Review: Colonia

Posted by James (admin) on October 30th, 2009

ColoniaThere are few specific designers I follow but Dirk Henn is one that I do.  So, I was excited that he was releasing a new big game.  And big is the word – big in size, big in weight and big in thinking.

Players play families in a town who use resources to make goods which they sell in order to buy relics.  Each step of the game is relatively simple, but it is the decisions to be made at each step that makes this an enjoyable, meaty game of thinking and decisions.

Colonia is neatly packaged into 6 rounds of 7 phases – each phase being a day.  On Monday, the board is set up for the week.  On Tuesday, players bid meeple to determine player order and voting power.  On Wednesday players take resources, Thursday players turn resources into goods, Friday players load ships with their goods, and they get money for their shipments on Saturday.  Finally, on Sunday, players use their money to buy relics which are worth victory points.

The gameplay has lots to think about and loads of decisions.  Whilst each phase is simple, the logic chain of a game week (round) is a lot to take in especially knowing decisions now will have repercussions on what you can do later.  Players prone to analysis paralysis will need polite prodding or the game could grind to a stop.  Trying to retro calculate what resources you need to fulfill orders later on when there are other players getting in the way too is almost impossible, but it won’t stop you from trying.  I found it hard to fully envisage a whole week from start to finish so I worked a day or two in advance but not much further.  To me, this was part of the fun. 

Each player starts with lots of family members (meeple) which are used to perform actions in every phase.  However, it’s soon obvious that you need to manage the amounts carefully.  Commit too many in one phase (to perform lots of actions) and you may not be able to do what you want later.  I never ran out but it was close a few times; other players had a few real difficulties scraping enough together.

There is an element of luck to the game as the goods you want may not get made, resources you want may not be drawn from the bag, and having cash is not immediately useful if the no relevant relics can be bought with it.  I had one terrible turn (and I was the start player for the round too) when I could do very little but, overall, this should even itself out.

The board is spectacular.  It looks like a town with a square, harbor, market, etc.  Each game week goes around the board from one section to the next making it easy to follow.

Colonia is a beautiful game both in look as well as design and was a pleasure to play.  With rules explanation, it took under 2 hours for 4 players.  An excellent and meaty Eurogame.

For more detailed thoughts on what the gameplay is like, read my replay post too:

[Played with 4 players]

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