This game was listed as #5 on my Top 10 List of Games I’m Interested in Trying Out at Gen Con 2016. I couldn’t find a lot of information about the gameplay prior to Gen Con and only really knew that it involved dice drafting, tableau building and engine building.
In Colony, each player constructs and upgrades buildings which are represented by two sided cards, while managing resources (dice) to grow their fledgling colony in a futuristic industrialized world. Each side/number of the dice represent a different unnamed resource. Some resources are stable (opaque-ivory), allowing them to be stored between turns, while others are unstable (clear) and must be used right away or they are wasted at the end of the round.
Buildings provide new capabilities, such as increased production, resource manipulation, and additional victory points. Using dice-as-resources facilitates a dynamic, ever-changing resources management mini-game while players work to earn victory points by adding buildings to their tableau on their way to victory.
Colony is designed by Ted Alspach (America, Castles of Mad King Ludwig, One Night Ultimate Werewolf, Suburbia) Toryo Hojo (Three Kingdoms Tactical Warfare), and Yoshihisa Nakatsu (Acapulco) and plays 1-4 players in about 45 minutes.
The first time I looked at the game on the demo table at Gen Con, I immediately thought of Dominion. The reason for this thought was the box is setup exactly like the Dominion box with cards stacked on edge around a center plastic insert with a list of those cards. The game setup is also similar to Dominion as you have groups of cards stacked together in a few rows in the center of the table. But that is really where the similarities end. This game revolves around the dice and rolling those dice and then drafting them to gather and store the resources needed to purchase buildings for your new growing Colony. These buildings perform several functions from gaining additional resources, to transforming resources into other types of resources, creating victory points and even allowing you to steal resources from other players.
Each player starts with a set of buildings already in their tableau including a Warehouse that allows the storage from round to round of up to 6 resources (the upgraded Warehouse can store up to 9!) and a Construction and Upgrade card.
The dice drafting is an interesting part of the game. The first player starts the game by rolling one less die than the number of players and then drafts or chooses the die they need, then passes the remaining dice to the next player who also chooses and passes on. This means that each round, 1 player will be unable to draft a new resource. I am a little confused as to why every player doesn’t draft but I’m sure there was a balancing reason. The game is designed to allow players to then use those drafted resource dice to build an efficient engine that creates the resources needed to purchase or build the best buildings. Many of these buildings work together and have great synergy. You must be able to quickly identify those synergies and then build the lower level buildings that will allow you to obtain the right mix of resources to afford the more expensive and best scoring buildings.
Let’s take a look at a few of the cards:
Fiber Mill – resource generator
This card is reasonably simple to obtain as it requires just 4 dice, two 6’s and two 2’s. It is a resource generator and creates an unstable “5” resource each turn. On the upgraded side, it creates a stable “5” that can be used or stored for future use in your Warehouse.
Pawn Shop – resource converter
This was one of the first cards that I bought in the game as it only takes 3 dice to buy including one 5 and two 4’s. The card’s ability allows you to change any one die into a “5” resource. This is extremely valuable as the higher priced cards like Fallout Shelter require 4 of the same dice. If you have 3-4 Pawn Shops in your tableau you are almost guaranteed to be able to buy a more powerful scoring card each round. The upgraded side is even better and allows you to trade any die for any die. This is truly powerful!
Fallout Shelter – victory point generator
While this card is difficult to build, requiring 5 dice of which four of them must be the same number, it is extremely powerful. It creates victory points based upon the number of Fallout Shelters in your tableau. 1 VP for 1, 3 VP for 2, all the way up to 15 VP for 6. Very tough to build but definitely is worth it as it will bring you victory very quickly. The upgraded side increases the number of VP for each card giving you 6 VP for only 2 Fallout Shelters!
Pirate – resource stealer
The Pirate is an attack card and is relatively affordable at four dice including two 5’s and two 1’s. The power in the card is that you can take resources from other players. As you can see on the card the Pirate rolls a die and then consults the list of benefits. The only bad roll is a 1 which will cause your Pirate to be killed. Their are defense cards to protect you from cards like Pirate. An example of one of these protection cards is the Chain Link Fence which allows the attacked player to roll a die and on a roll of 3-6, ignore the attack.
Prize Safe – victory point generator
The Prize Safe is a victory point generator and is expensive at a cost of five dice. When built you roll three dice and place the lowest value die on the card which will represent the victory point total for the end game. If you roll well, say a 6, 5 and a 4, this card becomes very valuable. My guess is that more often than not it will only be worth 1-2 points, which is still good.
What I Liked about Colony
Theme – I am a big fan of the theme as I do enjoy Sci-Fi. The theme isn’t necessarily integrated into the game play but it works. This could be seen as a negative for the game as it could be any theme simply painted onto the game engine.
Cards/Art – the art on the cards is well done with bright colors and good clear writing. The cards are color coded so similar colored cards can be stacked on top of each other without detracting from gameplay and while minimizing the space needed to play the game. I also liked that the cards were well laid out and uncluttered making them easy to read.
Drafting/Dice – I really enjoyed the dice drafting mechanic and feel it is well done. You don’t always take the highest numbered dice but might choose a 2 or 1 because that is what you need to be able to meet the cost of a building you want. I don’t necessarily understand the concept of drafting one less die than the number of players but as I said above I’m sure it will become evident with a few more plays.
Synergy/Engine Building – as we played, I began too see that many of the cards on the table worked well together. I noticed fairly early that I needed lots of 4’s, 5’s and 6’s in order to build the higher VP generating cards and focused on building those quickly. At one point I was generating three 5’s and two 4’s each round with upgraded buildings. This gave me a lot of building power and I was able to do a large building each turn including a Fallout Shelter and a Prize Safe. Unfortunately, one of my opponents had 3 Fallout Shelters that were upgraded!
Replayability – there are a total of 28 buildings in the base game and only 7 are used each game. This means that there are a million (well maybe not that many!) combinations that can be tried so you can play a new game with new synergies each time. There also is a free App that can assist with creating a good combination of buildings to challenge players and create synergies.
What I Didn’t Like About Colony
Painted on theme – as stated above, I like Sci-Fi but would love to see the theme better integrated into gameplay.
Lack of Player Interaction – this is one of those games where I almost don’t care what my opponents are doing. I am simply focused on my strategy and obtaining the right combination of buildings. The limited interaction from the use of the Pirate card was good but as soon as we all built Chain Link Fences, the attacks stopped! I’d like to see some form of trading between players or ability to attack or limit other players buildings (The Hospitality Suite building does allow trading between players).
I know this seems a little like a review but I wanted to simply share with you the play experience of Colony by Bezier Games. I really liked this game and have added it to my purchase list. You can preorder the game for $59.95 on the Bezier Games website. Colony will be released in October at Essen 2016 and promo cards will be included with pre-order.
If you liked my quick look at Colony, look for my other Gen Con 2016 Game Recap posts over the next few weeks. I posted a Recap of Seafall earlier this week. Check it out!