Dale Yu: Review of Coyote

Coyote

  • Designer: Spartaco Albertarelli
  • Publisher: Heidelbaer Games
  • Players:3-6
  • Time: 20 minutes
  • Played with review copy provided by Heidelbaer / Asmodee USA

coyote

Coyote is another reprint for Heidelbaer – the original being done all the way in 2003!  This bluffing game was originally set in the American West and had an Indian theme – this new version has the same name, but is now set in Alaska – per the publisher: 

“One day Coyote crossed the river with his friends, but he was carrying too many things and almost drowned before Bear pulled him out of the water. Poor Coyote had lost everything.

They sat down by a fire to dry off and rest. Coyote became jealous of the other animals because they still had all their things, so he challenged them to a bluffing game to win their belongings. The other animals agreed to the challenge as they thought Coyote would never win. After all, he is known to never tell the truth — but in this game everybody has to lie because no one knows the truth…

In the bluffing game Coyote, you always see the cards of the other players, but never your own. When it’s your turn, you must announce a number that is less than the total of all the cards in the game, yet higher than the previous number given. Alternatively, you can challenge the number previously announced. Finally, when all the cards are revealed, you’ll see who has the cunning Coyote on their side.  As in the tradition of the Northwest Coast Tribes, copper is a symbol of prosperity and cultural wealth.

The artist Zona Evon Shroyer (Yupik Alaskan Native) is a master of the traditional Northwest Coastal art, whose richness of detail and complexity requires years of study and practice. For the cover illustration of Coyote, she designed a modern silhouette for the coyote, which she then filled in a classical manner with other animal motifs: turtle, beaver, and bear — the animals that he is sitting around the fire with and playing a game, in our little story.“

PXL_20210514_005141957

To start the game, each player takes 3 Peek cards and places 1 of them on the black “eye closed” side and the other 2 on the white “open” side.  The goal of the game is to be the last player remaining with Peek Cards.  There are 17 playing cards in the game – 15 numbered cards (-10, -5, 0 to 10, 15, 20) and 2 special cards (? and max 0).  These cards are shuffled, and each player draws one (without looking at it!) and puts it in the card holder so that everyone else can see it but himself.  Additionally, one card is drawn from the deck and placed face down in the center of the table.

The starting player then makes the first bid – trying to state what the total of the cards is on the table.  In general, you will know all the cards but 2 – you will not be able to see your own nor the facedown card in the center of the table.

PXL_20210514_003353565.MP

The next player must then either raise the bid or challenge the bid.  When a challenge happens, all cards are revealed and the sum is calculated.  If either of the special cards is in play, their effects are applied.  If the “?” card is seen, it is discarded, and the top card from the deck is drawn to replace it.  Then, if the “Max 0” card is seen, the highest valued card on the table is now worth zero (essentially, it can be discarded).  Now, see if the challenge is won or not.

The player who made the challenge wins if the total on the table is less than the most recent big.  The winner flips one of their Peek cards from the closed (black) side to the open (white) side.  The loser – that is, the player who had made the incorrect bid – must discard one of their Peek cards.  Of course, if the total on the table is equal or greater than the most recent bid, then the player who made the bid “wins” and the challenger “loses”.

coyote peek

The cards are collected, shuffled, and the next round is dealt our and played in the same manner.  The loser of the previous round makes the first bid of the next round.   Once players have Open Peek cards, they have an additional option at the start of their turns – they can choose to flip their Peek card back over to the closed side in order to look at the facedown card in the center of the table.  However, if they choose this option, they must then raise the bid that turn regardless of what they found on that card. Note that the start player for the round is not able to peek before the initial bid of the round.

The game continues until only a single player is left with Peek cards – that player wins.

There is an advanced variant which has all players have to predict the winner of each challenge (and gaining/losing an Open Peek card based on the result).  The loser of each challenge also gets a special Coyote card which they can use in the next round to draw an extra card, which they look at, and then decide to put in the center of the table or not.  If added, this card is covered with the Coyote card so that no one else can peek at it.

coyote special

My thoughts on the game

Well, I must say that some of the joy of the original version was the headbands that players wore (which held up their card).  In one way, it was definitely harder to peek at your card or have it mistakenly fall over or whatnot.  However, given the theme change, the headband just didn’t make sense anymore – so we have the acrylic standees instead.  To try to prevent card damage, we’ve actually used small card Uberstax racks instead – though I was pleased with the stability of the card standees included in the game.  That being said, the game does seem a little less fun without the headbands.  YMMV obviously.

This game is all about reading your opponents – trying to glean information about your card based on the bids, facial expressions, and whatever else your opponents can give you – and bluffing on your own bids. Sometimes it’s fun to raise the bid a large amount – to try to get the other players to think that their card must be the 20, all the better if no one actually has the 20!

Trying to figure out when to exhaust your valuable Peek cards is a big decision here – sure, you’d like to use them in every round, but you don’t have enough for that – and as you are forced to raise the bid after peeking, you need to find the right times to make it worth looking.  

Each individual round doesn’t take very long – and while the game employs one of my least favorite mechanisms (player elimination), it doesn’t seem too bad here as the game doesn’t take long.  Usually we let the first player out of the game get to go search the game collection to find the next game we are going to play – by the time that the next game is picked, Coyote is usually pretty near to its conclusion.

I like the tribal art here, and it appears that Heidelbaer has done a good job finding a true Native Alaskan artist to bring the game to life.  One of the pages of the rules is devoted to an explanation of the art and the artist.  This is a nice change from the theme and the art of the original which was somewhat controversial when it came out in 2003.  The foil box and cards are certainly eye-catching, and they fit in well with the other games in this line (Spicy and Anansi).  

Coyote is a nice light bluffing game where you have incomplete information at your disposal.  It can be an interesting balance of bluffing and reading of your opponents to try to discover the identity of your own card; this will in turn help you make the right bid or challenge at the right time.  For those that like bluffing games, this is a good one to try.  It certainly has had it fans over the years, and the original’s inclusion on the Recommended list for the 2004 Spiel Des Jahres (along with games such as Attika, San Juan and YINSH) puts it in good company.

Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers

  • I love it!
  • I like it.
  • Neutral. Dale Y
  • 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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