The Daily Worker Placement

Saturday, June 22, 2024

Swatch, Swatch baby: Pantone the Game

by | published Friday, September 14, 2018

One of my favourite party games of all time is Time’s Up, because it takes charades and Taboo and mixes it up into three rounds of hilarity and challenge. I love it when a social game can throw together a few different ways for people to dip their toes into playing – and Pantone certainly falls into that category.

When I was younger I would grab all sorts of paint chips at the store, for no reason other than I loved colours. It wasn’t until I was much older that I understood the widely used colour standardization system of Pantone, the language of colour. More and more it’s crept outside of design into the real world with all sorts of merchandising sporting Pantone colours for you to pick from. I heard of the game a while back and wondered what on earth a Pantone game could even be! 

What Pantone seems to do is skirt along the edges of a bunch of drawing/acting out party games to bring something a little different to your table. I feel like the closest comparison to how this game plays would be Gamewright’s Imagine, where players are arranging cards with symbols on them to create images of something for others to guess. With Pantone, rather than drawing shapes, whole images or putting together symbols to create something, you have cards split into 15 Pantone swatches with which to create a representation of something.

Pantone narrows down content somewhat by having topic cards that are only characters from pop culture (130+ of them) – this doesn’t mean it’ll be easy to create them or guess them, however! Throughout the game, you’ll be creating 3 representations of characters in 3 different ways. Round 1 – use any amount of cards to create your character. Round two – use only 1 card of each colour you choose. Round 3 – use only 3 swatch cards, maximum. (!!) In every round, once all players make their guesses, the artist can offer up hints from the card to narrow down possibilities. If you’re looking for something a little easier from the get-go, I think you could give the first hint as a sort of “category” to guide people.

Now, I’m generally a fan of social and party games where players are challenged by limiting their options and resources – Time’s Up and Taboo, for example, and even games a little more esoteric like Concept and Word Slam. But let me tell you, round 2 of Pantone has really turned out to be no fun. Even with an easy character to portray, the limit of swatch colours to use tends to only confuse the artist’s creation, and guessing can take a few goes-around. Your mileage may vary, of course, but I think I’ll try to skip that round (or perhaps use my first hint suggestion above to give everyone a leg up).

As a colour-based game, there are obviously some issues of accessibility to consider – I’d say this would be a tough one for many forms of colour blindness. But beyond that, I found that some colours would appear not so well in low lighting, or look quite different in a softer warm light versus a harder brighter light. Beyond that, I think there might be concerns with anyone that is having trouble with fine motor skills due to needing to maneuver and arrange cards specifically. Otherwise, the game is very basic in its components to use and play! (But oh gosh that insert isn’t great at keeping things tidy..)

Despite my couple of criticisms, this game hits the fun button for me. I love that it’s all pop culture characters and the creativity of what goes into trying to make something representative just with a handful of colour swatches is a riot. What seems so clearly obvious to you could seem like an incredibly random clump of colours to other people, or it could magically pop into place like one of those 3D posters – squint closely and it will come to you! If you feel like ditching the drawing and charades for once, give Pantone a try.


Pantone is a creative party game for 2 – 20 players taking approximately 10-20 minutes (this can bloat if you have a lot of players!). Designed by Scott Rogers, it is published by Cryptozoic and is in stores now.


  • Nicole H.

    Nicole had played a lot of backgammon, Life and Monopoly when younger. She started playing hobby games in University after trying out D&D 3rd edition, and then joining her University game club. After a while she gravitated towards board games as a casual gamer. After moving to Toronto in 2009 she started gaming more and met her (former) partner Adam through the hobby and hasn't turned back. It's hard for her to pick a favourite game, but if you really stared her down she might pick Castles of Burgundy. When not gaming, Nicole enjoys cooking/baking, reading comics, watching tv/movies and visiting museums! And cuddling every dog she can.

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