Game: Project L

Release Year: 2020

Publisher: Boardcubator

Designers: Michal Mikeš, Jan Soukal, and Adam Španěl

Player Count: 1 to 4 players

Play Time: About 10 to 15 minutes per player

Rules Complexity: Very simple

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As a fan of polyomino board games, I knew I had to get Project L at some point. So, when I spotted it on sale last year, I took the plunge and grabbed a copy—with high expectations, given all the praise it gets.

Maybe it's my fault for going into this one with high expectations.

Or maybe not?

When I look at Project L, it makes me think it's a certain kind of game. You know, one where your main priority is to solve polyomino puzzles. But the more I play it, the more I realize my preconceptions were wrong.

Thinking about buying Project L? Here's my in-depth review after several plays and what you need to know about it, including how well it plays, what it feels like to play, and whether you might like it.

This review is based on my own personal copy of Project L, which I bought brand new from Amazon. (Not a free review copy.) This review is for the retail edition without any expansions.


The gist of Project L involves solving puzzle tiles with polyomino pieces.
An in-progress puzzle tile that's partially filled with different puzzle pieces.

Project L is a themeless engine-building game that's masquerading as a polyomino puzzle game. The idea is that you start with two polyomino pieces and use them to solve puzzle tiles (worth points) that reward you with bigger polyomino pieces that let you solve even bigger puzzle tiles (worth even more points).

There's a little more to it than that, of course.

Puzzle tiles come in two types: white puzzles, which are small and easy to solve but don't score many points (if at all), and black puzzles, which are bigger and tougher to solve but provide the most points.

You'll be drafting these from the central market of puzzle tiles, which consists of one row of white puzzles and one row of black puzzles. Once drafted, a puzzle is yours and yours alone to solve. (You can have up to four puzzles at a time.)

An example of what your personal player area looks like in Project L. This player has drafted three puzzle tiles to work on, and they've already solved a few other puzzles that have granted extra pieces to work with.

On your turn, you'll take three actions from five possible actions, and all but one of the actions are repeatable:

  • Draft a puzzle tile from the market.
  • Add one of your pieces to one of your active puzzles.
  • Conduct a Master Action, which lets you add up to one piece to each of your active puzzles. (This can only be done once per turn.)
  • Swap out one of your pieces for another piece that's one level higher, the same level, or any lower level.
  • Take a Level 1 piece from the supply.

Rounds continue until the deck of black puzzles runs out, at which point players finish the current round and then take one more final round. At the end, whoever scored the most with their finished puzzles wins.

Setup and Table Footprint

One of my gripes with Project L is that setup takes longer than you'd expect for a box of its size. About 5 minutes or so.

An overview of Project L's box insert and contents.

Some of that is due to the substandard box insert. It's made of thin cardboard and has two cubbies that are meant to keep stacks of puzzle tiles snugly in place, but they're so tight that getting the tiles out of the box is a struggle.

As for the puzzle pieces, they come in individual baggies per piece type. Opening and emptying all those baggies takes a good minute, as you'll want to create separate piles per piece type. (Packing them away at the end is more time-consuming.)

Once everything is out of the box, you have to separate and shuffle up the puzzle tiles before setting up the central market. Maybe it's just me, but these tiles are a chore to shuffle and they make me dislike the setup process.

An in-progress game example of Project L with four players.

Fortunately, Project L's table footprint is reasonable.

Everyone just needs a bit of their own space to deal with their personal puzzle tiles and their pile of scored puzzles. Puzzle pieces can be stored on the player mats (which help to keep every player's area organized).

As for the central market of puzzle tiles, it doesn't require much room. The two rows of puzzle tiles can be compacted pretty well if you're tight on space.

Overall, you should be able to comfortably play Project L on a square card table that's 3 feet by 3 feet. You could go smaller, but it might get cramped.

Learning Curve

Project L is really simple to learn. Even a non-gamer who has no experience with Tetris will be able to pick it up. One look at the pieces and the puzzle tiles will make it clear that "these pieces" are used to solve "those puzzle tiles" and that "solving the puzzle tiles" is the primary goal of the game.

Apart from that, the actual actions taken during one's turn are all straightforward and easy to learn—except for one: the Master Action. But even the Master Action is quick to grasp after doing it once or twice.

For everything else, the player mats have everything laid out on them, which is a huge boon for non-gamers.

All in all, Project L is extremely newbie-friendly.

Game Experience

Decision Space

At first glance, Project L appears to be a game about spatial puzzles. But the more you play, the more you realize it's an action efficiency puzzle that just happens to use spatial puzzles as its measure of how efficient you are.

