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Subject: Red Player One Initial Impressions: Colony rss

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Curt Frantz
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The Game

Colony is a game whereby you will be using a bunch of dice and many different kinds of buildings to rebuild civilization more effectively than the other players.

Note: I only played 2 full games of Colony at GenCon 2016, and therefore will not be providing ratings for this game.




The Components

This game mostly consists of cards and dice. The game comes with 30 dice for the players to share and all these cards:



As you can see in the image, each player will start with four cards in their tableau, either on the basic side or the 2.0 side (depending on experience level). There are many different types of cards, indicated by the color coding (i.e. red cards are attack cards). The victory points in this game are indicated by yellow/orange semi-circles at the bottom of each card. The 2.0 sides of each card usually provide extra VPs, which is something to note while playing. In addition, there are player aids, a scoreboard, a score marker for each player, and 27 tokens called CHIPIs.

The Gameplay

Each player takes their starting cards and, in a beginner game, turns the construction and upgrade cards to their 2.0 sides.
On a turn, the active player will carry out these actions:

1. Prepare

During this phase, the player will retrieve all dice from the warehouse, where dice are stored between turns, in preparation for use. Some other cards are activated during the prepare phase as well, so the player will identify any such cards in their tableau.

2. Scavenge

The player will pick up three stable resources (white dice) from the supply and decides whether or not to turn in CHIPI tokens for the ability to roll unstable resources (frosted dice). Unstable resources can’t be stored in the warehouse between turns like stable resources.
The active player keeps any unstable resources rolled, and chooses one of the three stable resources to keep. He or she passes the remaining two stable resources to the left where the next two players draft these in turn order.

3. Activate

After the dice are rolled and added to the player’s warehouse dice from previous turns, cards may be activated and new cards may be purchased. Activating may be done in any order and is indicated by tilting the activated card to its side. The catchup mechanism in this game allows the player to discard a card from his tableau to roll a number of dice equal to the difference in their score and the leader’s score. So, if the active player is losing by five points, they may permanently discard a card to roll five extra stable resources this turn.

If the proper dice are rolled, the upgrade card can be activated to upgrade any other card to its 2.0 side. This allows the player to perform better actions and usually provides additional victory points.
There are many other different categories of cards:

- Basic: these provide extra dice to be rolled. The dice are usually unstable on the 1.0 side of the card and stable on the 2.0 side of the card.

- Production: these also allow the active player to acquire new dice or CHIPIs either when purchased and/or when activated.

- Exchange: these allow players to exchange dice of one number/type for dice of another number/type, as indicated on each card.

- Trade: these cards allow players to perform trades, and often times a bonus is granted to the trading players as an incentive.

- Attack: these allow the active player to steal dice from other players.

- Defensive: there is a way to defend from some (if not all) of the attack cards. For example, the chain link fence makes you a less inviting target for other players’ pirates.

- Other: there are some general purpose cards that don’t fall into any of the above categories.

- Paragon: these cards are usually very expensive but provide higher amounts of victory points to the buying player.

If the player chooses not to build any new cards, he or she gains a CHIPI token (or two if their construction card is on the 2.0 side) to use on a following turn.

4. Cleanup

The player adds any newly built cards to their colony (tableau), and turns the cards upright from their activated positions. Unstable resources are returned to the supply and stable resources are stored in the warehouse, up to the limit. Note that there are exceptions to most rules in this game. There is a way to store unstable resources, for example, by buying a certain building.

Game End

The game is over at the end of a turn in which a player has reached the indicated number of points, which is 15 (4 players), 16 (3 players), or 20 (2 players).

Final Thoughts

I’ll start with what I see as clear positives. This game is very unique. There aren’t many other games that utilize the dice placement mechanic like this one does. In addition, the customizability and the replaybility are both very high. As in most deck builders, you only use a fraction of the total cards each game. There are some basic cards that are used in every game, but the remaining cards are randomized or chosen by the players. This will lead to a variety of different experiences and you likely won’t tire of this game right away. The rulebook even suggests different combinations to use if you want games that are non-confrontational, heavy attacking, or mass production. It’s very easy to create a different focus from one game to the next, creating the need for a new approach.

The rules to the game are simple to learn but understanding the interactions of all the cards will take some practice. You’ll definitely want to look over the display of cards at the start of each game to know what the available options can do for you. Make sure to take a look at the 2.0 sides as well. Most times, the cards provide significantly better abilities once upgraded.

I was pleased that the game moved along at a brisk pace, despite the number of decisions available on each player’s turn. I initially thought this game would lend itself to analysis paralysis, but I didn’t observe much of that in the games I played.

I do have some initial reservations. I hesitate to call them drawbacks, because I haven’t fully experienced this game in all of its glory yet. I’ve only played the basic game with a pretty standard set of cards. First, it didn’t seem like picking a certain strategy really mattered all that much. I won the game by simply buying victory points as cheaply and quickly as possible and, even though other players had a couple cards scoring higher VPs, won by a pretty comfortable margin. I mostly bought basic and production cards. I suppose maybe this is a viable strategy? During the game, I thought my opponents were putting together much better engines than I was, but it didn’t seem to matter in the end. We took very disparate approaches; they seemed to be targeting certain cards for purchase and figuring out a way to acquire the right dice, while I was rolling as many dice as possible and then figuring out how to get the most points out of them.

Initially, I feel about Colony how I do about Dominion. It seems like a well-designed game, but I don’t find myself having much fun playing it. The game felt very methodical to me. Once the dice were rolled, each turn became a bit of a spreadsheet to unlock. It felt very much like a euro game in that sense, except that my fate was in the hands of a cluster of dice instead of my brain. The players may have known what they wanted to accomplish on a turn but the dice may not have allowed for it (disclaimer: there are ways to mitigate this through trades and other cards). This is partly why I took the reactionary approach described above, rather than going into a turn with a plan, but it somehow seemed less fun than manipulating/trading/exchanging the dice to do cool things.

