by David Taylor
Game Designers Ted Alspach, Yoshihisa Nakatsu, and Toryo Hojo team up to bring us a tableau building game set in a post-apocalyptic world. The game employs a dice-drafting mechanic coupled with activated card abilities where players gather resources (dice) to build new buildings and establish a new colony. Colony plays 1-4 players, ages 13+, and plays in about 1-2 hours.
At its heart, Colony is a race game that is driven by an engine building mechanic. The engine is built by buildings that are constructed in a player’s tableau. Players will be building these buildings by gathering and spending resources, which are represented by dice in this game. With 28 different cards that can be used in different combinations, players can choose the conditions in which they are to build their colonies.
Let’s take a quick look at the flow of the game. If you wish to view the complete rules, check out the Colony page on Bezier Games website.
For setup, there are 6 basic cards that are used in every game. There are five green production cards that are representative of the different resources in the game and also the Fallout Shelter. Then 7 of the 28 variable cards are selected to be used for the rest of the cards available during the game. These cards can produce resources, attack opponents, allow you to trade with opponents, exchange cards, and there are other cards that add different elements to the game. There are recommended setups for the first game, different types of game feels, and also there is an app that will be available that can be used to generate a game setup.
There are 2 different kind of resources available: stable (white dice) and unstable (gray dice) and CHIPIs that are put out on the game table.
The cards are 2-sided so make sure at the start of the game the 2.0 side is face down.
Players will start with some basic cards that when activated will allow them to construct new buildings, modify dice, store dice, and upgrade cards. There is scoreboard that keeps track of points that is set up as well.
The game is played in 4 phases in which each round is played:
- Prepare – players take any stable resources stored in their warehouse and place them in their play area.
- Scavenge – The active player rolls 3 stable dice and each player will select one. Players can also turn in CHIPIs to roll unstable dice that will be available for that player for the current round only.
- Activate – Players will activate any cards in their tableau that will either grant them additional resources, special abilities, or even certain cards that can attack opponents.
- Cleanup – Players add any newly built cards to their tableau and update their scores, discard any unstable dice and any stable dice that cannot be stored.
Cards can be upgraded to their 2.0 version by paying the associated resource cost and flipping the card over and being able to use the new ability.
Players also can receive CHIPIs which are tokens that can be redeemed later to roll unstable dice. These are gained by a player when they do not construct on their turn.
The cards are worth points based upon the orange dots on the bottom of the cards.
There is a built-in catch up mechanic where a trailing player can discard a card in their tableau to be able to roll additional dice (the difference between the player and the leader) in order to have a more productive turn.
Play continues until one player reaches the target score for the number of players at the end of the turn.
Colony was one of my anticipated games of Gen Con 2016. I got a chance to play a 2-player game at Gen Con using the first game setup. I enjoyed the game and wanted to explore it more.
The production quality is excellent with great component quality and a very functional insert. The artwork is nice and fits the setting of the game well.
The rules are easy to understand and there are even examples of gameplay in the rulebook.
The gameplay is very straightforward with the resource collection, with the majority of resources being gained by buildings in their colony tableau. There are some neat twists toI like the dice drafting during the scavenge phase. In a 4-player game, the 4th player does not have a die to draft, but it balances out well with how the rounds go and dice are drafted. I really like the 2 different resources: stable and unstable and how they are used each round. The unstable resources lend to that sense of urgency to use them since they go away at the end of the turn.
In addition, I like how the resources need to be managed as certain resources are required to perform certain actions. So players need to build their engines accordingly to ensure the proper resources are available. Upgrading is my favorite part of the game as they greatly improve the card abilities, especially with the basic cards. They will grant stable resources when upgraded rather than unstable, so they can be stored in the warehouse. I had made a saying “2.0..the way to go!”
I do like the catch up mechanic in the game, but it comes at a cost of potentially losing points to risk gaining even more. So there is that bit of a gamble.
The game offers a lot of replayability with the different card configurations and each game can be set up to create a different feel. So if you want a more aggressive game, use more attack cards, etc. So much like the game Dominion, players can customize each game. The upcoming app should offer quick ways to set up the game.
Even though the game has a lot of positives, there are some negative impressions I also got. First of all, the theme is nothing more than a veneer. I never felt that when I gathered resource dice that had ‘2’ on them that those were GMOs. And Colony is in fact a retheme of Age of Craft.
Also, upon further plays, my appeal for the game started to wane. First off, the game was not received well by my gaming group where the general impression of the game was it was boring and it lagged, so my main gaming buddies did not want to play Colony more than once. I found the lagging part to be true when playing with 4. In general the game turns sort of ebb and flow where you gather up resources and then spend CHIPIs to have a big turn and then you have to start over to build back up again. It just seemed with 4 players, that the game felt a little long.
And I had an issue with the card Stockpile. All I needed to do was store sets of like dice in my warehouse and on each turn, do nothing and score points. I found this card to be unbalanced in relation to other cards in the game. If I did upgrade Stockpile to 2.0 it made it even easier to score points by storing sets of unlike resources.
Outside of the Stockpile card, I think Colony is a clever design. I like how the dice are managed during the game. I like the customization of the game as well. So you can set up the game in style you want to play. I think Colony fits well as an entry-level plus game with the simple rules and game play. There are some strategies that can be employed during the game to help achieve victory that will appeal to seasoned gamers. I do like the player interaction in the game and also the inclusion of defense cards and the ability to discard cards to roll additional dice. I think the game is a good example of an engine building game, but not as good as others , e.g. Saint Petersburg.
I enjoyed my first few plays of Colony, but then the appeal of it faded. Unfortunately, and I think it is just with the sheer number of games that are releasing these days, to me there is not enough here that makes Colony stand out and it gets lost in the mix of being just another game.
Disclaimer: Colony was provided to me by the publisher for the purpose of review.