The main challenge here is NOT how to solve the puzzles—even the largest puzzles in Project L are trivial to complete. If you're looking for a spatial puzzle along the lines of Bärenpark, The Isle of Cats, or Planet Unknown where the focus is on efficient placement of polyomino pieces, this is not the game for you.

Instead, the challenge of Project L is figuring out which three actions will net you the most points per turn. In other words, efficient action selection.

What does that entail? Well...

The top row of white puzzles are easier to solve and help you acquire bigger pieces to work with. The bottom row of black puzzles are harder to solve but earn more points.

The best way to earn points is to complete the big 5-point puzzles. But to do that, you need enough puzzle pieces of large enough size to actually fill out those big-point puzzles. You only start with two tiny pieces, so before you decide to draft and work on bigger puzzles, you need to build up your pool of puzzle pieces first.

How do you do that?

  • By drafting the 0-point and 1-point puzzles, which can be solved with just one or two pieces and reward you with more pieces to work with.
  • By upgrading the pieces you have, making them bigger.

Yet, you also have to remember that you have room for four puzzles at a time. Efficiency in Project L means working on as many puzzles simultaneously as you can using the Master Action. Being able to place pieces on four puzzles with one action is way more effective than only placing one piece on one puzzle at a time.

Here I've used the Master Action to add the blue piece to the left puzzle, the green piece to the middle puzzle, and the red piece to the right puzzle—three placements with a single action!

But again, you can't make full use of the Master Action unless you already have a lot of pieces to work with, so you're right back to building up your pool of pieces.

That's why Project L is more of a pure engine-building game than a spatial puzzle game. It's all about amassing as many pieces as quickly as you can, then shifting gears to use those pieces as efficiently as you can to complete high-point puzzles. Knowing how to amass pieces and when to shift gears is crucial to victory.

And since the Master Action is clearly the most efficient way to place pieces, Project L boils down to whoever is most clever with their Master Actions.

But if you ask me, the decisions in Project L aren't very interesting.

I rarely find myself gunning for a particular puzzle tile. They're all relatively well-balanced, so you're mainly analyzing them to see which ones you can fill out in the fewest moves given your current pool of pieces. Apart from that, there's little reason to choose one puzzle over another.

Which feels weird for an engine-building game.

In most engine-building games, you're building your engine towards something. In Wingspan, you might be working on a tucking engine. In Fantastic Factories, you might be focusing on a dice manipulation engine. But in Project L, your engine doesn't go deeper than "collect as many pieces as you can."

One of each puzzle piece type and some puzzle tile examples. A single Level 4 piece covers the same amount of space in a single action as four Level 1 pieces.

Bigger pieces are always better for efficiency. (Placing a Level 4 piece covers twice as much space with a single action than placing a Level 2 piece.) And among the biggest pieces, having a variety of shapes is always better for flexibility. If you can build up your pool faster than everyone else, you'll come out ahead.

So, sure, there's skill involved. The better player will usually win in Project L. But what I don't like is that playing Project L feels like following a flowchart, and whoever has the better flowchart wins. It's often clear which puzzle(s) I should draft and which actions I should take, so my decisions don't feel very meaningful.

If there's a silver lining to that, it's that Project L isn't prone to analysis paralysis. You won't agonize over your choices and you won't feel your brain burning, which can be appealing if you're looking for a gentle experience.

I do want to mention one little twist in Project L that I really like: Finishing Touches.

At the end of the game, any unfinished puzzles you have count as negative points. However, you can perform so-called Finishing Touches where you place additional pieces into your unfinished puzzles at a cost of 1 point per piece.

For example, if you have a 5-pointer leftover at the end, it's worth -5 points. But if you can complete it with three Finishing Touches, it'll be worth 2 points instead. That's a 7-point swing, which can be huge!

The catch is that you need to have enough leftover pieces to make those Finishing Touches, and you don't get pieces back when you complete a puzzle this way.

At game's end, these two unfinished puzzles would cost me -9 points. But with four Finishing Touches, I can complete them. This maneuver would score me +5 points (+9 for the puzzles, -4 for the Finishing Touches).

This is the most interesting part of Project L for me. As you near game's end, you need to be mindful of what puzzles you have unfinished and you need to think ahead and ensure you have enough pieces to make those Finishing Touches.

More importantly, though, this is the one time when Project L actually feels like a spatial puzzle: figuring out how to complete your remaining puzzles in the fewest moves using the limited pieces you have left. If you've set yourself up well, you can earn a lot of crucial points with clever Finishing Touches.

Luck Factor

While there's a smidge of randomness in Project L, I don't feel like it impacts the overall game at all.

As is often the case when players are drafting from a shared central market, the items that actually show up in the market are random. But since you have four options in each row, you have more than enough opportunity to mitigate the luck.