Obviously, many people like Dominion more than me and many people like dice more than me, so don’t write this one off without playing it. I’d like to play Colony a few more times (with customized setups) to see whether or not my current impressions change, for better or worse. The uniqueness alone makes this game worth trying!


If you enjoyed reading this review, feel free to check out my other game reviews HERE
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Y P
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Thank you for the thoughtful analysis. I'm glad to see some negatives thrown in there, not because I think the game is bad, but in general those are typically more informative than the glowing reviews.

Have you played Favor of the Pharaoh? If so, how would you compare it fun-wise? In that game you're at the mercy of the dice as well, but the whole point of the game is gaining dice manipulation powers as you go so you can overcome bad rolls. Does Colony have a lot of that, and if so why did you feel it wasn't enough to overcome that feeling of being at the mercy of the dice? Sounds like maybe it was a result of your points-heavy strategy instead of buying the cool cards that let you manipulate the dice?

I hope there isn't a dominant strategy of hoarding the points cards above all else.
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Curt Frantz
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MentatYP wrote:
Thank you for the thoughtful analysis. I'm glad to see some negatives thrown in there, not because I think the game is bad, but in general those are typically more informative than the glowing reviews.

Have you played Favor of the Pharaoh? If so, how would you compare it fun-wise? In that game you're at the mercy of the dice as well, but the whole point of the game is gaining dice manipulation powers as you go so you can overcome bad rolls. Does Colony have a lot of that, and if so why did you feel it wasn't enough to overcome that feeling of being at the mercy of the dice? Sounds like maybe it was a result of your points-heavy strategy instead of buying the cool cards that let you manipulate the dice?

I hope there isn't a dominant strategy of hoarding the points cards above all else.


I have played Favor of the Pharaoh, but only a couple times. I wasn't a huge fan of it either, but I do feel like you have to play the game the way it was designed to be successful. That leads players climbing the same hill in very different ways. I do like the various tracks and approaches players can take, many of which can be effective. In Colony, I just felt like having more dice was better than having the right dice. And conveniently enough, the cards that provide extra dice provide the same VP that the dice manipulation, trading, etc. cards do (and they're cheap!). I was actually disappointed that I did so well in two separate games by just spamming the VP track. I wanted to like this game more, because it does have quite a few things going for it.

It's possible that what I stumbled upon was just an effective beginner strategy, and if I had played against experienced players it may not have gone my way. I would have liked to explore the other cards more, but it just didn't behoove me to do so.
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Daniel Hopkins
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Nice review!

I play-tested Colony, so I think I have about 40+ plays under my belt so far.

I think your strategy is the way to go. Each turn is its own beast. If you're always going for one card, and the dice don't work out, then your turn is not optimized, but if you look at what that turn can get you, then, you're usually better off.

I have used many different strategies in this game. I personally like going for heavy production and then using dice modifiers (blue cards) to start an engine that allows me to buy X victory point card every turn. Also, people probably didn't use the trash a card to gain extra dice on their turn. That's huge. Seriously, huge. If you're trailing by 6 points, Boom! 6 extra dice on your turn. That can bring you back into the game quickly.

I like Colony so much more than Dominion because the dice will always be different, and that makes each play unique.
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Curt Frantz
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dhopkins wrote:
Nice review!

I play-tested Colony, so I think I have about 40+ plays under my belt so far.

I think your strategy is the way to go. Each turn is its own beast. If you're always going for one card, and the dice don't work out, then your turn is not optimized, but if you look at what that turn can get you, then, you're usually better off.

I have used many different strategies in this game. I personally like going for heavy production and then using dice modifiers (blue cards) to start an engine that allows me to buy X victory point card every turn. Also, people probably didn't use the trash a card to gain extra dice on their turn. That's huge. Seriously, huge. If you're trailing by 6 points, Boom! 6 extra dice on your turn. That can bring you back into the game quickly.

I like Colony so much more than Dominion because the dice will always be different, and that makes each play unique.


That's very good feedback, and I'm glad someone who has played more than me is able to chime in. I'm glad to hear you've been successful with different strategies.

In our games, I just didn't feel like there was enough time in the game to get a good engine going. 15 or 16 VPs really isn't that many when you're gaining at least one per turn.

You are correct, players didn't utilize the catch-up mechanism, which they absolutely should have. Is that a good game mechanic though? Giving people extra resources because they happen to be getting their butts kicked? Seems like a bit of an afterthought to me. And if you're down by 6 points late in the game, is it really enough to make you competitive? And if it is...yikes...
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Mikko Saari
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I was also involved in the playtesting, and while I understand the reasons why Ted wanted to make the game shorter (to make sure it ends while everybody's still having fun, I suppose), I'd kinda prefer a longer game myself. But since the game length is controlled by a point target, it's easy to adjust if you'd like a longer game.
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John McCloud
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tribefan07 wrote:
I’ll start with what I see as clear positives. This game is very unique. There aren’t many other games that utilize the dice placement mechanic like this one does. In addition, the customizability and the replaybility are both very high. As in most deck builders, you only use a fraction of the total cards each game.


I have only played Colony once, but it immediately reminded me of Ryan Laukat's Artifacts Inc. Colony has greater variability with all of the different cards. It is also simpler mechanically (in a good way) since it only has one resource (dice). Waiting for your turn was somewhat alleviated by the dice drafting. However, the race for points was more anticlimactic since Artifacts has end-game points.
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