This weekend at PaxEast the EFG team had the overwhelming privilege of getting to try out some fantastic new games prior to release. Even better… we finally got to try a game that is currently on Kickstarter. (Why don’t you go ahead and back it now. You’ll want to at the end anyways. Then come on back and read about it.)
Mix! is a Card Game of Tactical Color Theory. (Don’t worry, I had no idea what that meant either until I played!) The goal of the game is simple. Players make moves that place game pieces in strategic positions on the palate play board by mixing colors. These colors are used to earn Victory Points which decide the game.
In starting the game, each player draws one two-sided goal card with a primary color on the front and a secondary on the back. The card is places primary side up in front of each player, giving other players the opportunity to counter their quest for obtaining points. What their opponents don’t know is what the color they lose points for is, which creates an interesting counter strategy for players.
Then players draw two pattern cards. Pattern cards make up the major strategic plays of the game and depict a grey version of the palate board with variable objectives. These objectives can be applied to any color, as long as you can turn it in some way to match the configuration. These cards are kept secret to start and are nor revealed until they can be scored. Since these cards might be more difficult to understand with smaller players, this dynamic can be removed or graduated to in advanced play.
A number of Painting tokens are handed out, based on the number of players in the game. These are used to actually tally the score in the game. (We’ll explain these more in a bit.)
Finally, each player is dealt three cards from the draw deck. These cards represent the colors they have available to Mix! as well as some special cards that clear or reset pieces on the board. One of the coolest design elements of this game is now in the players hands: each color card is unique a unique brush stroke even among identically colored cards! The beautifully simplistic card composition will make you feel as if you looking at a new piece of abstract art with every draw.
Game play is turn-based, with the order consisting of a mandatory play phase, an optional action phase and a mandatory draw phase. When playing a card, each player chooses a primary color (or one of 2 special cards) from the masterpiece that is their hand to the play area. They may then choose to pass, “Mix”, “Paint”, or choose another pattern.
Mixing involves taking two (or more) primary colors and combining them to create a color. Two blue cards move a token from the center of the palate to the blue area, a red and a blue move a token from the center to the purple area, and so on. While most older kids will get more strategy lessons out of this piece of the game (making patterns, setting up to score, etc.), allowing a younger child to assist in the possible identifying color combinations could be a fun “little sibling” activity (even if they try to make purple out of red and yellow). While tokens move around due to mixing, the score doesn’t change while players jockey for position, until someone takes a Paint action.
Scoring is player driven, with players using their action and spending a Painting tokens to update the score. What this means is that each color that has at least one game piece in it scores one counter (and only 1), and anyone with a pattern card that can be completed may complete it at that time. Scores for players are not tallied or recorded in this phase, as secondary colors are not revealed until the end, but score tokens add up! This is one of the most unique aspects of this game (and possibly the most difficult for younger players to grasp); wisely spending your Painting tokens to maximize your own points is harder than it sounds.
Choosing a pattern is always the same: draw two, chose one, put the other on the bottom of the deck. You don’t lose points for uncompleted patterns, but you are limited to 2 unplayed patterns at a time, so it’s important to choose the ones that seem most likely to be completed. The harder a card is to complete, the more it’s worth in Victory Points.
Play continues until the draw deck empties, which went pretty quickly, even for our group of brand new players. A final score phase happens, and the points are tallied. All players receive 1Victory Points (VP) for having Painting tokens remaining, 2 VP for each score counter in their primary color, and -1VP for each in their secret secondary color.
Mix! is a very fun game that is not only aesthetically interesting and well thought out, but also a fantastic strategy teaching tool for children who have mastered more complex strategy games like UNO. While reading is not necessary, some modification might be necessary for play with children who have not yet reached this gaming milestone. This game was designed to be played with children, and seems like the kind of game that would lend itself well to house rules and even adult only play!
Kickstarter is a tricky creature. If we don’t put the effort into helping Protean Games this amazing game might not see the light of day. That would be a shame, so make sure to check out Protean Games’ Kickstarter and help them get it made!