The worst part of playing a modern board game is “the teach” — that interminable period of time when you first sit down to share something unusual with a new group of people. Very rarely comes a game that literally has no “teach” moment, where you can just sit down and run through the opening few rounds and things just sorta make sense. Lacuna, the latest offering from CMYK, is just that sort of magical offering: a chill game, built for good vibes, that requires almost no explanation.
Fans of CMYK will know the studio’s hit games: Monikers, a lively take on charades, and Wavelength, a novel pop culture-infused contraption with a big plastic spinner. Both of those popular party games have basically no limit on the number of players they can accommodate. Lacuna is a much more intimate experience built for just two players.
Also, it doesn’t really look like a board game at all.
Lacuna comes in a colorful cardboard tube. Pop the top, and just below it you’ll find a plastic panel that looks like a shaker from a large plastic jar of paprika or garlic powder. Below that panel are all the bits: 49 colorful wooden flowers, 12 metal player pawns, and a heavyweight cloth playing mat. Unboxing it is a visual and a tactile delight, but pregame setup is where the real fun begins.
You take the 49 flowers and toss them in the tube, then put the plastic panel back on and literally shake them out onto the play surface. Together, both players sort of move things around by hand, making sure that there are no big clumps of flowers. Then they take turns placing pawns for a total of six rounds.
The goal is to place your pawn between two flowers of the same color. Players then take those two flowers and leave their pawn in place. Once all 12 pawns have been put down, players then scan the board, paying careful attention to the remaining 25 flowers. Players collect those flowers based on whose pawns are closest to each one. Any disputes can be quickly resolved with the included plastic ruler. It adds a surprisingly strategic layer to the game, and it provides the big “A-ha!” moment where everyone at the table suddenly understands the game.
I first introduced Lacuna to my family during a recent car camping trip in Wisconsin. After a long, hot 6-mile trek through a tick-infested forest, the kids and I were dog tired, as was the dog — but still, we were all somehow restless. So I pulled out Lacuna, unfurled the cloth mat like I was performing a magic trick, and then poured the colorful flowers out onto the picnic table. Two minutes later, and the kids were absolutely hooked. The antique chess set and several other family-favorite board games were quickly forgotten inside the minivan. Most importantly, I was able to slink away to start work on dinner prep at the campfire. Both my 10-year-old and my 13-year-old, and later the other adults we were traveling with, all left the weekend excursion raving about the fun new game they’d discovered.
Lacuna is not perfect. Some of the flowers are a bit closer to each other in color than I would have liked. It’s the rare instance where colorblind players may actually have an advantage, since each color also has its own shape and pattern to differentiate it. There’s no dedicated area on the board to score out at the end of the game, which feels like a lost opportunity. My biggest beef, however, is that the flowers have a tendency to roll away when you pour them out onto the table. We actually lost one in the folds of someone’s sweatshirt, and we only found it all the way across the campsite when we checked out the next morning. But it’s easy to see how bottle caps or treasured rocks can be used as alternatives in a pinch.
More than anything, though, it was just nice to have something bright and colorful and easy to learn after a long day out on the trail. Lacuna was one of the highlights of our first big family trip of the summer, and it’s earned a place in our car camping totes — likely for all time. Lacuna could easily become a fun new tradition for your family as well.
Pre-orders for Lacuna begin on June 6 at a discounted price of $34.99 on the CMYK website, which seems more than fair given the production values. Expect to see a suggested retail price of $39.99 when it ships in July.
Lacuna was reviewed using a pre-release copy provided by CMYK. Vox Media has affiliate partnerships. These do not influence editorial content, though Vox Media may earn commissions for products purchased via affiliate links. You can find additional information about Polygon’s ethics policy here.