Updated: May 23
What do you get when you mix colors? Well, that answer depends on the medium you are using to mix colors. Mixing lights will be very different than mixing pigments, will be very different than mixing ink. Chroma Mix gamifies mixing printing inks. Some people may miss out on this reality as you might not get the results you were expecting- either in the game or from mixing different inks. By the way CMYK is the standard for most printing applications because it stands for Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Key. The first three colors are key in being able to play Chroma Mix game.
In the same way that printing is not always immediately intuitive, I did not immediately
understand my strategies in this game. I thought it was going to be extremely simple. The basic actions are fairly straightforward. Each player has a Pale Magenta, Light Yellow, and Soft Cyan card in their hand to start the game. On their turn, the player may do one of the following actions: 1. Print - play a single card from hand to the table or play area. This resolves any immediate (shown with a lightning symbol) effects. 2. Mix - return exactly 2 cards from hand to the supply they came from to add a new card to hand with the matching pigment composition. 3. Refill - return any or zero cards from the play area to hand. This makes it possible to replay these cards.
All of these rules may be broken by getting different colors with different powers in the game. There are different ranks to the cards as shown on both the back of the card and the top left; the rank is identified by the number of key (black) circles. A rank one card has a single circle, rank two cards have two circles, rank three cards have three circles and rank four cards have four.
In addition to all of those previous rules, you should know about the three types of rank four cards. The cards are both named for gems and they also match the colors on the cards. Each one has a game winning ability that ends the game. If Ruby Red is in your play area and you have the other two rank four cards, then you win the game. For Sapphire Blue, it is as simple as having a total of 16 or more cards in hand. Emerald Green gives victory to the player who has 17 or more victory points; you can only have one copy of this card because it gives you a total of six points. After several plays, we found these win conditions happen a similar amount of times. There are tie-breakers, and ties will happen occasionally.
There are clear comparisons for a game like this where you are doing engine building in to make your same initial hands better- games like Splendor and Gizmos come to mind. There was a time when I was somewhat obsessed with trying to get better at Splendor because it is a skill you can cultivate. This game benefits from repeated plays, but I like it a whole lot more.
Why do I like it more? The emergent strategy is more interesting to me. Also, collecting gems in some city during the Renaissance just isn't as alluring a setting as the joy of printing and creating printed media with vibrant, eye-catching colors.
On that note, this artwork is splendid. Each card pops in a playful and joyful celebration of modern print. The newspaper may dead, but print media still carries weight. Board and card gamers more than any others know the allure of a well printed piece of art.
The artwork may not appeal to everyone, but as a printing geek I loved it. It is by far one of my favorite card game sets of artwork. My only disappointment is that that the box on the prototype isn't as nice as the final artwork. The final box artwork truly shows what this game feels like, much more than the prototype artwork.
Chroma Mix also offers a solo mode where a bot, Billy, mixes colors in opposition to you. Really, this is just an efficiency timer to make sure you are creating works of color which will stand out quickly in your race to make those rank four cards.
Who might not like this game? People who want a lot of interaction. Play will be focused on using what you have to make the best colors as you build your tableau palette, whether in your hand or your play area. The game also suffers from a fairly large experience gap. This isn't as light of a game as it might initially appear, and some players may need to reference the rulebook in order to better understand the interplay of cards and develop strategy.
I'm not saying JayZee did too little with the player aids or rules. Instead, it really speaks to the availability of options in combining your colors. For a relatively small amount of cards, this deck does some brilliant things. I would always rather play this than bigger box engine builders of similar time length. The setting, artwork, and gameplay is just that much more pleasant.
People who like light to medium engine builders with some emergent strategy will likely enjoy this game. It's nice to have something in a small package that does this well.*
Chroma Mix by Jorge Zhang, published JayZee Games, artwork by Nikolaj Cyon
Time 25-30 Minutes
*Last year I reviewed Orp by Jorge Zhang and his company JayZee Games. It's a game I liked enough to bring it to some different outings and family gatherings, even after I had initially reviewed it. I still think it does some neat things for a quick deduction game. Recently, the publisher and designer reached out to me again about reviewing another upcoming game- Chroma Mix which will be on Gamefound. The only thing I received for this review was a prototype copy of the game- my opinions are my own.