Welcome, everyone. It is wonderful to see so many of you here today. The hour is near and the gaze of the Great Inky One is upon us. We have to be strong and stay true to the cause. It is time to show our dedication, fellow followers. It is time to hail the mighty Cosmoctopus by Henry Audubon from Lucky Duck Games.
Yes. Here we are. It is Cthulhu in all but name – and gameplay. Even though the setting is sinister and the game pretends to turn us all into evil cultists by the end, it is actually quite family-friendly. While the tentacles in the game are disembodied purple moulded plastic limbs, they still belong to an octopus, a celestial one, mind, but an octopus nonetheless. So there are no weird deformities protruding from the place where humans have lips. In fact, the Cosmoctopus‘s head is rather cute. So even though the link to H. P. Lovecraft‘s universe is there, it is very tenuous. Don’t panic!
As you read the rules, you realize that it’s basically an action-selection deck-building game with a heavy dose of resource management. The rules are quite simple. On your turn, move Cosmoctopus one space along the Inky Realm grid, which can be set up in different configurations of randomly shuffled tiles, and carry out the action on the space you landed on. You can then play a card, paying the required resources, of course.
So the first order of the day is to get resources. These are readily available from Inky Realm spaces, but the problem is, Cosmoctopus can only move one space, unless you pay extra. Every time you move it closer to where you want it to be, the next player takes it in the opposite direction, undoing your plan. The fact that everyone plays on the same grid and uses the same octopus means there is a constant push and pull until someone relents and spends resources to get to the action space they need.
There is even more direct competition. You want to be the first player with eight tentacles on your summoning grid. You can get these when you play certain cards or collect 13 of one type of resource, but neither is easy. Cards that provide you with Cosmpoctopus limbs aren’t cheap and collecting 13 resources of one kind is hard when at the end of your turn you always have to discard down to 8 of each type. So you have to gain enough resources in one turn to be able to claim a Forbidden Knowledge tile that gives you two tentacles. The best way to get that many resources is by building up your tableau and try and get combos – and I think that’s where Cosmoctopus really shines.
Deep, Unfathomable Depths
Many of the cards you can play give you permanent benefits, either as resource discounts or by giving you additional resources when you gain anything. Play it right and stack your bonus cards well and you can get 5 or more resources in one turn easily and get two tentacles by claiming a Forbidden Knowledge tile. If you combine that with cards that allow you to play additional ones afterwards or that give you extra Cosmoctopus movement actions, you can pull off massive turns.
It is really fascinating to see how the game develops. The first time you play it, you get an inkling of what’s possible. You start to see what you can do better next time. When you come to play Cosmoctopus again, you really start to lean into getting your tableau built up and choosing cards that will give you massive combos. However, the early game is still quite gentle and turns are quick. As the game progresses and players have oiled their tableau engine, turns will start to take longer.
It’s easily possible to move Cosmoctopus one space, get a bunch of resources, claim Forbidden Knowledge to gain two tentacles, then play a card that allows you to move Cosmoctopus again, which gives you the resources you need to complete one of your objective cards, which allows you to claim another tentacle and move Cosmoctopus another space to get the resources you need to play a second card, because the first card you played gave you that bonus and after about five to ten minutes of resolving all of the combo effects your turn is finally over and you rotate the octopus head to face the next player and indicate that your turn is over.
Oh, yes, that’s one of the many lovely touches in Cosmoctopus. Whoever the head is looking at is whose turn it is. That means, when you’re done, you need to rotate it to face the next player. It’s a neat mechanism to ensure players actively confirm when they’re done and there should be no need for anyone to ask if it’s their turn.
Generally speaking, the game is really well made. The head and tentacles are lovely moulded plastic. The tentacles come in different shapes as well, to keep it interesting. The cardboard components and card stock are really thick and durable. The wooden resource tokens are chunky and very functional. With the Inky Realm, people’s summoning grid tiles and everything else set up on the table, Cosmoctopus looks really interesting and enticing.
The illustrations are clean, yet inviting. The card names and text add just enough flavour to keep your favourite board game cultist happy as well. At the same time, anyone who loves tableau builders with massive combo potential is also well catered for. Even the game length is about right. It does feel a little long for what it is, but it doesn’t actually outstay its welcome. There is a bit of a lull in proceedings about two-thirds through, but most of the time you are kept busy working out what to do on your turn and actively watching what others are up to.
I was really pleasantly surprised when I played Cosmoctopus. I really didn’t expect such a deep and engrossing experience from what’s basically a tableau builder. The game has really converted me to the cause. It’s like the Tardis – a giant game in a small box. It’s out of this world!
I feel that this review reflects my own, independent and honest opinion, but the facts below allow you to decide whether you think that I was influenced in any way.
- The publisher gave me a discount to purchase this game for review.
- At the time of writing, neither the designers, nor the publisher, nor anyone linked to the game supported me financially or by payment in kind.
Intro Music: Bomber (Sting) by Riot (https://www.
Lost Place Atmospheres 001 by Sascha Ende
Free download: https://filmmusic.
License (CC BY 4.0): https://filmmusic.
These are the songs I listened to while I was writing this review: