Welcome to The Game Shelf!

After getting into the board game hobby at the end of 2014, we've decided to share our thoughts on the games we're collecting on our shelves. The collection has certainly expanded over the last few years and we've been making up for lost time!

Sometimes our opinions differ, so Amy will be posting reviews every Tuesday and Fi will post on Thursdays. We hope you enjoy reading some of our opinions on board games - especially those for two players.

Get in touch by emailing thegameshelfblog@gmail.com

Saturday, 1 August 2020

The Game Shelf Previews:- Swatch

Game: Swatch

Publisher: Minerva Tabletop Games

Designer:  Scott James

Year: 2020



Colour swatches are a pretty universal part of DIY, home renovations and design. I'm sure most people have found themselves in the paint aisle of a hardware store, comparing swatches and picking out tester pots. Swatch seems to take inspiration from some of those ludicrous paint names and creates a game all about mixing together primary colours to make secondary colours and then blending all three to make that prefect shade of lime green, or hot pink.

Scott is a local game designer to us and is bringing his first game to Kickstarter in August this year. We've been playing a few two player games with the prototype in order to tell you all about it.

Gameplay

Swatch starts with four rows of cards being laid out in a grip. Each player gets one worker (two in a two player game) which they will used to claim cards and use their powers. On your turn you take your worker and palace it on the card you want on the row below. This both determines the power you get, and the turn order as next turn the left-most worker will be the first player. After placing your worker on a card you may either take the card into your hand, or do it's effect immediately. After this you may play one card from your hand and you may claim one of the swatch cards if you have the right colours discs.

There are three actions you are going to get in the game. You can gain pigment cubes in Cyan, Yellow and Magenta, you can mix those cubes to make Yellow, Green and Red colour discs, or you can swap, letting you replace a cube of one colour with another. All these actions are given a number, designating the number of times you do that action - you must be able to do it the full number of times or you can't use the card.

The objective of Swatch is a race to get three swatch cards. Each of these requires a different amount of red, blue and green discs to claim. However, you can't just simply collect any three swatches, each player has a hidden colour scheme that they must obey. Even if you obey your colour scheme you still haven't won if you have leftover materials, you have to spend a time doing nothing but getting rid of those before you can win. Winning Swatch is not just about speed, but also efficiency!


Amy’s Final Thoughts

Swatch is certainly a curious theme for a game, the idea of making paint colours is not something I've seen before, and not entirely without charm either. The named colours you make are two sided, with the requirements on one side and the name on the other, getting a card allows you to flip it and you often get a chuckle, or more often a groan, out of the punny names.The paint mixing mechanic itself is based on the CMY colour model, which is an accurate way to mix inks, but unfortunately not as obvious to most people. I can't help but feel that using Red, Yellow and Blue would have made the colour mixing make more sense. As is, the included player aid is needed as a reminder of which cubes you need to make which colour.


The basic game mechanics work well, and with the goal of efficiency there is even an advanced move available, moving to the row after next and skipping your next turn in return for getting that card you desperately need. The value of cards changes as the games goes on too. At first the five and six of a pigment cards seem incredibly valuable, while late game taking a card like that will result in you having a ton of left over pigment, wasting time before you win. Suddenly that 2 yellow card is worth its weight in gold! That doesn't prevent the inclusion of luck of the draw though, drawing the top card of the deck every round does give you a card to play after your placement, but it also means that the fates decide 50% of the options you get, which can be a little frustrating when you draw nothing but magenta for three turns!

Overall I'm happy with Swatch. The colour mixing could have been more obvious, the end of the game can come disturbingly fast a times, but it does make for a great card game with different mechanics than most and a unique theme. As unique as it is the theme wasn't particularly exciting for me, however I don't deny that seeing the puns did make me excited to turn over one of those precious swatch cards. The disappointment when I drew one of the couple of cards which isn't a pun was palpable!


Fi’s Final Thoughts

Swatch isn't a game that immediately excited me, but after paying a few games I have to say that it works incredibly well. Its theme is basic, but the designers has certainly tried to make the most out of it with the full range of colour swatches and amusing names. It's a very simple example of a resource management game that uses open card drafting as its core method for gaining or trading resources. Collecting and mixing colours is a very easy to understand way of introducing these mechanisms and it's a game I can see having broad family appeal because of that intuitiveness.


I really enjoy it when a game has a clear objective. With the scheme cards, there's always something you're aiming for. Some schemes allow for a bit more flexibility than others though. In some cases, once you pick up your first swatch you're locked in, whereas with others you can be flexible right up until you pick your third and final swatch. Trying to pick up on someone else's scheme might offer an opportunity to hate draft, but we've not found that much player interaction comes into play. More often than not, the best card in the line-up is quite clear, and it will be chosen by the person who has first pick.

Overall, Swatch is very elegant game that works very well. We've had very close games at two players and the end game mechanism has always come into play in a way that has made us both question our final few turns of the game to deliberately make an effort not to be a hoarder. This end game aspect is probably the most clever part of the game, and it causes an arc to the game where early on, the bigger a number on a card, the batter it is, whereas towards the end of the game you're being very calculating and only taking what you need to get to the end with the fewest spare tokens.

For a pocket sized, abstract game, Swatch is a colourful game with a very clean design, that will have a broad range of appeal. If you're interested, then you can check it out on Kickstarter during August 2020.


You Might Like...
  • Swatch is a abstract game, but its theme makes sense.
  • Cards differ in their relative value, but you can see three rounds ahead at all times and make decisions to enable you to have first pick in subsequent rounds if that matters to you.
  • The colours are vibrant an their names have lots of humourous touches.
You Might Not Like...
  • Swatch might have been more intuitive with blue, yellow and red as the primary colours
  • Some cards are inherently better than others and if you draw better cards from the top of the deck you might play better as a result.

The Verdict
Swatch is a compact card game that makes the most out of its colour wheel theme. The colours and their names are a nice touch and the game is very pure in its treatment of colour mixing. The drafting of cards, balance of card types and the end game mechanisms are all very well thought out and it's clear that a lot of care has been taken with the game's design. While it's not the most exciting game, we're hopeful that its colourful nature will attract backers to this very elegant abstract game.


Swatch was a prototype review copy kindly provided to us by Minerva Tabletop Games. It is coming to Kickstarter during August 2020.

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