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How To Play Cóatl

How To Play Cóatl

How best to impress the new Aztec High Priest? By carving them the most fantastic Cóatl sculpture, that’s how! But before we get started, there’s two things, no doubt, that you’re already questioning. So I’ll answer both of them straight away! One: Cóatl is from the Nahuatl Aztec language; it’s a type of snake. It’s associated with the feathered serpent deity, Quetzalcóatl. And two: it’s pronounced co-att-ull!

Cóatl is a drafting set-collection game for 2-4 players, by Synapses Games. (It also has a solo variant, but I won’t be discussing that in this blog.) Players take turns drafting serpent heads, tails and torsos; the aim being to construct three stupendous snakes. The key to success here is fulfilling Prophecies. Whoever scores the most juicy prestige points wins! But how do you achieve such glory and impress the new High Priest? No need to shed a tear (or your skin) – that’s where our handy-dandy How To Play guide comes into play!

Ssssetting Up The Game

There’s 150 Cóatl pieces (15 heads, 15 tails, and 120 torsos). They come in five different colours (black, red, blue, yellow and green). There’s an even distribution of each. Cóatl comes with three drawstring bags, so start by putting the serpent body parts into the corresponding bags. Give them a shake! Place the circular Supply Board into the centre. Then, blind, draw 12 torsos, then two heads and two tails. Place them at random onto the allocated spaces on the board. Keep the bags nearby; you’ll need them again, during the game.

Give everyone a Player Board and three Sacrifice Tokens in their player colour. (For your first game of Cóatl, you can play without the Sacrifice Tokens, if you wish. I’ll explain them regardless, later on!) There’s two decks of cards – the larger ones are the Temple Cards. Deal one to each player, face-down. Then split the remaining Temple Cards into two face-up decks, next to the Supply Board.

The smaller deck are the Prophecy Cards. Deal six of these face-up to form a public market. Then deal 3/4/5/6 Prophecy Cards to the first/second/third/fourth player, respectively. Each player only gets to keep three Prophecies though, discarding their excess. This means the first player has no choice in which cards to keep… but hey, they get to go first! They also receive the First Player Marker. Now you’re all set and ready to play Cóatl.

Deciphering A Prophecy

An important part of Cóatl is completing the Prophecy Cards. So it’s especially important when you’re picking which ones to keep at the start of the game. First up, let’s digest what these cards mean! An vital part of the card that you’ll want to observe, at-a-glance, is the iconography running along the bottom. This states the specific pattern of Cóatl segments needed to score this card.

Numbers in the top-left of the card state how many points you’ll score, if you achieve this pattern. If there’s a single row of numbers, such as “1X = 7”, this means ‘achieve this pattern once, and score 7 Prestige Points’. If there’s multiple rows, such as “1X = 1”; “2X = 3”; “3X = 5”, and so on, it means you can score this pattern multiple times, gaining the points shown. For example, “3X = 5” means ‘score this pattern three times within this Cóatl, and score 5 points’.

Temple Cards are a little different. They have two separate requirements on them. If you achieve one within a Cóatl, you’ll score 3 points. Achieve both within the same snake though, and you’ll score 7. The patterns you’ll aim to complete across Prophecy and Temple Cards range from:

  • Having X number of a certain colour pieces within this Cóatl;
  • Having the same number of pieces of two specific colours within the same Cóatl;
  • The Cóatl must consist of a specific stated length (including the head and tail);
  • Certain coloured pieces cannot touch other certain coloured pieces;
  • Particular coloured pieces cannot be present at all within the Cóatl.

Overview Of Options On Your Turn

Right: now we know how these cards score points, but how does the gameplay work? Let’s move on to what you can do on your turn. You get to take one of three actions, these being one of the following:

  • Either take Cóatl pieces from the Supply Board; or
  • Build/contribute towards your Cóatl(s); or
  • Choose Prophecy Card(s) from the market.

If you want to take Cóatl pieces, you can take any two body segments from within the same space. Or, you can claim one of the heads, or one of the tails. Cóatl pieces do not get replenished straight away. It isn’t until all the body pieces have gone that you refill all six body spaces. Likewise, it isn’t until both heads get drafted that two more heads get added from their bag.

Players each have their own supply board, where they’ll store their Cóatl pieces. You can have, at most, eight pieces on your board. You must have room on your board to draft the pieces. To make space for more pieces, you’ll have to start building…

Instead of drafting Cóatl pieces, you can instead draft Prophecy Cards from the public market. You can draft as many as you like, albeit, obeying the five-card hand size limit. You can either draft from the face-up cards, or draw blind from the deck. At the end of your turn, this Prophecy Card display always gets replenished back to six cards.

