Wednesday, 21 July 2010


I started my boardgame blog around mid 2007. Recently, for the first time in my boardgame blogging life, I received a free copy of a game, because of my blog. It was pretty exciting and flattering for me. I have never expected something like this, since I don't think my audience is big enough. Han teased me that I have now been elevated to the status of game reviewer, and that even he and Afif are now elevated to the status of playtester team of a game reviewer. So here's my experience.

The parcel. All the way from the other side of the world - USA.

Shrink-wrapped in orange plastic, and well protected with plastic bubble sheets, which both my daughters started popping immediately.

The box front.

Back of the box.

The game comes with this storage tray, which is quite handy.

The game board, with mock starting positions of colormonsters.

The back of the game board, action cards, ref sheets, storage sheets. I think this is a fully home-made game. It truly is a labour of love. There is so much work that went into it. The cards are thick, but sizes are not all uniform. The ref sheets and storage sheets are done very well. The board is slightly thin, but it's workable.

The other components. Top row: stones, from which gems or cards can be harvested. Once harvested stones are flipped over to become rubble (far right). Middle row: gems in 6 colours, dice. Dice are colour-coded to match the game board, to make it easier to tell where new stones will appear. Bottom row: Gold, currency (only $1 and $2), action cards (front and back). My only complaint about components is the stones (the triangles). They are thin and can be hard to handle.

The Game

The game starts with players creating their baby colormonsters, made up of 3 segments, each segment having one mouth. Every round, dice are rolled, and stones are added to the board. The colormonsters harvest gems (and action cards) from these stones if they have a mouth next to the stone. Once harvested the stones turn into rubble. Players get to trade with one another and with the bank. Different colour combinations of gems can be sold to the bank for different prices. With the money earned, you can buy action cards or gold. You need to collect 7 gold to win the game.

In the early rounds you can grow your colormonster. The new segments added have two mouths. Colormonsters reach adult size at 7 segments. You can move your colormonsters and adjust the positions of their mouths. You try to position them to harvest as many gems as possible, or to have the best chances to harvest more gems in future rounds. You compete against other colormonsters for board position.

The action cards are mostly good. You can use them to help yourself or to hinder your opponents. Some even let you collect gold, which saves a lot of effort. However there is one type of action card that forces you to give away gems to other players.

When a player reaches 7 gold, all other players have a chance to do another round of trading, to try to achieve victory in the same round.

The Play

Afif, Han and I played a 3 player game. The game went pretty fast. I think most of the mechanism is familiar, so many of the actions could be taken simultaneously. We only paused a little when some actions had dependency on turn order, e.g. when two colormonsters could harvest from the same stone. The colormonster later in turn order would not gain anything because the stone would have turned into rubble by then.

Afif spent a lot of money on buying action cards. And oops... I didn't explicitly tell him there were bad cards in the mix. OK, game explainer's fault. I just tried to position my colormonster to be touching hexes of as many different numbers as possible. I didn't move my colormonster much. I think Afif and Han also did not do it much. Maybe we did not play to block others aggressively enough, since our colormonsters all seemed to be positioned well enough. Perhaps we should have tried to cordon off more space for ourselves.

I was the first to reach 7 gold, triggering the final trading round. Han was able to reach 7 gold too, so we were tied for the win. Afif was just short of 1 gold.

Early game. The colormonsters had not grown to adult size (7 segments) yet.

Mid game. All the colormonsters were adult sized now.

I had gems in five colours. I needed another yellow so that I could trade the full set for $12. I had 3 Gold at this point. $12 would allow me to buy another 2 Gold.

Three stones which I could not reach due to being blocked by rubble.

Near game end. So much rubble... And only then we realised Afif had made a mistake with his (red) colormonster. The colormonster must be connected touching sides, not touching corners.

The Thoughts

ColorMonsters gives me a feeling that the designer has played The Settlers of Catan before - the hexes, rolling dice to produce resources, the open trading, and the spatial element of competing for positions on the board. It feels like a typical resource-collection-and-conversion Eurogame. One unique part is the growth and movement of the colormonster. How do you jostle for position to ensure you have more room in future? How to block your opponents? How to avoid getting locked down by rubble? I think we have not explored this spatial element much. We just focused on collecting gems. There seemed to be an abundance of resources, so I didn't feel the urgency to compete with the other colormonsters. Only in the late game I realised things I could have done better earlier to avoid getting stuck where I was.

That said, I feel the flexibility to fight for positioning is limited. You need to keep your colormonster in one piece. Sometimes that means you will only be able to move very few segments. The board seems mostly quite static, with minor skirmishes when colormonsters approach one another. Despite the alien life form theme, the game is mostly an abstract strategy game.

Going off-topic here: When I look at the game components and rules of ColorMonsters, I get a feeling that the designer is not a boardgame geek like I am. The way the rules are written and structured, and the terminology used, make me think that this is not a person who has played hundreds of different games and read hundreds of game rules. Definitely not a person who lives on like it's oxygen (which I do). Like a reflex response, I immediately had an urge to suggest doing the rules, or designing the game, or changing some keywords to be like so-and-so other games. Then I thought again and realised that it may not be a good thing. I think sometimes we old timers are so used to the way games are, we become resistant to new ideas or different approaches. One can argue that there are reasons that some things are done the way they are. I say at the same time we need to keep an open mind.

I am quite impressed with the effort put into ColorMonsters. I have toyed with some game designing ideas, but never went much further. The game itself has some interesting ideas, but overall it doesn't really stand out. I have only played the game once, so these are my first impressions. Further plays may reveal more, in particular the spatial competition aspect which I have not yet explore much of.

If you are interested in the game, visit

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