10th Oct2018

‘Cryptid’ Board Game Review (Osprey Games)

by Matthew Smail

cryptid-box

In Cryptid, three to five players take on the role of monster hunters and embark on an abstract quest to locate The Cryptid; a creature of myth and legend. Cryptid is no dungeon crawler though – it’s a pure deduction game that will test your brainpower a lot more than your sword arm. Cryptid is a brand new game from Osprey Games that is due for release imminently, so by the time this review is live, you’ll very likely be able to find it in your local game store or via your favourite online retailer.

At the beginning of a game of Cryptid, one player draws a card randomly from one of the two decks – each of which is identical except for either a couple of brown borders or due to the absence thereof. Cards with brown bars indicate “advanced” scenarios, whereas those without are a little simpler. Regardless of the card chosen, a map will be depicted which the player will then construct based on the six tiles and nine terrain features included in the box. The tiles fit together in a certain way, but each one might be orientated one way or another depending on the requirements of the card.

Once the map is setup and all of the terrain features (triangular campsites and spherical monoliths) are placed on it, the players flip over the setup card and look at the clue numbers associated with whatever colour they are playing as. Depending on the number of players, the card will direct each player to read one single passage of numbered text from a specific clue book. There are five clue books (one for each colour and symbol) so as long as you pick up the correct book, there’s no chance of having the wrong clue, or getting secret information about someone else’s clue.

So why do clues matter? Well, in Cryptid, the first player to locate The Cryptid’s lair will be the winner, but each scenario is configured such that only one of the numerous hex’s on the board will be correct. The actual game is to use the secret information that only you hold and then to work competitively with the other players to determine where The Cryptid lives. This is achieved by using one of the two available actions each turn, each of which will force the other players to present you with some information based on their own clues – although you’ll also be passing them information about yours as well.

The actions are very simple, on paper. Firstly, players may Question someone else directly. This works by asking another player if The Cryptid might be located “Here!” and then pointing at a space on the board. If that players clue proves that the space in question cannot be the lair, then she must place a cube on it. In that case, you must also place a cube on a space that you know could not be the lair based on your clue. Play then passes to the next player.

The other action is to search a space, which is more powerful but it also requires you to place a disk of your colour on that space – disks are used to indicate that you have no evidence to suggest that The Cryptid could not be there. With your disk on the hex first, each player in turn will then place a disk of their own if indeed they cannot prove that the lair isn’t on that space. However, if the player has a clue that says the space absolutely could not be where The Cryptid makes its home, then a cube is placed instead and no further disks will be placed. If this happens, the player who initiated the search will also place a cube elsewhere, based on their own clue – in this way a failed search provides two pieces of information about your clue for your opponents to leverage, so it’s an action to use sparingly.

Because there are only two actions which are, in practice, remarkably simple, Cryptid is a very fast, fluid game. I’ve read a few other reviews and watched some reviews that raise concerns about players losing track of their clue, or reading the wrong clue, or lying and I agree – those things can happen. Mistakes in Cryptid will likely break the game and depending on how long they’ve gone on for, are often irretrievable. That’s fine with me though, because a game of Cryptid lasts for about thirty minutes maximum and personally, I haven’t actually seen a game fall apart yet, so I think it’s an edge case. On the other hand if you’re playing with liars then perhaps it’s time to reassess your situation?

It’s quite hard to convey just how exciting a game of Cryptid is, but believe me it’s up there among the best in the business. Piecing together clues is very, very interesting and remarkably cerebral. At low player counts, the clues are fairly broad, whilst at higher counts they become more specific and therefore it’s a real challenge to pin the monster’s lair down to a particular location. You may wish to hand out paper to help people with this – as an example I always offer a blank piece of paper and suggest that it be folded over, so that players can write secretly in between the folds. The first thing I advise them to write is their own clue, which might be why my games haven’t been falling apart *touches wood.*

As the clues begin to gel in your mind, there’s a real sense of excitement as your turn comes around – should you search the space you think it is, or risk another round of turns? If you risk it, will someone else get their first? Oftentimes, they do – it’s remarkable how well Cryptid manages to bring the players to the same point at the same time in a fairly high percentage of games. In a five player game, there will usually be one or two people who’s clue will be admittedly less “directly clear” than those of the two players who were closest to succeeding were, but that’s all kind of luck of the draw based on how the questioning and searching pans out. I also had one game where I put out a cursory search to try and probe and it turned out that I had guessed the lair at a stupidly early point in the game – but you know what, it still felt thematically correct and we just set the game up again.

I realised I haven’t talked about components yet and that’s because Cryptid is overwhelmingly simple, but it’s also very attractive. Each of the five players has a store of wooden disks and cubes to indicate search outcomes and then there are a handful of coloured tents and monoliths to place on the board as clues. Aside from that, there’s the board itself (which is colourful and attractive) and the clue books, as well as a well laid out and simple to pick up rule book. Everything is made to the standard that we’ve come to expect from Osprey Games, which means that the box, in particular, will immediately catch the eye, whilst what’s in it will certainly hold everyone’s attention.

In a board gaming industry that is becoming increasingly focused on variants of worker placement and miniatures combat, Cryptid is a refreshingly different proposition. It works well for players from about ten years old up to any age really and it is quick to setup, teach and play. When you do get a game going, it’s very good fun and I think you’ll struggle to find a player who considers it to be uninteresting or dull, even though it may not be everyone’s cup of tea. What I like most about it is how much of a “just one more go” factor it brings – I’ve racked up four or gives games of Cryptid in a row with the same players, which I don’t think I can say for any other game in the last year or two, with the exception of micro-games. If you’re looking for a truly unique game that works well at either a gateway or hardcore level then you’ve found it. Cryptid is a blast.

****½  4.5/5

A copy of Cryptid was supplied by Osprey Games for review.

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