Dale Yu: First Impressions of Quetzal



  • Designer: Alexandre Garcia
  • Publisher: Gigamic
  • Players: 2-5
  • Age: 10+
  • Time: 45-60min
  • Played with review copy provided by Gigamic / Blackrock

In Quetzal, players each lead a team of archaeologists and adventurers to the ruins of an ancient temple.  Using their team members, each player explores the island and the temple trying to find the most valuable artifacts and bring them to their ship in the harbor.


In a 4p game, each player gets a team of 5 worker meeples and a Character meeple, as well as the corresponding character tile for that meeple.  The board is set up on the table with Artifact cards placed on the appropriate sites as well as a display of 3 upgrade tiles.  There are two tracks on the board, a Scoring track as well as a Discovery track, and each player puts a disc at the start of each track.

In each of the game’s 5 rounds, there are four phases –


1] Rolling the Meeples – yes, that’s right, you roll your meeples.  Your “regular” meeples have a black side and a white side, and the color seen on the meeple will tell you the role of said meeple for the turn!  You take all your meeples (including your character meeple) and roll them like dice on the table. Any meeples on the black side will be adventurers this round while any meeples on the white side will be archaeologists.  Any meeples on their side, standing up, and the character meeple can be either (player’s choice).  In addition, each standing meeple gives you one coin as a reward.

2] Placing the Meeples – Now, each player takes turns in order to place one or more of their meeples on a space on the board.  There are a number of different types of spaces on the board, each with slightly different rules for placement.  The spaces each also either have an immediate effect or they have a priority number (from 1 to 7) next to them.  The three types of locations are:


  •         Unique (Yellow) – only one meeple can go on this space, and you must pay a cost to place a meeple there.  The space will tell you what type of meeple must go there.


  •         Bidding (Red) – here, players can compete for specific spots. The first player can place any number of appropriate meeples on the space to start.  Later players can place meeples there if they exceed the current number of meeples (keeping the same type as the initial bid).  The losing bid’s meeples go back to the original owner, and they can be used on a later turn this round.


  •         Free (Green) – there is no limit to the number of players nor meeples which can be on these spots.


3]  Activating the Locations – as you are placing meeples, the Camp is the main location that activates immediately. Here, for each meeple placed you gain a coin and you are allowed to re-roll any one of your meeples.  If this new roll results in a standing meeple, you get an additional coin. 


Other locations resolve in numerical order, from 1 to 7.  


  •         #1 The Stela of Knowledge (unique) – the first player space, you immediately get the First Player token.  You also get 1 discovery point.  Any time you get a discovery point, you move forward on the discovery track and collect any bonuses as seen under your new space.


  •         #2 The Temple (unique) – In top to bottom order, choose from the Artifact cards seen here – the top space is most expensive, but you get to pick first.  Artifact cards come in 5 different types, and possibly come with a one time bonus in the upper right corner (the bonus is scored when you turn in the card for scoring).  The bottom of the card shows you how many points you’ll get for collecting sets of this type if you are able to deliver them

  •         #3 – The Temple Surroundings (bidding) – gain the specific cards associated with the space as well as whatever bonus is printed in your bidding slot

  •         #4 – The Black Market (bidding) – Discard an Artifact card from your hand for 7 coins


  •         #5 – The Village (unique) – from top to bottom, players take one available upgrade tile from the supply.  Most upgrades give a permanent bonus, but tiles with a Red X on them give an immediate one-time bonus.  You can only have 2 Permanent upgrade tiles attached to your Character tile; if you gain another one, you must remove one from your Character.  However, you will keep this discarded upgrade tile as it may have VPs on it.  Upgrades give you a specific unique ability that will improve your game.

  •         #6 – The Harbormaster’s Office (free) – For every meeple here, a player can deliver up to 3 Artifact cards. Score points for the cards based on the chart found at the bottom of the Artifact cards. Remember to take any bonuses seen on individual Artifact cards as you turn them in.  Mark your VPs on the scoring track and then discard the cards.

