Full disclosure: A review copy of CMYK! was provided by Big Cat Games.
Hey look, out of nowhere, three more doujin games! I’m trying to rush a few of these before PAX Unplugged, where you can pick them up from Big Cat Games, but that just requires realigning my schedule a smidge. Thankfully, if there’s one thing I’m known for, it’s flexibility under deadline pressure. But rather than dealing with that, let’s talk about CMYK!
In CMYK, you have an unfortunate situation. You ordered many white tiles, but they’ve come in a variety of different colors. Naturally, you can arrange them somewhat to help solve that problem, but as a mosaic tile craftsperson, you can only do so much. Which of you will be able to best satisfy your demanding clients?
Setup isn’t too bad. You can kind of ignore the Victory Point tiles:
The score markers:
And the scoreboard:
You really don’t need them, but they’re there to help. Shuffle the Private Objectives and give each player one, face-down:
Then, reveal one of the Public Objectives face-up:
Finally, shuffle the tiles and make stacks of 12, depending on your player count:
- 2 / 3 players: 5 stacks (60 tiles)
- 4 / 5 players: 7 stacks (84 tiles)
Any leftover tiles won’t be used. You’re all ready to start!
So, a game of CMYK! is a game of building hexes. Naturally, there are other objectives, as well, but the more you build, the more you score.
Before the game starts, each player takes a triangle tile off one of the stacks (do not take a black K-tile) and passes it to the player on their left. That’s their initial tile.
Now, players take turns being the Caller. When the caller says, “take!”, you take a tile from the top of one of the stacks. Place it adjacent to one of your existing tiles so that the shapes and colors on the edges of the triangles match (like a single magenta dot touching a single magenta dot). If you cannot place a tile, wait until a tile is revealed that you can place. If you cannot place any tiles, remove one tile from the game. Once a tile is taken, the previously-taken tile is locked. Until then, you may move them at your leisure.
The black tiles are K-tiles, and they are considered wild. You may either place it or discard it when you place it. If you place it, reveal another public objective card. Note that the K-tile is worth -3 points at the end of the game.
The game ends when all tiles have been exhausted. Then, score!
- 5 points per hexagon (they may overlap).
- -3 points per K-tile used.
- Score points from Public Objectives.
- Score points from Private Objectives.
The player with the most points wins!
Player Count Differences
There aren’t many beyond the increase in triangles available at higher player counts, save for the obvious one: there are more hands grabbing at tiles you might want, and it’s harder to track what your opponent might be going for when you’ve got four opponents instead of just one. This means that a lot of things you need might suddenly get snagged, and you’re going to have to wait a lot longer for it to be your turn to call (and usually, when you call, you get the first piece). My advice for this is to be a bit flexible about what you need and not build yourself into a corner, but that can happen in a two-player game, too, if you’re not careful. Either way, I still think it’s fun at any player count. No preference.
- Unless you need them, don’t take any of the pieces with the triangles on them. Triangles are the rarest symbols in the game, and you’d be much better off not making things more difficult for yourself by taking a tile that you will have trouble matching another tile with later.
- Taking a K-tile to complete a hex is a much better move than never completing it. Think of it less as -3 points and more as a net +2 points (+5 / -3). That’s how I do it, at least.
- Taking a K-tile too early, though, isn’t particularly useful. Ideally, they’re used to complete multiple hexes at once, not just to pair up with another piece because you took too many triangles.
- Keep an eye on what the bonus scoring cards are. It’s possible that they’ll change, as players take more K-tiles.
- At the start of the game, make sure you don’t give the next player a tile with any Bonus Scoring symbol on it. That means none of the four-dot clusters or the triangles. You don’t know what their Private Objective is, so, no sense providing them extra points before the game’s even started.
- Sometimes it’s worth not taking one of the immediately-available tokens. This may not apply if one of the piles is almost out of tokens; then a player taking from that pile might not actually reveal any new tiles for you to take, which means you might be missing out on a bunch of opportunities for the tokens you want.
