Base price: $30.
1 – 4 players.
Play time: 10 – 20 minutes.
BGG | Board Game Atlas
Logged plays: 4 

Full disclosure: A review copy of Coral was provided by 2Tomatoes Games.

Alright; had an opportunity to play some cool and new games the past couple weeks, and now I’m wrapping things up before I head off to GAMA! That means you should see these reviews, with any luck, by mid-May, as I’m trying to stay about three weeks ahead. I’ll need it during the summer; I expect to take a lot of time off here and there, and I have been trying to avoid taking a break since the last time I took one (2017, I think). Maybe I should take a break. That’s a Later Eric question. In the meantime, we’ve got another 2Tomatoes title to check out! So let’s learn more about Coral!

In Coral, players are growing a coral reef! That’s pretty critical; I was just doing that the other day in Terra Nil. Excellent game, if you haven’t checked it out. I need to get back to that; maybe while I’m traveling. Here, your goal is to make sure your coral blocks get sunlight from above, so you’ll need to grow towards the sun while keeping your opponent out of your space. Easier said than done, you’ll find. Will you be able to get the most light?



Each player starts by picking a coral species! Everyone gets one pawn for it. You can set the rock in the middle of the table:

Then, dole out the blocks!

Dole them out based on player count:

  • 2 players: Each player gets six blocks of their own species and three blocks of the neutral species, one of the two unused colors.
  • 3 players: Each player gets six blocks of their own species and two blocks of the neutral species.
  • 4 players: Each player gets four blocks of their own species and one block from the two species of the players to their left and right.

You should be ready to get started! There’s a game setup phase of it all, but we’ll get to it later.


Alright, so Coral is all about growing a bright and exciting coral reef! However, you can’t start entirely from nothing, so players have to do a bit of setup first! Starting with the first player, you each place a block until the rock is covered. There are a few rules:

  1. At least one face of the block must touch at least one face of the rock!
  2. At least one icon of the block you place must be touching the table.
  3. You cannot cover another player’s piece.

If you can’t follow all three rules, follow rules 1 and 2. If you can’t follow those two, just follow rule 1. Then, once the rock is covered, players take turns placing their pawns on any empty icon that isn’t their species’ color. Once that’s done, play continues and the game really begins!

On a given turn, players can either Grow or Move. Let’s talk about both.


Grow is pretty straightforward! You add one of the blocks to the reef following some rules:

  • One icon of the block you place must be connected to one icon of the cube their pawn is on. Note that it’s not the block! It’s the specific cube within the block.
  • The piece must stay in place and not fall when released (you can play with a penalty where fallen pieces are returned to their owners except for pieces of the player who knocked it all down’s color).
  • The piece you place cannot touch or move other players’ pawns.


When you move, you can either Slide or Float! When you Slide, you can move your pawn in the reef to an icon of your choice, as long as the path you take is visible from above and doesn’t go through any other player’s pieces or any of your icons.

When you Float, you remove your pawn from the reef entirely! On your next turn, place it on any empty spot that isn’t your species. Your turn ends.

End of Game

The game ends when a player places their last coral block. When you take turns from then on, a player can only take a turn if they still have a block in their reserve. At the end of their turn, they must discard a piece in their reserve from the game.

Once the game ends, look from above (just like BLOCK.BLOCK!) and count the number of spaces with your icon showing that are visible from top-down. The player with the most visible spots wins!

Player Count Differences

Generally, not a ton in terms of your particular plan. Every turn, you still place a block or move your pawn. With more players, however, there are more impediments to your success. More blocks means more potential places that your cubes and blocks could be covered, but, it also means that there might be more places for you to move and grow. It depends a bit on how the coral collectively grows; if it’s growing tall, you might be in for some problems, but if it’s growing wide, you might just find a spot full of opportunity that’s all yours. The major challenge is that with more players, there’s just more people who might be actively covering your stuff. The small consolation is that they might be covering each others’ stuff, so maybe they’ll focus on yours less? Hard to say. At least at four players, you can tempt other players with the other player’s blocks that you get. If you do a good enough job, you might even be able to trick another player into getting mad at the player whose blocks you have. Insidious, probably. Either way, though, I tend to generally prefer abstracts and abstract-adjacent games at lower player counts. More room for strategy and less noise between turns. As a result, I’m more of a fan of Coral at two, though I will still happily play it with more players. Oh, there’s also a solo mode, if you’re into that kind of thing.


