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Holi: Festival of Colors

Holi is the Hindu Festival of Colours which is typically celebrated by people smearing each other with coloured dyes and throwing coloured powders at one another. It's the theme and inspiration for this game from Floodgate, and it certainly comes through in Julio E Nazario's design, but Holi: Festival of Colors is essentially an abstract strategy game.

Holi is played on a three-dimensional board comprising three levels. The 2-4 players move their screen-printed wooden avatar initially on the lowest level. They are playing one of the three cards from their hand that show patterns of colour and they 'throw' or, more accurately, they carefully place their colour tokens so that they match the pattern on their card. There are tokens on the board that represent sweets (confectionary) and you have an incentive to collect these because there's a worthwhile end-game bonus for having more of these than other players.

If your avatar is in a position where it is orthogonally surrounded by four colour tokens, then it can move up to the next level. Avatars cannot subsequently descend to a lower level. Colour tokens placed out on higher levels are worth more points: they score 1 point each on the lowest level, 2 points on the middle level and 3 points on the top level. However, if the corresponding space in the level below has no colour token on it, then your token drops down to that level.

There's a largely incidental 'take that' element to the game, in that if an opponent's avatar is in a position where your card indicates you'd place a colour token then you score a point for a 'direct hit' on them. In the main tho' players will usually be focused on grabbing sweet tokens and maximising the points they score for their colour tokens.

As the board fills, especially at higher player counts, you'll find there will be turns when you cannot make any of the patterns indicated on the cards in your hand because spaces are already taken by colour tokens. When that occurs, you must play a card face down in order to place one of your tokens anywhere on the level on which you have your avatar. And tho' you are likely to have turns where your card-playing choices are limited, there are still judgement calls to be made over when to go for sweets and how soon to elevate your avatar to the next level.

Holi: Festival of Colors plays quickly: players each have a draw deck of just 13 cards and the game ends when these run out - so you're each limited to a total of 13 turns. With its 3D board, colourful tokens and vibrant art by Vincent Dutrait, it has an impressive table presence. Set it up and it's sure to attract friends and family members who will want to play, and it's easy to teach and learn. The 3D structure is reasonably robust and isn't too fiddly to erect or to play with. Our one production gripe is that there's quite a bit of colour variation on the colour tokens. This is deliberate but it can cause confusion when playing in low light conditions.

The game comes with a set of cards that add in extra or different rules and scoring conditions. These don't just add variety to the game, they allow players to alter the dynamics to suit their preferences. If, for example, you'd like more 'take that' interaction, you can play with the card that doubles the points scored for making a 'direct hit' on an opponent. It's a small change but it directly incentivises a particular style of play... In our plays at Board's Eye View, we also had a bit of fun substituting real sweets for the cardboard sweet tokens in the game. We found that incentivised those players who were able to delay gratification rather than those who immediately gobbled down their acquisitions :-)

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