Night of the Grand Octopus offers light and quick gameplay that adults can enjoy with children as young as 7.
Vitals: 3-5 players, 20 minutes, ages 7+
Summary: In Night of the Grand Octopus, players compete to be the first cultist to collect four goods and summon The Grand Octopus. Each turn, players use their dial to secretly choose where to move their cultist and where to move their offspring. After all players have chosen, they move their pieces simultaneously. If a cultist ends the turn in a room alone, the player collects a good. If the cultist ends the turn in a room with an offspring, the cultist’s player suffers a point of damage. If two or more cultists are together in a room without an offspring, all players have to come to an agreement: either nobody gets anything, everyone takes one point of damage or one player takes the good.
Ups: The rules for Night of the Grand Octopus are both easy to understand and easy to explain. The pieces are well-illustrated and the game adds replay by including four different remote locations. It also strikes a nice balance between ease of understanding for children and strategic depth for adults.
Cleverness: The remote seventh location adds breathing room to what otherwise might be a claustrophobic game. Players access the seventh location by pointing their cultist and offspring dials at the same room. This means that the cultist moves off the game board and his offspring doesn’t appear — creating a strategic window for other players. In addition, any player who dominates the seventh room gains its special advantage.
Downs: While Night of the Grand Octopus demands some level of strategy by all players, that strategy is light. Theoretically, players can plan together for mutual benefit, but table talk in this game tends to be non-productive. Striking an agreement with one player doesn’t stop another player from ruining it. Also, while this game doesn’t encourage players to eliminate each other, player elimination is allowed — and can happen entirely by accident. Or one player may just get stabby.
Verdict: Night of the Grand Octopus works best as a game for adults to play with children. Kids can grasp its simple rules, but it still offers enough strategy for adults to stay actively engaged. This game also works well as a filler or starter for more sophisticated groups, though it may bore some more seasoned gamers.