Cacao is a slightly older game that won the 2015 Wiener Spiele Akadmie Spiele Hit prize for families. The game's author is Phil Walker-Harding, who has since released several successful games such as Explorers, Silver & Gold and Fjords.

CACAO takes players into the exotic world of the "fruit of the gods". As tribal chiefs, they try to lead their people to fame and prosperity through the cocoa trade. Only those who use their workers skillfully and know how to use the power of the gods for themselves will be richly rewarded. Simple rules and a short playing time make CACAO an exciting placement game for the whole family.

Cacao is about making money with cocoa, because whoever has the most money at the end wins. You can collect money in many different ways: You can harvest and sell cocoa beans, collect water, explore temples or open up gold mines. 

In each round you place a worker tile and then carry out the possible actions of the workers. There is also a fixed game plan, but this is gradually created by all people by laying out. This also makes the game very varied.

Gameplay of Cacao

Game material

44 worker tiles, 4 water carriers, 4 village boards, 28 jungle tiles, 20 cocoa fruits, 12 sun stones, 48 ​​gold coins

Before the game, each person receives a village tableau including a pawn and worker tiles. The worker tiles are shuffled and placed face down in a stack. The top three tiles are drawn and form the hand cards. You also have the coins and cocoa tokens ready. The jungle starting cards are placed offset (edge ​​to edge) and the rest are shuffled to form a draw pile. 2 of these are laid out openly as a display.

Depending on the number of people, worker tiles and jungle tiles are sorted out first.

Setup for the game "Cacao"

Setup for the game “Cacao”

The oldest person begins and performs the following actions in order:

1. Place worker tiles. 

Choose a worker tile from your hand and place it appropriately. The tile can be rotated as you like, because the number of workers depicted is important. Suitable means that it is placed on the side of a jungle field. Worker tiles may never be adjacent to other worker tiles, always point to point. This creates a chess pattern, which can also be seen in the game photo below.

2. Fill up jungle fields.

If two worker tiles now border an empty field, a jungle must be placed here. If this action is not necessary (this situation does not always arise), the step is omitted. If two jungle tiles have to be placed, two are placed. The active person may choose a tile from the display. Only when the turn is over is the circulation refilled. So if two tiles have to be placed, the two on display must also be used.

Cacao, filling in the jungle tiles, photo: Tim Nissel

Cacao, filling in the jungle tiles, photo: Tim Nissel

3. Perform jungle actions.

By laying out worker tiles in the first turn, the workers on the jungle fields now become active. If a placed worker tile borders two jungle spaces and workers are also depicted on these sides, you execute the ability of the jungle spaces in any order. 

If a jungle tile has also been placed in this turn, the workers that are adjacent to the placed tile also become active - this also applies to the workers of the other characters. You should take this into account when selecting the jungle cards or when choosing the worker tile.

In general, the action is performed once for each adjacent worker; if 3 workers are adjacent, you perform the action three times.

Finally, the active person draws a worker tile, fills up the jungle display if necessary, and it is the next person's turn.

Playing

The game ends when all people have placed their worker tiles. Then the scoring begins. 

  1. Score the temples and distribute gold accordingly (I go into more detail about the temples below)
  2. You get one gold for each sun stone that was not spent
  3. Add up your total gold and add or subtract the points through the water tile.

Whoever has the most points wins. In case of a tie, the person with more cocoa tokens wins. 

Important: cocoa tokens do not earn any points at the end of the game, they are only relevant in the event of a tie.

Cacao at the end of the game, photo: Tim Nissel

Cacao at the end of the game, photo: Tim Nissel

The jungle tiles

  • plantations: Through plantations you get cocoa tokens. Double plantations even give you two per worker. You store the tokens on your village board, you can store a maximum of five,
  • Market: This is where you sell your cocoa tokens. You may sell one token per worker at the price on the tile.
  • gold mine: You get the displayed gold tokens for each worker.
  • Water: For each worker you can move your pawn on the village board along the river. At the end of the game, you add or subtract the value the character is standing on to your points.
  • Sun Worship Sites: Here you collect sun stones. If the jungle stack is used up, you may build over one of your worker tiles for each sun stone. You then carry out the actions that the upper tile triggers as usual. When scoring temples, only the top tile counts.
  • Temple: These are only scored at the end of the game and each temple individually. Counts the adjacent workers and determines who has the most and second most workers. Distributes 6 or 3 gold accordingly. 
    Attention special cases:
    If there is a tie for 1st place, the 6 golds are split evenly (rounded down if necessary) and there is no gold for 2nd place.
    If there is a tie for 2nd place, the 3 gold will be distributed evenly (rounded down if necessary). 
    If there is only one worker adjacent, they get 6 gold, the gold for 2nd place is omitted.

My opinion on cocoa

Cocoa is a very exciting game for me. I find the subject interesting and well done. In particular, the various strategy options are what make it so appealing to me. Each game also represents its own challenge, since the strategy always has to be adapted to the cards on display. For me, the key to successful games was to keep an eye on all of the scoring options mentioned and also to adapt your own strategy to the strategy of the others.

The rules are easy to learn and as soon as you have internalized the rules, the games are also played quickly. For me, Cacao remains a good and exciting game for in between, although I also like to play a new game straight away. 

The game mechanics (worker tiles) were new to me, but I found them very interesting. So often not only one card is active and I was also able to take direct precautions for later moves. Of course, the cocoa theme runs through the game, but the game is not only for cocoa lovers, but for everyone who enjoys such strategy games.

Last updated on 2.12.2022/XNUMX/XNUMX / Affiliate Links / Images from the Amazon Product Advertising API. * = Affiliate links. Images from Amazon PA API