Recently, I’ve been seeing a trend in gaming. There have been some big hits with titles like Sagrada, Azul, Bosk, and Dice Forge. All of these games have simple, accessible rules. They’re the types of games you can introduce to your non-gaming friends or people just getting into the hobby. They each also have a really beautiful table presence, with nice art, or big chunky bits to complement the straight forward ruleset. I guess it shouldn’t be surprising that pretty games with fun simple gameplay are popular. Lately, a new game is getting some buzz, and I think it checks a lot of the same boxes of those previously mentioned hits.
In Coátl from Synapses games, you build sculptures of the feathered serpents central to Aztec culture. The goal is to earn the most points and become the new high priest. The rules to the game are very simple to grasp. Each turn, you either take new Coátl segments and place them on your player board, take Prophesy cards (which is one of the ways you’re going to score points), or you can assemble Coátls from your collected segments.
The game starts with the supply board being filled with Coátl pieces. In different sections you can acquire a head, a tail, or two body segments. The pieces go onto your personal board to be assembled later, but you only have space for eight total pieces to be stored there. If you don’t have room for all of them to be stored, you can’t take that action. Body segments are a lot easier to get your hands on. There is only two heads and two tails put on the supply board when it’s completely full. It is automatically refilled when there are no more body segments or when there are no more heads and tails available. There can be a cat-and-mouse element as to when to refill everything. You may really want to grab that yellow head, but it would mean a full set of options for the next player.
While we’re talking about the head, body, and tail segments, I have to mention that these are really nice bits. They’re thick, chunky, colourful plastic. When assembled together, they look pretty darn cool, and I challenge you not to play with your growing sculpture in between turns.
Once you have a collection of segments, you may want to spend a turn building your Coátls. You can start a new sculpture or add to an existing one. Coátls can be as big as you want, but can only contain one head and one tail. Once both ends have been placed, that Coátl is complete. The last thing you can do with an assembly turn is fulfil Prophecy cards. These cards have requirements you need to meet, like having blue segments in a sculpture, or having a red segment followed by a black segment. You often can fulfil the requirements more than once, earning you extra points.
You can gain new Prophesy cards on your turn as an action. There is a supply of six face up Prophesy cards on display that you can take from, or you can draw from the top of the deck. You can take multiple cards on a turn to your hand limit of five. Each Coátl can have up to four Prophesy cards assigned to them, so the more options you have in your hand, the better you’ll be at capitalizing on the serpents you’re building.
Temple cards are the other major way to score points in Coátl. You’re dealt one at the start of the game and there are two face up decks representing some public goals. Temple cards have some different requirements to claim the points on them. Some want you to create a Coátl avoiding a certain colour. Others require you to have the same number of two different colours contained in your sculpture. You can assign only one Temple card to each completed Coátl, so you have to choose carefully to maximize points.
You also start the game with three Sacrifice tokens. The Perfect Pick allows you to draw a head, tail, or two body segments of your choice from the bag and then you refill the supply board. See the Future allows you to sweep all the Prophesy cards in the face up pool and then before a Choose Prophesy cards action. Finally, the Priest Commitment allows you to take one of the face up Temple cards and add it to you hand making it only available to you.
Game end is triggered when a player completes their third Coátl or when there are no more body segments left in the supply. You score points for your Prophesy and Temple cards for only your completed Coátls. Highest points wins.
Coátl scratches the recent itch of tactile, beautiful set collection. If you’re a fan of accessible games with a strong table presence, I highly recommend checking it out.