, when do you take a row? Everyone has to take a row eventually so you could take a row early on when it has only one or two cards in it, and is unsullied by cards you don’t want. But you are missing out on those 1 or 2 extra cards if you do so, reducing the likelihood of getting big points, and maybe those cards will come out in your favour anyway. But if you do delay taking your row, when it comes back to your turn, everyone else might have taken a row leaving you with no choice and a pile of chameleon dung on your hands.

If all other players have taken their row and there is still space in the one you have to take, a push-your-luck element comes into play as you have to decide if you are going to stick or twist. Cut your losses take what you’ve got or keep flipping to get the full complement of three cards. It’s fun to be flipping cards; fun to watch, in a schadenfreude kind of way, if the player reveals cards that add to their negative sets.

Once you’ve managed to get over explaining the rule that the first three sets are positive points and any additional sets count as negative points, which might take some a short while to get their head around, then the other rules are quickly covered. The rules are simple enough that you can get non-gamers to give it a go but it’s got enough bite for gamers too in between meatier fare. It has a short play time of between 10-20 minutes so it’s possible to bang out a few games in a row.

And if you think that you’ll get bored after repeated plays, don’t worry, help is at hand. There is an alternate ‘expert’ scoring structure on the back of the score cards in the anniversary edition which you can have a go with. This game also has a couple of mini-expansions – the ‘Extra Cards’ and the ‘Limit Cards’ - that you can get from the BoardGameGeek store for not very much. You select a card from one of these expansions at the beginning of each game to change the rules slightly. For example, one from the Extra Cards expansion says that if you are first the first person to take a row, you have to take the top card off the deck as well; another says that only the first two sets count as positives, the rest count as negatives. Each one changes the strategy and tactics needed to play that game and you can play several games in a row, with each being a bit different from the last.

The artwork in this inexpensive, classic little gem of a game, at least in the 10 year anniversary edition, is gorgeous and I’d urge you to seek out one of those copies as it gives you even more bang for your buck in the visual department. The original version is fine but lacks the pizzazz of the anniversary edition.

Exhibit A – Older Version

Exhibit B – Anniversary Edition

Coloretto does everything a good filler should and does it exceedingly well. In fact it’s probably close to being the perfect filler – only a few rules, a short playing time, playable with different groups, light but with bite. It reminds you that sometimes it’s healthy to move out from the blinding glare of the current hotness, to remove yourself, however temporarily, from the gravitational pull of the cult of the new. Sometimes you just want to luxuriate in the warmth and comfort of old friends. And Coloretto definitely is one of those old friends. It’s like that pair of shoes that didn’t cost the earth, your old faithfuls, the ones that you wore in ages ago and you slip on every time you go outside the house.

But just be careful someone didn’t put some stones in them when you weren’t looking.

Coloretto by Michael Schacht for 2 to 5 players and is published by Abacusspiele & Rio Grande.

Author: Mike Poole
Rating: excellent

1 horrific, avoid like the plague
2 bad, few redeeming features
3 subpar, not for me
4 reasonable
5 good
6 excellent
7 perfect, brilliant. Stop reading and go out and buy it.

Originally posted here - - playing games regardless of the drafts.
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