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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Thursday 22 November 2018

Thoughts from the Yellow Meeple:- Coimbra

Game: Coimbra

Publisher: Eggertspiele

Designer: Flaminia Brasini and Virginio Gigli

Year: 2018

With critically acclaimed games like Lorenzo il Magnifico and Grand Austria Hotel, the partnership of Flaminia Brasini and Virginio Gigli as designers is enough to get many euro game fans interested in a game. Add to that some beautiful cover artwork from Chris Quilliams and plenty of advance hype as Eggertspiele's first board game release under Plan B Games and you have created a game that we have been hotly anticipating!

We first got a chance to play a couple of rounds of Coimbra at the UK Games Expo, after running to be the first at the demo table one morning. We were instantly taken with the great mix of complexity in the game with the simplicity of your turns, as well as the really colourful appearance and tactile components. We waited patiently when gamers at US conventions had access to early copies and now finally our time has some to see if the game holds up at two players and can stand out in the recent euro game crowd.

Coimbra plays from 2-4 players, in only four rounds. Each round begins with a dice draft, where players take turns to select a dice from the rolled pool and assign it to one of the four rows of the board. Each round you'll assign 3 dice each. The value of the dice dictates the order in which you will then purchase cards, using either gold or military influence as a currency. Cards come in four coloured factions, corresponding to the four influence tracks and the four dice colours in the game. When you purchase a card you'll increases your influence in the corresponding colour, as well as getting either an instant ability or an ongoing ability that triggers in a certain game phase. The different influence tracks give you income if you select a dice in that colour and this income is potentially a way to make victory points, replenish currency, or move your monk around the map to visit the towns of Portugal and gain their benefits. After four rounds there are a number of routes to end game scoring, but most points wins.

We've been playing Coimbra as a two player game, and for us it's a 40 minute game. For such a short game length, I've really been pleased with the depth of meaty choices, and with just 12 choices to make each game, there's always a feeling of sadness when it ends. With two and three players, there is one very neat modification that puts fixed value dice in three of the rows, so you're competing with these fixed dice for the order of card choices, which helps to ensure the balance of the game. It's a very neat way to scale the game, and given that I heard the game plays long with the full player count, I wouldn't hesitate to recommend the game at two players. I can totally see that with players who want to analyse their choices fully, the dice draft could be agonising - it's amazing how the mixture of dice colour and value creates such tense decisions. High dice choose cards first, but you pay more for each card. If you're paying more for cards you might want grey or orange dice to boost your income.

I'm not often a fan of games where I have to pick a strategy and specialise to win. We don't typically find that we dedicate enough time to explore games of that nature, to develop expertise in different strategies. In Coimbra, I feel like I can do it all! Personally, I enjoy pilgrim strategy as it really helps to define my game. I like to plan a route around the map and intertwine this with the arc of  my game in turns of the cards I focus on during different rounds and when to boost my different influence tracks. However, I often neglect scrolls and end game points, so there's definitely room for improvement and keeps my interest in the game. Coimbra is a game I have been loving in spite of losing, which is a definite bonus and quite rare for me.

Although the same characters appear every game, Coimbra still manages to be a game filled with variety that keeps me wanting to play more. We've had very different game experiences based upon the voyages and also the way that the characters are dealt into the rows. However, the biggest factor that has caused variety is the dice rolls. We've had games where we could do nothing but roll high, where all the focus turned to being the first to take a city wall and money has been tight to the point of frustration, but also a satisfying challenge. On the other hand, low rolling games are full of possibility and can ope new doors to exciting combos you've not been able to explore before.

Coimbra is a colourful euro that ticks many of my boxes. My only cautions would be that the dice are definitely not colourblind friendly and if your standard gaming group is four people, then you should be mindful of whether you're a group of fast, carefree players or not.

With that said, Coimbra is one of my favourite games of recent months. It really feels like the perfect weight of game for us. We love heavier games, but don't really have tie for them. Coimbra gives me a bunch of great decisions in a short time frame. It lets me explore new strategies, combo cards and feel a real sense of progression during the game. It's one of the more innovative dice drafting mechanisms I've seen and that really is the core from which this game flows. What it lacks in theme, it makes up for in really clean game design. Coimbra is super satisfying and for the Yellow Meeple it's an 8.5/10.

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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