Euro-style, ‘point salad’ games like Coimbra are usually bland and beige, right? Wrong. Chris Quilliams’ artwork is a wake-up slap to the senses. The Eggerspiele box art is a funky seafoam green. Dominant purples, greens and oranges feature throughout the board and components. Players draft chunky dice, then sit them in delightful plastic, castle-shaped die holders.
Coimbra guarantees to cause your fellow gamers to rubberneck. They’ll squint, equal-parts jealous and curious, about how all the moving bits harmonise. Set in Portugal 1492, it’s designed by Virginio Gigli and Flaminia Brasini. It was the Age of Discovery, so let’s discover how to play Coimbra!
Set-Up & Components
Place the main board out in the middle of the table, and give each player a player board. Player boards track players’ coins and shield quantities (1-20). Each player place a cube in their colour to mark starting with seven coins and shields. Determine player order. Players place their lion on the flags on the upper coastline. Also give each player three die holders and a Pilgrim meeple. (More about these, later.)
Players place one of their discs on the zero of the victory points track. They also place a disc at zero on the four coloured Influence Tracks (grey, orange, purple, green). At the top of these tracks, shuffle and place the four Influence Scoring Tiles.
Shuffle and draw six Voyage Cards and place these face-up on the six spaces at the bottom of the board. Then place 14 Monastery tiles to their corresponding I, II and III spots on the Pilgrim Map. (Also distinguishable by colour.) Return the remaining Voyage Cards and Monasteries to the box.
On the left-hand side of the board sits a castle, above three tiers of Coimbra city, itself. Place the four Favour Tiles left of the castle. Then take the deck of Character cards. Separate them into a I deck, a II and a III (according to their reverse art). Shuffle each deck. Take the II deck and deal four cards face-up, left of the ‘Upper City’. Deal out another four cards, this time left of the ‘Central City’. Then four cards for the ‘Lower City’. Then place the remaining II Character card deck face-down on top of the III deck.
Finally, take the four Crown Tokens (grey, orange, purple and green). Look at the 12 Character Cards you’ve placed out. Start in the fourth row (the top-right corner) and work down, then the third row, and so on. Place the Crown Tokens on the first corresponding colour Character Card that’s in this order. Repeat for all four tokens.
If playing a three or two-player game, place specified Die Tokens in the Upper, Central and Lower City. This is for player count scaling purposes. If you’re playing with four players, ignore this.
Let’s explain the aim of the game next, so you have context for what’s you’ve laid out on the table…
So, How Do You Win Coimbra?
Coimbra takes place over four rounds. 2-4 players compete to earn points by buying Character Cards and funding Voyage Cards. Also available is exploration via the Pilgrim Map, which offers further bonuses. There are rewards to claim during (and at the end of) each round, too. As a result, players gain regular boosts. End game scoring can be big – don’t worry, we’ll explain how that works, later.
So, you’ve established turn order. Let’s focus on what goodies the First Player gets to start the game…
Individual Start Conditions
Shuffle eight Level I Character Cards and deal them into pairs, face-up. The first player now has a choice. They could claim any pair. Or, they could opt to place their pilgrim in any vacant quadrant of Coimbra (in the centre of the Pilgrim map). Decisions continue clockwise. Then, the last player gets to pick their other action, first. This now continues in reverse-turn order.
Why would you pick one over the other, first? The Character Cards offer immediate starting bonuses. They’re colour-coordinated to match the four Influence Tracks. An Influence Value (a number) is on each card. For each card taken, the player gets to move their disc up that many spaces on that Influence Track.
Character cards also have a bonus at the bottom. This could be a trait that kicks in during Phase C (we’ll explain phases soon!). This means that when you take a specific action in Phase C, you’ll earn the benefit on this card.
Instead, it could be an instant, one-time benefit (a lightning bolt symbol). Some of the instant benefits include gaining immediate coins or shields. Others gain nice-and-easy victory points. Others gift a certain number of free movement for your pilgrim towards Monasteries.
Talking of Pilgrims, your starting location can be crucial. Four roads lead out of Coimbra, traversing over Portugal. Every time your Pilgrim moves over (or lands on) a Monastery, you’ll place a disc here. Then you’ll earn the benefit shown on the tile. Some are immediate: you could earn money, shields or VPs, like those described above. Or, you could earn free movement up one of the four Influence Tracks. Others offer game-long reward traits.
The blue I Monasteries provide decent rewards. The grey II Monasteries offer better bonuses. The pink III Monasteries grant the most powerful returns. A particular route might seem more beneficial to you over others. This is always a modular set-up, so picking a shrewd starting position can pay off, big-time.
Turn Structure - Phases A-F
There are six phases to a round in Coimbra: A-F. These are all listed on the Player Boards, as a reminder. Phase A is simple: The start player rolls the 13 D6 dice (3x grey, 3x orange, 3x purple, 3x green and 1x white). For lower player counts, you’ll play with fewer dice for scaling purposes.
Phase B is where players draft and place these dice. The first player picks a dice and slots it into one of their three die holders. Then they decide to place this die holder in either the Castle, or the Upper, Central or Lower City.
