Coloma is a one to six player hand management, simultaneous action selection game designed by Jonny Pac Cantin and published by Final Frontier Games. Coloma is set during the California Gold Rush of 1848. You play as a Pioneer who has travelled to the town of Coloma to get rich and make a name for yourself. Prospect for gold, hire workers, rustle horses, establish businesses, survey rivers, construct bridges and travel the surrounding lands. But where there are riches to be made their are unscrupulous gunmen waiting to take it all from you.
Coloma takes place over three years (turns) with five rounds in each year. During each round a dial will be rotated around an action selection wheel and an event triggered. Then in secret all players will select an action. One of the action spaces will be covered by the rotating dial which also has an action on. Actions include gaining resources, surveying rivers, building bridges, constructing buildings, moving your wagon on the frontier map and placing camps and gunmen. Each action spot has a standard action and a "boom" bonus. However, if the majority of players select the same action, it goes "bust" and disables the "boom" action.
After all five events have been activated (i.e. the dial rotated five times) it is high noon and there is a shoot out. If the number of gunmen out number the outlaws then the players win the shootout. Players receive a reward based on the number of people in the shootout. If the outlaws win the rewards are reduced. Not placing anyone in the shootout will usually result in on of your "dudes" dying and count as negative points at the end of the game.
After the third shootout the game ends and players receive points for buildings constructed, rivers surveyed, bonuses for bridges constructed and camps on the frontier map, The player with the most points wins.
Coloma, on the surface, feels like another point salad euro. But glistening under the surface is a big shiny nugget of gold that is just waiting to be explored. I found that it is only when I was playing the game that I realised there is more to Coloma than meets the eye.
Coloma is an absolute gem of a game. There is so much I can talk about. Coloma does not have a complex game ruleset but there are lots of choices and paths to pursue. Points can come from a myriad of avenues and picking which ones to concentrate on is the key.
The simultaneous action selection mechanism works fantastically well. It creates a game behind the game. Resources are public knowledge so you can try and deduce and best guess where people are going to go. You want to avoid going to the same action spot to avoid the bust, in most cases. Unless you can see someone is going to do a big action if it doesn't go bust. Then, you can hope to select the same action in attempt to force the bust to limit their options.
The way the barker tile rotates each round covering up a action spot is great as it adds the an extra level of tension in getting to the spots you need to go to. The barker tile also gives players another action spot they can go to. During the action selection part of the round you can engage in a bit of banter and trash talk to try and throw your opponents. You can bluff about what you are going to do in an attempt to force your opponents to go somewhere else.
The synergism between the action you select and the buildings you have built can make for some great engines and combos. By, literally, playing your cards right you can have some big powerful turns. Everyone has the same deck of cards and how you use the cards and what you build can vary depending on what strategy you go for.
There are multiple ways to score points and paths to pursue. You can gain some big points on the frontier lands map. At certain Boomtowns you can place camps. The more camps you have the more points you get at the end of the game. Each building gives you points. You gain points for rivers that you have surveyed. Bridges, which must be built over surveyed rivers, give you end game scoring points. There are a number of different bridges and they will vary from game to game. The route that you pursue might be influenced on the bridges available. You can get some big points from the shootouts, but you can also be crafty and avoid the shootouts and force the outlaws to win. If the outlaws win the defenders gain less points but you also might lose dudes to the graveyard if you didn't contribute.
The two player "Buster" variant is simple, elegant and adds the feeling of a third player without much overhead. This works so well, yet such a simple concept.
Additional modules include variable player boards, variable player powers and hotels. I have not explored these fully yet, but looking forward to delving further in to Coloma. I think the many paths to victory could be a barrier to some people as they min/max every move. My advice, just play it and don't worry about that. Once you have a game under your belt then you can see where the synergies lie and how to maximise your points.
Jonny Pac Cantin has done it again for me. Sierra West put him on my radar and Coloma has secured his position on my designers to watch list. I am excited to see what he is coming out with next.