Have ye heard the tale? A board game that wanders into town at night searching for lost tokens. Collecting them. Adding them to its box. And wandering off into the night? It is a tale as old as time, and yet no one has seen this board game.
No one, that is, until now.
Publisher: Osprey Games
Year Published: 2018
Designer: Hal Duncan and Ruth Veevers
Artists: Kwanchai Moriya
If you’ve ever felt the need to leave your 9-5 cubicle and hit the wilderness in search of a beast whose existence is wholly documented through hoaxes and blurry photos. This is not the game for you. As while that’s the theme of this game, it’s dusted on so lightly that a strong gust of wind would blow it away.
And that’s ok.
As while that would be a fantastic theme for a more complex game. Cryptid is a streamlined and straightforward family deduction game that strips away complexity like an Olympic swimmer and their leg hairs.
It all starts with you gaining a clue as to the location of a mysterious beast. This clue could be something like:
- The creature is on a forest or desert tile.
- The creature is within one space of a mountain.
- The creature is within three spaces of a white structure.
Or if you’re playing the advance mode, it could also be the opposite of these. The clue you get is your clue. There are many like it but this one is yours. Everyone else gets a clue as well. And only combined can they locate the creature of legend.
Rounds play quickly as you only have two options for your turn. The first is to ask a player if the creature could be on a certain hex. If it could; they place a disc. If not; a cube. And if they do the latter, you too will have to place a cube somewhere.
The other option is to puff out your chest and announce in your best Nigel Thornberry voice that you’ve located the monster. From there each of your friends in clockwise order either places a disc, or cube based on their clue. As soon as a cube is placed no one else places a token down.
And you look like a right fool.
From here, you and your friends continue to take turns and you begin to get more and more suspicious about what your friends know and what you don’t. Have they figured out your clue? You’ll notice an oddly place disc or cube and wonder if anyone else has seen it; or knows what it means. You begin to spiral. Trying to hold all the information in your head, ultimately forgetting, and having to recalculate. Until one person puts a disc down and says the magic words.
Then another person puts a disc down.
Finally, it’s your turn. And you put a disc down.
It’s at this point where you and everyone turns to the person who started the search and ask: How’d you get that? Then either they go around the table and announce people’s clues or the players do themselves. Either way you’re ticking them off in your head – I got that, I got that, what the heck I wasn’t even close!
It plays out like a parlour scene from a murder mystery. And even though you didn’t get all the clues. You got some. Making you feel clever that you deduced something.
It helps that the clues aren’t too difficult to figure out. And each turn supplies the table with more and more information. Turning the game from a deductive slugfest like Letters from Whitechapel, into something more quick, sharp, and fun like Love Letter.
Not to mention addictive.
Cryptid has the best web app integration of any board game I’ve played. Without it you randomly draw a card, which tells you how to setup the game, and where to find your clue in the clue booklets. Which is fine. But when you want to play again, you draw another card, have to re-setup the board.
This is where the app comes in. As it uses your existing setup to provide clues to the players. Meaning you’re set up for your second, third, and sixth games you’ll play in a row in a matter of seconds. Combined with its quick playtime of 15-20 minutes, this feature makes Cryptid oh so moreish, like pretzels.
However, you’ll find that you’re only be able to play three or four games before you’ll want to pack it away. There is a large memory factor in this game. Having to remember both what your clue is, as well as what clues you’ve eliminated for other players. This is mentally draining. After a few games your memory will likely create a Cryptid clue stew, and players will likely forget their clue halfway through the game.
Nothing breaks this game quicker than someone misremembering their clue – and not checking.
This problem is amplified when playing the advanced version. As suddenly you’re not shortening a list of 24 possible clues, but 48. Per player. With four players that’s 141 clues you’re eliminating. Trying to keep your head on straight with all that whizzing around in your noggin is an effort in and of itself.
That aside, this is a fantastic deduction game. It does to deduction what Splendor does for engine building. Distilling the mechanic into its simplistic form and adding only enough mechanics and theme as necessary. Which in both cases – isn’t a lot. It’s a game you can feel comfortable bringing out with family, as well as seasoned gamers. And it will keep you coming back again and again and again. A Critical Hit.
Better late than never! I’m running into the fantastic problem of playing so many board games I haven’t had time to write about them. Look out for a birthday board game haul post coming to a blog near you!