Our relationship is in trouble. But bringing that up never helps. Instead, let’s focus on our new flat pack furniture that just arrived! If we can just put it together – correctly, without it becoming a whole thing, everything will be fine. And we’ll be fine.
We’ll be fine, right?
Grab the bag of random parts, decipher the instructions with the vaguely Swedish names, and try to put together some furniture without everything – including your relationship – crashing down around you. Maybe you’ll even get to enjoy some meatballs. This is KÖ-ØP from offcut games!
offcut games also brought us Complicated Board Game: The Card Game, so an overall theme of poking fun at real life occurrences continues! Designed for two players with a runtime of ~25 minutes, KÖ-ØP is about the “some assembly required” part of building sets of furniture, with a current of relationship tension bubbling underneath the entire time.
The game starts by drawing a Hardship card, which is a specific issue that’s troubling the pair of erstwhile furniture builders such as You Are Co-Workers (Work/life balance is a bit harder now) and It’s Your Anniversary (…and you forgot last year). Each player is then dealt two Needs cards face down, and choose one, keeping their choice secret. On each of the Needs cards is going to be a certain number and variety of symbols, each related to a Love Language wheel: Physical Touch, Gifts, Words of Affirmation, Acts of Service, and Quality Time. These symbols show what you need to feel satisfied in your relationship. The Hardship cards will typically affect your Needs cards. Co-Workers doubles the number of Words of Affirmation symbols on each Needs card, for example.
Time to pick out the furniture! Each player draws two Manual Page cards, picks one, and then combine their two cards into one shape. The assembled Page cards will show the aforementioned shape, how many Meatballs you’ll earn for successfully completing it, and in some cases a rule such Signs of Affection, which automatically add to a Love Language wheel just for its card being chosen to build the furniture.
Four stacks of three Communications Cards each are then dealt onto the table, and the players take turns picking up a stack. Hexagonal in shape, each Communication card has two sides. One will show a certain number of borders that can be used to connect pieces together (simply match a border with the + symbol to one with the – symbol), as well as how many of these connections the piece requires in order to be stable. The other side shows which Love Language the piece is associated with, but importantly the player who has grabbed the stack cannot look at the Love Language side at this point. Instead, the other player attempts to communicate their Needs via one of three actions per turn: pointing at one card and saying what Language it is (being mindful to keep it narratively reasonable; “We’ll have some Quality Time on this couch” instead of “That card has Quality Time on it”), saying how many of one Language their partner is holding, and flipping a card on the table that’s already been played to show off its Love Language.
Once that’s done, hopefully clueing the active player into what they may want to prioritize for the long game, the short game is playing as many of the cards from the stack as you wish. Unused cards get discarded. This continues until all four stacks are used up, and hopefully your furniture is done! You may find yourself grabbing an All-In -One Key to help, although that’ll lead to a Compromise that’ll hamper your Love Languages, especially if you’re not in sync with your partner.
Time to test for Customer Satisfaction! First, did you actually successfully assemble your furniture, getting the exact shape with all the required and functional connections? No? You get nothing! Good day. Next piece of furniture! I said Good Day! Yes? You score the number of Meatballs earned by your work, and then you flip over the hex cards to see which Languages are on the other side, adding to a Language dial for each card associated with it. You may claim a Random Bag of Parts during this stage to add one to a chosen dial, although the associated Personal Baggage will cost you Meatballs later.
All told you do this process – Picking Out Furniture -> Assemble Furniture -> Customer Satisfaction – three times. Once you’ve done your best with three pieces of furniture, it’s time for a Heart-to-Heart. You reveal your Needs cards and try to satisfy them, which is done with the Love Language dials. This is where the other kind of Hardship card will kick in: It’s Your Anniversary reduces the Gifts dial by 3 before you can start in on your Needs. Anyway, you reduce the Dials corresponding with the symbols on your Needs card. If you can cover them all and satisfy all your Needs, more Meatballs! If not, your Needs are not satisfied, and you have a line to say to your partner such as “We’re just not on the same page” or “We’re flourishing, but are we thriving?” What exactly this sort of outcome means for your relationship is up to you the players.
Finally, you head over to the Cafeteria for some Meatballs, counting your total to get your final score ranging from 0-6 (Fragile, “Likely to fall apart at the slightest pressure”) to 30 (Lifetime Guaranteed, not what you came for but what you needed all along).
Are we referring to the furniture or the relationship, again? The lines got blurry all of a sudden.
KÖ-ØP is a funny little game when you take a proper look at it. It’s definitely got a comedic bent. Flat pack furniture building isn’t good for single person stress relief, never mind couples therapy, so the base concept is amusingly absurd and the writing matches. However, it packs a potent emotional punch. It’s all giggles until your partner tells you “this isn’t love, it’s convenience.” Oof. That’s magnified by KÖ-ØP being a two player game, which by its very nature is a type of play experience that can be much more intimate and heads-on than tabletop games which accommodate more players. If you lean into the in-character aspect of the game you may want to grab some safety tools from the RPG side of the tabletop world, just in case. All told the humor, emotional weight, and mechanical challenge of the game mean that it will be all the sweeter when you get that Lifetime Guarantee.
KÖ-ØP is being Kickstarted until December 2nd, 12:30 EST, and as of this writing is roughly 77% to its goal. $20 will get you the game, while higher tiers and add-ons involve a zine (I, Kea), a customized Needs card just for you, a fancy wooden box for the game, and another offcut game, Status Report! You can also try KÖ-ØP, right now, on Tabletopia!
Now where did I put that darn allen wrench?
Thanks to offcut games for sending us a prototype copy of the game to review!
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