Full disclosure: A review copy of Crash Octopus was provided by itten. Also, this review largely just covers the core Crash Octopus game; there are additional game variants / minigames in the box.
I’ve been looking forward to this game basically forever. I’m, in general, a huge fan of itten titles, ranging from Tokyo Highway to Moon Base to the (in my opinion, underrated) Ponkotsu Factory. There aren’t enough games about giant octopodes, so this is really filling a gap in the market, and from a strictly business perspective, that’s good to see. I’m relieved by this. This is part of a larger series on Other itten Titles I Need To Review, along with Kappa Bros., Nessie’s True Identity, and Nice Egg!, so, look forward to those. Ended up just taking a break from this review to do a bunch of stuff for one of those, so, look forward to the eventual delivery on that vague promise. That’s then, but Crash Octopus is now; let’s check it out.
In Crash Octopus, players are braving the high seas in search of treasure and fortune, when suddenly a giant neon pink octopus attacks! Probably another Bikini Atoll thing. Either way, their treasure and their captains are lost at sea, and they need to rescue them! But the octopus isn’t exactly known for its patience, so players will have to dodge its attacks if they want to escape with their treasure, their friends, or their lives. Will you be able to get out of the ocean with your wealth? Or will the octopus take you down?
To set up, start by taking the string and making an “ocean area”, or a big circle completely enclosed by the string.
The Octo-Counter should be set up by setting the crab token before the run of three blue beads; there should be three black beads at the end.
The octopus should be set up next; put the head in the center of the ocean area and add the eight tentacles around it:
Place the Ink Die nearby:
Split up the ship tokens and place them equidistant around the edge of the Ocean Area; place their anchors nearby and give players a flag in that ship’s color:
The other flags should be set in a row to indicate player order.
Once you’ve done that, gather the Treasures:
The rules are a bit imprecise, here, so gather treasures according to your player count:
- 2 players: Use three pieces of each treasure type.
- 3 – 4 players: Use four pieces of each treasure type.
The wine bottles and roses can be substituted in for other treasures, if you prefer. I like them; they’re fun. Either way, gather all the Treasure you’re using in this game and dump it on the octopus head so that it scatters (somewhat) evenly on the ocean area. The rules note that you should let players pick their ships now, in reverse-player order, to make sure the first player doesn’t just dump treasure unevenly near their boat. You can do that, if you want. You should be ready to start!
A game of Crash Octopus is played over a series of turns as players attempt to gain treasure, evade a giant octopus, and put their friends in the line of fire. You know, a casual day on the ocean. Let’s walk through a turn and see how it plays.
To start your turn, you may choose one of two actions: Flick Treasure or Navigate
As an action, you must use your player color flag to flick any treasure that is not the closest treasure to your boat at your boat. You cannot flick a treasure that is already on your boat, either. If you miss your boat with the treasure, your turn ends. If you knock the treasure off the table, the next player drops it on the octopus to re-place it before their turn starts. Note that you must use the flag to flick the treasure; you can’t just hit it with your hand. It’s not that kind of game.
If you hit your boat with the treasure, however, you can load it on to your boat! Place it anywhere that it will fit. Stack it if you want! Note that if you hit another treasure into your boat, you can load that treasure, even if it was the closest to your boat. You can’t load it if you already had it on your boat though.
After loading a treasure, you must move the Octo-Counter forward by one bead. If you cross a black bead, the Octopus Attacks! phase begins!
During this phase, the eponymous octopus can potentially attack. It’s still the player who got the treasure’s turn, so the player to their right starts by dropping the Ink Die onto the octopus’s head. This can cause one of three things to happen. (In a two-player game, players each take turns until they’ve dropped the die twice.)
Attack the Ship!
If you drop the Ink Die such that it hits another ship, you’ve attacked it! Any treasures that fall off stay in the ocean. It’s rude, but effective. Note that you cannot move either the octopus head or a tentacle if you successfully hit a ship.
Note that you can hit your own ship if you’re playing sloppily; this is still considered a successful attack. Just probably not one you want to be associated with.
Move the Octopus!
