Game: Holi: Festival of Colors
Publisher: Floodgate Games
Designer: Julio E. Nazario
Holi: Festival of Colors is a game with gigantic table presence. You’ll begin each game by constructing the three-layer board, where each layer is a transparent sheet of plastic grid. Aside from its three-dimensional form, this extremely colourful game instantly reminded me of another recent title from the same publisher, Floodgate Games. Bosk was a similarly colourful, light, area control game that had you placing out your coloured markers on a grid. Being that Bosk and Holi are from different designers, I do wonder how that pitch went down – “I have a game that looks a lot like another game in your catalogue, it’s also area control, but it plays very differently”. I suppose that’s the key though, Holi is a very different game and ultimately seems to fit into a catalogue of very colourful games from Floodgate Games.
Holi is a traditional Hindu festival which celebrates the arrival of spring and the end of winter. The traditional way to celebrate is with street parties where people throw coloured powder, which is the aspect that this board game is based upon. In this game for 2-4 players, each players takes a powder colour, a large wooden meeple, and a deck of cards. The deck of cards each represent a pattern of powder, in spatial relation with your large meeple. On your turn you can move and play a card, or so the opposite and this will allow you to place powder tokens on the board. At the end of the game, more points are available if you can get powder tokens on higher levels of the three-level board and higher points are also available if you can throw powder to land on an opponent. The board gets increasingly filled with powder tokens, making it harder to fit different patterns in between already occupied squares of the grid, but also giving you the opportunity to ascend to an upper level if your meeple is orthogonally surrounded by powder tokens.
Besides your powder tokens there are two other ways to score. The first is for picking up sweets from the floor, which are always laid on the board as part of setup, but are towards the edges of the board, often making it harder to fit in your powder patterns. The second way to get points is through the randomised objective cards. These are really the meat of the game, either adding new rules or new scoring opportunities and meaning that each game you play will have a different puzzle to solve. The end of the game comes either when all players have run out of powder or completely emptied their decks of cards.
Holi: Festival of Colors has grown on me almost every time we have played, and I think the reason is that each game is a brand new experience. Some scoring and rules objectives blend together to create a completely different experience to the last game you played. We found combinations that fell flat at two player because there was just too much space on the board, but also combinations that worked fantastically well for two players because the encouraged you to ascend as fast as possible, rather than to spread out. We also found combinations that just hurt our head so much that we were thankful to be playing with two players because of how much AP the objectives caused us. What might have been great is a guide to some objective combinations that would create really interesting games at different players counts, a bit like how Dominion recommends a few sets of 10 cards in the back of the rulebook.
Holi is a very visual game on every level. The production is incredible, with lots of character in the chunky meeples, wonderful colours and attention to detail. When you build up the central board you’ll notice that one layer shows the ground, which the other two show intermediate roof levels. You might initially notice that the powder tokens can be a little difficult to distinguish in colour, for example where they’ve tried to show green paint splattered into yellow paint, but the tokens also all have a unique flower shape per colour. The transparent floors can be a little hard to see through, but certain squares have an imprinted pattern to help you cross reference between levels. Holi is a sight to behold, although you’ll often be looking at it from a strange angle as you crane your neck to figure out if that powder token you dropped on the third level is above your colour or someone else’s colour, or perhaps no colour at all, which means it will fall to the level below. I’m sure that people playing Holi look like they’re thinking extremely hard while pointing at the board a lot and counting out loud.
Overall, Holi: Festival of Colors is a game with fantastic table presence, great replayability and a new and tricky puzzle to solve every game. For some players the puzzle might drive you a little crazy, with so many options to weight against each other on every turn and some difficulty in actually visualising the result of your actions, but if spatial puzzles are your thing, then Holi literally adds another dimension. For the Yellow Meeple, it’s a 7.5/10.
Holi: Festival of Colors was a review copy provided by Asmodee UK.