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Subject: Bizarre Bazaar: Colourful Dealings rss

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Greg J
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How it works: Colour Bazaar is a game by P.D. Magnus currently under development for the Decktet and its suited tokens. It uses the triple suited Pawns as the starting tableau for the game. Each turn, players add a card to the Pawn of their choice in the hope of influencing the value of the suited chips at the end of the game. After playing their card, players take a suit chip of their choice from the common pool and add it to their take. When the last chip is taken, the game ends and the score is tallied to determine the winner. The scoring system is a bit of a bear and will be discussed below.

My son and I played two games last month and then my wife tried it with me that same evening. Here is a photo of our first game on the deck about to begin:



As with The Four Courts, it is better to offset the Pawns from each other so that the piles of cards about to be played on them have room to grow. Each player starts with a hand of four cards and must decide where to place one each turn. The first card played must share a suit with the Pawn, then subsequent cards must share a suit with the topmost card on the pile. Cards are splayed so that all suits and ranks in the pile are visible. At the end of the game, the stack of cards on each Pawn contribute to the value of each suit chip, with the topmost card of each suit contributing the rank of its card. Consequently, it is possible to have up to four different values added together for each chip. Fun idea!

How it went: The game plays quickly (about 15 min) and is not too heavy on the brain, except for the scorekeeping at the end. We pretty much played on intuition all game, planning to grab a certain chip to gain leverage in a suit we thought we’d be able to influence by game end. Ultimately, the leveraging in chips was under a certain amount of control, the prevailing cards on the piles less so.

Strategy: Aces and Crowns tended to get hoarded in our games, even tho the rules state that a Crown cannot be placed on your last turn. (I had Crowns left in my hand at the end of each game.) Aces are the nasty cards in the game, as you should try to hold the ones that match the suits you will not score in. Then they are played to kill off a high scoring card of its suit as your last play. This happened in each of our games.

The other strategy we thought we should be trying for is to get a card with suits matching your scoring tokens in all four piles. Since there is no connection between the card you just played and the chip you are entitled to at the end of your turn, it makes for fast game play, but is a bit counterintuitive. Consequently, you may be spreading the love in Suns across all four Pawns but then not score if you can’t get the third Sun chip from the draw pile. In short, it was hard for me to know if I was making a meaningful play or not on most hands. I think this issue may be resolved by using the two variations suggested below.

Scoring Mechanism: In all of the other suit chip games for the Decktet, a quick glance at your opponent’s pile of chips will tell you where the game stands. In 2-player Colour Bazaar, there is really no way of telling what suits you or your opponent will score until the very late stages of the game. Even if you could predict this earlier, you’d be hard pressed to figure out what the score was at any particular moment. This is the obvious chink in the game’s armour, because we had pretty much no clue who was going to win any of the three games until the final score had been rung up! In our usual post game discussion, we really had no idea how we would have played differently to alter the outcome.

The Score: This is how our first game ended:



My take is at the bottom of the photo. (To simplify things, we cancelled out tokens until the tokens that actually scored could be pushed towards the centre of the table a bit.) Thus, I had a multiplier of 5 in Suns and 1 in Leaves. My son had 3 Moons and one Wave, Wyrm and Knot. This distribution of tokens at the end of the game was a welcome surprise to me, as I thought we would simply score 1 in three suits each. Actually, all 3 games we played had asynchronous suit chip distribution at the end. I imagine that the chip grabbing is even more dynamic in a multi-player game.

It was obvious that no scoretrack would be able to help us with scoring this baby, so out came the scraps of paper and pencil! As you can see, The Lightkeeper added these values to the score table: 0 Moons, 7 Suns, 5 Waves, 0 Leaves, 8 Wyrms and 8 Knots. After multiplying, The Lightkeeper stack contributed 35 points to my total (7 points for each of my Sun chips) and 21 to my son’s (5 for his Wave chip and 8 each for his Wyrm & Knot chips). I won the game with a score of 97-89. We played a second game and the chip distribution and score was much tighter. I had a multiplier of 3 in Leaves and 1 in Waves, while my son scored 1 for Moons, Suns, Wyrms and Knots. I eked out the win 77-73.

Variations that we will try next time:

1) Deal out the entire deck at the outset of the game, and

2) Players must choose a suit chip that matches one of the suits of the card they just played.

