Project L & Expansions

review by Brendan

Hello! Do you like puzzle games that require you to think on your feet and adapt on the fly? Take Tetris, turn it into a competitive board game, and BAM! You have Project L! Project L fits a very unique shape-placing niche where you're doing your best to amass a stash of little pieces that you use to complete complex shapes for points and more pieces! It handles 1-4 players, with the solo mode being a battle against a simulated opponent!

First off, everyone starts with two pieces! A level 1 little dot (consisting of one square), and a level 2 little line (two squares-worth of mass on a grid). The pieces in this game are based on a level system, where the lower the level, the smaller the piece, and vice versa. Then two decks are shuffled up, a black deck and a white deck. These cardboard cards have gaps with spots for the pieces to be placed in, with white cards being more simple puzzles with meager rewards, and black puzzles being far more elaborate and offering far more in return. The game will end when the black puzzle deck is exhausted, meaning that white puzzles exist just to give everyone an early way to catch up and expand their stash of pieces. After the black deck is exhausted, the person with the most points wins! Pretty simple stuff, that's the gameplay loop in a nutshell.

How do turns work? Each turn you have three actions you can spend, all from a wide selection of options. One, you can take a puzzle card! You can't work on a card unless you own it, so make sure to grab ones with shapes you're confident in completing or that offer rewards you're interested in! Each player can only have a total of four active puzzles at a time, so anything until then is fair game. Two, you can take a level 1 piece (the dot) from the reserve! This is pretty low-impact, but it's there in case you're just a little bit off of completing a puzzle or need a way to expand your stash early on. Three, you can upgrade a piece! This means returning a piece that isn't currently embedded on a puzzle card to the reserve and getting a piece of a level higher! For example, trading a dot in for a two piece line, or trading in a two piece line for any level three piece (like a hinge or a three piece line!), or a level three for a level four (such as a 2x2 box, an L shaped piece, a T piece, etc). As your stash grows and you start tackling more complex puzzles, this is a good way of beefing your pieces up so you're getting more mileage for each piece you place! Four, you can place a piece on a puzzle you own. This means taking any of your unused pieces and placing them anywhere within the puzzle outline on a card of yours. It will remain there until the puzzle is fully completed, after which you cash it in for the rewards and get your pieces back.

You only have three actions per turn, but you can spend them on any of these actions as many times as you want! If you want to spend all three actions upgrading a dot into a level four L-shaped piece, have at it! However, there is a fifth possible move you can make. Once per turn, you can spend an action on a Master Action! This allows you to place up to one piece on each puzzle you have! If you have four puzzle cards, you could place a piece on each one, meaning you got to place four pieces with only one action! With enough planning ahead and a big enough stash to handle it, you can steadily chip away at multiple puzzles per turn and reap the rewards at a much faster pace!

Altogether, this leads to a lot of fun strategizing, as you'll do your best to manage your actions and plan ahead. Completing puzzles feels nice, and getting more pieces so you can tackle bigger and better puzzles with even bigger rewards is a fun ramp. The deck of puzzles scales based on how many players there are, so games never feel like they're taking two long unless everyone decides to focus super heavy on white puzzles and ignore the black puzzles until the end, and even then it becomes a fun arms race against everyone else. While the active player is taking their turn, it's nice to take the time to set up your pieces and plan ahead. Personally, this game scratches a nice puzzle itch for me, so if you've got a similar puzzle-fixation, I highly recommend Project L!

But what if you want MORE? Project L offers a few expansions that build on the formula! First off, the Ghost Piece expansion! The Ghost Piece expansion offers a fifth level of pieces and a new action involving them! It also adds new puzzle cards with a new reward type, upgrades! Completing these puzzles will let you upgrade a piece you own to a higher tier. This is the ONLY way to reach the fifth level of pieces, as the standard upgrade move only allows you to trade your pieces up to level four. The level five pieces, or Ghost pieces as they are officially referred to, are increasingly elaborate in shape and can cover greater space. What if they're too big for you though? No worry, as you can spend an action to self-destruct a ghost piece! Doing so lets you blow up a ghost piece into any amount of smaller pieces that would comprise it! You could turn a ghost piece into five dots, or into a level four and a dot, or a level two and a level three, etc! If you could rearrange those smaller pieces into the same shape as the ghost piece, it's legal. Overall I really liked this expansion. Ghost pieces can sometimes be a little TOO big to use all the time, so the option to break them apart is useful and lets you adapt later on. The new puzzle cards with upgrade rewards are awesome though, smoothly integrating into the base-game and giving everyone some more flexibility with their smaller pieces as the game advances. Altogether, this expansion does a good job of offering some more meaningful decisions to make regarding which puzzles you take and enhances the base experience in my opinion.

Lastly, the Finesse expansion! This expansion shakes up the game a lot more, adding a new way to end the game and a resource that lets you make additional actions. The Finesse expansion adds Finesse cards to the game, which are little objectives that get shuffled up at the start and comprise a deadline for the game. Each turn, you advance to the next Finesse card, and when all 10 Finesse cards have been used up, the game ends! What's the point of these, you may ask? Each Finesse card will offer an objective for the round. Completing said objective rewards you with a coin at the end of your turn, and two coins can be spent for an extra action on a turn (not including Master Actions, that's still a hard limit of once per turn!). Sound weird? Well, here's an example! A Finesse card might ask for upgrades. For every piece you upgrade that turn, you earn a coin. Another might ask for completing puzzles, offering a coin for each puzzle you finish that turn. This shakes things up a lot by changing how you approach your turns, as long term plans may conflict with the new active Finesse card for that turn. The Finesse card is optional, so you can ignore it, but if your opponents make better use of them, you may find yourself outpaced as they take a fourth or fifth action on their next turn! I think this expansion is the biggest departure from the original game, but it does change up the formula and allows for some big catch ups, letting a straggler spend a turn upgrading their weaker pieces and earning some extra actions for their next turn. The extra deadline also prevents feature creep from bloating the game beyond its normal playtime despite the extra turns. Since the cards are shuffled up each game, it keeps things fresh by always pulling people in different directions each time when Finesse cards are either omitted or drawn in a different order.

Altogether, Project L is a very fun puzzle game! The base copy alone has a very fun gameplay formula that scratches a nice itch for any puzzle lovers. As for the expansions, I'd recommend Ghost Piece first, as I believe it blends into the normal gameplay the easiest and offers fun interactions with the new Upgrade rewards. Finesse is more complicated, and I'd recommend it more for established players that are looking to freshen the experience up and offer more difficult decisions and planning to the gameplay loop. Puzzle lovers, give Project L a shot!

Project L, Ghost Piece and Finesse are available now from our webstore.

Project L & Expansions