Though pretty much all my recent posts are related to computer gaming, I have in fact been playing and enjoying some boardgames recently also. Today I want to post about a small, light game I picked up specifically to play with my kids that has turned into a pretty good investment.
Coloretto was first published by Rio Grande games in 2003 and the basic drafting mechanic in it has since spawned a whole series of games including Aquaretto and Zooloretto and their many expansions. Zooloretto is a great game that I have owned for years and enjoy as a light game that is often acceptable to non-gamers due to the fun theme and simple mechanics. Coloretto I somehow missed until seeing it on a list of recommended kids games recently, but it is an even simpler and more accessible game that has the benefit of being playable by even younger players (my older kids are 6 and 4).
The game comes in a very small, portable box and consists of 88 cards; 63 cards of chameleons in sets of colors, 3 “wild card” chameleons that match all colors, 10 “+2 points” cards, and 12 other utility cards (last round card, stack cards, scoring summary cards). The chameleon card art is vibrant and the lizards on their various colored backgrounds are quite cute. The utility cards are clear and easy to understand with nice colors.
The art on the +2 point cards are a bit abstract, showing some kind of sky background, and perhaps my only complaint as they don’t contribute to an already pretty thin theme; not that it detracts from gameplay, but a weak theme can make it a tad harder to draw new people in. I’ve taken to calling them “lizard food” so that the kids understand you just always want them.
I want to make an effort in my boardgame reviews not to let my review devolve into a full-scale rules explanation, but in this case the rules are so simple I’m gonna pretty much cover them completely.
Each player starts the game with a lizard card of a different color. The remaining lizard color cards and +2 bonus cards are shuffled into a common deck, and a number of stack cards are placed in the center equal to the number of players. Each around, players rotate taking turns in which the player either collects the cards next to stack card or flips a new card from the deck and places it in a stack. Stacks can only have 3 cards at the most, and after drafting a stack that player is done for the round. At the end of the round, you simply start over again until the last round card is revealed; at the end of that round the game is over and player’s tally scores.
Players score points based on how many lizards they have of each color; a 1 lizard set of a color is worth 1 point, 2 lizards are worth 3 points, 3 are worth 6, 4 = 10, 5 = 15, and 6 = 21 points. However, the catch is that players may only score 3 colors as positive; any colors beyond those 3 count as negative points. The “wild” rainbow lizards can be scored as any color (making them pretty valuable) and the +2 cards simply provide +2 points. There are some minor changes for 2 and 3 player games but this pretty much covers it.
So the basic strategy is to draft as many lizards as you can in 3 colors while avoiding all the other colors. Since your cards are face-up and everyone knows what lizards you are collecting, it is very possible to place lizards into stacks to try to give yourself a good future draft choice or so as not to present another player with a good draft option. For example, if one player is collecting blue but avoiding brown and a stack has 2 blue cards in it, an opponent may put a brown lizard they drew into that stack specifically to avoid it being too good of a draft for the first player. It’s not complicated, but there is a decent amount of interaction and thought process that goes into choosing which stack to place a card into or when to commit and draft a stack. Focusing too much on only your own goals while ignoring other players or focusing too much on sand-bagging other players can both lose you the game.
I have found playtime to be right around 15-20 minutes.
This is probably the first true game I’ve played with my kids that actually involves serious decision-making that directly affects the outcome, and it’s pretty exciting for me to finally get to this point with them. They are very young and it’s a big jump for them so to help them out I call the stacks in the middle “stores” and tell them we are shopping for lizards but we only want lizards in three colors, those are the “good points”, any other colors are “bad points”. The +2 cards are “lizard food” and the rainbow lizards are very special.
While they make odd choices at times, the basic mechanics combined with the kid-friendly explanation seems to work pretty well and so far they have really enjoyed the game despite losing pretty badly to Daddy (though Daddy lost pretty badly to Mommy the one game she joined us for). Even if they don’t win, they get a lot of enjoyment out of drafting the lizards and trying to get the colors they want and so far the competitive nature of the drafting part of the game hasn’t come out too strongly which is probably for the best, though I try to gently encourage them not to think of it from a cooperative standpoint; it’s cute that they want to help each other out in getting the right colors of lizards but I’m hoping this will lead to other competitive games and I really want them to continue to learn good sportsmanship.
For adults, I think the game is pretty light but could still work as a filler type if you want a game that is really light-weight, really portable, plays quick, doesn’t take a lot of space, but still manages to punch above it’s weight in terms of gameplay. Especially for the cheap price it’s hard not to recommend it.