Coatl

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RRP £44.99
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The election of the Aztec High Priest is imminent. In order to prove their value and merit, the contenders engage in a race for prestige to win the favor of the gods. Will you be able to make the most beautiful sculptures of feathered snakes (called Cóatl) to stand out and gain access to the coveted title of High Priest? In Cóatl, players work to build the most beautiful and valua…
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Rating

  • Artwork
  • Complexity
  • Replayability
  • Player Interaction
  • Component Quality

You Might Like

  • Colourful and fun
  • Smooth, tactile gameplay
  • Great plastic pieces and nice canvas bags

Might Not Like

  • Flimsy Card Stock
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Description

The election of the Aztec High Priest is imminent. In order to prove their value and merit, the contenders engage in a race for prestige to win the favor of the gods. Will you be able to make the most beautiful sculptures of feathered snakes (called Cóatl) to stand out and gain access to the coveted title of High Priest?

In Cóatl, players work to build the most beautiful and valuable serpents. The serpents, or Cóatl, are constructed with a head, a tail, and a number of body tiles, each made from chunky, colorful plastic. On a turn, players will either take tiles from the central board to their personal board, or work to construct one of their Cóatls with the different tiles they've collected.

The game end is triggered when one player finishes their third Cóatl. Players receive points for fulfilling objectives, and the one with the most is named the new High Priest!

Games can so often fly past my radar, especially when releases come thick and fast from various publishers. I had never heard of Coatl until the other week and a quick browse of the games page on Board Game Geek showed me that this was a game I certainly didn’t want to miss out on. Coatl (pronounced Co-at-ull) sees players fighting to please the Aztec High Priest by constructing brightly coloured Coatl sculptures. Various prophecy cards demonstrate the patterns that will score the players points; the more intricate the pattern, the more they will score.

Of course, the theming of the game is influenced heavily by Aztec culture and while the theme isn’t that deeply embedded within the actual gameplay, it was interesting to understand the influences that lead to the design choices for the game. In terms of the title, a Coatl translates from Nahuatl to “snake” or “serpent” and is often depicted in Aztec culture as a feathered snake. Of course, the game revolves around players building these Coatl sculptures but the bright colours of all the Coatl pieces certainly reflect that of Aztec culture.

Rules summary

During a turn, you can either take a headpiece, a tailpiece or two body pieces which will then be placed on your player board (you can hold a maximum of 8 pieces at a time on the board). These pieces will be one of five colours and it is these colours that matter, as the way in which you place and construct them will eventually dictate how many points you score at the end of the game. While you want to collect pieces for your Coatls, you will also want to build up a hand of prophecy cards, since these are what earn you points throughout the game. The various cards display patterns and colours that must be included in the Coatl for it to score, with some cards also displaying multipliers that can boost a player’s score considerably if they combine the cards together.

Coatl, at its core, is a set collection game. Players select the different Coatl pieces during their turn, while also attempting to construct a Coatl that meets the criteria on the various cards that they have drafted from the available selection. Initially, realising this, I was worried that the theme was loosely latched on to a game that would be far too familiar for many. I was very wrong! While the premise certainly isn’t new, the theming gives this game a real shine and the tactile nature of the set collecting really feels fulfilling when constructing the Coatl.

Initial impressions

While players take only one action per turn, this gives the game a pleasant flow and avoids the dreaded analysis paralysis which players so often stumble across while playing games like this. Don’t get me wrong, this game is not without thought, and players need to be careful when drawing pieces from the central board as the only way to be rid of them is to add them to your existing Coatls or start a new one. This could completely throw your plans if it doesn’t match up with the cards in your hand, but it’s that risk that makes Coatl enjoyable. You may need just one more blue piece to finish off one of your sculptures, but that piece also comes with a green piece, a piece you simply do not need but you know will hover on your board until you can find a use for it.

A lightweight joy

The delightfulness of Coatl also comes from its lightweight ruleset. The rulebook is concise and while there were a few points that perhaps weren’t as clear as I would like them, it definitely didn’t halt us while learning the game. We had the core premise down within 10 minutes and, after two games, we were fairly concrete with the entire ruleset. This makes the game easy-going and when paired with the tactile, colourful Coatl pieces, this is a definite addition to a family collection! That being said, I wouldn’t say it is exclusive for that group of gamers and I’d certainly be happy sharing and playing this with my gaming groups. The theme, the components, the premise and the gameplay itself all fit together so seamlessly and the result is a game that flows well, looks great and gives a great sense of enjoyment and achievement.

Yes, the theme does, at times, feel a little latched on, but this certainly doesn’t diminish the game in any way. I think my main criticism of the game is the card stock, albeit a minor criticism. The stock used is very thin and flimsy and, considering the cards are handled a fair amount throughout the game, a thicker stock may have been a better option. On the flip side, the three canvas bags that you get to store the Coatl pieces in are fantastic quality and a really nice addition so that almost outweighs the thinner card stock.

Coatl: Final thoughts

Honestly, do not let this game pass you by. For me, personally, I had grown a little tired of set collection games but Coatl seems to change it up slightly, even while the concept feels familiar but in a good way. The theme, as mentioned, certainly runs no deeper than the artwork and components, but you wouldn’t expect anything more from a game like this, so it is no way a negative. What theme there is has been expertly executed and the tactile use of physical plastic pieces that slot together to form the Coatl sculptures feels rewarding and fun!

There is plenty of variety when it comes to the prophecy cards and this just adds to the replayability. This variety means Coatl isn’t a game that will see a couple of rounds on the table and then be shunned to the back of the shelf. Coatl has really impressed me and playing it has been a real pleasure. It’s a family-friendly game that looks appealing, plays well, and will have a lasting impression. It certainly did for me!

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!

Zatu Score

Rating

  • Artwork
  • Complexity
  • Replayability
  • Player Interaction
  • Component Quality

You might like

  • Colourful and fun
  • Smooth, tactile gameplay
  • Great plastic pieces and nice canvas bags

Might not like

  • Flimsy Card Stock