Fun Factor

The thing about engine-building games is that most of the fun has to be in the building of the engine, the decisions you make as you incrementally improve your engine and see how it produces better results over time.

Project L doesn't have that fun factor. As I talked about in the "Decision Space" section above, the engine-building isn't all that interesting. In short, the decisions feel straightforward and inconsequential.

So, for me, Project L is a flat experience. There are no significant highs or lows. The puzzles are so easy to solve that completing them offers no sense of achievement, and the finished engine at the end of the game is rarely something to be proud of because it's just a pile of points.

The most satisfying moments are when you can complete multiple puzzles at once with a single Master Action and when you can clean up your unfinished puzzles using Finishing Touches at the very end. But even those aren't that satisfying.


Project L is a well-paced game that plays quickly and doesn't outstay its welcome.

For starters, turns are snappy. You only have three actions and they're all super simple, so attentive players who proactively plan their next turns could run through all three actions in 30 seconds or so. You have more than enough time to think through your next turn while everyone else is going.

An example of your first turn. What three actions will you take? It might start off slow, but Project L accelerates towards its end at a steady pace.

The game itself is never slow, but the early stages will feel like you aren't making much progress because you're focused on acquiring pieces. Once you have those pieces, you'll be solving bigger puzzles and accelerating in points.

It's hard to know who's in the lead at any given time (scored point piles are hidden), so you always feel like you're still in it. And even if you're in the lead, you might not be the winner because of the point swings that can come from Finishing Touches.

When the game's over—takes about 30 to 45 minutes—the point tallying phase doesn't take long at all. You just count up your scored pile.

Player Interaction

There's very little player interaction in Project L. If you like multiplayer solitaire games, this is one you should pay attention to.

The one small bit of interaction comes from the central market of puzzle tiles, as drafting a puzzle tile is a denial of that puzzle for everyone else.

That said, I haven't run into much "hate drafting" in Project L. Not only do you have room for only four puzzles at a time, but you also only have three actions per turn. Are you going to waste one action just to deny someone a tile? A tile that could hurt you more than it harms them? Not worth it.

Project L isn't a mean game at all. You'll focus on your own engine as everyone else focuses on their own engine. It's a pleasant time.

Player Counts

Because of its multiplayer solitaire nature, the experience of Project L is pretty much the same across all player counts. (Except solo, but more on that below.)

There's more tile churn with higher player counts, but you always have a choice between four white puzzles and four black puzzles—except towards the end of the game—so you always have options. Regardless of how many other players there are, you're mainly focused on your own puzzles.


Project L is quite a fiddly game, but you don't need me to tell you that. As soon as you see how the game is played, you know there's going to be a lot of fiddling around as you place pieces into tiles, dump pieces from tiles when they're completed, and cycle through more puzzle tiles with even more pieces.

But you could say that fiddling with these pieces is the point of the game, so I'm not counting the fiddliness as a knock against it.

Apart from that, there's no extra bookkeeping or mental overhead that you need to keep track of. Project L is a smooth play from smart to finish.

Production Quality

The production of Project L is fantastic. The game stands out for its satisfying tactile experience, mainly with the puzzle pieces and puzzle tiles.

The acrylic puzzle pieces in Project L feel very nice to play with.

The acrylic puzzle pieces are smooth, light, yet substantial. Just holding one in your hand feels good, and I love fiddling around with one as I figure out my next move. If you've ever played a game like Azul or Hive, then you know how pleasing it can be to handle well-made plastic pieces!

The dual-layered puzzle tiles elevate the Project L experience. It feels quite premium.

The dual-layered puzzle tiles are fun to play with, too. Most polyomino games just print the puzzle areas on cardboard or card stock, so the polyomino pieces slide around. Not so here. The recessed puzzles hold the pieces in place, which not only feels like a more premium experience but prevents accidental knocks.

The colors of Project L are pleasing to the eye and certainly draw you in.

Despite being themeless, Project L is aesthetically pleasing. The color scheme is inviting with its bright contrast against black everywhere, and the graphic design is minimal but functional. Everything makes sense and players rarely have questions, so top marks for usability.

The player mats double as player aids, showing you how to set up your personal area, what actions you can take on your turn, and an overview of the different puzzle pieces.

And that's helped along by the informative player mats, which list all the possible actions you can take on your turn, plus guidelines for how to lay out your tableau of puzzle tiles. It's a straightforward, guided experience.

A side-by-side comparison of the Project L box against my Samsung Galaxy S21 for reference.

And even though I think the box insert is sorely lacking in that it makes setup a bit of a chore, the overall box size is perfect. It's smaller than the standard Ticket to Ride box size, and all the space inside is used well.


