Yeah, I have no idea when this one’s going to get published. Working from home has been tanking my blog productivity, as it turns out, since I don’t technically notice that time is passing as easily, now. It’s a whole thing. But I’m spacing out the reviews I have so that I can try and wait out the whole “shelter in place” thing. Definitely not going to have as productive of a March as I usually do. Oh well; this is easily the least of our woes. Hopefully things have gotten better as of publish time. Anyways, that’s bleak; let’s take a look at Colorful, the latest game from Jordan Draper. I haven’t had a chance to get to the rest of the new TOKYO SERIES games, but I had some time for the small boxes, so let’s see how that went.
Colorful is a quick and simple party game that asks you to answer one question: what color do you think that is? You’ll be surprised at how often you disagree. Thankfully, it’s cooperative, right up until the moment it’s not. A semi-cooperative color-deciding game? Sounds like fun. Let’s check it out!
Pretty much none. Shuffle the category cards:
Place them in a stack. Give each player a set of color cards:
Have one player shuffle theirs and remove five of them. Every player must remove the same five from their set and set them aside.
Once you’ve done that, you’re ready to start!
As a game, Colorful isn’t too challenging to get going. Essentially, you’ll play over five rounds. Each round, the lead player for that round reveals a category card and then chooses an example of the current round’s category (in the first round, use the first category; in the second round, use the second; and so on), next to it. So, for instance, if the category were “animal”, I might say “polar bear” (note that I cannot say something like “blue jay”, since it has a color in it. Jury’s out on “cardinal”). Each player, including the lead player, chooses a card from their hand and places it face-down next to the category card.
Continue until all five rounds have been played, and then reveal. If every card matches for every category, all players win! If not, each player scores a point for each round that they played the same card as the majority of other players. If there’s a tie for the most, everyone gets 0. The player(s) with the most points win!
There are a couple of fun variants for this game, and each can offer their own spin in making the game significantly more challenging, if you’re into that sort of thing. Here’s a few examples:
- Categories Only: Rather than providing an example of the category, use the category itself as the clue. What color does “four-letter word” make you think of? How about “fast food restaurant”?
- Double or Nothing: Don’t discard any cards at the start of the game, and each player must play two cards instead of one. Score normally.
Player Count Differences
I haven’t really noticed any, other than at two players. At two, it’s still fun, but it’s similar to Catalogue in that it’s more about the mind meld than anything else. If you can nail it, perfect; if you can’t, well, that also happens. At higher player counts, more players get a chance to give a clue, but as a result I probably wouldn’t play this at six, since that means one player never gets to give a clue. The clues are a majorly fun thing to do! It’s like Codenames but with fewer consequences. Nobody’s mad because there are no bad clues; there are just esoteric ones. The game itself is relatively unimpacted by changes in player count, so I’d say that I’d easily recommend this at pretty much any player count but six. If your sixth player would prefer not to give a clue or you have a person who that sort of decision-making stresses out, then by all means, try it at six! It’ll still be a fun challenge regardless.
- Don’t try to deviate from the majority. This game is all about falling into place with other players. If you play something that isn’t in line with them, then it stops being a game that everyone can win because now an out-group and an in-group will form. This can be even worse for you because, now that that’s happened, you’re stuck with a dead card in your hand (since nobody in the in-group can play that card since they don’t have it anymore). You just wasted a card that someone else may refer to. You played green instead of red? Well, now you’re kind of stuck if the next word someone picks is “grass”. You should be trying to read the majority instinct and play to it, rather than just going with your gut instinct of what you think the right answer is.
- Try not to give particularly confusing clues. To help players in that regard, you, the person giving clues, should make sure that your clues are as easy to understand as possible. There’s no benefit to giving esoteric or deep-cut clues that your coplayers have to figure out. Do you have a white card in your hand and the category is weather? Go for “snow”. It’s simple, that way. If you can’t think of snow, go for “lightning”. There’s a lot that you can do (though whether someone would pick white or yellow for lightning is up to debate; I’d personally go for yellow, for that one).
- In fact, ambiguity at all does not benefit you in any way. It just increases the likelihood that you’ll fracture the group, and there’s no guarantee you won’t find yourself in the out-group. You want to win, right? So help the other players help you.
- Also remember you can’t give clues with colors in the name. This is just something you should remember so that you don’t accidentally anchor yourself. If you think of a really good clue, only to find out that it’s disallowed, it can be hard to come up with another similarly good clue. So, just remember this from the start and avoid that problem.