  • Try to avoid taking two consecutive Move Actions, if you can avoid it. You have to sacrifice one of your blocks every time you do that, which seems to be a pretty explicit penalty for that sort of behavior. You’d probably be a lot better off with Growing and Moving independently, though if you place your pawn right you can do a few Grow actions before you need to Move again.
  • I’m not sure Float is a great move, so forcing your opponent into a spot where they have to do that is a great idea. It kind of takes you out of the action for a little bit, which may not be ideal in the moment. It does, however, let you hold on to your precious blocks for a bit while other people play, so you might be able to set yourself up well once they’ve inadvertently laid the foundation for you. Blocking an opponent so that they can only remove themselves from things, especially towards the late game, might be a good way to reduce their impact.
  • Look at how you can turn or pivot pieces to maximize how much you can place from your current location. You can get a lot of pieces down if you get creative about where and how they’re placed. If you place them so that your opponents can’t easily get to them (especially without moving through you) then you can really protect your coral investments from players who would just stack on top of them.
  • I tend to start by placing one of the neutral player’s pieces, just because then players are more likely to cover that in the long-term and I’m not spending one of my pieces. Blocks that start at the bottom tend to get long-term covered up by other players over the course of the game, so if you place your pieces, that’s not really ideal, is it? Placing someone else’s blocks, I mean, that can be pretty good. Then their blocks get covered.
  • If you’re playing with penalties for knocking parts of the reef over, focus on stability. Don’t just place pieces willy-nilly, unless you think you can dump that instability on your opponent. It’s rude, but sometimes you gotta focus on messing things up for your opponents. If you’re not playing with vengeance in your heart, then just focus on playing pieces to keep the entire structure stable.
  • Try to place your pawn so that you’re blocking other players’ pathways, especially pathways that would put them in a spot where they can cover your stuff. Player pawns can’t move through other player pawns, so you can kind of move to spots that will basically keep your opponents from moving to a place where they can mess with your stuff, if you plan right. Doing that is pretty good, though you need to be set up kind of ideally
  • Also, just generally, try to cover your opponents’ coral blocks. The more you cover, the fewer points they’ll score! just remember, in a game with more than two players, aggressing an opponent instead of helping yourself doesn’t work! The game is no longer entirely zero-sum! This is like one of my cardinal rules or something, at this point.

Pros, Mehs, and Cons


  • A very soothing game, all things considered. It’s competitive, yes, but the color palette is extremely relaxing and pleasant. It’s an abstract game with a fair bit of blocking, but your total engagement and possible options on your turn are relatively limited as well, which is nice. You can kind of relax while you play, which isn’t always a thing for the more abstract games. I certainly have been able to do so!
  • I appreciate how distinct the solo mode is. Rather than playing a limited version of the main game or a game with a heuristic-based opponent, you just have unique scoring conditions for each of the four colors, which is pretty cool. It gives you a lot of game-to-game variety.
  • I also like that you always have someone else’s color; at higher player counts, that makes the strategy of it all very interesting. There’s some fun tension around all of that, since you can place other players’ pieces under you to move yourself up or you can place them in spots that are bound to get covered by other players in a more spiteful move. It’s a nice layer of player interaction that also has a great strategic component to it all.
  • The 3D shapes you make at the end are pretty cool! The overall structures of the reef are pretty great! They’re interesting, dynamic, and something you make entirely collaboratively! I appreciate that it’s not cooperative in that sense, though. You end up fighting with the other players and creating something cool at the end.
  • Pretty quick little game. Yeah, this one is surprisingly fast. Especially once everyone gets used to it? You’re not placing that many pieces, you’re not moving a ton; you can just kind of gun it and get through most of the game.
  • I also like that the box tells you where everything should be stored! That’s a nice bit of insert design, frankly. It can be frustrating if you just need to dump all the pieces into the box.


  • It took me a quick minute to realize the bag is only for the variants. You don’t ever actually draw anything out of the bag in the core game. I struggled with this for bit. Was I supposed to store the pieces in the bag? No, there’s a guide on the insert. So what was it for? Variants. My bad!


  • Be cognizant of your table surfaces if you’re playing with the penalty for any fallen coral; if your table has a known lean or something, it can really mess the game up. It’s fairly frustrating if your table is what causes a stability issue in your reef, not just poor player placement. Just check that kind of thing out first? Or put a placemat down or something. My photography table apparently has a pretty significant lean, which was fun to find out.

Overall: 8.25 / 10

Overall, I think Coral is a great little abstract game! I think what it’s got going for it best is that it’s lightning-fast. For me, there’s always something about a quick abstract. The quicker you can set it up, the easier it is to replay it as soon as you lose (or win, I guess) and go again. That lets me, the player, reinforce how much I enjoy the game over multiple plays in one session, rather than the one-and-done of longer, more intricate games. Nothing wrong with a longer game, but it’s a lot like watching 10 episodes of a show versus one movie; the TV feels less intensive, even if it’s not. I tend to like abstracts more if they’re shorter for that exact reason; Santorini is one of my all-time favorite games as a result. Coral is a similarly snappy experience. The limited actions and the fun final scoring condition (top-down) keep you constantly planning ahead but one bad move away from a problem, and balancing those two tensions while trying to manage your opponent’s ambitions remains a consistently fun experience. I keep coming back to it, after all. The bright colors and fun blocky components do a lot, though they also make the game more approachable for a variety of audiences, which I respect quite a bit, as well. I’ve been impressed with 2Tomatoes; I haven’t played a ton of their games, but what I have tried has been pretty genuinely all-ages fun, and Coral is no exception. If you’re looking for a quick and delightful abstract, you enjoy stacking puzzles and reckless abandon, or you just want to try your hand at building a coral reef, I’d definitely recommend Coral! I’ve been solidly enjoying it.

If you enjoyed this review and would like to support What’s Eric Playing? in the future, please check out my Patreon. Thanks for reading!

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