What is it? Cobra Paw is a real-time dexterity game that involves dice rolling and tile grabbing.
How thematic is it? The theme is completely irrelevant. If theme is important to you, you’re not going to get it from this. The ninja cat is a fine design but it has no bearing on the game whatsoever nor do I ever feel like it’s referenced anywhere besides the box. This isn’t a detriment in any sense (as the game doesn’t need a theme) but if someone were looking for more cute cat artwork or something similar, they would be disappointed. We do like yelling Cobra Paw every time we grab a tile though. It’s catchy.
Is it easy to play? It’s easy to understand and play but that doesn’t mean it’s easy to be good at. It’s entirely a look and grab type of game so if you’re not quick at processing information and then acting on it, it may not be for you. It’s also quite loud thanks to the tiles and dice so I wouldn’t recommend this game to be played around a sleeping infant.
So what do you do exactly? Cobra Paw is a magnificently simple game that occurs in real-time and has all players playing simultaneously. In the middle of the table, a pile of tiles will sit within arms reach of all players. The tiles are similar to domino tiles where they have a distinct two sides but instead of pips or numbers, the Cobra Paw tiles have symbols. While the symbols are color coded, they are each unique and could be played by someone suffering from color blindness. For each turn, a player will roll the two dice and the first player to place their finger in the middle divot of the tile that matches the symbols on the rolled dice win the round. They can now add that tile to their collection. That player now becomes the new starting player and thus rolls the dice next. When grabbing a tile, players must place their finger in the groove of the tile to claim ownership. This small detail helps eliminates any question about ties as the grooves are not big enough for more than one finger.
What makes Cobra Paw interesting is that the tiles you’ve collected are not necessarily safe in your collection. If the rolled dice match a symbol combination that another player already owns, that tile is up for grabs as well. The first player to have five tiles wins the game. There are also variants offered in the rulebook that offer slightly different experiences but the gist of the game is roll dice and grab matching tiles.
How are the components? What stands out about Cobra Paw (besides its quick gameplay) is the quality production value. The game features two over-sized dice that make that perfect clack as they dance around the table. The large size makes the game attract attention and help players view the different iconography. The symbols on the dice (and the tiles) are color-coded but each symbol is unique so our color impaired friends can spot them (just not as easily). The tiles themselves are thick and sturdy Mahjong-like creations with an imprint for a finger; making them easy to grab after a roll or hold onto when needed. The indented groove helps clarify who got to the tile first, helps hold onto tiles after you earned them and help glide tiles across the table. For such a simple game, Cobra Paw offers a great looking experience and definitely provides an incredible bang for your buck option.
How much real estate does this game take up? Very little. The only real requirement is a flat surface so you can roll the dice and grab the tiles.
What about player count? It plays up to six and we’ve had no issue with any player count. Cobra Paw typically acts as a filler game for us so every player count has worked. The only aspect to be aware of is having space for five or six people to grab tiles just as easily as other players.
Is this a good family game? I think this would be great for young children as the rules aren’t complex and everyone is playing at the same time.
Can it be played solo? No.
Playing time? Ten minutes, usually less. That includes set-up.
How much randomness is present in the game? The dice roll is the main mechanic of the game and while random, there are only so many options that can come up.
How interactive is the game? You are vying for the same tiles with each turn so the game is highly interactive. You may even jam fingers so be careful.
Is there much downtime? None. Every player is active with each turn.
Does winning feel satisfying? Only in close games. If the opponents are evenly matched, winning is great but if you’re clearly better at dexterity games than others, it won’t.
Does the same strategy work each game? I could be wrong but there’s little strategy as you’re just trying to recognize the pattern, find the tile and secure it before others….so yes, the same strategy does work.
Is this a good gateway game? I wouldn’t consider Cobra Paw a gateway game but it is easy to play and offers a different experience compared to other light games. It may be a nice way to get younger children interested in a more structured game due to the easy rules.
Can you lose on the first turn? No.
Is there a possibility of a runaway winner? Someone that is better at dexterity games could easily run away with this game but even if they do, Cobra Paw games are so short it shouldn’t impact a game night.
Is there player elimination? No.
Can a player that falls behind catch-up? Yes. In fact, the better you are doing at Cobra Paw, the harder the game becomes as your hand is now focused on not just grabbing what is in front of you but also protecting what is already yours.
What should I know before my first game? Don’t forget to go for already claimed tiles when they come up.
Is there anywhere to try before I buy? Nope.
Are there any negatives? My only real complaint about Cobra Paw is incredibly trivial but I’m going to mention it anyways: the box. The box is shaped like a hexagon and due to that, it doesn’t really have a great place on our shelves. I wish the game itself came with a bag (similar to Hive) where I could just store the bag wherever I want as opposed to finding space for the much too large box. This has no impact on anything else related to the game but it’s definitely something that bugs me.
Do you recommend this game? If you like real-time dexterity games, I would recommend Cobra Paw. I like
Loonacy more but I feel like there is room in our collection for both games due to how quick they play and the production values offered by Cobra Paw. As far as games go to warm up or cool down a game night, Cobra Paw definitely ranks in my top ten. I also fully expect to see this game being a gateway to more structured activities for my daughter when she grows older.