In Colonia you represent a wealthy trading family in the city of Colonia, part of the Holy Roman Empire. During the course of the game you are attempting to purchase relic to increase your status amongst the other families. In order to do this you will be producing goods to sell to the various foreign nations that are in possession of these relics. Since this is well before the creation of any kind of international money market, you will need to ensure you have a good supply of the different currencies the countries trade in.
Very nice components here. The board is made of jigsaw pieces, put together to form a rather large board. However you don't need a lot of space aside from this, there is room for everything that goes on in the game on the board.
Simple wooden pieces for the family members, standard size cards for the different events and relics, no real complaints here.
The only flaw component-wise is the money. Not only is it paper money (never good), the colours don't quite match the colours of the relics and ships they are supposed to relate too. It would have been far better had the money been on cards too. It doesn't get handled too much, so no real reason for it to have been paper).
The rulebook is up to Queen's usual high standards. Well laid out with plenty of examples to highlight the, at times, complex rules.
How Do You Play?
The game takes place over 6 weeks. Each day of those 6 weeks is an area on the board handling the action that the families get to make on that day. Generally the pattern for these actions is that you send a number of your workers to the current area in order to take the action of that space. Afterwards, once everyone has taken the action as many times as they wish, they take the workers back from that action that they played there IN THE PREVIOUS WEEK. So, for example, if one of your workers takes the action for Tuesday, then that worker will be unavailable for use elsewhere until Wednesday of the following week. Managing your supply of workers (which varies based on number of players) is critical.
Monday - on Monday you do the housekeeping tasks for the board. Lay out new goods. Decide which ships will be leaving the harbour this week. Find out how much work the different craftsmen are prepared to do this week. Lay out three new edict (event) cards.
Tuesday - on Tuesday all players simultaneously choose a card numbered between 3 and 8 (which they won't be able to use again, forcing them to use all 6 cards over the course of the game). The number they choose is the number of workers they send to the Tuesday space. It determined turn order for this week, as well as the number of votes available to you for the edict cards.
Wednesday - on Wednesday you will aquire raw materials from the market. Take it in turns to take sets of materials, until everyone has passed or all the materials have gone.
Thursday - on Thursday you will be petitioning the craftsmen to turn your raw materials into sellable goods. Based on the card that turned up on Monday we know the minimum amount of each good the craftsmen will produce - however a number of dice will be rolled after workers are placed to determine any extra work that is done. If you send workers to a craftsman and your good is not produced, they will end up at the head of the queue for the following week, so all is not lost.
Friday - on Friday the ships are loaded with the goods you have produced. Four large ship tiles will be face up in the harbour, some of which will be leaving this week. The ships have a destination (determining the currency they will be paying out in) and a number of holds. These holds tell you which goods the ship is looking to load, and how much they pay. Players turn in goods to place thier workers on the holds.
Saturday - on Saturday the ships that are leaving this week depart the harbour. Money is paid out to players for any full holds. Money is paid out in the currency of the country owning the ship. There are four different currencies you are competing for. Ships that do not depart move to the head of the queue, and new ship tiles fill the empty spaces.
Sunday - finally the players turn thier money into victory points. At the start of the week 10 cards are turned up. The cards have a country (the currency that must be paid), a cost, and a victory point value (1 to 5). 1pts costs 5, 2pts costs 9, 3pts costs 12, 4 pts costs 14 and 5 pts costs 15 so it is advantageous to hold onto your currency for as long as you dare to get the higher numbers. Additionally there are shrine cards that will double the value of the relic you place in them.
In addition to all that, the edict cards that were drawn at the start of the turn are resolved on the day the edict displays. Each edict is an event that may or may not happen. They are events that either affect the contents of the board, or do something to all players equally. The players vote to determine whether or not the edict happens. Each player has two cards, a yes and a no. These are played simultaneously and the result with the most votes (the number of workers played on Tuesday) wins. If the vote is yes, the event happens. If no, it is discarded without effect.
After 6 weeks of this (in the final week all 4 ships leave regardless of what is on the week card), leftover money majorities are turned into a small number of victory points, and the person with the most points wins.
Is It Any Good?
Whilst the above might sound quite complex, it isn't really. Everything is laid out nicely on the board so it's easy to see what happens and when. The hardest bit to get your head around is the way workers return to your supply.
This worker management is critical to success at the game. Spending all your workers to go first is all well and good, but then you find yourself with not many workers to spend on other actions. As the week goes on they trickle back into your supply, so you are constantly looking ahead, working out how many workers you are getting back and when in order to plan your actions out.
The game itself is the euro standard of a resource generating engine. However unlike a lot of games the players own no part of that engine themselves. The engine is the board itself. Thus there is a lot of competition, a lot of blocking going on. People take the resources you want, take the goods you want, take the spaces in the ships holds that you want, and the relics you want. It is surprisingly viscious.
Despite the number of random elements in the game, the amount of it that is driven by luck is quite low. The raw materials that come out are in large quantities, and only of 5 types, so there's always a good spread. You can get lucky on the goods manufacturing with the dice roll - however since you know the range that might be produced it's more a matter of making educated gambles, playing the odds. You see the ships far enough ahead that you can plan your turn around getting the combinations, rather than having the surprise of having the right goods. You might sometimes get lucky with the correct relics turning up to match the currency you've been hording. But again you get the full week to see the cards that are coming, and manipulating the turn order to get what you want is more crucial.
The game reminds me a lot of Endeavor in that there's nothing particularly new or clever here (although the worker return mechanism is neat), but everything has been put together perfectly to create a very elegant game.
One final element that impresses me greatly is that it will genuinely play with 6. Very few euro games really do so - they either have problems with player-induced chaos (the amount the board changes between turns) or downtime. Or sometimes both (I'm looking at you, Carcassonne). Colonia suffers with none of that.
My one concern is over longevity. Since you are just "playing the board" and that board is set up more or less the same every game, it won't stand up to hundreds of plays. The order the week cards and edict cards come out will keep it fresh for a while however.
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