WBG Score: 7.5/10
Player Count: 1–4
Published by: Synapses Games
Cóatl is a stunning game to look at. The components are great and the colour scheme make this game really pop on the table. But how does it play? Let's get it to the table and find out.
Set the circular board into the middle of the table with the scoring side placed faced down. This will be used later. For now, you want to use it as a supply board. Now place the three hessian bags out, and fill the supply board with 12 body pieces, and two heads and two tails. Each player will take one of the player boards and three sacrifice bonus tokens in their chosen colour. Give one person the starting player marker. Shuffle the temple cards and deal one to each player then leave the rest in two face up piles by the supply board. Then shuffle the prophecy cards and place six face up into a general supply, leaving the rest in a face down deck. Then deal cards out to each player as required. Three to the first player, four to the second, five to the third, and six to the forth. Each player can keep three, but must discard the rest. The game is now ready to begin.
How it Plays
Players will take it in turns to take one of three actions. They can either add new pieces from the supply board to their own by choosing one head, one tail, or two grouped body pieces. Or, they can take one or more prophecy cards from the face up supply and add them to their hand. There is a hand limit of five. Or finally, you can build your Cóatl. This can be done by starting a new one, or adding to a previously started Cóatl You can never have more then two being built at once, and no more then three built through the entire game.
You are looking to match the cards in your hand to the Cóatl's you are building. For example, a card may require there to be two green pieces next to two red pieces such as the central card below. If you can take these pieces from the supply then add them to your Cóatl, when you finish the Cóatl, by either adding the final head or tail piece, you can then fulfil up to four prophecy cards using this Cóatl. Any cards that have been fulfilled can be added to the table by this Cóatl and scored at the end of the game.
Some cards can be scored more than once for their required configuration, such as the black and green card's below, which can be scored up to two times. If the requirements of three reds in a row for the black card, or a green and black to have at least one other coloured piece in-between it for the green card are met twice in the same Cóatl you can score this can twice. Gaining you six points for the green card or seven for the black.
At this point, you can also either assign the temple card from your hand, or one of the two face up temple cards to your finished Cóatl, which would add further end game points. Based on the length of the Cóatl, and the colours used in it. The temple cards have two requirements and if you score one of them you will gain an additional three points. If you can fulfil both requirements, that will score you a further seven points.
At any point, instead of playing a usual turn, players can use one of their three sacrifice pieces instead. They allow them to do one of three powers. First, you can use one to pick any two pieces you like for your Cóatl from any of the three bags. The second allows you to discard the six face up prophecy cards and as many as you like from your hand and redraw six new cards, and then draw up to five new cards to your hand. The final sacrifice token allows you to take one of the face up temple cards and reserve it to use at a later point in the game. Very useful if there is a card there you want to use, but your Cóatl you want to use it for is a few turns away from completion. This stops another player from taking this temple card for themselves instead.
When a player completes their third Cóatl or the body segments run out the game will end. Flip the supply board to show the pint scoring side and each player will place a body part of their colour into the first space. Each player will then total the points scored from their prophecy and temple cards for each of their Cóatl's, moving their coloured body part along the score track as they go. The player with the highest points will win. In case of a tie, the player who used the most cards with their completed Cóatl's takes the victory.
Is it Fun?
Cóatl is an abstract strategy game. As much as this looks beautiful and has an interesting theme, this is all about how you can best use the cards at your disposal to score as efficiently, and as quickly as possible. Much like games such as Azul, you will be very much focused on your own game experience as you play, not really paying attention to other players, other than from the fact that you are all drawing from the same pool of body parts and cards. However, there are enough options and ways to manipulate your strategy to not be too affected by what other players around the table do. As such, this is a somewhat solitaire experience which I very much enjoy. The rare occasions when your game is affected by another player it will be even more rare for them to have done that intentionally as they will not know what you are aiming for as your prophecy cards and temple goals are all known only to you. So, if you are looking for a game with high player interaction, this is not for you.
Where the fun comes from in this game is through the constant fulfilling of small objectives and the tight game play. Many games use this strategy to reward the player with a constant sense of progression and satisfaction, and Cóatl does this very well. But crucially, as you can only add so many cards to each Cóatl, and as you can only build three Cóatl's in total each game, despite being able to fulfil card's requirements quite regularly, you can still only do it so many times in the game. This creates the perfect balance of making something special whilst also allowing it to happen regularly.
The tight gameplay comes from the player board and the restricted total of pieces that you can hold at any one point. As your player board is limited to eight pieces, when this is full, you cannot take any more and must start constructing your Cóatl. However, you may not be ready to do this yet. You may still need one or two more pieces to score as effectively as you want. But you cannot do that. But you cannot wait for ever even if you wanted to as the game could end. The balance between the race element of this game and the pint scoring options works so well together.
The game is highly visually appealing. The colour and chunky body pieces feel great on your finger pads (as the great Gamecasters says!), and look wonderful on the table. And the sense of progression as you make on Cóatl work for multiple cards feels great. Take the example above where these ten piece's without any blue, fit the temple card perfectly for seven points. They can also can be used for these three prophecy cards with two green preceding two reds fulfilling the first yellow card. (The head can be used for this). A green and black being separated by another piece of another colour meets the green cards requirements. And three reds all being placed next to each other delivers for the black card. A 16 point Cóatl. You can get a lot higher than this fulfilling more prophecy cards, and fulfilling some of them multiple times. But remember this game is a race. First to finish three Cóatl's ends the game. You don't want to be caught out making the perfect Cóatl that will score you in the high 20's if other players are making smaller Cóatl's that will end the game quickly.
I would recommend this game to fans of games like Azul, that are looking for a game that offers a similar sense of satisfaction but with a different theme. This sounds odd for an abstract strategy game where the theme is secondary. But that ultimately is the choice with abstract strategy games. There are so many out there. A lot of them are very good. So, you have to separate them some how. And theme, funnily enough, is the best way I would suggest.
Azul still rules this world of games in terms of sales in the abstract market. However, I would suggest Cóatl is almost as good a game, and for me, more visually stimulating. It's a shame the pieces, although very good, are not more solid. They are hollow and feel a little light. And the player boards are a little too thin. So, this is another area where Azul edges it, with the production. But from pure gameplay, I would argue this is the perfect complimentary game to any Azul fans collection and one that will bring a lot of joy to a lot of tables.