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Matt
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That's my perp! Futsie, all right - crazy as a coot! He's got to be stopped!
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Ask my wife and with a look up to the heavens she will confirm that I am a big fan of chocolate. Ever since first slobbering over the pages of Charlie and The Chocolate Factory and torturing myself with Dahl’s delicious chocolaty descriptions I have been hooked. Chocolatl is a four-module expansion for the popular tile laying game Cocao, which includes some scrummy looking chocolate shaped playing pieces. However, chocolate aside, one of the charms of the original game was its simplicity and ease of play, so are these extra modules just empty calories?

Map Module

A map board holds an additional two jungle tiles. At the start of the game players are given two map chits. On any turn a map chit can be used to place one of the jungle tiles on the map board rather than one of the usual two face up tiles. At the end of each turn tiles from the map board are used to replenish any jungle tiles that have been used and then the map board itself is replenished.

This is an easy to use and explain expansion that increases player choice and mitigates some of the luck of the draw.


Watering Module

One single and two double plantations are replaced with the three new watering tiles, and the initial two-market set up tile is replaced by a water tile. Placing a worker next to a watering tile earns the player four cacao, but this abundant harvest requires extensive irrigation so the player must also move back a space on their water track.

It’s a great way of further integrating the water track into the game and makes for interesting trade off decisions.

Chocolate Module

The gold mines and markets with a selling price of three are replaced them three chocolate kitchen tiles and the three chocolate market tiles.

Each worker at the chocolate kitchen can convert a cacao into a delicious looking but unfortunately wooden chocolate bar. These bars can then be traded at the chocolate market which as well as buying standard cocoa for three gold will also buy chocolate bars for seven gold.

The mine tiles were always a bit boring and usually only used as a last resort so replacing them was a good idea. This adds a whole new economic layer to proceedings but still manages to fit in nicely in with the base game. Players don’t seem to be selling their raw cacao so much but are waiting until they convert it to chocolate. Not sure if this is because the cacao markets are now devalued or maybe it is just the novelty of the new and play will settle down after a few more games.

Hut Module

The twelve double-sided hut tiles are randomly dropped to determine which sides will be used. At the end of each turn a player can use their gold to purchase a hut. These huts give special in game abilities or are simply a way of getting a few more coins at the end of the game. The gold used for paying for the hut is not lost but will also contribute to end game scoring. So purchasing huts whenever you can makes good sense.

This is probably the most game-changing module. It is great to have the opportunity to actually use the gold you have earned rather than it just contributing to endgame scoring. There is also an increase in player interaction as you race to gather together enough money to purchase the most desirable huts. The expansion has the added advantage of circulating the gold counters, which can sometimes get a bit scarce.

There is now more pressure to earn money quickly in order to grab the best huts, which makes for an interesting change of pace. Although there are twelve huts and they are all double sided many of the special powers are duplicated and then there are others which just give you a little extra money at the end of the game. It would have been nice to see a few extra special powers; I really like the ones with a spatial element, such as points for workers in the same row or column or points for workers that are not next to jungle tiles. The foreman power did set a few alarm bells ringing about balance as it allows a worker tile with three workers on an edge to count as four. This meant that a player managed to sell four chocolate in a single turn for a massive 28 coins, which is getting on for half of a final score. But although they went on to win the margin wasn’t that big and we put it down to good planning rather than a major imbalance.

This really is how I like expansions to be handled, keeping the core values of the game without adding too much complexity or game length whilst providing experienced players with a few new ideas to try out. The extra bits easily fit into the original box and the tiles seamlessly match the originals. All of the modules work well together and I cannot really see any reason for not including all four every time I play. They add an extra layer of strategy and trade off decision-making that really adds to the game opening different routes to victory but still allowing the game to play quickly and work well as a family game. That’s me done, I think I’ve earned a snack.

Here is a list of all my reviews, some with puns that I really should be ashamed of.

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Will Plante
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What an excellent review, right to the point for each module. Thanks for posting this!
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Matt
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Thanks for the feedback, much appreciated.
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