Callisto is a Reiner Knizia abstract-strategy design from University Games. Not to belittle Callisto. I’m glad University sent me one to review. I enjoy playing it. However, the similarity to Blokus is striking and I have no doubt that this game was published with the success of Blokus in mind. In fact, Callisto’s Rules sheet acknowledges the comparison, parenthetically cautioning players to place the game pieces “not corner to corner, but side touching side.”

What then is different about Callisto? And what makes it a good game in its own right? The playing area is also a grid but on an octagonal board. The pieces are the same geometric shapes, though with some duplicates in each color. Pieces must be played touching another piece of the same color but side-to-side instead of corner-to-corner. The big difference is the pillars. Players use two pillars at the beginning of the game to mark starting spaces and hold one aside in case they get stuck later on. The great benefit of allowing players to choose their starting spaces instead of being stuck with a single corner is that the game plays just as well for two or three players as it does for four, which I don’t feel is true of Blokus.

I love that Callisto is an easy-to-learn and quick-playing game that nevertheless provides a fair amount of tension as you try to keep your pieces from being blocked in on multiple sides at once. When you just manage to protect your open space and use up all your shapes, that’s a satisfying feeling!