- If there’s a token you need, you need to be the fastest. You can’t leave it to another player to take, because they might be looking at your board and know what you need.
- Try to make as many hexes as possible. Depending on your Public Objective, at least. Generally, hexes are very lucrative, though, if you can get enough of them ready.
- Make sure that the spaces you’re leaving for tiles can actually be filled by non-wild tiles. For instance, I don’t think two identical shapes of the same color can appear on the same tile, and I think there are never two of the same tile (since the tile colors are a combination of CMY). Make sure you’re setting yourself up for success.
- It’s not normally worth trying to steal a tile another player needs. The most common exclusion to this is if you need the tile too, then absolutely steal it from that other player. You don’t owe them anything. But don’t go stealing tiles for the sake of theft.
Pros, Mehs, and Cons
- Delightfully colorful. I really like how thoughtfully done it is, in that the symbols represent the percentage of cyan, magenta, and yellow in the tile (so that determines its color). It means that the game also always looks great on the table and it’s super upbeat.
- Plays very fast. I mean, it’s a real-time game, so those tend to be fast by default. But this one is particularly quick, especially for a pattern-matching game with a spatial element.
- The Public Bonus cards are really interesting. I really like how they play with the style, focusing on things like height or width or symmetry. My personal favorite is the one that gives you bonus points for every triangle that is only touching one other triangle; it basically throws a major component of the game (hexes) out the window and the tableaus really start to look strange. I wish more games had similar stuff.
- Pretty simple to learn. You’re basically just pattern-matching triangles to try and make hexes, with some bonus points for getting certain shapes on your triangles. It’s not too bad.
- I do love real-time games. They’re just … exciting. You have to think on your feet and match even faster.
- I think I wish everything but the cards were a bit bigger. Having bigger tiles would go a long way, I feel. It makes the stacks bigger, and hopefully the icons on the tiles would be bigger also, making them easier to spot. Right now, they’re a bit small, and I worry a bit about player confusion.
- The storage solution isn’t bad, but I wish there were a better way to organize the tiles. They all fit in the box, but they’re just kind of … thrown in there. It would be nice to have something a bit less haphazard.
- The scoreboards aren’t … that useful. You don’t really need them at pretty much any point in the game, and even if you’re playing the multi-game variant, you clear them each time.
- Can get a bit physical. There is often a bit of debate as to when two players reached a specific tile, and no real means of resolution. This usually leads to “whoever can take it, gets it”. Maybe establish some house rules on it before someone gets slammed.
- The Private Bonus Cards at lower player counts may unfairly tilt towards a player who just happens to get the tiles they need in play. If you’re not playing with all the tiles and your Private Bonus Card just so happens to have a symbol corresponding to all the tiles not in play (which you won’t know until the game ends), you kind of miss out on 6 points, which is a bit annoying. It’s not game-breaking, but it’s an advantage based on random chance, which isn’t always the best. Might be worth ignoring those cards at 2 – 3 players.
Overall: 8.5 / 10
Overall, I think CMYK! is a blast. I’m already a big fan of pattern-matching and real-time games, and to combine the two with a really novel color scheme is pretty cool. Even better is how it plays with color theory, which I always like. I’m not going to say I learned a ton about it or myself from playing, but I got to slap a few tiles down and yell at someone else for stealing something I wanted, which is pretty much the dream, anyways. Either way, the game’s pretty simple to learn and plays fast, as well as scales up nicely to five players, which is always a bonus (I find five to be a particularly irritating group number to seat, generally speaking). I really think my only complaints are that it would be nice if the game tiles were bigger both for gameplay and aesthetic reasons; the game’s too pretty to be as small as it is. It’s got some good variety, though, and despite preaching hexagons it plays a lot with its own geometry in ways that I think are particularly interesting. And that’s super cool! I wish more games were willing to experiment in that space. If you like those kinds of real-time games or if you’re looking for something new to sink your teeth into, I’d definitely recommend checking out CMYK!; I think it’s a really neat little game.