Ian Sundstrom has managed the impossible. At least, in my mind he has. He has found a connection between painting and turn-based strategy. My mental landscape positions these two concepts at polar opposites: painting is joyous and expressive, while turn-based strategy is stern and composed. One is a child’s dance across a grassy field, the other is an old man brushing a speck of dust from his pristine military uniform.
A former painter and artist, Sundstrom says that when it came to forming the idea for his first game, he drew from the process of mixing colors on a palette. I figure that it must have been one hell of a reverie for him to have moved his thoughts from those splodges of color to designing a hex-based board of competition. The segue simply does not exist in my understanding of reality. Yet, Sundstrom proves my perception to be limited.
His game is out now. It’s called Sature. Sundstrom puts it best when describing it as a “chess-like dance.” It tends to run shorter than a game of Chess typically does. And due to its color-based interface it ends up being more attractive—my relationship with bright colors is as a crow’s to shiny objects.
The idea is to turn all of your opponent’s hexagonal tiles a darker shade than your own. This is done by placing your tiles in the grid adjacent to your competitor’s so that they transfer their color into them (as directed by the arrows on the tiles). The brighter a tile is the more color it has to transfer, meaning it will be more effective. But you also need to account for how different colors mix. It’s for this reason that you can refer to a color wheel at any time.
Perhaps it’s that I associate learning how colors mix together with primary school that gives Sature its pleasant veneer. A lot of strategy games ask us to move units into position during a grand recreation of one of history’s greatest battles; it’s all old generals, muddy fields, and text-heavy battle logs. But Sature is concerned only with spilling colors into one another. Once a match is over you also have a unique palette to peel your eyes over.
Add color-blind support and randomly generated boards and you have a game that anyone can have a go at, and as many times as it entertains them. Grab a friend, sit them down next to you, and let your quickfire competition fabricate a rainbow honeycomb.
You can download Sature for free on the App Store and Google Play. The full game is available through a single in-app purchase of $2.99. It’s also available for PC on itch.io.