If you miss any ship and the Ink Die shows a pink circle, you can move the octopus head such that it’s touching the Ink Die. This means all subsequent die drops will be on top of the newly-moved octopus head.
Move the Tentacle!
If you miss any ship and the Ink Die lands on a blank face, you can move any tentacle in the Ocean Area such that it’s now touching the Ink Die.
On your turn, you may choose to flick your boat’s anchor instead of flicking a treasure. This allows you to navigate your boat elsewhere in the ocean. To do so, just hit your anchor somewhere. Wherever it lands, place your boat so that it’s touching your anchor. If your anchor leaves the Ocean Area, place it next to your boat; you do not navigate this turn.
After taking a Navigate Action, you may rearrange the treasures on your boat, if you have any.
Note that if you knock any treasures off of anyone’s boat, they get put back on; only the Octopus Attacks! phase can knock things down.
End of Game
The game ends when the Octo-Counter hits the end of the track or when one player collects every type of treasure! In either case, if the Octo-Counter has moved past a black bead, there’s a final Octopus Attacks! phase (just like a normal turn), and after that, the player with the most types of treasure wins!
If there’s a tie, break it by checking who has Treasures of the following types (start at Captain and work your way down):
- Wine Bottle
Since you can’t get a Treasure when it’s not your turn, this only applies to circumstances in which players are tied and the Octo-Counter runs out.
Player Count Differences
Alright, let’s start by clearing this up. The box says 1 – 5 players, but at 1, you’re playing different minigames included with the game and at 5, the fifth player is playing a variant where they play as a pirate who is aggravating the octopus so that they can sic it on other players. Neither is fully Crash Octopus; they’re adjacent variants. As a result, if you’re bringing more than four players or playing alone, you’re going to have a very different time. The core difference being that with five, the fifth player gets a much better ship (a giant pink pirate ship), but they cannot collect treasure normally. This means that they can only participate by hitting the octopus with their Octo-Cannon, which then allows them to do a free Octopus Attacks! action on their turn if they’re successful. If they knock your treasure off, they take it. If they can do that enough so that they get a complete set of everything, they win. It’s a much more aggressive game variant, but it will work well if you’re a fan of really messing with your friends or you just want to pick one person to hate while you’re trying to win a game.
Beyond that, the game doesn’t change a ton with various player counts. You use one fewer set of Treasure at two players than at three / four players, but I assume that’s to keep the game moving. If you used all the sets, you could imagine the game stalemating because players only have the other player to attack with the octopus. I’ve quite enjoyed Crash Octopus at every player count save five; I didn’t like being the super-mean pirate. It’s not how I like to play. I can imagine the pirate appealing to players who want to play a more negatively interactive game, and that’s their business. I would just have liked a fifth player option that wasn’t as aggressive.
- Unless you get lucky at the start, you’re going to have to move your boat eventually. That closest treasure may not move much or you might be in a pretty not-dense part of the ocean. Either way, taking a Navigate action is very much a part of the game. Plus, if you’re playing with the Nameless Island mini-expansion, you can use a Navigate action to potentially get additional treasures, if you flick the anchor correctly. Also, as you get more treasure, you become a target for other players; moving away from the octopus may be a good way to protect what you’ve already got locked down.
- It’s possibly a bit better to hit the treasure harder than you think you need to, rather than more gently. As long as the treasure hits your ship, it counts, even if it knocks your ship over, falls off the table after, or knocks treasures off of your ship (you can put them back). As a result, it’s better to overshoot than undershoot, because an undershot treasure just ends up potentially becoming your new closest treasure.
- Hitting a treasure into another treasure and that treasure hitting your boat totally counts. You can use this to get the treasure closest to your boat, if you’re crafty. Can’t get the treasure you want? It’s too close? Smack something else into it and hope that it hits your boat. You can use that to load adjacent treasures while still obeying the rules of the game. This is a great way to get a treasure that your opponents have overlooked, since they would normally assume you can’t pick it up. You can pick it up; you just can’t flick it.
