Coloretto is a simple, yet clever filler cardgame by Michael Schacht. Coloretto is a development of the pie rule, a game balancing tool. Legend has it that a mother of two boys wanted to split a pie. The wise mother, not wanting to show favoritism, allowed one boy to cut the pie in half and the other boy to choose which half slice he got. The pie cutter chose an even distribution, because if one piece was bigger, it would be taken by his brother.
The pie rule is used in abstract games where the first player has a slight advantage, such as in Go or Hex. In Hex, a two player connection game, putting a piece on the center is a strong move. Using the pie rule, most Hex players places the first piece near the edges because, if a move is too strong, the 2nd player has the option of switching colors with the the first player. Schact took the idea of making an intentional suboptimal move as the core of a game.
Coloretto plays as follows. The game consists of a deck of 63 cards: 9 cards of seven colors, 10 “+2” points cards, 1 “last round” card, 3 jokers, and other play aid cards. Each player takes one color card, different from other players. Then all the 63 color cards are shuffled and the “last round” card is inserted as the 16th card, counting from the bottom-up, effectively removing 15 cards from play to deter card counting. The game then begins and you have two choices: draw one card to place on a row or take take one row of cards. There are number of rows equaling the number of players and a row can hold three cards. A player can collect up to three different colors, out of nine colors. Extra color cards not in these three colors counts as negative points. The scoring uses the triangular numbers series, 1, 3, 6,..., rewarding players in increasing amount for collecting additional cards of same color.
The choices the player makes is the same as the pie rule. In Coloretto, one is building a pie of three slices. A pie (row) with three of same color pieces (cards) is optimal but, if you build an optimal pie, someone else will take it. Thus you attempt to build rows with colors that are good for you but suboptimal for others.
Coloretto is commercially successful and has spawned several sequels and expansions, including more complex boardgames. Coloretto retails for under $15, and is a simple game that can be a great gift for the holidays. You can give it a try by playing an online Java implementation by Matthew Marquand.