My wife and I came up with these in an attempt to help players map out a strategy for the whole hand and also to make chip selection less arbitrary and more connected to each play. Not sure how they’ll pan out tho!

What I liked: I think the chips as the ticking clock is a very clever idea and it helps to build tension towards the endgame. Emptying most of the deck on 4 tricks and still have the information in each pile meaningful by game end is no mean achievement. (I am playtesting a fix for this problem with my own game The Four Courts and hope to go public with it soon).

Bottom line: This review is based on three plays of the game - all 2-player. I was hoping to get in a 3p game before submitting this review, but the opportunity hasn’t come up. It seems obvious to me that the game will be more dynamic and fun with a 3rd or even 4th player added. As a two player experience, we found the game fast, but lacking in meaningful decisions or tension.

And BTW, there’s nothing “Bizarre” about Colour Bazaar - “Bizarre Bazaar” is just the name of a tune by the Ozric Tentacles which I couldn’t resist using here.
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George Leach
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Interesting sounding game and great review. I should look into getting one of these here decktet thingies. Which version is it you have pictured? How can I get the same?

A suggestion for your game. Instead of only being able to draw a chip relating to the card just played (this sounds too restrictive) how about drawing one of the three depicted on the base card of that pile? This still allows some options and adds some parseable strategy to the game (i.e. I really wanted to get a scoring card in that pile but I don't want those chips, maybe I should forgo saving this Ace... etc.). To help with recognising the current scoring cards, simply offset them from the row of cards played to a pile. You'll have to play more neatly but it should help with the strategizing.
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Richard Morris
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Jugular wrote:
Interesting sounding game and great review. I should look into getting one of these here decktet thingies. Which version is it you have pictured? How can I get the same?

A suggestion for your game. Instead of only being able to draw a chip relating to the card just played (this sounds too restrictive) how about drawing one of the three depicted on the base card of that pile? This still allows some options and adds some parseable strategy to the game (i.e. I really wanted to get a scoring card in that pile but I don't want those chips, maybe I should forgo saving this Ace... etc.). To help with recognising the current scoring cards, simply offset them from the row of cards played to a pile. You'll have to play more neatly but it should help with the strategizing.


NIce decks can be got from gamecrafter, but the shipping makes them rediculously expensive to the UK. OK decks can be got from artscow (who have a deal at the moment - $4.99 shipped for a deck). Start to investigate from www.decktet.com. Suit chips will be a problem in the UK, though. You might have to make your own.

The artscow deck is here: http://www.artscow.com/ShareAlbum.aspx?Key=sdoljzcp. Buy a couple - you need two for Boojum, and for other games. Use the coupon code NEWPLCARDS before 21st Sept to get them at $4.99 (1st one) $6.99 (2nd one) post free.
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Greg J
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Jugular wrote:
Interesting sounding game and great review. I should look into getting one of these here decktet thingies. Which version is it you have pictured? How can I get the same?


Thanks for the compliment and definitely get yourself one of those Decktet thingies!

The deck pictured in the review is my pnp deck. I printed out the card files on label paper, cut them out and stuck them onto an old poker deck. If you look at the photo closely on my session report for Double Knot, you can see the lousy cutting job I did (no corner cutter back then!) and also the old card face bleeding through. However, the deck feels great in the hands and can handle a lot of kid (ab)use. Its the one we use the most, although I will soon be ordering a double deck with the gorgeous new lattice back from PD Magnus:



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A suggestion for your game. Instead of only being able to draw a chip relating to the card just played (this sounds too restrictive) how about drawing one of the three depicted on the base card of that pile?


I like this suggestion a lot and will try it along with my ideas.
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The beginning of the game can be subtle, but I think that there's strategy even with the rules as written. One aspect is bluffing: To get three or more chips in a colour, you need to start collecting them before you lay down the card that makes them valuable.

Another aspect is watching which cards have been played: There are only ten cards of each suit, and most of the cards will be in some stack or other by the end. So if a colour has all its high cards out early, that may make it a bad colour to invest in because they are all going to get buried by lower cards.

Octogreg wrote:

I like this suggestion a lot and will try it along with my ideas.


