Prove your devotion to the Great Inky One by being the first to summon 8 tentacles to your portal in this wonderfully weird engine-builder. Cosmoctopus can be played with 2-4 players in its versus mode or, with the addition of the private investigator mechanic, it can be played as a solo or co-op game.
Setup For Versus
To begin, take the 4 Inky Realm Tiles that have asterisks and randomly choose one, returning the 3 others to the box. Put your selected tile with the 8 regular Inky Realm Tiles into whatever configuration you wish to play with (for beginners a typical 3-by-3 layout is recommended) in the center of the table with their action text facing up. Shuffle the Devotion Deck and reveal 3 cards to make the “market-style” card row. Lay out the resources, Forbidden Knowledge Tokens, and tentacles near the playing area. Give each player a summoning tile, a reference card, 2 of each resource type, and a starting hand of 5 cards. Choose a starting position for the Cosmoctopus’s head and a starting player. Players 2, 3, and 4 will get the generic cost tokens in ascending order (Player 2 gets the 1 generic cost token, Player 3 gets the 2, Player 4 gets the 3). Then it’s time to play.
The Gaze Of Cosmoctopus Is Upon You
Player turns consist of 4 steps: move Cosmoctopus, play a card (if you can), discard down to 8 of each resource and cards, and finally turn The Great Inky One to gaze upon the next player, indicating the end of your turn.
Moving Cosmoctopus determines which resources and/or cards you receive on that turn. Cosmoctopus can only be moved orthogonally across the tiles and typically just moves one space. If you wish to move the mighty cephalopod more than one space, you will need to pay tribute (aka turn in resources) equal to the number of extra spaces you want to move him.
There are 4 resource types– stars, whispers, ink, and coins– which correspond with the 4 card types– constellations, hallucinations, scriptures, and relics. To play a card, you must discard the resources indicated in the top left of the card. You can discount that cost by discarding cards from your hand that match the color of the required resource (i.e. discard 3 scripture cards to discount the cost of a card by 3 inks). Cards offer different advantages:
Constellations are played in front of the player and will stay there until they are completed. That player must collect the resources indicated in the order indicated to create the constellation. Note: resources cannot come from their current personal supply; they must be acquired in subsequent turns. When the constellation is complete, the card is discarded and the player earns the rewards at the bottom which always includes a tentacle!
Hallucinations offer an immediate one-time boon and then are discarded. Sometimes this allows players to collect cards, earn resources, or even get a tentacle! The card is discarded after use. If there is a lightning bolt under the cost on the card, then the player can play another card (and pay its cost) immediately!
Once played, scriptures stay in play in front of the player for the rest of the game and provide an ongoing resource bonus that can be used to purchase cards and gain Forbidden Knowledge.
Similarly, once played, Relic cards stay in play in front of the player and provide a special ability for the rest of the game. Abilities range from getting extra resources when moving Cosmoctopus, automatically filling certain resources on constellation cards, or even receiving extra boons when you receive a tentacle.
One other thing a player can do on their turn is gain Forbidden Knowledge. To do this they must discard 13 of one type of resource and take the Forbidden Knowledge token for that resource. Because you must discard down to 8 of each type of resource at the end of your turn, getting to 13 is challenging. However, scripture bonuses and discarding relevant cards can be used to get a Forbidden Knowledge token, earning you TWO tentacles along with it!
There are also First Contact cards, which are just a free card players receive when they earn their first tentacle. There are 4 First Contact cards–one of each type–and it’s simply first come, first served.
As soon as one player gains their 8th tentacle the game immediately ends and they are victorious!
Copious Cosmic Variety
One of the highlights of this game is its variability. Because the “board” is made of tile spaces, you can arrange them in different orders and shapes to give different experiences. The rulebook includes punnily-named alternate layouts that are labeled by difficulty. There are also wormhole tokens to make Clue-style trapdoors between two tiles, opening up your play space to the possibility of disconnected realms!
And, of course, there is the Private Investigator mechanic that adds a common foe, which can turn your competitive game into a cooperative one or allow you to play solo. The core of the game remains the same, with the endgame goal switching to all players getting 8 tentacles before the Private Investigator gets 8 tentacles. There are some more cards and adorable little magnifying glass tokens that come into play, but for the most part, play runs as it does in the versus mode.
Mystifying Mythos Makes Many Go Mad
My biggest complaint about the game is its inconsistency with resource application, especially concerning the generic cost icon. Considering 5 of the FAQ questions in the rulebook are centered on this issue as well, I don’t think I am alone in this. For one thing, you can discount the purchase of cards and the acquisition of Forbidden knowledge by discarding cards, but you cannot discard a card to pay tribute (aka move Comoctopus extra spaces). You can use any resource token to cover the generic cost requirement on a card, but you cannot use your scripture resources to cover a generic cost unless you have a scripture card that specifically has the generic cost resource on it. Speaking of that card, you cannot use the generic cost scripture card to apply to non-generic cost costs, nor can you use it toward acquiring a Forbidden Knowledge token unless the card also has the special can-apply-to-Forbidden-Knowledge symbol. Feeling confused? Then you get it.
One other thing, just as a sort of Public Service Announcement, you cannot earn tentacles from the relic cards. You can earn tentacles through Forbidden Knowledge tokens, constellation cards, and hallucination cards. That’s it. Now, several relic cards have the “gain tentacle” symbol, but it is followed by an arrow and a boon of some type. Those cards mean that when you receive a tentacle you get the boon. I have already experienced 2 different players who have thrown down one of those relic cards and started reaching for a tentacle, only to be crushed to learn they misread the symbology. It ultimately soured the experience for those players in both instances.
Overall, I am very happy to add this weird little engine-builder to my collection. From the pulp fiction styled cards to the satisfyingly chunky tentacle pieces, the theming of Cosmoctopus was engaging and entertaining. The technical issues with the symbology were frustrating, but not insurmountable for seasoned gamers. Games do take a solid 60-90 minutes, but even at four players, the pace of the game never dragged. I’m sure The Great Inky One himself would give the game 8 sucker-cupped thumbs up.
That concludes our thoughts on Cosmoctopus. Do you agree? Let us know your thoughts and tag us on social media @zatugames. To buy Cosmoctopus today click here!