Review – C.O.A.L. – Combat-Oriented Armored League from Dast Work srl

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Review – C.O.A.L. – Combat-Oriented Armored League from Dast Work srl

Designer – Stefano Castelli

Art – Alan D’Amico

Thanks to Dast@worl srl for providing a review copy of this game.

Steampunk! One of those geeky themes that seems to attract gamers like bees to honey. I spotted this game on the BGG Essen list and my first thought was, how fun! Rockem Sockem Steambots duking it out!

From the publisher –

C.O.A.L.: Combat-Oriented Armored League, is a two- to four-player card game with a steampunk setting. C.O.A.L. uses an original game mechanism that combines resource management, bluffing, and memory to simulate the heat of a real battle. The game includes four steambot models – each with its own features, attacks, and defensive maneuvers – and eight different pilots, which have special piloting abilities of their own.

C.O.A.L.: Combat-Oriented Armored League includes customized rules for two-player games, for battles with three or four players, and for two-vs-two partnership games. Deck-building rules are included for advanced players who want to combine parts to build different steambot models. Duels are quick, typically ending in about ten minutes.

Ok, you had me at Steampunk… The story line behind the game has 2 competing companies who stage combat between their Steambots. I am supposing that this is a substitute for wars of conquest and I can imagine the fans of the C.O.A.L. tournaments creating their fantasy Steambot leagues.

Unboxing

The components that you get are of good standard although I would say that this is a game crying out for Mini’s in a deluxe version…

You get –

Components

  • 4 Steambot game boards
  • 80 Steambot cards – 4 sets, 1 to use for each Steambot
  • 8 Pilot cards – 2 per each Steambot
  • 49 Resource tokens – used for tracking the energy used to activate attack and defence actions
  • 4 Damage tokens
  • 8 Tag tokens
  • 2 Training pilot cards – in case you want to start with a simpler version of the game
  • English and Italian rules

The artwork is striking and evocative of the Steampunk theme for sure. The Bots have a look of crazy technology which could go wrong and the Steambots look like they will have some kinks to work out.

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The player boards are nicely done with a space to place your Steambot Pilot card and a damage track as well as an image of your Steambot. The cards are laid out well with a number of icons. On the back of the rule book there is a reference guide to these icons.

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This is a visually attractive game although this is a game that is crying out for some really nice miniature Steambots and maybe a battle arena board to polish off the look and feel. Maybe a deluxe edition?

Gameplay

Right up front, I would say that C.O.A.L. is a very straightforward and relatively simple game which is meant to be played in fast-playing matches. The English rules were reasonably easy to go through to learn the mechanics although there were a few small challenges in translation from original Italian and some typo issues but nothing too problematic.

In essence, this is a card game as the meat of the game is the deck for each Steambot which has cards that give the players choices as to the number and type of energy resources that you can deploy to your Steambot. The cards display the following –

– Number and type of energy resources you need to place on it to Activate its attack or defence ability

– Type of effect such as attack, reaction (defence)

– Activation effect – damage, etc.

Pretty straightforward and easy to understand how to use them.

Player turn

At the start of a player’s turn, they must declare whether they will be taking an Action or a Maintenance turn.

Action Turn

The Player can take any or all of the following actions:

– Play one or more cards from their hand during any part of the turn (optional). These determine what attacks and defence actions you want to set up.

–  Activate any card(s) that have been previously played (optional) The timing of activation is important as is getting the right energy allocation for the cards you activate or else you may find your own Bot self-inflicting damage.

– Use one of the 2 Pilot manoeuvres (mandatory)

The Player ends this turn by drawing 1 card from their deck into their hand. If their deck is exhausted with no cards left to draw, their steambot takes 2 points damage.

Maintenance turn

During the Maintenance turn, the Player is limited to drawing the 2 top cards from his Steambot’s deck. You can’t choose a Maintenance turn if you don’t have at least 2 cards left in your deck.