My take on Project L is that it has a lot of novelty value but not much substance. It's such a cool idea, it plays smoothly, and it looks inviting, but the gameplay is pretty flat and samey and doesn't inspire me to pull it out again.

Ultimately, there's no strategic variety from play to play. That's not always a bad thing, but it is a problem when the primary play feels like you're just running through a flowchart. (Refer to the "Decision Space" and "Fun Factor" sections above for a more in-depth explanation of why I think that.)

There's also a small quirk that's annoying for me:

The most satisfying thing about completing a puzzle is placing that last piece and seeing the entire puzzle tile filled up—but in Project L, you retrieve all those pieces as when a puzzle is completed, so it actually makes sense not to place the last piece because you're just going to retrieve it right away.

Strangely, this robs the game of one of its most satisfying moments. It's kind of a shame and I find it to be a disappointing cherry on top.


Solo Mode (Official)

While Project L comes with a solo mode, the experience is noticeably different than the main game. The automa is simple and easy to run, but it introduces an extra layer that turns the game into an even tighter efficiency puzzle.

What's different in Project L's solo mode? Well...

The game starts with 15 white puzzles and 10 black puzzles, which are combined into one deck (all white puzzles on top, all black puzzles on bottom). The central market is now a mixed 3x3 grid, no longer separated into white and black rows. When a puzzle is drafted, it's replaced by the next top puzzle.

Turns go back and forth between you and the automa. Your turn is basically the same as in the main game, but on the automa's turn, they'll draft the highest value puzzle in the 3x3 grid and score it. (No completion necessary.)

Different tile drafting setup for Project L's solo mode.

One final twist: each column of the 3x3 grid may have markers above it, which indicate locked columns. The automa ignores locked columns and only drafts the highest value puzzle from the available unlocked columns.

The markers will move around as puzzles are drafted. Whenever you draft from a locked column, one of the column's markers is returned to the automa. When the automa drafts a puzzle, all of their markers are assigned to that column, plus one marker from the other two columns are moved to that column.

It sounds more complicated than it is. I was able to internalize the automa logic after just one game, and the solo mode only takes about 15 minutes to play.

But it does feel like a different game.

Because half the gameplay is now about managing the automa. Every turn, the automa earns points equal to the highest puzzle tile in an unlocked column. If you don't pay attention to that, those points can rack up fast.

Normally, you just focus on drafting the best puzzle tiles and doing your best to fill those puzzle tiles as efficiently as possible. In the solo mode, you'll end up drafting puzzle tiles you don't want simply to deny them to the automa.

Is there an open 5-pointer? If you don't take it, that's free automa points. Yet, if you do take it, you'll clog yourself up with a bunch of huge puzzle tiles that you may not have enough pieces to fill.

Other times, you'll forego drafting certain puzzle tiles because they're in a locked column and you want to keep that column locked. I might want that 2-pointer to boost my engine, but is it worth it if it opens up a 4-pointer for the automa?

The solo mode revolves around how you draft from the columns and how you juggle the column markers to lock or unlock columns as needed. Playing around this new layer also burns actions—it still costs 1 action to draft a tile—which further hampers your progress in completing puzzles.

I've beaten Project L's solo mode on Standard and Challenging difficulties, but not the Impossible difficulty. My verdict? It's clever but not very interesting or fun. The automa feels unfair in its behavior, but more importantly, it doesn't have the same spirit of Project L's main gameplay.

The Bottom Line

Project L

Approved Score Guide
  1. High-quality production with acrylic pieces and dual-layered puzzle tiles
  2. Pure and intuitive engine-building gameplay
  3. Simple to learn, great as an introductory game
  1. More of an efficiency puzzle than a tile-laying spatial puzzle
  2. The puzzles are too simple to solve and lack challenge
  3. Flat experience, no significant highs or lows
  4. Not much strategic variety from play to play
  5. Annoying to set up due to poor box insert

If you're mainly interested in the spatial satisfaction that comes from solving a polyomino puzzle and working to figure out how to fit polyomino pieces in a tight space, then Project L probably isn't the right game for you.

This is an action efficiency game more than a spatial puzzle game.

It's a really good option as an entry-level engine-builder for non-gamers because of its stripped-down gameplay and simple decisions. The novelty factor is huge and people are bound to be impressed by their first plays of it. So, if you're frequently introducing games to lots of people, you might want this.

As a game to be played over and over again? Project L isn't it.

The high-quality production is unexpectedly good given its price point, making Project L a fantastic bang for your buck. But that premium production isn't enough to carry the shallow and lackluster gameplay. If you're anything like me, you'll probably be done with it after 5 to 10 plays.

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