Project L Is Tetris For Your Table
In my twenty-five plus years of gaming, I’ve yet to hear anyone say they dislike Tetris. The classic arcade game from 1984 had a massive influence on gaming and still continues to inspire new adaptations. The most recent of which is a tile placement game from Boardcubator titled Project L that turns familiar Tetris pieces into a light engine building puzzle.
Project L comes in a package that’s as minimal and sleek as it can be. The cover art is little more than a bold blue “L” that makes it easy to spot even on shelves filled with busy artwork. I’d seen the cover art more than enough between the start of the Kickstarter campaign to when it arrived on my doorstep. What caught me off guard was seeing that the components inside the box were just as bold and effective.
Project L impresses right out of the box. As soon as players open the box they’re greeted by a thick rule book, a cloth bag, four player aid cards, and a mound of vibrantly colored plastic Tetris style pieces. The box insert is sturdy, well-organized, and makes setup an absolute breeze.
This is the part in the review where I would typically provide an overview of the rules, but I want to stop for a moment to rave about how accessible this game is. The rules are incredibly simple to learn and can be taught to new players in a matter of mere minutes. The rules themselves (including a solo gameplay variant) are only five pages long. The rulebook is only as thick as it is because it’s printed on sturdy paper and contains the rules for six different languages.
Outside of the rulebook and player reference that repeats all of the rules, there’s absolutely no text involved in playing Project L, making it an incredibly easy game for kids to learn and play regardless of their age or level of reading comprehension. While the tiles are color coded based on their shape, the colors have absolutely no impact on gameplay, which makes it entirely accessible to any variation of color blindness. In a time where the gaming community has become increasingly vocal in their ask of creators to make games that are more accessible and inclusive, the team at Boardcubator has taken all the right (very small) steps with Project L to ensure anyone can enjoy it.
The rules of Project L are quite simple. Beginning with the first player and proceeding in clockwise order, each player takes three of the actions below in any order they may choose:
- Take a new piece – Players can spend an action to take a Level 1 piece from the supply.
- Upgrade a piece – Players may upgrade a piece in their possession and take one from the next Level. Using this action, players may also choose to downgrade a piece from their hand one Level down or exchange for a different piece within the same Level.
- Take a puzzle – Take one puzzle from either of the face-up rows of puzzles and place it directly in front of their player aid. Immediately after taking a puzzle, the active player draws a new puzzle from the top of the deck and places it in the empty space. Players may never have more than four puzzles in their possession at a time.
- Place a piece – As an action, players may place one piece in their hand into one of the puzzles within their possession. Only one piece may be placed per action.
All of the above can be repeated as many times as the player wants, counting each repetition as a different action. The one exception to this is the Master Action. Once per turn, the active player may place one of their pieces into each of the puzzles they’ve claimed for themselves. However players if a player has a piece in their possession that fits in one of their puzzles, they must place it. Effective use of the Master Action will be definitive of a player’s ability to creep ahead of their competition.
Honestly, I’ve really loved my time with Project L and while it is absolutely staying in my collection, it’s unlikely that it will get played very often. It’s a very fun, but very light game. It’s plenty enjoyable, but it won’t satisfy anyone who is looking for a challenge. The most challenging part of Project L is deciding whether it’s more beneficial to use your actions to finish a puzzle in your possession, or take a new one before your opponents do. The deepest puzzles Project L has to offer are filling in familiar Tetris patterns.
That said, it’s a good game to use as a warm-up to something to your game night’s main course. It’s light, fast, and easy to teach. Just this passed weekend I got together with some folks to play Nemesis and broke out Project L to play while we waited for the last person to arrive. It was a nice little appetizer game that got everyone into the competitive spirit for some light fun before we conspired to murder one another.
1 – 4 players
20 – 40 minutes
This may be the easiest game I’ve ever taught.
The tactile nature of Project L is one of the reasons it works so well. Puzzle cards are thick, dual layered, and durable where the tiles’ noisy clacking reminds me of tentagram puzzles.
As far as “filler games” go, I think it will be a relatively long while before Project L wears out its welcome. That said, it’s too light for me to suggest playing in situations other than over coffee or entertaining guests.