Build A Snake: The Crux Of Cóatl

Assembling your Cóatls is the crux of the game. Instead of drafting Cóatl pieces or Prophecies, you can instead start (or continue) building. This option gets broken down into three actions:

  • Begin a new Cóatl;
  • Add pieces to an existing Cóatl;
  • Fulfil a Prophecy Card.

You can perform these options in any order of your choice, and as many times as you wish during a single turn.

Everyone has to start somewhere… Which means building a new Cóatl. This consists of taking any piece/pieces – head, tail or body – off your player board, and placing them down in front of you. Of course, you’ll want to place specific pieces in a pattern, matching your Prophecy and/or Temple Cards. It’s worth noting that once placed, you cannot then move or rearrange pieces. Neither can you join two separate Cóatls to form Mega-Cóatl!

Remember, the aim is to build a total of three Cóatls during the game. You don’t need to fit all the patterns on your cards into the same snake. With this in mind, you cannot start assembling a new Cóatl if you already have two incomplete ones. If you’ve completed one though, and have a second incomplete Cóatl, you’re allowed to start constructing your third.

You’re not expected to build and complete a Cóatl in one single action. You’ll chip away at it over time, adding pieces across multiple turns. As well as starting a new Cóatl, you can also add pieces from your board to an existing serpent. You don’t have to start with the head, which means you might start from the middle and work outwards, either side. The choice is yours. Cóatls can only have one head and one tail each, though! No crazy two-headed snakes here. They can have as many body segments as you want, though.

Complete A Cracking Cóatl

You can also fulfil Prophecy Cards as part of this ‘Assemble’ action. This means playing a card from your hand and assigning it to an incomplete Cóatl. The snake in question must meet the Prophecy’s pattern (at least once). Prophecies score at the end of the game, so you can continue adding pieces to this Cóatl, increasing the potential score for it. You can place a maximum of four Prophecies per Cóatl, but not duplicate Prophecies to the same snake.

What happens if you complete a Cóatl, then? First, completion consists of capping at least one body segment with a head and a tail. To qualify as ‘complete’, this Cóatl must have at least one Prophecy Card assigned to it. Upon completion, you can now appoint one Temple Card to it, too. This can either be one of the Temple Cards in your hand, or one of the two face-up Temple Cards in the public supply. Then you flip all your fulfilled cards face-down next to this Cóatl. You cannot add cards to it in future turns. Completing a Cóatl is the final opportunity for you to add cards to it.

It’s Not The Size Of Your Cóatl… It’s How You Built It

The game end triggers in one of two ways: either once a player completes their third Cóatl, or if there are no Cóatl body segments remaining. Upon either of these occurring, each player gets to take a final turn. This differs according to which player triggered the end. (If you’re later in turn order in relation to the player that caused the end, you get to take two actions on your final turn.) Then it’s a case of adding up the final scores!

Flip over the circular supply board, where instead of a drafting board, it’s now a score track. You can use a Cóatl piece matching your player colour as your scoring marker. The vital thing to take note of here is you only get to score your complete Cóatls! Not any incomplete ones, regardless of how many Prophecy Cards you’ve assigned to it. This means your last turn of the game is crucial; ensure you complete any half-finished serpents, or suffer the pain!

Add up the value of points you scored for your complete Cóatls in accordance to the Temple and Prophecy Cards you assigned to them. Most points wins!

Sacrifice Tokens: Added Actions For Your Second Game

Want to add in some extra options? You can also throw the Sacrifice Tokens into the mix. Each player starts with three of these; instead of playing one of the three standard actions, you can take an advanced Sacrifice action.

  • Perfect Pick: cash in this token to draw any one head/one tail/two body segments from a bag of your choice! You get to pick the colour. Then you replenish the Supply Board of any vacant Cóatl pieces.
  • See The Future: cash in this token to discard all Prophecy Cards in the public display. Then replenish it, and you may discard any number of Prophecies from your hand. Then take the ‘Draft Prophecy Card’ action as per normal.
  • Priest Commitment: cash in this token to claim one of the two face-up Temple Cards. You get to add it to your hand, meaning you can fulfil it at your leisure, later on.

These Sacrifice Tokens are one-time-use-per-game, so use them with care!