I look forward to hearing how your experiments turn out. One thing to think about before trying either idea - If there is a limitation on which chips you can take, then there might be turns later in the game in which there are no chips left of the suits you may take.
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George Leach
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Yes this certainly has a feel of the emergent strategies in Wildlife Safari. I had a few variant ideas for Loco, though I'm not sure how transferable they are.

I suspect the possibility of empty icon piles arguably suggests more available strategic depth. Perhaps slightly less likely with my suggested variant? Unless a dead end is made (i.e. no more of a specific suit that ends a pile).
 
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Greg J
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pmagnus wrote:
The beginning of the game can be subtle, but I think that there's strategy even with the rules as written. One aspect is bluffing: To get three or more chips in a colour, you need to start collecting them before you lay down the card that makes them valuable.


What we found is that cards like that tended to get buried pretty quickly. I guess a strategy could be to go for chips in the suits of any 8s or 9s you may get dealt early in the game and hoard those cards until the end, so that both of its suits don't get blocked. Likewise, spend the rest of the game trying to bury other 8s and 9s that come up, and also trying to increase the totals of the two suits you're concentrating on.

Quote:
Another aspect is watching which cards have been played: There are only ten cards of each suit, and most of the cards will be in some stack or other by the end. So if a colour has all its high cards out early, that may make it a bad colour to invest in because they are all going to get buried by lower cards.


Yes, we were watching this pretty closely but found that the other player still had a lot of power to snuff out any high cards you may play, even up to the last few plays. The bigger issue for us was the amount of math required to know what the score was at any particular moment. Without knowing the score, it was hard to be confident that your next move was going to help or hurt you in the long run. I guess this could be ameliorated by a "two suit" strategy like I described above, b/c you could just track the score of two suits throughout the game to know where you stand. I'll have to try this.

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If there is a limitation on which chips you can take, then there might be turns later in the game in which there are no chips left of the suits you may take.


Yes, this is exactly the type of constraint that appeals to me with George's idea. It would mess up the ticking clock mechanism such that one or more players would get an extra turn at the end which would throw the balance. Players would have to decide whether forgoing a chip would be worth that risk. Turn order would then be a much bigger factor. Hmmm. This proves the maxim that "when you change one thing, the whole is changed".

I think the obvious next step for us is to play this as a three player with the original ruleset before doing any tinkering and then reevaluate. Stay tuned!
 
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Well, we got in a 3p game before dinner today and played it with the standard rules. The consensus was that it was a better game in 3p mode vs. 2p. As anticipated, the chip grabbing was much more dynamic and was the central focus of the game. Unfortunately, we found that the issues described above prevailed for us in the 3p too.

'When playing a game, the goal is to win, but it is the goal that is important, not the winning' - Dr. Reiner Knizia

This sums up our feelings about this game b/c we each played our best: leveraging chips in suits we thought we could score big in, making tactical plays to help ourselves or hinder our opponents, holding a card or two that we thought would be useful at the endgame, etc.. I also watched the chip pile and let the others know how many plays they had left so no one would be caught off guard by the ticking clock mechanism.

I got The Cave, The Mill and The Darkness fairly early in the game and decided to go for tokens in Waves, Leaves and Wyrms. I finished with 7 chips spread across these three suits, so I was able to set my strategy at the outset and see it through pretty well. The three cards mentioned were either partially or entirely killed, even though I was able to hold them until late in the game and spread them over two Pawn piles.

When the game ended, I asked "Who do you think won?" and grabbed the pencil and paper to tally up. My wife & I thought our son won, while he thought that I did. As it turned out, I won by 16 points and my wife uncharacteristically ended last. There were a couple of cards buried deep in some stacks that ended up paying off that we lost track of - so it pays to keep track of high scoring cards to the best of your ability. The scoring system in this game is very cool, but ultimately is its undoing for us. It appears unlikely that I will be able to get it to the table again to try out the variants I proposed.

In our post mortem we found that each of us was holding Crowns and Aces again. My wife said that "It's basically a "Gotcha!" kind of game. It should be called "Thwart" b/c that's what's going on for most of the game. Soon as you put down a good card, you know somebody is going to kill it next turn". The challenge then is to maneuver your plays so that the damage others are going to do to your plans is minimized, while the damage you do to them is maximized . If this style of play appeals to you, then you will definitely enjoy this game.

