Welcome to The Game Shelf!

After getting into the board game hobby at the end of 2014, we've decided to share our thoughts on the games we're collecting on our shelves. The collection has certainly expanded over the last few years and we've been making up for lost time!

Sometimes our opinions differ, so Amy will be posting reviews every Tuesday and Fi will post on Thursdays. We hope you enjoy reading some of our opinions on board games - especially those for two players.

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Tuesday, 20 November 2018

Rolling in Influence:- Coimbra


Game: Coimbra

Publisher: Eggertspiele

Designer: Flaminia Brasini and Virginio Gigli

Year: 2018

Coimbra is a 2-4 player dice drafting game in which you will compete for the most influence with 4 factions of the city, while sending your pilgrim out to explore Portugal and bring back treasures from afar. This will be done by drafting and placing dice which then dictate which order players can recruit cards, how much they pay for the cards and what rewards they will gain at the end of the round. With shrewd choices, and perhaps a little luck, you can be the most influential person in Coimbra.

A round of Coimbra starts with 12 new characters being added to the market. There are 48 characters in the game (discounting the 8 starting characters), so a game will take place over 4 rounds. The 12 characters are split over 3 rows of 4. At the start of a round, all the dice in use are rolled and are drafted. When a player selects a die they place it inside one of their markers and then choose which of the 4 areas to place it in (the 3 market rows and the row for bonus tiles). When buying a character the highest die picks first (with order of placement breaking ties), while the lowest dice gets first pick of bonus tiles. However the number on the die also dictates how much you pay (either in money or guards depending on the character), getting first choice is expensive! When you gain a character, you first you gain from 1-4 influence in it's faction (a tracker on the right of the board) and then either gain its instant effect, or gain an ongoing or end-game bonus to use later.

While the pilgrim explores Portugal the players influences rises in the four factions. Achieving the right balance is key to victory.

After all dice have been drafted, and cards have been purchased, players gain rewards depending on the colours of their die. Each die relates to one of the 4 factions, and the amount of each reward varies on the influence you have with that faction. Orange dice let you gain money, and grey dice give you guards, both the main currencies in the game. Green dice give you immediate victory points, while purple dice let you move your pilgrim. The pilgrim moves around a map on the board, gaining rewards as they stop off at cities, with longer routes rewarded with greater spoils. Finally at the end of the round players can invest in a voyage, doing so costs a large amount of money or guards, but they can be worth a large amount of end game points. The game ends at the end of round 4, at which point players add points for any voyages, remaining currency and end-game scoring characters to determine the winner.

First of all I have to congratulate Coimbra in having one of the best 2-player modes I have ever seen. All that happens is 5 cardboard tokens go out, simulating dice with certain faces attempting to buy characters. These tokens do not move the entire game, so there is no faff and you are always prepared for the consequences of them being there. This almost perfectly simulates having more players in the game and keeps it tight, without spoiling the flow of the game. Coimbra plays fantastically with 2: it's fast and full of hard decisions with a fair amount of chances to block your opponent, but not so many that you are constantly ruining each other's plans.

The player board has room for ongoing effects, end game scoring, spent characters and currency. But star of the show are the dice holders which mark which dice belong to you as you play.

One of the great things about Coimbra is there is no wrong way to play,  you can have a pilgrim heavy strategy and it will work fine, but you could instead ignore the pilgrim entirely and focus on taking characters with ribbons (which grant end game points based on set collection). Perhaps you don't care what the character does so long as it gives a lot of influence in it's faction, making your dice colours more important, or perhaps the abilities of the characters are the most important thing to you? Everything is valid though, of course, one player's strategy will have worked the best at the end of the game.

I love the fast gameplay, the hard choices and the great use of dice which can result in very different games. Trust me a game where you roll mostly high numbers acts very different than one where you roll low! Everything feels so well tuned and balanced, even selecting first player, which prioritises the players who are in last place, but not to the extent that you can't stop it changing if you want to. The component quality and art are all great - I can't say enough good things about the little dice holders! Though the theme might not be anything to phone home about, Coimbra truly is a great game which I highly recommend you try!

9/10

Coimbra was a review copy provided by Asmodee UK. It is available at your friendly local game store for an RRP of £44.99 or can be picked up at http://www.365games.co.uk/.

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