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Cóatl

Cóatl, meaning 'serpent', is a colourful Aztec-themed competitive puzzle game designed by Pascale Brassard and Etienne Dubois-Roy, and published by Synapses Games. It's distributed in the UK by Coiledspring. It's a game where the 2-4 players are competing to score the most points by constructing Cóatls that fulfil criteria shown on various cards, and it's playable too as a solitaire game.



Each Cóatl consists of a head, a tail, and any number of body segments. The vast number of plastic components representing these make the game satisfyingly tactile. Over the course of the game, players will draft these pieces, put them together into up to three Cóatls, and draft prophecy cards which give recipes for scoring points. Each of your Cóatls can have up to four prophecy cards applied to them, plus one large temple card which can be from your hand or from the face-up central supply, and finding combinations and synergies that maximise scoring for multiple cards is one of the main keys to success.


This puzzle element is fun and engaging, though the luck factor is high with five colours and many cards involved: it is quite possible to set up a good plan based on greens and blacks, for example, and find that all the necessary segments disappear from the available supply before you have a chance to take them. It can take a long time to trigger a refill of the pieces, especially in a two-player game, and if you trigger the refill then other players will get the first opportunity to choose from the new pieces. For this reason, the special action tokens that the rules say are not recommended to be used for a first game, really should be used even in a first game: perhaps introduced after a couple of rounds once new players have grasped the basics. These give once-per-game abilities that help get out of sticky situations. Even so, it is quite possible to end up with no good options, having to draw prophecy cards blindly from the deck just hoping to find something that will work with what you have. There is no mechanic to swap cards out (other than the once-per-game special action) but this could easily be house-ruled if players felt it necessary.



Still, the game is not a long one, so if things don't work out well you won't have been frustrated for long, and when things do come together you'll find it very satisfying as your points rack up. Cóatl can work as a family game or as a gateway game for novice gamers, especially with its great visual appeal, with art by SillyJellie, but the strategy can be challenging. On the other hand, it is a bit swingy for a serious gamer, and the cards are not quite balanced to favour all colours equally. It's a good combination of concepts tho', brought together in an appealing game. And once you've played it, you might very well find yourself wanting to play it again until you find that elusive ultimate combo...


(Review by Matt Young)


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