RogerBW's Blog

Thirsty Meeples November 2023 12 December 2023

Back to the boardgame café.

We started with very new arrival Battle for Byzantium, which, well.

The designer of this game is clearly very enthusiastic about Byzantine history. (He has an Instagram account and everything.)

The art and production are lovely. Each city has a large card giving a bit of its history—but no game stats, because they don't have any.

But this is barely a game. Roll d6 and move that many spaces (do you have to move your full roll? The rules don't say), and try to land on a card space. Sometimes the card will screw you over, sometimes it'll let you conquer the next city you land on. There are a couple of spaces which let you conquer any city on the board. My goodness this is dull. Roll, can I get anywhere interesting, no. Roll, can I land on a card space, yes, OK I've got plague and have to go to this particular city and miss a turn.

And because the gameplay is so simplistic, because the decisions are so minimal, the theme is let down too; you don't do anything thematic, you just wander around until you get a good card, conquer a city, repeat.

This is barely a game. It could put a child off boardgames for life.

On to Cosmoctopus, which was rather more fun. You move don't-call-him-Cthulhu round a grid of tiles, getting what you land on and maybe paying resources to move further. There are four sorts of card that you can collect, pay for and play: red gives you some instant benefit, black gives you a discount on future card spending, yellow gives you more resources when you get resources, and green you have to fill in with more resources but ultimately get you points (tentacles) to win the game. We went for various different approaches but were all within a point of winning by the end of the game, which suggests it's either very good or very bad.

Finally, I spotted Project L on the shelf, one of the few copies I've seen that isn't my own. The player who (I didn't know) normally gets frustrated by spatial games didn't, and we all had a good time.

[Buy Cosmoctopus at Amazon] [Buy Project L at Amazon] and help support the blog. ["As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases."]

  1. Posted by J Michael Cule at 01:16pm on 12 December 2023

    Project L was fun even if I did somehow fail to hear one crucial rule and thus play a few rounds suboptimally. (I have decided retrospectively to blame this on the annoying young people at the next table dragging my attention away and not on my going deaf. So that's all right then!)

    Cosmoctopus was a little overcomplex but given how well we all did on a first try I think it might actually be a well designed game. If I have one criticism it's the durability of the little mats which you're supposed to collect your tentacle/points around: the ones in the set we used were clearly already loosing bits.

  2. Posted by RogerBW at 05:35pm on 13 December 2023

    The boardgame café environment is much harsher on games than anything I allow to happen to my own copies, but yes, I can easily see those card protrusions getting snagged on things.

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