21/01/2021

Cóatl: A feathered and colourful dragon-like snake // SPIEL.DIGITAL ’20 [Review]

Original text in Bahasa: Eddy S. Tandya
Translation to English and editing: Stephan C. Sonny

There was a time when the folks of the ancient Aztec had to vote for their next holy High Priest. To prove his worthiness, the candidates needed to take parts in a sacred competition which involved carving Cóatl. Whoever could sculpt the most elegant this dragon-like and feathered snake would be the next respected High Priest.

During the entire game, players compete to sculpt the Cóatl [ˈkoː.aːt͡ɬ] by fusing the head, body, and tail based on the Prophecy cards they want to fulfil. Whenever players finish the task on these cards, they gain Prestige points. There are some bonuses also from the Temple cards. Cóatl ends when one player has formed his/her third Cóatl or when there’s no other body part left.

On his/her turn, a player may take one out of four actions available:

  1. Take two body parts, or one body and one head part, from the playing board and put it on his/her player board.
  2. Draw Prophecy card. This player may draw until he/she has five cards in his/her hand.
  3. Sculpt a Cóatl. Every player can only have two unfinished Cóatl. Anyway, the sculpture is finished when it has one head, at least one body, and a tail; and when this sculpted beast fulfils one of the Prophecy cards in his/her hand.
  4. Play a Sacrifice token. Each player has three of this kind. 

For the fourth action, the designer recommended not to use the Sacrifice tokens for the first game. However, if you are used to playing board games, it would be okay to play and take them, too! It helps a lot to face the uncertain situation due to the random draw.

For the rest and more detailed explanation, please refer to this YouTube video below from Nithrania. He really helps how to play it right.

Theme

Cóatl is an abstract board game for sure. With that in mind, both Etienne Dubois-Roy and Pascale Brassard could have rendered another theme in this game. I am glad that they decided this theme for their masterpiece because it is interesting to form this ancient beast from the Aztec empire. To be honest, before I played this game, I had no idea of Cóatl at all!

Cóatl the dragon-like, feathered snake

However, thanks to this game, I could learn something new about the prehistoric Aztec civilization and their mythology in a better and fun way. Who said games only waste time, right?

Artwork

The illustrations in Cóatl are stunning, be it printed on the box and cards. It radiates the grace of an ancient and mystical beast.

The artwork on Prophecy and Temple cards.

It’s not only beautiful, but the iconography is also easy to understand, which is essential in an abstract game. They went extra miles when designing the cards, too. By adding the requirements to fulfil on each Prophecy card, it will still be easy to look at them when the players pile these cards horizontally to save space.

The requirements printed on the cards.

Components

Cóatl’s components for the head, body, and tail parts are thick plastics. It’s satisfying when forming the beast from these parts, too, despite the bulky feeling.

The components in Cóatl.

What makes Cóatl even better is the quality of the pouches to store the parts. These three bags give a sturdy feeling due to its thickness. The publisher printed symbols and patterns to separate and differentiate the body parts stored.

The pouches to store the body parts.

There was only one complaint about the components (but it is completely subjective, in my opinion): the thickness on Player boards and cards. It could have been better, I think.

Mechanic

Many gamers mentioned that Cóatl feels like Azul. One player in our group confirmed this statement, too. Well, I think the similarity only lies in the body parts drafting from the Playing board. In my humble point of view, this game is much closer to that game Reef. Here, it is essential to take contract cards to gain points. In Cóatl, the Prophecy cards are the contracts players have to finish. It depicts the pattern of the snake they have to form. The Temple cards are fair games where all players compete to be the first one who completes the requirements to get the reward.

The Cóatl is complete when it has the head, at least one body part, and the tail.

Cóatl looks like a simple game, where you don’t have to think twice to decide which action you want to do. I recommend you not to underestimate this game and think this way, though. Despite the modest mechanic, it still racks my brain during the sessions when analysing what to do each turn. Will it be beneficial to take the body parts? Well, who knows when I need the tail and the head later, too? Maybe not, perhaps the Prophecy and Temple cards are better? This constant decision making is what makes Cóatl interesting.

Our gaming group consists of competitive individuals. Hence, we tended to prevent ourselves from being the one who refreshed the playing board. We didn’t want to provide extra options for the next players. This aspect was more conspicuous in a game with four players.

This Cóatl provides 30 points.

Players may only own up to five Prophecy cards in hand. The only time they can play these cards is when they have fulfilled the requirements at least once. Players can play the cards either immediately or later on. When played, other players can look and predict which parts for your Cóatl you need in the future turns. It may sound like a hard pass to play the Prophecy cards, but if you don’t do this action, you cannot draw any more, as well. Not an easy decision to make, I suppose.

Replay value

The replay value in Cóatl is pretty good because of the Prophecy cards. The snakes will always be unique. With two ways to end the game, players can abuse this for their advantages. If the Cóatls provide many points and other players are too focused to sculpt their beast without head and tail, then you can trigger the end game. All players have to adapt to many situations.

Gaming session.

Final thoughts

We love this game! Cóatl is an easy game with a touch of strategy to win the game. It has the same nuance as Calico, which I have discussed before. The satisfying feel flows whenever you sculpt your dragon-like beast. The table presence is extraordinary with the colourful snakes all over it.



The lone-wolf may also be interested in Cóatl. Yes! The designers provided the solo variant, too. This game fits players who like pattern building. If you are seeking for new entertainment in your family, this may be the best choice. I bought this to give diversity in my family group because we have repetitively played that Century Golem Edition.

Score: 8,5 out of 10.
Spotify playlist: Blackpink – The Album

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