Review: Colors of Paris
Colors of Paris is a family-weight worker placement game set in France, during the impressionist art movement. In this game, players take on the roles of real, historical masters, collecting paints, blending them, and creating timeless works of art. Using a cool, rotating board, each round provides different actions for the players to choose from.
As an art historian and museum curator, I am always drawn to art-themed games like Fresco and Modern Art. Colors of Paris is a 2019 release in this category, and it implements some interesting ideas into the standard worker placement genre.
The goal of the game is to earn the most points. Players accomplish this by upgrading their skill tableaus, mixing colors to make black, and by painting pictures (obviously).
The game is played on a two-tier board. The lower part remains stationary, but the large wheel on the upper part rotates throughout the game. Each round, players take turns placing workers on available spaces. Then, once all workers have been placed, players take turns executing their workers’ actions.
Interestingly, as the wheel turns, the number of times an action can be taken changes. In one round, an action might have 3 spots for workers, but in a later round, it may only have 1.
Each player has a personal tableau, which tracks how “good” they are at performing their actions. The 3 tracks on each tableau have markers showing how great the reward is when the action gets taken. As the game progresses, these markers will move along the tracks, signifying players improving their painting skills.
The standard actions are:
- COLLECT PAINT, according to the color shown on the space (e.g. the blue space produces blue paint). The player gets a number of cubes equal to their top-row skill value, which starts at 3.
- MIX PAINT, using primary colors to create secondary colors. By spending 1 cube each of 2 primary colors, the player earns cubes in the resulting color, equal to their middle-row skill value, which starts at 2.
- PAINT, by placing cubes onto a painting card. The player may spend as many cubes as they wish, up to their bottom-row skill value, which starts at 1.
The game comes with 4 easel pieces, which hold cards for players to claim.
Each painting requires 9 cubes to complete it, and the point value for doing so is listed at the bottom of the card.
In addition to grabbing paints and working on pictures, players can take actions like upgrading their skills, copying another worker’s action, taking a card from an easel, and making black paint.
Black is never used, but each cube of it earns 6 points at the end of the game. It’s also a game-end trigger – when the 5th and final black cube has been claimed, the game ends. Making black requires a cube of each of the 3 secondary colors, so it is tough to make, but definitely worthwhile. (The other game-end trigger is when a player completes their second painting.)
Colors of Paris adds an interesting wrinkle in that each round, players must choose a worker to leave where it is on the board. Since the wheel turns at the end of every round, this means that in the coming round, the worker will be taking a different action than the one it just took. However, as a counterpoint, a special action is available which allows a player to turn the board 0 or 2 spaces, instead of the normal 1. This can be immensely powerful, both offensively and defensively.
If a player reaches the 6th spot on any of their skill tracks, they may either take 6 points or an extra worker. Later, if the player reaches the final spot of the track, they earn either 10 points if they took a worker before, or 4 points if they did not. (At first, this rule seems wonky and backwards, but it actually creates an interesting decision for players: either guarantee 6 points – and work toward 10 – but don’t earn an extra worker, or take an extra worker and try for 10, but run the risk of earning nothing instead. It feels like a slight push-your-luck aspect.)
When either game-end trigger occurs, players finish the round and the player with the highest score wins!
Colors of Paris is a solid game. It’s quick to play – usually an hour or less – but it packs a lot of strategy into that short timeframe. I have seen a couple of other worker placement games use rotating boards like this, but the notion of leaving a worker in between rounds significantly deepens the decision-making. It means players have to think not only about what they get this round, but also what they will get next round (and that is assuming the wheel rotates as they expect!).
The game also includes optional special abilities, and I totally geeked out when I saw they were real-life artists like Degas, Monet, and Van Gogh. Admittedly, these characters’ powers are a bit generic – not always thematic to the individuals specifically – but the mere inclusion of real artists’ likenesses helps to bring out the theme for me.
The entire package is vibrant and attractive, as it should be given the theme. The iconography is intuitive, and the rulebook is a breeze. The gameplay also seems quite well balanced; when I played for the first time, all 3 of us hit end-game conditions simultaneously, and the final scores were 32-34-38. It was close, despite us all using different strategies.
I’m kind of surprised I haven’t seen more buzz around this game. It could be that it just got overshadowed by the constant glut of new releases, but I think Colors of Paris is a game a lot of folks will enjoy. Like I said, the theme really appeals to me, but the game is good enough that even if it had a different theme, I would still recommend it. If you like worker placement, don’t sleep on this one.
A review copy was provided by Luma Imports.
The Bottom Line
I like Colors of Paris a lot, and I'm surprised it hasn't gotten more buzz. Definitely worth checking out.