This is my first attempt at a review for a game that I'm not over the moon with and I hope I've done a fair job of pointing out what I perceive to be the strengths and weaknesses of the game. For now, in addition to playing our favourites, I am moving on to games that I haven't played before: Revelation and Goblin Market are at the top of the list, along with Boojum and Varg Bid. We are all eager to get Double Knot to the table again as well. With the Decktet, there is an embarrassment of riches to choose from.

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Greg,

Thanks for trying it again. Even though you ended up not liking it, I think you did a good job of describing the kind of game it is and explaining who might like the game.

As an aside: I also have mixed feelings about the scoring system. It is really too much to keep track of during the game, and the best you can do is try to spin things toward your favor.
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Octogreg wrote:

Strategy: Aces and Crowns tended to get hoarded in our games, even tho the rules state that a Crown cannot be placed on your last turn. (I had Crowns left in my hand at the end of each game.) Aces are the nasty cards in the game, as you should try to hold the ones that match the suits you will not score in. Then they are played to kill off a high scoring card of its suit as your last play. This happened in each of our games.


I think the rule on no crowns the last round should either be rescinded entirely or extended to the aces, as well.

Especially in the zero-sum 2p game, they are all but identical in terms of their effect on scoring. I think I'd prefer just to get rid of the restriction altogether.

Quote:
Scoring Mechanism: In all of the other suit chip games for the Decktet, a quick glance at your opponent’s pile of chips will tell you where the game stands. In 2-player Colour Bazaar, there is really no way of telling what suits you or your opponent will score until the very late stages of the game. Even if you could predict this earlier, you’d be hard pressed to figure out what the score was at any particular moment. This is the obvious chink in the game’s armour, because we had pretty much no clue who was going to win any of the three games until the final score had been rung up!


I thought the subtlety of the early play and the sheer calculability of the late play was the game's most charming feature.

At the beginning, you can't control how things will score, but you can begin to control the incentive of the other player to play or not play where you want, and what you want.

Quote:

Variations that we will try next time:

1) Deal out the entire deck at the outset of the game, and


That seems bad. Very bad.

Quote:
2) Players must choose a suit chip that matches one of the suits of the card they just played.


Yes. This, OTOH, is essential.

We did this on a later run through the game, after being bored with the unlimited nature of options in the rules as written.

1) You must take the suit you matched if possible [this kind of matches well thematically, as the pairing up of suits could be considered a buyer and a seller of that particular fabric, in the theme of the game; the card you're matching is the "offer" being sold while your card played is the purchase made from it, so you get the color you "bought"]

2) If that suit isn't available, you must take the other color represented on the card you played [not sure this fits as well thematically, maybe in a Monty Python's Cheeseshop kind of way: "Oh, I'm terribly sorry, sir... but we're fresh out of Yellow today. We do have some nice Green for sale, though? You sure that won't suffice?"].

3) If that is also not available [or there was no other color], you may take any color.

Some version of this is necessary.

Quote:
Bottom line: This review is based on three plays of the game - all 2-player. I was hoping to get in a 3p game before submitting this review, but the opportunity hasn’t come up. It seems obvious to me that the game will be more dynamic and fun with a 3rd or even 4th player added. As a two player experience, we found the game fast, but lacking in meaningful decisions or tension.


You probably have to take the trouble to parse all of the available information [which, in the game's favor, includes a LOT of information about the relationship between suits in the deck] in order to play the game in any meaningful way. The possible end-game values start to be calculable pretty early, it actually seemed, though they're not obvious.

Finding the best plays toward the end of the game [that won't open up bigger ones for your opponent] was particularly difficult to do.

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Nate Straight

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Octogreg wrote:
pmagnus wrote:
The beginning of the game can be subtle, but I think that there's strategy even with the rules as written. One aspect is bluffing: To get three or more chips in a colour, you need to start collecting them before you lay down the card that makes them valuable.


What we found is that cards like that tended to get buried pretty quickly. I guess a strategy could be to go for chips in the suits of any 8s or 9s you may get dealt early in the game and hoard those cards until the end, so that both of its suits don't get blocked. Likewise, spend the rest of the game trying to bury other 8s and 9s that come up, and also trying to increase the totals of the two suits you're concentrating on.


I'm not sure that either of you is really correct.

I don't suspect the real strategic depth of the game would lie with the chip selection at all upon further analysis.

