Updated: Oct 1
Swatch fills that sweet spot where it doubles both as a light family game and as a subtly tactical filler-length game that can appeal to experienced gamers. It's a game themed around colour matching, where players are collecting colour tokens with the aim of exchanging them for Swatch cards.
Tho' the winner is likely to be the first to nab three Swatch cards, you can't just claim the cards willy nilly. The Swatch cards are sorted into six numbered piles At the start of the game, each player takes a Scheme card and this displays, as a secret objective, the specific pattern of Swatch cards that you have to take, so that, for example, if you take your first Swatch from pile 3 then it will indicate which other pile(s) you'll need to collect a Swatch from.
In order to claim Swatches, you'll need to collect cyan, magenta and yellow tokens and you'll then have converted these into red, green and blue tokens because it's these that have to be cashed in to claim a Swatch.
Play is simple. It uses a deck of action cards. Each of these cards allows you either to add cyan, magenta or yellow tokens to your palette; exchange one or more cyan, magenta or yellow tokens; or combine cyan, magenta or yellow tokens to create red, green or blue tokens. Three rows of five action cards are laid out.
Each turn, players draw a card from the deck into their hand and they place out their artist meeple for the card they want to claim in the active row (initially the top one). Tho' you're only choosing between the cards in this one row, you'll want to have regard to the next row down because the position of your meeple in a row determines the order you get to choose cards in the next round. This is a mechanism that will be familiar to those who have played Kingdomino (Blue Orange). It means a canny player may well settle for a suboptimal card choice in the current row in order to secure first choice in the next row...
Cards from the grid can either be taken into your hand or activated, and you also get to play an action card from your hand at the end of your turn (perhaps the card you drew at the start). There isn't usually much point ever hanging on to cards that let you add tokens to your palette but you might well want to hold on to cards that let you swap or mix colours until you can use them to best effect. In practice, we found that holding onto cards was mainly happening in the early rounds of the game before players had populated their palette.
Designer Scott James has come up with a very accessible game that can be quickly learned and which can be played in around 20 minutes. It caters for 2–4 players but with only two players then each player has two artist meeples to place out each turn rather than just the one. This variant keeps on that all-important pressure for turn order; so much so that we think Swatch particularly shines as a two-player game. It delivers that competitive edge without players feeling that it's a cutthroat 'take that' game.
The preview prototype shown here on Board's Eye View only came with four Scheme cards, so if you play with four players and you gain familiarity with the game, you'll be able to work out what Swatch cards opponents may be angling for. With two players you don't know what Scheme card your opponent has. Perhaps, during its Kickstarter campaign, publishers Minerva might consider adding more Scheme cards to the mix so that there's a similar level of slight uncertainty in the four-player game.
Swatch is live on Kickstarter now. Click here to check out the campaign.