Swatch by Scott James is an abstract visually striking and simplistic game. Ideal for casual gaming sessions with people newer to the world of board gaming. Not only this, but it’s an ideal lighter game for the more experienced, to break up the crunchiness of other more intense board games. Games clock in at roughly over half an hour and cater up to four players. The box even includes a solo AI mechanic in case you want to play solo!
How It Plays
Swatch is a card-based game played in several rounds. You collect cards that let you collect paint cubes, enact a special effect, combine cubes to create suits, and collect points at the end of the game based on completing your objective scheme you were dealt at the start of the game as well as for each completed set of colours(or swatches as they are properly known). There is also a cascading card mechanic. This is where you are allowed to draw from each row, and the positioning of which card you take affects your play order in the next round.
Another option is to forgo the current row if you are the last person to pick. But, this comes at the cost of not collecting a card next time so there is some tactical thought in depriving others of prime cards while maintaining your position to go early in the next round. It is a simple and elegant mechanic, but more importantly, it works.
The final mechanic worth mentioning is that you are penalized for having spare cubes at the end of the game so you want to carefully balance between having enough cubes to build swatches and also not collecting an excess amount of paint. As well as having a lot of mechanical fun coming from special cards that allow you to pinch colours from opponents, and mix up (pun intended) the core loop of gameplay.
Swatch is a game best played with an eye on the next turn or even two turns ahead. Your mixing plan may be ruined by having no cards to pick from or having an abundance of blue when all you need is yellow. The cascading nature of the cards mean there is an element of luck and randomness in what comes up and positioning yourself to be in an advantageous position is tricky balancing act. With some of the cards allowing you to trade cubes from opponents also being the main foil to a well laid plan once an opponent figures out what colour swatch you are trying to create.
The components in Swatch are well made and functional. But there is also a brutality in the art style which is very much intended.
The stark and bold colours make for a visually striking game while not relying on high density and complex art. It mirrors the mechanics of the game that there is a beauty beyond the simplicity of it and a lot more depth than originally may be thought. It is also nice to see wood used for cubes and makes it feel a little more premium which is a nice touch. The theme is perfect for what it represents mechanically. It is clearly evident that there has been a lot of thought and time put into the design, to marry up to the actual gameplay which is muchly appreciated.
It also has the added benefit of making the game seem more accessible; harkening back to my previous point that it is an ideal gateway game for casual players and families to play without getting bogged down in a heavy theme or crunchy rulesets. On the subject of rulesets, the rulebook is concise and I find little to fault in it, we encountered few issues when playing and the solo rules are a reasonable approximation while changing the game enough to make it challenging from an AI opponent.
There is only one real downside that I can point at and that is the cost. For a game that is purely cards with some wooden tokens and no board it is on the higher side of what I would like to pay for a lighter game. Although this price is reflected in how visually pleasing it is and the components are all of good quality, and to its credit it does include a solo play variant as well (which was a welcome surprise), I would find myself struggling to justify the full asking cost.
It is hard to find fault in a game like Swatch. It has a clear objective of what kind of game it wants to be and it fulfils it.
The box is small and can be easily carried or shoved in a bag for holiday or the local pub. It’s easy to teach and pickup with enough tactical depth to play multiple games in one evening. Also, it is competitive in the interactions of the players while having a visually striking and thematically fitting theme that is well conveyed through the art and components.
Personally, not something that I would normally pickup but I am glad to have done so. I can see it becoming a favourite for downtime between two meatier games. It also has the previously mentioned strength of being easy to learn and teach making it an ideal candidate for relative newcomers to the hobby.