- Try to go after Treasures that are near an opponent, so you can make them do extra work. If you clear all the treasures that are close to an opponent, you gently force them to go after treasures that are farther and farther away. As you might guess, accuracy tends to drop off with distance (probably as a square of distance, but I’m not a physics guy), so this becomes more challenging. Just don’t piss off your opponents too much or they’ll sic the octopus on you, I’d imagine.
- When the octopus attacks, you may need to set up an opponent to alley-oop the player in the lead. If you can’t get your opponent, either set up tentacles to guide the die towards their boat or place the octopus head even closer so that the next person to go can really mess them up. It has the benefit of accomplishing the goal you want (knocking your opponent’s treasures off) while making you slightly less immediately guilty for doing so (since you weren’t the person who explicitly did it; you merely precipitated the interaction).
- You can also place octopus tentacles around their boat to make it more difficult for them to get treasure. Octopus tentacles are multifaceted. They’re also very solid. Placing them around a boat makes it very challenging for the boat to get around the Ocean Area and for treasure to get to the boat. I’ve never completely surrounded a boat before, but it does seem like a fun thing to try and do.
- Try to stack things stably on your boat when you take treasure. This is a big ask (bigger than probably the Strategy section can support), but yeah. Stacking things on your boat such that an Ink Die collision won’t immediately wreck it is ideal, but very challenging to do well. Solid base helps, but there’s only so much you can do in a dexterity game.
- Keep an eye on the Octo-Counter. It may be worth not taking the last treasure before the game ends, so that players aren’t necessarily all gunning for you, for instance, or you might want to wait a turn and see if the Octo-Counter is more favorably-placed before you try and win. Either way, knowing where the Octo-Counter is before you go for a treasure is never a bad idea.
- If the game is approaching its end, you may want to just move the octopus as far away from your ship as possible, or use the tentacles to wall yourself up. Just get that guy away from you; you don’t want to even give your opponents the opportunity.
Pros, Mehs, and Cons
- Crash Octopus is just a great name for a game. It’s so evocative! Also, I mean, it’s exactly what kind of octopus you have. This octopus just crashes into things. Explosions, wreckage, dice; it’s kinda got everything. What’s in a name, after all.
- You’re going to get my attention with a game with a bright pink octopus. It’s a powerful aesthetic, and it works.
- In general, I love the color scheme for this game; it looks great on the table, as well. Yeah as I implied above, the octopus sticks out super well. I suppose it might be a bit less good on a bright pink table, but, not much you can do about it. I really like the box art, though; it shows the pieces, shows the octopus, and has a great color contrast. The box just makes the game look fun. Though, itten typically does well on that front (barring Yeti in the House, which is too small of a box to really make it pop).
- I think we’ve found a dexterity game that I am truly bad at! I like to think I’m pretty good at dexterity games. Or at least passable. That is not the case, here; I’m usually pretty routinely bad at this one. Just all over the place. That’s exciting for me, though! I kind of like that this isn’t a dexterity game that leverages the things I usually do in dexterity games.
- I do like using the flags to flick as a mitigating technique; it’s different than what most players are used to, so it somewhat levels the playing field. I think it also likely prevents pieces going everywhere, all the time. My one complaint about them is that it’s often hard to get the flag exactly where you want it to be, so you can’t always get the control over the flick that you want. While I whine about this, I do chalk it up to part of the game’s core ethos, so, it’s still mostly fine.
- As with most itten games, I think this game’s theme is incredible, as well as the pieces. itten is consistently just churning out wild, inventive themes that I haven’t seen many games cover, and I really like it. They’re also pretty committed to making great components and fun pieces, and Crash Octopus has some pretty amazing entries in both. I really like how much Crash Octopus is committed to just being fun, and I think that a large part of that is that itten is publishing it.
- I like the catch-up mechanic of having to try to bend the octopus to your will. It’s a useful mechanic, given that you can really just mess up your opponent with a well-shot Ink Die, but it’s also just kind of funny in its conceit. The best part, in my opinion, is that you can go after anyone, not just the person that scored that turn. A great way to settle petty grudges, even if I do hate losing all my treasure to the ocean.
