Chromino

Chromino. Hmm, you might say to yourself. Chromino. Like domino, perhaps? That would explain the “…omino” part. Hmm again. Perhaps the “Chr” refers to, yes, chrome? Of course. Dominoes made out of chrome. That would be lovely, don’t you think? Possessing quantities of shininess and heft. But that would still be dominoes, just by another name and material. No, Chrominoes is more than that. Related, but significantly other. The “Chrom” is as in chromatic, you see. As in having color. Hence, far more visually appealing than dominoes. Yes, there are tiles. But each tile is composed of three, not two sections. And each section is a one of five different colors. And there are 75 of those. And another five, similarly three-sectioned tiles, the center of which is mysteriously yin-yangish – a special tile, known as the “chameleon,” whose center can be considered any color, or, should the circumstance manifest, two different colors, somehow simultaneously. And each Chromino is unique.

So you get all these colorful, three-sectioned tiles in this hefty, all cotton, flat-bottomed, drawstring bag. You fish around in the bag for a chameleon tile. Place that in the center of the table. Each player then draws eight tiles. The game commences. Players take turns trying to find one tile in their collection that can match two colors of tiles already on the table (as illustrated). Intriguingly, and often causing a moment of rapacious delight, it is possible to place a tile so that its end color matches a color on two different tiles, fulfilling the connect-to-two rule, yet with all the same color. Fascinatingly, and occasionally giving rise to a sense of aesthetic comeuppance, sometimes one of your tiles can bridge two different, hitherto completely unconnected tiles. And as the game progresses, more and more of these fascinating, colorful, eye-catching, mind-absorbing possibilities make themselves evident.

Chromino is easy to learn. But, as you play it, it fairly reeks of evermore enticing strategic implications – none of which is particularly threatening, but most often engagingly fascinating. Those chameleon tiles can sure come in handy, which means that you just might want to hold on to yours until that most excruciatingly strategic moment. And the way the tiles get clustered as the game evolves, enticing the eye and often befuddling the brain. And it all seems so innocent, so easy to understand, and yet offers so much to play with.

To win, all you need is to be the first player to run out of tiles. On your turn, if you don’t have a match, you must pick (which, as in dominoes, is antithetical to the “getting rid” part. If you can use your new tile, you can play. In one variation, you have to keep on picking until you have a match (o, the ever-increasing anguish). In another (one we made up), you can keep on playing until you run out of matches. There are more variations. O, yes, there are more. There’s one called “Bambino” (of special interest to the younger set) in which you only have to match one color. Then there’s the Expert version in which each Chromino has a value (depending on how many different colors it has), and you score each play by adding the value of the Chromino and the other Chromino(s) it touches. Then there’s the solitaire-like Conondrums variation, more of a puzzle, really, where you attempt to determine all the possible ways a particular Chromino can be correctly placed in the growing array. This, of course, gets more and more challenging as more tiles are added.

The variations, the ease of making up your own rules increase the replay value as well as the likelihood of finding a way to play that each player will find inviting, and suitably challenging.You can play it by yourself, you can play it with as many as eight people, you can play it with peers, with kids as young as six. You can play it with anyone who has a steady enough hand to place a tile without disrupting all the others (it’s better to play on a tablecloth than on a slippery surface).

There’s just enough luck so that you don’t really need to take the game seriously, and just enough strategic potential to make you believe you can win by virtue of sheer mental superiority. Designed by Louis Abraham, published by Asmodee, Chromino is fun for the whole family. Major Fun.

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