According to Board Game Geek, there were approximately 5,000 board games published last year. The vast majority of those are published in the United States and Europe. The number of new games means there are better games than ever and gamers have a huge variety to choose from. Unfortunately, with that volume, there are also tens or hundreds of games that mechanically are very similar to each other.
Today we are reviewing Stick to Colours, a game published in Russia, that stands out as a small auction game with a unique mechanic. It’s a refreshing take on a fairly standard set collection and auction game.
Stick to Colours plays 2-4 players in about 30 minutes. It is best with 3 or 4, as playing with 2 players requires an automated “player” to be used.
In Stick to Colours, players will attempt to collect sets or runs of cards in a fashion similar to rummy. Cards are numbered 1-9 in three colors: blue, red, and green. There are two copies of each 1-6 card, but only one copy of the 7, 8 and 9 in each color.
There are a selection of cards face up on the table and each turn one will be chosen to go up for auction. Players bid on the chosen card by bidding on the number of available cards they do not want, effectively limiting their options in the future. Once every card in the deck has been auctioned off the player with the most points wins.
The components from Stick to Colours are fairly minimal. Other than the deck of cards, there are cardboard tokens in each player’s color. The tokens have a “?” on one side and an “X” on the reverse. They are used to track which cards players have previously refused.
The quality of the tokens and cards is serviceable, but not great. The cards especially feel thin and start to show wear after only a couple of plays. There isn’t any artwork to speak of, each card has a target and a number on it, that’s it.
How to Play:
Stick to Colours centers around the auction mechanic. Each player will start with two cards in hand and there will be 5 cards from the deck face-up and available to auction (6 in a four player game). Players will choose one of the cards to auction and bid a number of cards they do not want. The player who wins the bid will place an “X” marker on the number of available cards they successfully bid.
If a card is auctioned off that you previously placed an “X” on, you are unable to bid for that card. Similarly, if all but one player has “X”-ed an available card, the player who hasn’t declined that card will add it to their hand without having to put it up for auction.
Of course you can’t bid an amount higher than the number of cards you can add an “X” to. So if you’ve already added a token to all of the cards that are available, you won’t be able to bid. There is one exception, you can bid by discarding cards from your hand. For instance, you can bid “3” by refusing two cards from the table and additionally discarding one card from your hand. However, the discarded card is removed from the game regardless if you ultimately win the auction.
At the end of the game, you play your hand into sets or runs to score points. Runs must be consecutive numbers of the same color and score 1 point for each card in the run, with a minimum of three cards. Sets of three cards of the same number also score points. Sets of the 1-6 cards also score 1 point for each card. Sets of 7s, 8s or 9s score more points as there is only 1 of each color in the deck. They are worth 2 points for each card.
Auction games have always been hit and miss with me, but I love the auction mechanic in Stick to Colors. Players are basically bidding away future cards. I’ve found myself quick to overbid and then end up stuck for the next few rounds not being able to bid very high as I’ve already refused most of the available cards.
In many auction games, every player wants to win each item; although it may be worth marginally more to one player, generally it’s good for everyone. Because of the set collection in Stick to Colours, many of the cards are just completely worthless to some players. If you are trying to accumulate sets of 7s, 9s and 4s, a blue 2 isn’t something you are interested in at all. This is integral to the “refusal” auction as there are normally some cards each player is more than willing to “X,” but if the bid goes too high they will have to let it go or start marking off cards that might help complete their sets later.
While the mechanic is cool, it is kind of a one-hit wonder. Once an auction ends, another auction starts until every card has been auctioned off. I found myself being ready for the game to end with half of the deck left to be auctioned off. There isn’t anything happening during the game or between rounds that makes the first auction feel much different than the last.
The lack of theme also really hurts the game in my opinion. You aren’t bidding on anything cool, shiny, or remotely interesting. It is hard to get too excited about seeing the blue 4 come up for auction. Once the novelty of the auction wears off, it sort of starts feeling a bit like a slow-moving game of rummy.
The auction mechanic of Stick to Colours is really interesting and is certainly the reason I wanted to play this game. The fact that you are bidding, essentially, with future opportunity makes it feel unlike any other auction game. As you are trying to get specific sets, some of the available cards may be mostly worthless to you, but could complete sets or runs for other players. Since each player values the cards differently, the decisions on how much to bid and which cards to “X” are really engaging.
Unfortunately, the lack of any theme makes the game fall just a little bit flat. Even though it plays in just over 30 minutes, I felt like it overstayed its welcome. Bidding on colors and numbers just doesn’t have the same hook as bidding on artifacts, art, precious gems… really anything.
In the end, Stick to Colors is a neat little game. If you like the idea of a different type of auction game, it’s certainly worth checking out. But there isn’t any theme and not much in terms of replayability to keep you coming back.
If you’d like to pick up a copy of Stick to Colours, its currently working its way into distribution.
Final Score: 2.5 Stars – A really clever and unique auction game that’s held back by its lack of theme and slow moving nature.
• Very repetitive
• No theme or artwork
• Subpar card quality