I consider Cacao a nice tile laying game for the whole family. It’s a step up from Carcassonne, although it has, besides having tiles, nothing to do with that game. Cacao is more like a worker placement game in tile form.
Cacao Chocolatl is an expansion that adds a couple of modules. Some of them really add something to the game, some not so much.
The first module is the map module. Normally the tile market consists of two tiles and after your turn you draw one or two new tiles from the stack and place them on the table. The map module adds a map board where you place two tiles to will replace the ones you used during your turn. So, now you can see what’s coming up. Every player also gets two map tokens and with them you can buy a tile from the map board instead of taking a normal tile.
This is an OK addition. It makes the game more strategic. You are less depended on the luck of the draw, you have four tiles to choose from, but on the other hand I didn’t mind the luck that much. I also found that these map tokens weren’t used very often. It seemed that people just forgot about them. I mean, -why not use them?-, they are worth nothing in the end.
The next module gives you a couple of water tiles with four cacao beans on it. That doesn’t mean you get a step forward on the water track and four cacao beans, no, you can move one step back on that track to gain four beans. This one is nice, it gives you a chance to quickly gain a lot of cacao. You have to be able to manage your water and you can still only store five cacao on your player board.
Where is the chocolatl!?
Well, you can add it with the third module. This module adds the option to turn one cacao into one chocolate tiles, plus it adds a new type of market where you can sell cacao for three and chocolate for seven coins. Chocolate is worth much more than cacao, but it also adds another step to the process. Is it worth it? Probably, but can you manage it?
This is a fun module. It adds another path to victory and gives the players more options.
The last module is one I do not particularly like. It adds huts and these huts give you special abilities, or end games scoring conditions. For instance ,you do get points for any cacao you still have at the end of the game, or the side of your tiles with three workers from now on have four workers on them, or you just get six extra points at the end of the game.
These huts have a price and you can buy one at the end of your turn.
I do like that there are special abilities. You can buy huts for yourself or, if you see that another player will score a lot of points with a particular hut, you can buy it just to mess with that player.
However, these huts don’t lose their value, because they are worth the same amount of points as you have paid for them. So, there’s no risk and reward. Why would you not buy a hut every couple of turns (if you can)? I would have liked it more if you were able to buy these huts, maybe for less coins, and these huts were not worth any points themselves at the end of the game. Then the huts would make me think about the price I have to pay, the extra income it might bring and I would ask myself: ‘Would it be worth it?’.
Beforehand I thought I would like the Hut module the most, but I think the chocolate module adds the most. The expansion is quite cheap, so if you enjoy the base game and would like to make the game a bit more interesting for gamers, just because you have more options, then buy this one.
All modules are interesting, some more than others, and make the game more thinky. Fear not, it is still a family style game, and a fun one, with or without Chocolatl.
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