Designer: Filip Lindlöf:
Year Published: 2020
The rule book I worked from was the prototype rulebook and it was a translated one. It had some issues, but in coordination with the YouTube video, I was able to work out how the game was to be played.
The set up takes less time with the more players you have. And the more players you have, the better the feel of the game. To set up, each player is given a color meeple and associated 4 cubes. Place the cubes on the solid color square in each swimstyle. Then, based on player count, fill in the remaining colors with Swimmer cards from the “Local” stack. More set up is required for these “jobbers.” Shuffle and set out the competition cards for the order of the local competitions. Everyone gets one coin to start. Finally, shuffle the unlabeled skill cards, deal five face up. The first player then selects one, and a new one is dealt in its place. After each player has one it is ready to begin.
In Chlorination, you are a swimmer that must balance work life and practicing for the next competition. Being a worker placement game, you must also balance taking the spot you need when it is available with continuing the path you are on.
Chlorination is played over nine rounds with nine competitions. Each round, each player is given five actions. At the end of the round, each player either competes in the swimstyle of the round or takes a bonus action. Never both. The actions are broken into two different avenues: Work or Practice. If you work, you gain money and a skill card. You need the money to pay for your next competition. You need the skill cards to play when you practice increasing your proficiency in a certain stroke. Practice then allows you to play a skill card and advance your cube on that certain track. For instance, if you go to the ocean, you can play a skill card for free. You play your Butterfly 2 card. This moves your cube in the butterfly track forward 2 spaces.
Some areas are numbered. This indicates that you can progress through this area in consecutive turns. For instance, you can take the action to work at the Mall in the “1” square and receive your $1 and skill card. On your next turn, you could progress to the “2” square and receive your $1, skill card, and a Mall card. These are always good giving you an immediate advantage (day off and a 2nd skill card) or one to play later (a sponsor to pay your next entry fee). If a space shows two heads in the upper left corner, this indicates that more than one person can take this action at the same time. If it doesn’t have this icon, only one person per square.
At the start of round 2, and each subsequent round, each player decides whether or not to compete in this round’s competition swimstyle. This decision is made in secret, then all players reveal simultaneously by putting their fist in the middle and opening it. If a coin falls out, they are competing. There is no changing your mind. If the player chose to compete, the entry fee of $3 (for the local competitions) or $4 (for international competitions) is paid immediately. If you can’t pay the entry fee, or you don’t have a sponsor to do that for you, you can’t swim.
At the end of round 2 and each subsequent round, the competition occurs. The swimmer with the highest proficiency is awarded 1st place, the swimmer with the second highest receives 2nd place, and third gets 3rd place. The other two swimmers receive nothing. But note, if you place, but did not pay to enter the competition, you are skipped and receive nothing. Any swimmer not competing then takes a 6th action.
Record and award each swimmer’s score for that round. At the end of the 8th round, which would be the 4th international competition, there is a medley race. Simply add up all the skill levels and award 1st – 3rd again. The highest score wins.
I love the artwork for this game. It is minimalist but fits the theme quite nicely. I worked off a prototype copy, so I would hate to make too many judgements on its components. My only complaint here is that there are many different sizes of cards, and that can be a headache for people that like to sleeve their games to preserve the cards. I am one of those people.
I loved Chlorination. It was everything I wanted it to be. It is not a huge deep strategy game that will take hours to play. It is a medium light game that is lighthearted and fun. The AI Swimmers is a great touch. This forces actual players to do something to earn points in each race in which they chose to compete. Otherwise, in a three-player game, you could neglect certain swimstyles and still get 3rd place and points. The AI eliminates this, and the game is better for it. The risk versus reward shimmers like calm pool water. If you choose to compete, you could risk $3 and not finishing in the top three. You really have to make choices as to which swimstyles you are going to focus on, and which to ignore. The choices of working versus practicing also matter a lot. If you don’t have the money to compete in your best event, you could lose points that you intended to score, and score easily. It is basically not possible to compete in each event, so your choices matter!
Although the AI is great, I wish it were a bit more dynamic. Once you surpass them, they are no longer a threat in that stroke. This leads to what I think is the biggest drawback to Chlorination. It needs a high player count. This game is alright at 2 or 3 players, but with 4 or 5, the strategy really takes hold. Chlorination is truly a “more the merrier” game! I wish that the cards were all labeled on the backside and of the same size. I like to sleeve my cards, and this game has a lot of them. I hope in the production version, all the cards are the same size for easier sleeving.
I was a high school athlete, and while swimming was not my sport, I really got into the theme of Chlorination. I remember having to balance working with competitions and meets. I remember countless hours at the gym trying to get better. I also had my share of injuries. Chlorination brought all that nostalgia back to me. I appreciated that, and I think you will, too.