18th Nov2019

‘Decrypto’ Board Game Review

by Matthew Smail


As far as party games are concerned, I often take a fairly dim view. I’m not saying that I don’t appreciate the odd game here and there, but in general I prefer meatier games that require a bit of thought and a lot more strategy. Decrypto, from Le Scorpion Masque, is a team based deduction game that has two teams of players face off to try and crack each others codes. The game ends either when two codes have been intercepted, or when one team has failed to transmit its own code between the teammates successfully.

Decrypto comes in a small box filled with simple components – the best possible start for a party game if you ask me. There are two screens that sit between the players, one for the black team and one for the white team. Each of these has four red translucent panels on it, and the screens should be placed back to back so that the red panels face the relevant team. Four miscommunication and four interception tokens should be placed beside the screens, alongside an hourglass that will be used later.

Each team then takes one sheet of paper from the large pad, and turns it to the side matching their colour. The teams also stack up the appropriate pile of code cards for their team, having shuffled them thoroughly before doing so. A shared stack of clue cards will be placed in the middle of the table, and each team draws four of them. These clue cards initially show nothing but garbled nonsense, however when the players slide them into their screens, the clue word will appear on the translucent screen, which acts as a filter.

The red panels each correspond to a number between 1 and 4, and a nominated player on each team will secretly pick up and read the top code card from their teams deck. Each code is made up of three digits, and the player must now say words, phrases or sentences that relate to the keywords shown on the panels in front of their team. For example, if the clue word for the number 1 was “Potato” then the word the code maker might choose could be “Chips” or “Fries.” The trick here is that the code maker wants their team mates to guess the correct number, but for the opposing team not to get too much information.

When the code makers team mates have written the keywords down in the relevant section of their sheet (based on the current round) and guessed what the code is by writing into the adjacent cells (bear in mind that both teams do this simultaneously for their own codes) the two code breakers write the correct code in the column next to the guess. If their team mates guessed correctly, nothing happens. If they were incorrect, then they must take a miscommunication token, and if it’s their second time, they lose.


Now the teams each flip their sheets to the other side and refer to the bottom half. They will then write down the word or phrase that the opposing code maker used to describe each clue word. So in our example, the opposing team would write down “Chips” or “Fries” depending on which one we chose. Play then proceeds to the next round and repeats, but let’s pretend that this time, the code we chose featured the number 1 again. This time, we’d need to think of a different word to push our team towards potato (bearing in mind that they can see the word potato printed in front of them) without revealing too much to the opposition, so we might say “Peeler” or “Plant.”

The reason this is important is because as the rounds continue, the teams will begin to have more and more information about the clues that relate to the number 1. In round one it might be “Chips” and then in round two it might be “Peeler,” then in round three, let’s say that it’s “Gravy” and if, at the appropriate point, an opposing team member thinks that they can crack the numerical code based on the three clue words spoken by the other teams code maker, then they can attempt to guess, and if they are correct, they will gain an interception token. Gaining a second token results in victory, so at this point, with their words partially compromised, a team is really on the ropes.

Having began this review by stating that I rarely enjoy party games, I must admit that Decrypto has me hooked. It takes a bit of explaining at first, and the manual doesn’t do a lot to help, but once you get the hang of it (I hope I’ve explained it clearly here) the time just flies by. As the game goes on the need to be more and more creative with your choice of words intensifies, things really heat up and become very exciting – which is aided by the sand timer, which is flipped over by the first code maker to finish choosing their key words, putting pressure on the other player.

When a team has had its code broken once, they are in real trouble and likely to have it broken a second time, which, depending on the situation, can lead to them having to throw in a tactical miscommunication if they are also on the verge of cracking the other teams code. Whatever the final outcome of each game, Decrypto is almost always a hit with those playing it, and it works exceptionally well between four and about eight players, after which things get a bit out of hand. There is a three player option, but my view is that it falls a bit flat compared to the proper team based mode.

For what is the price of a few pints these days, Decrypto offers players a really fun and surprising cerebral party game experience that is so simple you’ll kick yourself for not having thought of it years ago. This simplicity, once you get going, is Decrypto‘s charm, and it’s a great game to hook sceptical players in with, only to then see them biting their nails in excitement as the game closes out. Decrypto is a great addition to any collection, and certainly a top choice for parties in my household from now on.

A copy of Decrypto was supplied for review by ColiedSpring Games


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