Time to play: 60-90 minutes (Teaching: 10 minutes)
Best played with: 4 Players (2-4 Players)
Coimbra is a Portuguese city, but like many Euro games this is not really about that city but about the trading of resources, actions and opportunity to build a score. Thematically, this game won’t bring you knowledge of the city but for a board game fan, it will offer you a unique combination of mechanics to enjoy.
So where to start? This is a game that starts about throwing dice. Multiple coloured dice. These dice are your option set. An option set that as you go round the table will diminish rapidly. The clever thing is that the dice will play two roles in this game.
Role 1: The number. The number will be used when you place this dice in one of four action spaces. The higher the pip value on the dice, the earlier that player will then get to act. Which for 3 out of the 4 rows is the earlier you will get to pick the card you buy. The downside though is that you will pay more for that card. In the other row, it’s the reverse – low pip values go first, but the actions chosen cost nothing. This first row has less permanent effects. Trade the strength of the action with the resources you have and the dice available.
Of course, this is an easy decision at first but the dice go round three times and the options run out. You are optimising to make the best decisions across these three dice but without seeing exactly how the other players will use those dice. Yes you know which rows they went in, what they will pay – but you don’t know what they will pick.
Role 2: The colour. The colour of the dice will turn out to provide you with income at the end of the turn, but only in that colour. The white dice gives you choice between the colours. At the end of the round, the three colours you have are the three areas on the board that will score for you (and only you!). However, for them to score well – you need to be high up in those areas.
So you use the cards (that you bought with the number) to promote a position on the board which is paid out by the colour. That’s the nuance, and that’s what makes this game so good.
Then, add the fact that there are two different currencies in this game, and there are ways to just score points and ways to move around a non-linear map to score points… this game has a veritable salad bowl to score some points in.
Oh, and last but not least the end game scores significant points for “missions” that you go on. Missions are bought at the end of the round (just after income) and deplete your current resources for big point hauls at the end.
Theoretically over 4 turns you will get four, but a winning player will find a way to eek out the fifth or even sixth during the game. Oh and they will find the way to pay for these – which is simply not an easy feat.
So much to do, and a constrained space of 12 actions, means that this game is a tightly weaved puzzle for players who love Agricola and other minimalist euros that have you scrap for points whilst always wondering if a sub-optimal move will hurt your opponent enough to prove optimal in the long run.
This is a vicious and clever game. However, that’s a very competitive genre of game and the biggest problem is the game’s biggest success – the dice. They have designed an excellent strategic game demanding players to make tough choices throughout. However, at the very core of this game is an element of chance – a well managed / mitigated instrument that determines an outcome. It is a mechanic that immediately will turn some players away from the game. Throwing some dice at the start of each turn to determine the available options will put people off. In this case, I believe it shouldn’t because the design with extra dice and a shifting first player mitigates it, but I appreciate it will ultimately in that last turn frustrate the player who cannot execute their preferred strategy.
- If you want a new age euro with lots of paths to victory check this one out
- If you hate dice – there are many ways to manipulate these but the dice will have an effect
- If you win, try a using the monk or victory point path to victory