…red and yellow and pink and turquoise and mucky brown and dirty off white and Prussian blue…oh, I can’t remember how the stupid song goes…I learned the mnemonic Richard of York gave birth in Vain so what do I know?
So What’s All The Fuss About?
Well this time I’m a touch late to the colour mixers’ party in that the project went live a day or so ago and my preview copy only just arrived. (It has already funded on Kickstarter by the way)
However, Scott James did contact me about the game before the campaign started and asked me if I’d like to take a look as he has a solo mode by David Digby (Chocolate Factory, Alley Cat Games) which he thought might interest me …and so the package was whisked to me in Estonia.
Colour creation is the name of the game…well, Swatch is the actual name, but you get the idea. Acquisition of pigments, mixing them into colours, blending these colours to create swatches and build swatch collections into colour schemes. Simple!
The game its self is quite abstract as it goes, with a notion of colour theory as the back story. We are not conned by some glamorous or outlandish glossy rendering of Picasso, Rembrandt, Miro or some such artist of antiquity, pasted over a weak card game to make us feel we have a “pretty” purchase sitting smugly before us. The imagery is simple and is itself somewhat abstract, but this mirrors the principle game mechanics.
We, as players, are not asked to create wonderful masterpieces or paint by numbers. We are the creators of colour…the colour those limelight hugging great masters buy by the barrow-full to daub, smear and otherwise apply to canvas. So, as we are essentially colour theorists, the theme of mathematical abstraction actually fits the abstract nature of the game….and as gameplay piles on tricky decisions with every turn, we are a little too preoccupied to worry about what artists will do with our colour creations.
The game is cunningly simple. We collect Cyan, Yellow or Magenta pigment cubes, mix said cubes into Blue, red or Green discs and combine these discs into colour swatches. Sounds simple. Sounds a little too simple… But one would be wrong to jump to such a hasty conclusion. The concept is simple but its implementation is far more involved.
We all take a colour scheme selected from a random draw of three cards which will dictate our personal win condition. Each of these cards presents us with three rows of colour swatches, from which one per row must be created by us to secure victory. A simple enough task it might appear but the road to success is a little more tricky
Three rows of “action” cards make up the principle playing area and it is from these cards we derive our colours, our ability to mix and, on occasion swap a useless item for a more crucial one from an opponent’s store. There is an element of worker placement in the game, as we place a meeple artist (or two if playing solo/2 player) to secure an action card (the ability to accumulate pigments, ability to mix pigments or to swap out unwanted resources for something more helpful from our competitors)
The six stacks of “swatch” cards are always available to us, displaying the necessary pigment quantities required to mix the requisite colour discs necessary to create (or take into our play area) the chosen swatch… so we are always aware of targets that drive our action stage. Single action cards are also drawn once per turn in addition to the ones we acquire from the three “action” rows but as hand size is limited, hand management also becomes a feature of the game.
Essentially we are all racing to be the first to complete our colour schemes and dispose of any remaining pigments/colours, but as we may be in competition for pigments, swatches or simply wish to thwart an opponent’s progress, tactical placement of meeples or swapping of resources results in plenty of player interaction.
Wood Chits And Cardboard Bits:
I have only a prototype but the illustrations and card information are crisp and clearly identify actions, colour schemes and swatch resource requirements. My images are of prototype components and I know the production copy will have a higher level of development re: card graphics. The wooden components are generic cubes, meeples and discs as good as any other game. I do not know at this stage if they will be upgraded during the campaign to more exclusive items. I know if funding goes well there are possible plans for screen printing the meeples to resemble artists and a possibility of custom paint-themed resource tokens as stretch goals… I suggest keeping an eye on the kickstarter campaign will ensure up-to-date info on this.
What is a nice touch for me, is the reverse of each of the colour swatch cards. They all have a unique and humerous named colour to display once achieved by players
Meeples and Standees:
Design: Scott James
Solo Design: David Digby
Artist: Scott James
Publisher: Minerva Tabletop Games
Now we get down to the crux of the game. Fundamentally a multiplayer game (exciting at 3+, although 2p is a great game with the addition of 2 meeples rather than the regular 1, which makes for greater action competition), the solo AI enters the competition for our solo game. The game play for the soloists amongst us remains pretty much unchanged which is nice to know, as we are getting the same game experience as multiplayer games. We play as if in a two player game using two meeple artists for securing actions per turn and go about our daily routines as normal.