I suspect a good player [obviously the game is too young to have any yet; only time would tell if it could support study] could win through clever card play choosing chips entirely randomly.

Because the values change so much during the game, choosing a chip just tells your opponent to play their cards to decrease the value of that color rather than another arbitrary one. It doesn't matter which you choose, the effect is the same until much later when the game becomes calculable.

Tying up your chip selection with your card play [as the rules as written explicitly do not require] makes your incentives more difficult, because you're adding, by definition, volatility to that color.
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Nate Straight

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Octogreg wrote:
In our post mortem we found that each of us was holding Crowns and Aces again. My wife said that "It's basically a "Gotcha!" kind of game. It should be called "Thwart" b/c that's what's going on for most of the game. Soon as you put down a good card, you know somebody is going to kill it next turn". The challenge then is to maneuver your plays so that the damage others are going to do to your plans is minimized, while the damage you do to them is maximized . If this style of play appeals to you, then you will definitely enjoy this game.


I didn't find that was the style of play at all.

Rather, I found that the style of play was to play in such a way that your opponent would out of necessity be helping you in any attempt they made to increase their own positioning.

There are opportunities to hose your opponent, sure; but there seemed to be more opportunities to give them a chance to try a risky setup that you can leverage for yourself first.

The game is zero-sum, but still maintains incentives for opponents to inadvertently "help" each other, because of the dual-suited nature of the deck, the way the scoring system gets spread across the cards, and the way the game requires you build up to a big score rather than just play the big cards early [which will then get quashed].

Quite an accomplishment, if it holds up over time.

pmagnus wrote:
As an aside: I also have mixed feelings about the scoring system. It is really too much to keep track of during the game, and the best you can do is try to spin things toward your favor.


It's not that difficult, is it? The cancellation element makes it much easier.

And, it's the heart of the game. You can't change it. You shouldn't change it.



 
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NateStraight wrote:

Quote:
2) Players must choose a suit chip that matches one of the suits of the card they just played.


Yes. This, OTOH, is essential.

We did this on a later run through the game, after being bored with the unlimited nature of options in the rules as written.

1) You must take the suit you matched if possible [this kind of matches well thematically, as the pairing up of suits could be considered a buyer and a seller of that particular fabric, in the theme of the game; the card you're matching is the "offer" being sold while your card played is the purchase made from it, so you get the color you "bought"]

2) If that suit isn't available, you must take the other color represented on the card you played [not sure this fits as well thematically, maybe in a Monty Python's Cheeseshop kind of way: "Oh, I'm terribly sorry, sir... but we're fresh out of Yellow today. We do have some nice Green for sale, though? You sure that won't suffice?"].

3) If that is also not available [or there was no other color], you may take any color.

Some version of this is necessary.


Another fun thing this adds [especially if you have to take the matched suit] is the ability to potentially hamstring your opponent to choosing a sub-optimal color [or simply make it difficult for them to collect a particular color] based on how you play.

 
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pmagnus wrote:
Greg,

As an aside: I also have mixed feelings about the scoring system. It is really too much to keep track of during the game, and the best you can do is try to spin things toward your favor.


Regarding scoring...

Reading the description, would it be worth having a chart (four columns, one for each stack, rows marked 0-10) with markers for each suit? That way you could track what the current values and lighten a little of the load of keeping track of which cards are in the stack and making the game longer than necessary.

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Raiderjakk wrote:

Regarding scoring...

Reading the description, would it be worth having a chart (four columns, one for each stack, rows marked 0-10) with markers for each suit? That way you could track what the current values and lighten a little of the load of keeping track of which cards are in the stack and making the game longer than necessary.



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Raiderjakk wrote:

Reading the description, would it be worth having a chart (four columns, one for each stack, rows marked 0-10) with markers for each suit?


In my opinion, figuring out the value of a particular suit in a particular stack isn't a big deal. It's adding the four stacks together and then multiplying by the number of chips - simple arithmetic, but it takes pencil and paper for me.
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Ahhh...I figured it would take away from splaying cards to figure out what ranks are what values.
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Raiderjakk wrote:
Ahhh...I figured it would take away from splaying cards to figure out what ranks are what values.


If you find that making a price board helps the game, then it would be cool to make one. It might make the game more manageable, for players who felt a bit overwhelmed.
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Nate Straight

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At a certain point, any analogue becomes too like the original to be useful.