  •         #7 – The Ships (bidding) – Winning bidders can deliver up to 6 Artifacts to the ship


4] Refill the board – Refill the artifact cards spaces and the upgrade spaces and get ready for the next round – well, unless the 5th round has ended, and at this point moves into final scoring:


    • 2 VP for having the first player marker at the end of the game
    • 1 VP per 3 coins left over
    • ? VP from any upgrade tokens gained during the game


The player with the most victory point wins the game. Ties go to the player furthest ahead on the Discovery track.


My thoughts on the game


Quetzal combines a couple of proven game mechanisms together (worker placement, set collection, auctions) to give a tight and cohesive game experience.  The main part here is the set collection – in the end, you have to collect the sets of Artifact cards and turn them in for points.  The catch here is figuring out how to get the cards that you want at the lowest cost.  After all, if you spend fewer meeples on getting the cards, this gives you more meeples left over to do other things (and don’t forget you need to spend at least one meeple to score your cards!)


The decisions here are pretty straightforward, and in this case, I find this I like the simplicity in the decision making.  Your choices are all out in front of you, and oftentimes, the random distribution of the Artifact cards will determine which action spaces are most valuable for you.  The Temple spaces give you access to a bunch of Artifacts, but only the player in the topmost space is guaranteed to get full choice. And, of course, this is the most expensive spot, so it better be worth it to you to have this spot.  The Temple Surroundings spaces give a guaranteed selection of cards, as each space has specific cards associated with it, but the cost in the auction can be quite variable.  Timing can be important here as the first player to make a bit at an auction space gets to determine which type of meeple is used there for the whole round.  Additionally, you might be able to snatch up a bargain with a low bid if no one else chooses to outbid you.  Of course, it helps to keep an eye out on the meeple supplies of the remaining players – making sure that you have enough in reserve for an overbid… or maybe to pre-emptively increase your own bid to make sure of things.


Heck, in some rounds, you may not like the Artifact selection, and you might choose to build up your engine instead, working on your gold stores or picking up Upgrade tiles which can maybe help you maximize a later round.  But, you can’t do this too often – there are only 5 rounds in the game!  Though, in some rounds, buying the artifact tiles can be a cheap way to lock in some victory points, even if you don’t need the benefits from them.


The artwork is well done and thematic, but the board can be very busy to the eye.  The background art is nice and thematic, but the dark greens and browns overlaid with the action spaces can be a lot to take in.  At times, it’s hard to pick out the actual game parts from the background art.  Also, I do wish that the bonuses were color coded or somehow more distinguishable from each other.  The extra coin, Discovery point and victory points are all light tan icons that can look fairly similar, especially from across the table.  It would have been easier for me to have more distinct icons here.


“Rolling” the meeples is a neat mechanism, and one that I have not seen used that much.  It adds a bit of the unknown to the proceedings, and we have started to use a huge dice tower to take turns rolling – it makes a hellacious racket (which we like), and it’s kinda fun to watch each player’s meeples tumble down and settle at the bottom of the dice tower.  Sure, it adds a bunch of randomness to the game, but for me, that adds to the fun.  It also is a nice bonus to get to roll a meeple when you go to camp to get a buck.  I personally try to roll the Character meeple if I’m looking for money as the larger size of this meeple makes it more likely to end up standing up.  Sometimes, though, when I go to camp, it’s because I’m actually trying to get a meeple to switch colors so I can use it on a specific space.


I enjoyed my first play of this one, and I’m definitely looking to try it again.  There is even a solo game included in the box, but I have not yet had enough time to explore it, but it comes with its own sort of “AI” to keep the game moving along.  The first game was quite close, I think our scores were 66-62-62.  We had a few misplays due to icons being misidentified, but we’ll be more careful about this in the future now that we know it’s an issue for our failing eyesight.  For me, this is a title to keep an eye on.


Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers

  • I love it!
  • I like it. Dale Y, John P
  • Neutral.
  • Not for me.



About Dale Yu

Dale Yu is the Editor of the Opinionated Gamers. He can occasionally be found working as a volunteer administrator for BoardGameGeek, and he previously wrote for BoardGame News.
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1 Response to Dale Yu: First Impressions of Quetzal

  1. Deukalion (from 2008) also used the rolling meeples mechanic for combat…

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