Dale Yu: Review of Holi: Festival of Colors

Holi: Festival of Colors

  • Designer: Julio E. Nazario
  • Publisher: Floodgate Games
  • Players: 2-4
  • Age: 13+
  • Time: 30-45 minutes
  • Played with review copy provided by publisher

Holi is the ancient Hindu Festival of Color, where believers celebrate the return of Spring.  Though the holiday is celebrated in different ways, one hallmark is the presence of colors everywhere.  This game has a 3D tower where players will try to throw powder onto the different levels, hoping to have their color fall down onto as many people as possible.

To setup the game, you must first construct the 3 level courtyard by securing the levels in between the four corner supports.  Each player then takes their colored markers and matching color deck of cards, shuffling the cards and then drawing one card into their hand. 2 Sweet tokens are placed in each of the 8 spaces that are orthogonally adjacent to the corner spaces on the lowest level.  8 more Sweet tokens are placed, one each, in the identical spots on the middle level.  Rivalry cards are dealt face up to the table to provide specific rules changes to the game.

On a turn, the active player performs one or more actions – doing actions in any order, but never repeating an action more than once in a turn. Once done with actions, the player fills their hand to 3 cards.

In each turn, you MUST “Throw Color” – this means, play a card from your hand and place color tokens based on the pattern seen on the card. Your Player token must take the place of one of the colored squares, and then you place color tokens on the other spaces in the pattern.  All of the colored tokens must go on spaces without tokens.  If you place would place a token on another player’s marker, instead give that token to the other player who puts it in their supply.  You will score 1 point now for the direct hit.  The card may be rotated in any of the four orientations.  If you do not have enough tokens, you place as many as you can. There is an exception to the pattern rule, if there is a gold sunburst on the Color card, your player figure must occupy that particular space in the pattern and then you place Color Markers on ALL the colored spaces.  When done, place the card face up in your discard pile.  One other option is to place your card facedown on your discard pile and then place a single color token on any available space on the same level as your Player token.  You cannot do this two turns in a row – that is you cannot do it if the top of your discard pile is facedown.  When you place your tokens, be aware that they may be able to fall down – more details on this in a second.

You may also optionally Move – putting your player marker on any space on your current level except for spaces occupied by other Player Markers.  If you land on Sweets tokens or color tokens (yours or your opponents), you collect those things and place them in your supply.  Color tokens of your own color can be placed again on a later turn.  Opponents color tokens can not be played, and each one will score 2 points for the token’s owner at the end of the game.  Sweets tokens are scored at the end of the game.  When you move, be sure to check if any color falls on you – more details on this in a bit.

The final option is to Climb Up.  If your player marker is surrounded on all four orthogonal spaces by color tokens, you can choose to climb up to the corresponding space on the level above.  The one exception here is that you cannot climb up if there is already another player’s Player Marker on your landing space.  Once you climb up, you may never go back down, so be sure that you’re ready to move up.

Falling Color – as I alluded to earlier – there is the chance that color tokens can fall down from a higher level when you place on the middle or top levels.  As you place tokens, check to see if there is a token on the corresponding spot on the level below it.  If not, the color falls down to the next lower level, and note that it could again fall if the space below it is also empty.  If a color token falls on an opponent’s player token, that player must take the token into their supply (but note that you do not get the one VP bonus for a direct hit).  Additionally, as you move, if you move directly underneath a color token, it will fall on your marker and you must add that falling token to your supply.  This happens because as you move, you collect any tokens on the space you land on… therefore, there is no longer a token in the space directly below whatever is above you, and ergo, that token must fall!

When the active player has taken all the actions he/she desires, their turn is over, and they draw their hand up to three cards, and then the next player goes.  If the player is out of color tokens or color cards, they can no longer take any actions this game, and they await the end of the game – this occurs when ALL players can no longer take any actions.

Scores are then tallied.

  • During the game, points have been scored for direct hits
  • Score 3 pts for each marker on the top level
  • Score 2 pts for each marker on the middle level
  • Score 1 pt for each marker on the bottom level
  • Score 2pts for each of your tokens held in an opponent’s supply
  • Score 5 pts for each player who has fewer Sweets tokens than you
  • Score points for the Rivalry cards.

The player with the most points wins. Ties are broken in favor of the player who has the most tokens in their opponent’s supplies.

My thoughts on the game

Holi is a beautiful and colorful game, and the 3D board is a surefire parakeet attraction device.  It’s the sort of game that has a huge table presence, and it’s hard to imagine a gamer seeing the game from afar and not wanting to come over to see what is going on.  The tokens are die cut in different shapes to help with colorblind issues though I do wish that maybe the shapes were a little more distinct as some of the shapes are similar.

The game itself is a pretty dry abstract – on each turn, you try to figure out which of your three cards gives you the best opportunity to score points, and decide whether you might need to move prior to playing your card.  You might even want to jump up a level because then you could cause your tokens to rain down on the lower spots (and hopefully hit other players).

Don’t be too hasty in jumping up to the top though – remember that you can never come back down!  There is definitely some benefit to staying on the bottom as there are more sweets there, and the possible max 15 point bonus for sweet tokens in a 4P game is definitely a strong motivator to collect them.  However, dive bombing people from the top deck is a good way to score points, and certainly getting tokens to stay on the top level scores more points than tokens anywhere else…

The rules are quite simple, but the number of choices that a player can consider on a turn could be daunting (if you were AP prone).  The reason for this is that you have a huge freedom of movement (you could move to any empty space on your current level), and that gives you a huge number of possible plays each turn – if you were the sort of person who needed to calculate them all.  Lucky for me, my group tends to play fast and loose, so this wasn’t much of an issue.  

I normally like the idea of universal goal cards which can change each game – and here, they are split up into cards that affect endgame scoring and rule changes.  For the most part, they appear balanced and do inject a nice sense of variety into the game; though we did have a weird game with a card that awarded double the points for a collected token (4pts instead of 2pts) which really changed the dynamics of that particular game – making player concentrate on hitting other people as much as possible.  It also restricted movement to some degree as players didn’t want to move to spaces to score a 4pt bonus for another player.

As I mentioned at the top, the 3d structure is a neat device and definitely eye catching.  The clear floors of the levels and the labeled grid holders also help you figure out when color tokens are going to fall.  The whole game packs up neatly as well.  They have even given you a full punchboard to create an octothorpe elevator on which to set the gametrayz on so that the box is full to the top for storage and your bits don’t roll around in the box.  Overall, a nice presentation.

If you like tactical games, you’ll probably like Holi.  Each turn, you’ll have to survey the board and see what the current situation is to determine your best action.  Sure, there are a lot of choices each turn, but when played quickly, the game is enjoyable and challenging.  The goal (Rivalry) cards keep the games interesting and slightly different each time out.  If you don’t like tactical games, or you have personal Analysis Paralysis issues, you might want to find a different colorful game to explore…

Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers

  • I love it!
  • I like it. Dale Y
  • Neutral.  John P
  • Not for me… James Nathan

About Dale Yu

Dale Yu is the Editor of the Opinionated Gamers. He can occasionally be found working as a volunteer administrator for BoardGameGeek, and he previously wrote for BoardGame News.
This entry was posted in Essen 2020, Reviews. Bookmark the permalink.

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