Dice placed in the Castle must queue in numerical order. Lowest (1) numbers sit to the left, highest (6) to the right. The die that arrives there first determines any duplicates. The rules are opposite for the three tiers of the city. The highest (6) dice sit on the left, down to lowest (1) on the right. Players draft one die at a time, in turn order, until they’ve all placed three dice.
Phase C is where players retrieve their dice. Start at the top, in the Castle. Whoever placed the die furthest to the left (as in, the lowest pip number) gets first pick of the Favour Tiles. Then the second-lowest die owner gets to take one of those remaining, and so on.
Favour Tiles are free. They offer a range of perks. One, for example, pays out an immediate seven shields or seven coins. Another is worth two VP and three free movement for your Pilgrim.
Then it’s the dice in the Upper City. Again, the owner of the die on the left gets first pick – but this time it will be the highest-numbered die. This player gets to take any of the four Character cards in this tier. They must pay for it, though. The cost? The cards will have either a coin or a shield icon on it. The price of this card is the pip value of the dice. So, placing a high-value die here gets you ahead on first pick. The problem is it costs you more!
Once a player buys a card, they move up on the corresponding Influence Track (according to the Influence Number on the card, explained earlier). Then they activate the instant bonus (if any). Instead, the card might have a Phase E function on it. Or, it could be an individual end-game scoring mechanism for that player (An ! symbol).
Players continue to claim cards in numerical order according to the dice placement. (If playing with a two or three-player count, the ‘dummy’ Dice Tokens will claim/discard a card from this row. Numerical order still applies. The dummy always removes the card with the highest Influence Value on it.)
Once all players have retrieved their three dice, Phase D begins. This is where players count up their crowns. Crown Tokens (on four of the cards), some of the Favour Tiles, and by being lower down on turn order count towards this. The player with the most crowns becomes the new first player.
‘Influence Income’ is Phase E’s official title. In new player order, the first player now looks at the three dice they drafted this turn. In this phase, the number pips are irrelevant. Now it’s all about the dice colour.
The player looks to the Influence Track that matches the colour of their dice. Mini thresholds, offering increasing, improved payouts, sit parallel to the players’ current disc location. The player receives proportionate rewards, for the three dice. Grey dice pay out in shields, while orange pay out in coins. Purple dice pay out movement for your Pilgrim. Green dice pay out in straight-up VPs. If you picked the white die, this is wild (a colour of your choice).
Note that in Phase E, some cards trigger at this point. For example, some E cards reward you with a return of two coins for every orange dice you drafted this round. Or, in Phase E another card allows the owner an exchange rate of giving up two shields for one VP.
Last of all, Phase F is where players can contribute towards one Voyage Card. These are rewards that cash out as end-game scoring. They cost between 5-8 shields or coins, each. (One of the Favour Tiles lets you invest in two Voyage Cards this turn, both at a -2 discount. You can contribute towards one in Phase C when you take the Tile, and another in Phase F.)
After Phase F is complete, then some end-of-round clean-up occurs. Any unclaimed Character Cards return to the box. Replace them with 12 more, dealing out as described earlier. Again, place the Crown Tokens on the correct cards. Also return the Favour Tiles next to the Castle. The new First Player rolls the dice (Phase A), and players begin drafting dice once more.
End Game Scoring - Who wins?
Coimbra lasts four rounds. At the end of the fourth and final Phase F, work out end game scoring. Players score points for any Voyages they invested in. These tend to be multipliers, or of a set collection nature. They’ll also calculate any points gained from the ! cards. Then, look at each of the four Influence Tracks. Remember those Influence Scoring Tiles you placed out during set-up? These state VP rewards for the player that finished highest (and second/third) up those tracks.
On some of the Character Cards, there are diploma symbols in five different colours. You’ll score points for each unique diploma you have (12VP if you have all five). Last of all, players will add up their remaining coins, shields and any crowns. Then they’ll divide that number by two and earn that many points. The player with the most points is the champion of Coimbra!
Top Tips to Triumph at Coimbra
Take a moment to view the modular set-up. Which Influence Track pays out the most points for being highest at the end? Buying cards of that colour ensures you climb that track. Remember: The higher you climb the tracks, the more Good Stuff you’re going to receive if you draft that colour die.
Try not to leave yourself bankrupt at the start of a new round. You won’t be able to afford any cards next round. (There is a mini ‘get out of jail free’ option, if you place a die and can’t afford anything there. Instead of taking a card, you can take two coins and two shields. It’s a small pick-me-up… But far from the most efficient option.)
Try to ensure you can afford a Voyage by the time Phase F comes around. If you draft grey or orange dice, you’ll earn a free boost of shields or coins, remember!
Low dice are not dreadful options. Drafting a one-pip die means first pick of the handy Castle tiles. Also, they allow you to buy a card for a bargain price! You’re unlikely to get the card you want, though. Appealing cards will get snapped up earlier (by those paying more resources).
Also, if your die holder is sitting fifth in queue of dice, there’s a strong chance you won’t even get a card. In which case, you’ll only get two coins and two shields. Gamblers, beware…