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Rules wise, this is not a heavy game. The heaviness comes in the brain-burning decisions and trying to see far enough ahead in order to not only do well, but to not screw yourself. This game has a lot of chaos from other players. The game state can change pretty drastically from one player's turn to the next. Normally, this is not such a problem, but here players often place cards that won't take effect until the end of a particular phase of the game. Because of the effort and AP caused by this game, the enjoyment just does not reward enough for me. I liken it to Dominant Species and Vanuatu in the sense that there is chaos and drastic changes in the game state. I'd play it again, but I will never recommend it.
GAMEPLAY Colonialism is a (mostly) card-driven area-majority game that is very clearly a love letter to games like El Grande and Web of Power. Players take one of five actions on their turn: draw a card, play a card, move a ship, add an influence marker, or withdraw up to five influence markers from one region. After two turns there is a Colonization Phase which triggers the effects of the Policy Cards played in each region. At this point, if player influence is over the limit for a region and the natives have been “removed”, players remaining have a chance to plunder that region’s resources. There are two Colonization Phases in an era and three eras in a game. A player’s score is the number of his fewest resources collected. THOUGHTS Colonialism may be the best area-majority game I have played. First, unlike El Grande, everyone is using the same deck of cards (although cards drawn into a players’ hands are bound to be different) to dictate their actions. What card to play and which region to play it into make for delicious decisions. The constraints on the card play are two-fold: a player must first have influence in a region to play a card and they must have a ship bordering the region (most of the time) to ensure the card triggers. Another point worth noting is the inclusion of the natives. No player can gain resources until the natives are beat down but that forces players to commit large amounts of influence in order to tip the region influence limits so that natives can start to be stripped away. For this reason, Colonialism is an area-majority game that works incredibly well at the three- and even two-player count. On the flipside, this means I would not want to play it with four players; it would just be too long of a game for what it is. Finally, the Tigris & Euphrates aspect of your score being the number of your fewest resource means you have to go out and get the same amount of everything. The biggest downside to this game, for me, is the theme as it brutally portrays a shameful part of part of human history, and I frankly do not want to play this game with anyone who hails from Africa, the Middle East, the Subcontinent, or Asia… Still, on game alone, Colonialism is stunning—one I will always have in my collection. PROS -I personally love the sepia-colored hues and subdued tones of the board. The old-timey political cartoon card art is also extremely evocative of the period when imperial conquest was de rigueur. -Every player has the same deck of cards they’re cycling through. At the beginning, you’re in the dark about what they have but, by the end of the deck, you have a pretty good idea what they’ll play where. -Scoring system is a rip-off of Knizia’s Tigris & Euphrates but it’s perfect. -Good at two players and great at three. NEUTRAL -For such a simple game, it seems to take quite a while to complete. I’ve rarely had plays under three hours. CONS -The theme is incredibly brutal, and that can be off-putting or plain offensive to some. If this game were set in a fantasy or sci-fi world, I could see this one getting a lot more traction. -The Colonization and end of era phases can be a little tricky and have players referencing the rules. Player aids would have solved this. -Too long and chaotic at four players.