- If you think you broke rank, try to salvage it as best as you can. Try to stick to avoiding the color you think you should have played and the color you did play; neither option is good for you to play.
- If you’re not sure, try to guess what color someone else would have played, and play that. That at least increases the likelihood that you’ll be in a group at all, which is necessary.
- Ties do not benefit you; avoid getting multiple sets of tied players. What I mentioned above is necessary, yes, but not sufficient. You need to be in a group in order to score, but it has to be the largest group, on its own. If there’s a tie for largest, nobody gets any points.
Pros, Mehs, and Cons
- The game’s progression is particularly interesting. I really like how the game changes as you start losing cards. Did someone burn a color you really wanted to use? Or, worse yet, did you think they burnt that color, but they played a different color instead and now two of your color options aren’t useful? It’s a really interesting play style.
- I really like how it’s a semi-cooperative game with no incentive to betray the larger group. That, I think, is a particular highlight of its design. A lot of semi-cooperative games eventually put players at odds between helping the group win and helping themselves win, but this one consistently does not, since you always want to be in the same group as the most other players. You’ll try your best to maintain that in-group membership, and I think that’s a really smart way to do semi-cooperative play.
- Colors are always a fun, subjective category. It’s really fun to have players justify their answers when they’re revealed, especially when it’s the category-only variant; you get some particularly interesting answers, there. It’s always neat to see how someone else thinks.
- There’s a really interesting set of colors, here. I’m intrigued by Pale Blue and Lime Green being included, as well as both Silver and Gray. This makes the game really challenging at times, but in a good way. It’s not a garbage set like having magenta and fuchsia or something, but it does a good job of having some challenging overlaps.
- I like some of the variants, as well. They’re fun new ways to experience the same game, as good variants should be.
- Extremely portable game. Jordan nailed the box sizes on these. I still need to play Praise and Cactus a bit more, but, I’m going to be excited to see how they turn out, as well.
- Very easy to learn. You just play the color you think of when you hear the word. Nothing else to it. Your goal is to be in the majority as much as possible. That’s the whole game.
- Looks great on the table. The art choices for the cards looks really good, and the colors are bold enough that the game stands out. I think it’s a fantastic product. I particularly love the lettering on the box; it’s really eye-catching and that’s exactly what you want for a party game.
- There’s a nice amount of suspense to the game, especially at the end. Lots of games have a Big Finale, and I think it’s really fun, except in Mario Party where they just award random stars and turn the game upside down. We like that less. This has good suspense as players try to figure out if they’re going to win or not, and it’s humorous.
- All the cards being small challenges me, as always. I think I just have some unresolved issues with small cards. Thankfully, you don’t need to do much shuffling in this game, so it’s largely a moot point. I still don’t love them, all things being equal, but I can tolerate them.
- Just be careful with some of the categories and assigning colors to them. I think it might have been safer to put “Nation’s Flag” instead of “Nation” as an option, but that’s just me.
Overall: 8.75 / 10
Overall, I think Colorful is a fantastic little game. It’s nicely cooperative, dead simple to pick up, and plays quickly. I particularly like the final reveal; it does a great job of building tension and letting players try to track their scores and see if they won. It’s non-obvious if you did, which is really cool. Even if it switches to competitive, you only win if you went with the majority the most times, which I think is a really interesting thing. It prevents players from trying to disrupt the game by forcing the competitive mode because, unless they are getting other players to rally with them, they’re just going to lose every time they do that. And that’s neat. I suppose it’s not totally a “cooperative” game as much as it is a game where you want to be with the majority as often as possible, and the player(s) who were with the majority the most win. But I think thinking of it as a cooperative game incentivizes people to try to throw softballs on the categories. And it does the fun task of exposing their blindspots! Are there things that you’re positive you know the color of? Okay, what about the word “Magical”? What color does that make you think of? Not something people really dig into, all that much. It makes for a great, light, and fast party game (and I’m not normally much for party games) that’s still fun to play at two (though I’d contend that you have to match every time or you both lose). Plus, it’s got that great table presence because it’s … colorful. I’ve had players just watch a round or two and then hop in because, the rules are just “play the card you think works”. It’s a great concept, and I think Jordan’s really packed it into a delightful small-box experience. It’s going to be a game that I think I’m going to take with me a lot of places, and I’d definitely recommend checking out Colorful if you’re looking for a solid and quick cooperative party game!