- Having to stack the treasures on your ship gives players the freedom to do silly stuff that isn’t entirely game relevant; odds are, if a piece is knocked off your ship, it likely would have fallen no matter what. I always like having my captain, his arms to the sky, hold one of my other treasures. It’s just poetic to me. Will he drop it? Almost every time. Would it have otherwise fallen? I’m going to say probably. These boats aren’t exactly the most stable, even with the extra texture strips.
- The rulebook referring to “sets” of treasure when it means “pieces” of treasure threw us off. Whoops. It just means use three or four pieces of each type of treasure, depending on your player count.
- The rulebook opening vertically rather than horizontally is … interesting. I don’t hate it, but it’s definitely weird. I even find it helpful, sometimes? It’s just odd.
- This is another one of those games where your table texture can affect your gameplay. This isn’t a bad thing; just keep in mind that having a tablecloth or a wooden / plastic table can really change up how pieces move and how quickly they stop. This may affect how you play, so it can be pretty important to keep in mind! I usually just try to note this for flicking games that don’t have their own provided standardized play surface.
- The problem with a game with a lot of potential in-box variants is that it can occasionally overwhelm new players. There’s a lot here. It’s not bad; there are just a lot of minigames that aren’t making it into my review and some variants I’m not really speaking to, here. It could make the game harder to review if I ended up going after all of those (in my traditional format), but I’m choosing not to, so that’s also fine. This is a common problem with Kickstarter board games, though; they tend to include a bunch of extra modes and variants and such because of completed stretch goals, which add a fair bit of bloat to the core game. I don’t think the bloat is particularly bad, here, but it’s still present, to some degree.
- The game’s not really a five-player game, at its core; it’s a four-player game with a variant fifth-player who’s playing a very different game. I’m a bit more frustrated about this one, because I brought this to a meetup specifically because it said 1 – 5 players on the box. It’s not for that; there are some variants that support five players, though. The five-player classic Crash Octopus game casts one player as a pirate who can potentially activate the octopus on their turn to steal treasure from other players. It’s still cute, but it’s a rough thing to have when folks are still learning the game. Problem is, the Pink Pirate gets an incredible-looking boat, and I love that for them, so I’m conflicted. This goes back to my more common gripe, which is that I wish games would put their core player count on the box and mention elsewhere that there are variants that support additional players. It would solve some problems like this and I wouldn’t be as frustrated.,
Overall: 9 / 10
Overall, I do love Crash Octopus, though. I was a bit frustrated when I first played it because the Pink Pirate variant is very different for that player than core gameplay, but I could see how much fun everyone else was having while we played. When I finally got to play it myself, I had a blast. I love the way that they’ve changed the flicking dynamic so that players have to use flags to do it. It adds a nice bit of theme to the game and it’s difficult and different enough that players are kind of equalized (at least, early on; that definitely isn’t the case after a few games). Fundamentally, though, it’s just goofy, and I need more goofy dexterity games. It’s a bright pink octopus just writhing through the ocean and you’re trying to dodge around its wrath to the best of your ability, but you also need to use a flag to flick your captain back on board your ship. That’s goofy. Plain and simple. And I appreciate how Crash Octopus makes an incredibly silly gameplay experience so accessible. It demonstrates a common quality of itten titles: they’re just trying to have a good time, and I appreciate that. This is definitely one of their highest-production games (since they’ve been shifting more towards a Kickstarter model after Stonehenge and the Sun), and the component quality shows. Crash Octopus isn’t as weird as Stonehenge and the Sun, and frankly, while I love Stonehenge and the Sun, I think that this is definitely a more mainstream-friendly game as a result. There’s both an ease of play to this one and I don’t have to drill anything into my ceiling, which, while entertaining, is a plus. I’m hoping to see more of Crash Octopus, but in the meantime, I’d definitely recommend it. If you’re looking for a fun dexterity game that’s definitely just silly and goofy, I’d suggest trying it out!
If you enjoyed this review and would like to support What’s Eric Playing? in the future, please check out my Patreon. Thanks for reading!