Playing your cards

This is an interesting aspect of the game. You can either play your cards face-up or face-down. You will need to place energy tokens on a played card to build up the right amount of energy to attack or defend. The interesting thing is that you will want to play cards face-down so that your opponent cannot see what you are planning to unleash upon their Steambot. The challenging thing is that once you place a card face-down, you cannot again look at it until you activate it so you will have to rely upon your memory to remember the exact required energy that your card needs to activate. If you get this wrong, you will cause yourself damage to your own Steambot.

Tricksy this, for those of us who don’t have the best of memories. I had to deliberately keep the number of cards that I’ve played low so I could remember and not get it wrong. The danger in this is that you may not have enough cards in play fast enough.

Accumulator cards must be played face -up and they will automatically accumulate 1 resource token per turn. The advantage of playing cards face-down is that you can

So there are a reasonable amount of decisions to make in C.O.A.L. For example –

– Which pilot and Bot? These are crucial decisions. You will want to experiment with different Bots and Pilots so you can get a sense of the different strengths and weaknesses. I think half the fun is doing this to get a flavour of the different types of fights that will go on.

– Which cards to play? You will be drawing cards randomly so you will have to choose from the cards come into your hand when they do and which will be best to play. Well, you will want to go on the attack for sure but if you don’t play reaction cards, you won’t be able to cancel your opponent’s attacks. Its a tense balancing act.

I won’t go into the details of what all the cards can do as you should find out for yourself. Suffice to say that there is a nice variety of decisions and card effects to choose from and the choices that you make will determine how you get on. It is important to note that you only have 20 cards to go through for your Bot and it can get close before you run out of cards to play.

Generally, after the first turn or two, you should have a pretty good sense of the game flow and you move along quickly. The structure of the gameplay is easy enough to pick up. Using the icon chart on the back of the rulebook is done comfortably. And since the game plays quickly, you won’t find yourself wanting to play again to try different Bots, etc.

Did I enjoy C.O.A.L. – Combat-Oriented Armored League?

I enjoyed C.O.A.L. I like Steampunk  as a theme and it seems to be well represented here. If Steampunk combat is an appealing theme, you will definitely want to play C.O.A L. Yes, it is limited in depth but its not meant to be a deep game. Having said that, there is a nice and interesting range of decisions. You don’t have complete control as the randomness of the card selection is what it is. I personally like the randomness as this gives you the challenge to work out how to make the most of the cads in your hand. It also feels like the Bots are still “experimental” and won’t always do what you want them to do which is a good thing. I like the placement of the cards face-down which brings a memory element into the game as well as the opportunity to bluff your opponent.

I found the mechanics relatively easy to pick up and the flow moved along without too much of a problem. Having said that, the English rules need a little proofreading as there are a couple of ambiguities but nothing that really gets in the way. I like the different abilities of the Bots so its like you a have a puzzle to solve in terms of how to make the most of the your Steambot’s capabilities and the abilities of your Pilots.

The game looks pretty good, the components and art work well. This game definitely needs Minis though.

C.O.A.L. – Combat-Oriented Armored League is a fun game which I can see being used in a mini-tournament, kind of like a jousting competition. It works nicely as a short game between sessions which heavier games. I like the flexibility to play 1 vs 1, 2 vs 2 and 3 or 4 player bouts. There are even additional rules to build a deck for your Bot by mixing cards from all the Bots.

I think that if you enjoy quick playing combat games, with weird technologies, and Steambots, this is a good game to pick up. It is a good social game that can be quickly set up, learned an played.

C.O.A.L. – Combat-Oriented Armored League will be available to purchase at Spiel at Essen in October from Dast@work at stend 2-F133 and at 25 Euro or 20 if you preorder, its a good buy with lots of replay value.

For German gamers from Dast@work –

I’m happy to tell you that we will have the German rules for Essen Spiel, too.

They will be given together with the game (not into the game, but a part with the game) to the German people.

As you know the game is independent from the language, so the rules are enough to play the game for Germans who do not speak English.

For more information go to – http://www.dastwork.it/

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