I'm not sure that a scoreboard for Colour Bazaar would reach that point, but it'd be pretty darn close.

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pmagnus wrote:
Raiderjakk wrote:
Ahhh...I figured it would take away from splaying cards to figure out what ranks are what values.


If you find that making a price board helps the game, then it would be cool to make one. It might make the game more manageable, for players who felt a bit overwhelmed.


True. I did get to playing this with my 11-year-old daughter and we both liked it! We played three games out of the box, the first two with free choice of cubes and the final one without. Games went faster than I thought they would go at about 15 minutes a game, probably less. We both tend to play relatively quickly.

Our feelings are similar to what was mentioned above in terms of concerns and strategies. I found the game easy to play, hard to explain. We both agreed there was a fair amount to think about and a lot to keep track of.

The game as it stands is an excellent memory game. I think the scoreboard for each stack would deflect the game into a logic exercise which is probably a bit too heavy handed for something 15 minutes in late. I am a train and economic gamer by trade, so my instinct is to make a lot of games in that vein. This is not one of those games and I'm glad for it.

As for the aces and crowns, I'm a bit more undecided on what they should do. My daughter and I planned around them a little better. We stuck each other with an ace or two at the end of the turn. My general feeling is that it is much more important to keep cube counts close over and above what's on the stack - it minimizes your need for an Ace or '2' at the end to kill your player's score with a four or five cube advantage.

I did like the rule of restricting cube selection to the card you were playing and it made playing an Ace more of a mental exercise. I was much more likely to keep a 5 or 6 in my hand of the Ace's suit than if I hadn't were it not for this rule. I think restricting the cube selection also forced some other moves on cards that played balancing the cubes versus balancing the stacks. That may be a house rule in our house.

Crowns seem very slightly overbalanced to me albeit not the way I thought it would. It's not the value that concerns me as much as it's the fact its a single rank on the card plus the value. The two are a little much. Possible directions roughly in order of preference in my eyes would be...

- Use Courts instead of Crowns. Courts would be worth 0 points but since they have 3 suits, This would allow the stacks to build a little laterally in terms of suits without the 10 point kicker of a Crown. The downsides involve possibly more tracking of suits than necessary since the suits are paired somewhat naturally as is - most games have a stack without one or two suits. The other obvious downfall is not everyone has the Courts. At first blush, I like this option best, but I need to tinker.

- Use Crowns as a "special" card. Courts would simply take a card off the stack that match their suit. This way, they would take a potentially wonderful card off of a pile for someone else. This adds a bit more strategy in terms of reversing the almost automatic tit-for-tat on some exchanges and gets the 10 points off the deck. Downside would be it's a "special" thing to remember.

As for the Aces, we thought they could stay single-suit and as is if you did something different with the Crowns. One point to mess the other person up seemed pretty slick to us. We both like games with screwage and we thought the Ace was a nice way to handle it.

As for the number of cubes of 5 of each suit, this was something that I thought I wouldn't like but turns out I didn't mind. This forced players to go heavy on one suit and that's a good thing. The only thing I didn't like about it was that it seems like there is an advantage to playing first and dictating the flow of the game in terms of directing what cubes would go when. I don't have an easy answer for this either and I'm not sure if its a big enough advantage to warrant a change. In our three games, first player won each time.

Anyhow, PD, thanks for another great game! I liked this one a lot as it was quick and reminded me a little of the train side of me. It is very balanced and I can't think of much else I would really do for or against it. I may invent my own with more use of markers and cards as tracks to build on - you never know!

Thanks as always,

Jack
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Jack Neal
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NateStraight wrote:
At a certain point, any analogue becomes too like the original to be useful.

I'm not sure that a scoreboard for Colour Bazaar would reach that point, but it'd be pretty darn close.



True. That,and this is a card game. Sometimes everything looks like a nail when you have a hammer.
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Greg J
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I am happy that other folks are trying out this game and are offering thoughtful reviews and house rules for it. It was a challenge for me to articulate the things we didn't like about the game but at the same time encourage others to try it. There are a number of good ideas at work here. Thankfully I didn't scare anybody off!
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P.D. Magnus
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Colour Bazaar is now in the database, in case those of you who have played it would like to post a rating.
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