As a physical game, something to look at upon the shelves, surrounded by various other board games, Codinca, is a small, unassuming package, that barely manages to catch the eye.
When upon the table however, surrounded by various players, Codinca is huge.
As a player I haven’t really gone down the route of acquiring many games that would be considered abstract. Yet now, having spent some time playing Codinca, I have to question what else have I missed out on?
You see, this gorgeous, colourful, little tile shifting game, is something very special. At first glance it might pale into the background when viewed alongside the ever growing boxes that now house our gaming treasures, but, don’t be fooled. Codinca is a lightweight with a heavyweight’s punch.
The basics of play pitch up to four players against each in other in a battle to be the first to complete four unique patterns by switching, and flipping tiles. Each player chooses a colour, each colour holds a pattern based upon the elements of earth, wind, fire, and water adding a droplet of theme to proceedings. Each player also holds four cards. Every card depicts a specific pattern that the player must arrange their tiles in to complete the card. The tiles on the board are two-sided, one white side, and one gold. Each pattern to be completed will be a mix of all white, all gold, or a combination, hence the flipping action that can be utilised by the player. On a turn each player has two actions to take in order to try and move the tiles to a position that will complete the card pattern, and that’s about it.
There are additional cards, known as spirit cards, that allow a player to change the whole board, or play a special move, but, the basic play is about completing patterns before your opponents. And as simple as that sounds, it plays out in a beautiful mix of tactical thinking, tense moments, and underhand strategy. I love it.
What makes Codinca work so well is the neat little addition of a rule that states, each player cannot undo the last move of the previous player. This tiny addition sees a game that is in a constant state of players trying to outthink their opponent, and in a similar way to chess, trying to think a few moves ahead. There are times when the joy of victory is snatched away at the last minute, or where a decision has to be made whether to aim to complete a pattern, or scupper an opponent in their tracks. The result is a game that offers plenty of laughter and chatter around the tiles as each game unfolds.
My own plays of Codinca were with both two, and three players. Interestingly, the number of players at the table does have quite an impact upon the way the game pans out. Two player battles become very much like a chess match, with a very thoughtful back and forth as strategy comes to the forefront. Meanwhile, games beyond the two player, are far more chaotic and funny. With three players, having to wait for what amounts to four tile moves between your go leads to some very entertaining, “you just completely ruined my strategy, so now take this!” action, that feels very lively and fast flowing at the table.
In terms of a preference, I think it shifts dependant on mood. There isn’t really a favourite here overall, rather things boil down to whether you fancy some strategic, cerebral competition, or, a chaotic but brilliant all out tile war. It’s nice to find a game that offers similar levels of fun and challenge when played in all its possible player number scenarios.
As for the looks and quality of the game, well, Codinca is on to another winner. The tiles themselves are gorgeous, chunky, bold, and beautifully coloured. They feel great in the hands, and look even better on the table. In fact, they even make quite a satisfying noise when shifted around during the game. The cards are nothing special, but serve their purpose well enough. In Codinca, the cards are round rather than the traditional shape which is interesting I suppose, but they are perhaps a little thin and how they respond to prolonged use over time remains to be seen. But, it will be seen, as this game is in for some serious use.
One for the kids?
I played Codinca with my eleven-year-old daughter, and my sixteen-year-old son. Both really enjoyed the game, both had absolutely no trouble with the rules, and both are always keen to play again. In fact, the game is so simple that, in reality, I would have no issues getting my seven-year-old son to sit for a game. If I can get him away from watching Power Rangers.
Holly, 11, said, “I really, really like this game! It’s brilliant blocking other players plans and trying to finish your own patterns at the same time. I liked it best with more players though.”
Dylan, 16, added, “It reminded me of a game of chess a little bit with the strategy and planning involved, but it moves a lot faster, and I thought that was excellent.”
I’m sure it’s obvious from the above, but I truly love this little game. It offers a huge amount to the player for such a small, and simple, package. Every match plays out differently, the scope for adopting different strategic approaches is huge, the way the game almost takes on a completely different look when more players are added to the mix is brilliant, and the rules are so streamlined and uncomplicated that every game moves at a very nice pace.
Codinca has become an instant favourite for myself. Here is a game that can be set up in seconds, played in fifteen minutes or so, and always leaves me craving another taste. In all honesty, what more can I ask?
Top marks for Codinca! A game that offers a beautiful balance of strategy, speed, and backstabbing potential. I guess great things do come in small packages.