RogerBW's Blog

Colony 15 August 2017

Colony, designed by Ted Alspach, Toryo Hojo and Yoshihisa Nakatsu, is a dice-based resource-building game of post-apocalyptic survival for 2-4 players.

It's been described as the third in Ted's trilogy that began with Suburbia and Castles of Mad King Ludwig, but considering how very similar those games are, I think that that raises unrealistic expectations. It's not that this is a bad game, but other than the common factor of buying things with specific powers and adding them to your town/castle, there's not that much in common between them.

You start with four cards representing basic functions of your high-tech post-apocalyptic community: construction, upgrade, supply exchange and warehouse. Available for purchase will be five basic resource-generating cards, and one expensive one that serves to increase your score. There will also be seven other types of card, chosen from among the 28 included in the box, which offer other abilities. (There are several standard sets suggested, and an app allows random selection.)

Each turn consists of rolling to see what you've scavenged this turn (three dice, taking one for yourself and passing the other two to other players), then spending those dice on cards, or saving them in the Warehouse for a future turn. Some cards produce "unstable" resources, which can be spent normally but can't be saved. Every card can be upgraded to its "2.0" side, which is worth one victory point and is better in some small way (for example, the resource cards produce stable rather than unstable resources, and the Upgrade power is cheaper to activate). Most cards can only be used once in a turn, and the order in which you do things can be crucial. The rulebook is quite thick, but sums up this core gameplay on a single page; most of the rest is a detailed description of each card.

Most cards are worth a point each; some are worth more, and the first player to reach the appropriate point on the score track (15 for four players, 16 for three, 20 for two) wins immediately.

The iconography is somewhat odd but works well after a bit of thought: one soon works out that a particular set of symbols means "turn two resources of equal number into a single stable resource of a different number of your choice".

I tend to like games that are fairly thematic, and this one's odd in that regard: the standard resource-generating cards feel quite generic, but the variable cards that are different each game (and do more specific things than simply giving you an extra die each turn) do have rather more flavour. Even so, this ends up feeling less thematic than Suburbia: the cards don't necessarily feel like specific buildings as much as they do like things that you can do.

Colony was quite expensive when it was launched, considering that it consists mostly of a bunch of cards and some standard dice, but it's now showing up at a discount in a few places. I enjoy it rather a lot, and it scratches a few gaming itches that aren't otherwise well-served by my collection.

[Buy Colony at Amazon] and help support the blog.

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