Bots and Wotnots:
The Bot, however, is handled a little differently. A special deck and two dice are employed for the AI action decision making. The AI makes two rolls, one for its CMY (cyan/magenta/yellow) artist and one for the RGB
(red/green/blue) artist. The AI deck has corresponding colours, arrows and numbers to govern resource acquisition and placement of the meeples. CYM resources are dealt with on a single ascending tracker card, reducing the need to track each individual pigment and are removed in the same manner to generate RGB tokens, which are recorded on a spacific RGB tracker card. The AI takes action cards away from us just as a real player would but is also able to select the most accessible swatch card available. This allows Poppy the AI to take the first available swatch that matches the resources in on the Bot tracker cards. It is not restricted to a colour scheme which certainly ups the anti for the live player. There is, as would be expected, an easy, medium and hard adjustment to further challenge us.
The game for us soloists feels just as a multiplayer game would, and is particularly challenging on medium and especially on hard mode. The AI system is simple to maintain from a book-keeping perspective, plays smoothly and really does mess with our plans at times, not to mention its cunning swatch gathering skills
It is always so refreshing to have an artificial opponent to compete against rather than just “beat our own high score” and this is an excellent solo implementation. This Poppy character has certainly proven to be a worthy opponent indeed.
The Real Nitty Gritty
- Winners and Losers: Well if my record is anything to go by, this is a tricky customer. It is not impossible to beat but human victory is far from a forgone conclusion
- Rules is Rules is Rules: The rules I have with my prototype fill 2 A4 sides for the main game and an additional A4 for the solo variant. The rules are simply explained, illustrations support the explanation and language used clearly lays out how to play
- Lucky Bugger Buggers: The only luck element is which action space or swatch card the AI bot will take and as this merely replicates the unpredictability of a live opponent, any blunders or lost opportunities are all down to our own incompetence
- Lows and Highs: The game is tense and is a particularly tight run race to the finish line verses the AI opponent. Play is quick and even after crushing defeat, lessons can be learned and applied to the next game.
- Footprints All Over My Table: The space required is minimal when playing solo. The three rows of five action cards, AI tracker cards, live player area and swatch offer all fit comfortably into a 60cm x 60cm space
- Set It Up Just To tear It All Down Again: So long as cards are bagged up separately, set up is a matter of moments. A quick shuffle of the AI deck, the action deck and laying out the swatch piles is pretty much all that is needed. Then the only lengthy part of set up is deciding which of the three randomly drawn colour scheme cards we should take
- In For A Penny: I think the base game is on Kickstarter at £19 and for what the game offers, feels a real bargain.
Me, Myself and I:
This was a surprise to me as I was unsure when first asked to look at the game, how entertaining a game about mixing colours could be. After only a few minutes of play I hadn’t even given the theme a second thought… I was too focused on trying to out-with the AI Bot… needless to say it took a number of plays to finally beat Poppy the AI. It certainly makes one think and as luck plays little part in the game from a strategy point of view, it proved to be a most entertaining experience. The game plays quickly, the AI is easy to manage and each session throws up different challenges keeping it fresh on replayability.
Yay or Nay?
This is definitely worth a look on Kickstrarter. If players are after a glossy, shallow, thin veneer of a game, it may be a disappointment but if players want a game with smooth running mechanics, challenge and plenty of head scratching decision making… then this is definitely for you. Accessible to novice gamers, especially family members, but strategically deep enough to please even the hard-core gamer.
Swatch mixed a red, green and a blue die to achieve a BsoMT 1d8 die roll of 6.5
Now where did I put my elephant hair mixing brush? I have a shed full of cyan cubes just crying out to be melted down with some yellow to make a beautiful leaf green… just what I need for my a delightful Profound Muffin Brown… oh what do I know, I have neurological cross over issues … I can only smell colours
Something For The Weekend Sir?
Swatch Kickstarter campaign:
Minerva tabletop games on social media:
View Swatch on BoardGameGeek: https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/302753/swatch
Play Swatch for free, multiplayer or solo, on Tabletop Simulator: https://steamcommunity.com/sharedfiles/filedetails/?id=1984479967
Watch a tutorial and full playthrough with Paul Grogan of Gaming Rules!, designer Scott James, and special guest Emma Janssen https://youtu.be/uxmwMrKX2VA
Solo Playthrough with Lance Goodwin of Love 2 Hate – https://youtu.be/qhZNDUtjRtk