Tabletop Review: ‘COGZ’

COGS Title picture
Do not let my pathetic photography skills deter you from this game. It is awesome. Photo by Evil Genius Mum

Well, this is a little embarrassing. I have an awesome game to review, and I have been wanting to review it for a few months now because it is seriously an awesome game. It is one of the top three games in our house. But every time I pull the game out to review, my spawnlings see it and go “YES!! Can we play COGZ too?” And I am subsequently distracted by yet another brilliant game of COGZ.

But as the months have passed on the calendar, and the distractions have come and gone, I am making the time to do the review this game deserves. Because it IS brilliant, and it IS worthy, and it SHALL NOT BE WEIGHED DOWN by my horrible attention span and inability to resist a game of COGZ with my spawnlings.

** Two hours later **

So, I’ve just finished playing another game of COGZ with my spawnlings, and I still love it. Let me show you what I’m talking about:

At a Glance

COGZ is the ultimate pattern/strategy game. It is a two to six-player tile placement game, with limited rounds and a well-balanced scoring mechanism. Created by Wesley Lamont, the game is aimed at players over 8 years and takes roughly 30 minutes to play. However, in saying that, 7-year-old Nefarious completely owns me in this game and 3-year-old Zaltu is already picking up the patterns in the placement (but the scoring mechanism is still beyond her). It retails directly from the Raez website for $42 US (with free shipping).

Alternatively, you can ask at your local tabletop enabler, or “print and play” directly from their website. It is both Mensa endorsed and Color Blind Tested. COGZ had a very successful run on Kickstarter back in 2014 and is still one of the favorites at PAX Aust since then.

Components

Everything you receive in the box
  • 1 Rule Book
  • 1 Variant Book (with suggestions for variations to the original game format)
  • 70 cog tiles
  • 1 drawstring bag
  • 6 score cards
  • 12 cognition nuts
  • 24 scoring tokens
  • 1 game gadget (assembly required)
    • 4 gadget boards
    • 4 brass interscrews
    • 1 assembly blueprint

I just want to say, the game gadget is awesome. It has all the details you need, right there on the gadget. Select the number of players, and it instantly shows you how many rounds to start with. On the back, it shows you how to layout for your particular game. It is very easy to manage the game gadget and perfect for kids starting to take leadership in game-master roles.

The Game Gadget, photo by Evil Genius Mum

The artwork in this game is steampunk inspired, using both color and pattern in strategy. Initially, players are asked to swap tiles to create long links in colors, however, each color has its own internal pattern to allow those with color-blind issues to play as well.

The quality of the components is top notch. Sturdy, heavy-duty cardboard with solid printing. This game has undertaken some very serious review conditions with the spawnlings, and there is no fading and no wear-and-tear on any components.

The designer, Byron Lamont, is a teacher and takes his science and maths very seriously. I love the extra detail on the player’s scorecards with the mathematical equation on the centre. I also love the ease with packing the game away. The box is solid and spacious for all the parts. The only extra we added was the zip-lock sandwich bag for the smaller counter tokens.

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Keeping score in style. Photo by Evil Genius Mum

How to Play

“Oops! Someone accidently broke the mad professor’s chromatic cogtraption!”

Each player is called a cogineer, tasked with repairing the broken cogtraption before the mad professor returns. The number of cogineers determines how many rounds you will have within the game; fewer players means more rounds and a smaller layout. For example, a three-player game starts with a 5×5 tile layout and seven rounds of play.

Each player is randomly given a scorecard and a starting hand of three tiles. In the centre of the scorecard is a number; the player with the highest number starts the game. Players are also given one score token of each color (blue, red, yellow, green) to start on zero.

On their turn, each player swaps a tile from their hand for a tile within the layout. Each tile consists of two cog segments of varying colors to be used in a variety of combinations. The aim is to create long links of the same color within the layout, for which you score points.

Now here is where the rules and strategy kick in:

  1. You will score points when your replaced tile creates a longer link of colors. You score points for that color, You do not score points if you replace any link with an identical color and position.
  2. If the connected color line forms a solid loop or a connection that is off the edge of the layout, it forms a ‘machine’, and you score extra points at the end of the game.
  3. When placing a tile you cannot break up a constructed machine—it is locked.
  4. You have to balance your repairs between all four colors. Your final score is equal to your lowest score of the four colors.
  5. Extra turns are available when you score milestones for each color. Use these extra turns wisely.

Each game has a set number of rounds, so there is a limited time period to your strategy. A good cogineer will be fully aware of their tiles and any color dominance in their selections. Don’t think that makes for an easy game, as we have seen many fall for the distractions of point-scoring only to realise they are yet to fix a single blue link.

To be completely honest, the game is fairly straightforward and easy to pick-up after a round or two. This isn’t to say the game is simple! There is a lot of strategy, in ways that remind me of Qwirkle. You just know the tile you swapped in is going to help the next player more than it helped you.

In saying that, the layouts and nature of the game make it very appealing to kids. And if you are looking to take it up a level with a challenge, the developer has included an additional book with variations to the rules and layouts. We’re talking team variants; tournament play; 7-12 players; 3D layouts; and co-operative play.

You can also join up with the COGZ community in social media, to exchange ideas in further development. Or, if you’re really crazy for the game, you can play Ludicrous COGZ in the jumbo size, perfect for conventions, clubs, school rooms. This larger-than-life version was a huge hit at PAX Aust!

Ludicrous COGZ
Photo by RAEZ

Why You Should Buy It Now

Strategy family games are always a hit, but the real sweetener for COGZ comes in the scoring mechanism. By forcing you to consider all four colors in your tiles, it prevents the over-zealous cogineers from racing ahead with their links and sucking the fun out of the game. We all know that person who sees the game as merely The Highest Score Ever. That’s too easy, too straightforward. If you want that game, I recommend Snakes and Ladders.

But if you like to think, and if you maybe… perhaps… like to show-off how you think… COGZ is the game for you. So many levels of strategy in one game! While you’re thinking about the tile you want to swap in, you are thinking about the tile you are swapping out. You think about the points you want to score now AND the colors you are left with for your next turn. You have to think about what the other players are doing, if you have enough turns left for your master plan, should you lock off this color now and prevent future points (for yourself and others)… And then it’s your last round when you realise you have completely forgotten to score any red points, and all you have are blue and green links in your hand. Son of a cogz!

The game itself is relatively short and sweet. Half an hour is just the right amount for a quick game with the kids; it’s also short enough to play ‘one more game’ if you’re so inclined. The set-up is also very smooth, removing any hurdles you may have for game-play. It’s the kind of game where the kids ask if they can play COGZ, and you have no reasons to say no and every happy thought to say sure, why not?

Now excuse me while I set-up for another game with the spawnlings. And this time, I will remember to pick-up some red links in my tiles.

Evil Genius Mum is taking over the world from the comfort of her EG Lair Down Under (Australia). She plans to reset the world in her own geeky image - because geeks do it better. From old school superheroes to technological gadgets, EG Mum is all about sharing the geeky world with her spawnlings - Sinister, Nefarious, and Zaltu. If they don't overthrow her first.