Cryptid Review

You’ve studied the better part of your life to become one of the worlds top Cryptozoologists. You seek those mysterious creatures that are rarely spoken of, and even more rarely seen. An expedition has been organised, and you, as one of the top 3-5 Cryptozooligists in the world, have been chosen to attend. You’ve been asked to work with these other scientists in an effort to track down the most mysterious beast of all! But of course, you will use them as much as they are worth, and reserve the ultimate glory for yourself, when you discover the location of the Cryptid.

3-5 Players | 30 Minutes | Designed by Hal Duncan and Ruth Veevers

Cryptid is a 2018 release from Osprey Games, and is illustrated by Kwanchai Moriya, a superb artist with a quickly increasing number of boardgame credits to their name, most famously perhaps, Dinosaur Island. Osprey previewed the game at GenCon 2018 and it was released into stores later on in September. I picked up my copy from a local store exhibiting at CanCon (Canberra’s games convention!)

A game nearing completion.

How does it work?

Cryptid is an abstract deduction game that pits players against each other in a race to discover the location of a hidden monster on the board. Of course, the first player to successfully identify the location of the Cryptid is the winner.

The world that the Cryptid hides in is composed of several terrain types (forest, desert, ocean etc) and has a few other features within it. These include structures (camps and standing stones) and animal territories. At the beginning of the game each player is given one clue relating to the location of the Cryptid (e.g. ‘the monster is hiding in either forest or swamp’, or ‘the monster is within three spaces of a blue structure’). The intersection of the clues each player is given will determine a single spot on the board, this is where the Cryptid is hiding. After adding some cubes for setup, gameplay commences.

On your turn, you may either ask another player a question about their clue, or search for the monster. To question a player, you simply pick a location on the board, and ask them ‘could the monster be here?’. Based on their clue, they will provide you with a yes or no answer. If they say no, then they place a cube of their colour (cube means no) on that space and it is ruled out as a possible location of the Cryptid. If they say yes, then they add a disc of their colour to that location indicating the monster could be there according to their clue.

Information about a player’s clue is gained with each question asked, and is stored on the board in the form of cubes and discs, such that anyone can re-evaluate all information that has been provided by all players at any time. Of course, your clue is special information only you know at the beginning of the game, it is your advantage.

As the game progresses, it will eventually become clear to one player exactly where the monster is hiding. This is where the other type of turn, the search action comes into play. On any turn, you may search for the monster. To do this you pick any space without a cube on it, and place one of your own discs there, declaring you are searching for the monster here. Going around the table, each player then places a disc or cube on this space according to their clue. If a cube is placed, you were wrong and your turn is over. If you make it all the way around the table with players placing only discs, congratulations, all players clues matched the spot you chose and you’ve found the Cryptid!

Cryptozoologist notebooks and tools.

What do I think?

I’ve played Cryptid several times with different groups of people and different numbers of players. The first time we played, we played on the standard difficulty and found the monster fairly quickly, so we decided to play our second game on advanced mode. What a mistake that was! The difficulty increase from standard to advanced is massive, I would recommend waiting for several games and only playing advanced mode with very experienced players!

The Good Stuff

  • Cryptid is a great game design. It is very streamlined and elegant, the designers have taken the idea they had for a deduction game and executed it in the simplest and most straight forward rule set they could figure out.
  • The game has amazing art design. It’s simple and quirky, making the game highly playable while still being aesthetic to look at. Overall the game has great production and the (relatively) compact box is great.
  • This is a very innovative implementation of distributing exclusive hidden information. I like the individual booklets and the clue card system. There is also a great ‘app’/site at PlayCryptid which can do the same thing for you digitally, and includes a small tutorial.
  • The game is simple to explain and fairly easy to understand. The very simple concept and 3 minute explanation makes it easy to hook players in with the intriguing premise.
  • There is lots of replayability, with many setups included in the box, it is hopefully impossible that someone remembers any of them.
  • Cryptid is a good spectator game. People who don’t want to play themselves (or if you’ve got a few too many people) can still try and solve the puzzle themselves as a spectator. We’ve had people noting down their guesses for player’s clues during the game and comparing with actual clues after the game.
  • The relatively quick rounds lets players ‘skill up’ quickly when first introduced to the game. Often we played several times in one sitting (which is rarer with my friends).
  • The advanced mode significantly steps up the challenge when players are ready for it. Advanced mode adds negative clues (i.e. not within 3 spaces of a structure), doubling the clue space and creating some especially mind bending situations.

The Bad Stuff

  • It can be sometimes difficult to get across the way the game works to new players. I’ve often had players become confused during first play, especially in the case when someone places a disc on a space their clue prohibits (and in voicing this they accidentally reveal information about their clue). I’ve since made a point of emphasising the fact that the clues are only all compatible for one space on the board.
  • Personality/strategy is not really an element of Cryptid. You can’t explore strategies or have a play style with this game. Maybe a tiny bit in choosing your questions, but these are mostly driven by pure logic. Other players do not shape the game for you, they just serve to answer your questions and race against you. In this way, repeated games can become a bit monotonous. As a purely analytical game, what other players do doesn’t influence your enjoyment of the game and interactions with them are purely mechanical.
  • Cryptid has a great first impression, but for me it wore thin quick. Unfortunately after a few games, the mechanics below the mystery began to show through and it moved from being a game to being something more like an interesting activity. Unfortunately for me this activity was not necessarily fun after the first few plays.
  • Being able to build a model in your head of all the information you have been given and where it all intersects is the key to the game. Some people are just better at that than others, or can make connections and eliminate possibilities more easily than others. The game is played basically sitting and thinking at 100% full cognitive load until you have enough information to complete the puzzle, or someone else does.
  • To further the above point, winning Cryptid is mostly based on who has the ‘best’ cognitive function, or in other cases who’s turn is immediately after a big clue is revealed. The other winning situation can be if you are lucky to not get asked many questions, you will end up holding the vital piece of information needed to solve the puzzle.
Advanced mode … we had no idea where the monster could be!

While Cryptid is technically excellent and I really thought I loved it upon first playing it, it’s ultimately not for me. I think this is primarily because I enjoy playing games for the ‘fun’ factor. I think fun primarily comes from interactions with other people during the course of playing the game and using my ingenuity to play as well as I can. Unfortunately, as an abstract, Cryptid ends up being a logical puzzle that leaves no room for strategies or personality in play, I find myself merely sitting at the table answering questions a computer could answer, and solving a logic puzzle a computer could solve. Despite making these comments, I do not dismiss Cryptid as an excellent game. I know there is a large community of people who really love these sorts of logic puzzle games, and I personally know people who really love this game. I hope based on this review, you can determine if Cryptid is for you or not. If you think you would like it, certainly give it a try, I’m not disappointed that I did.

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