A couple of weeks ago, we announced our finalists for the Tabletop Game of the Year. There were a lot of great games in the group and a game, we feel, for just about everyone — because families come in all ages! Recently a handful of us got together and played all the finalist games and when it was all over we picked the one that we thought was the very best. That game is … Cryptid. Once again, it was a really tough decision and one that we (again) agonized over a good deal. (Read about our judging criteria here.) Thanks to all our nominees and finalists this year for making really great games and giving us a welcome but tough decision to make. And most importantly, a hearty congratulations to Osprey Games and first-time designers Hal Duncan and Ruth Veevers.
If you want to read Jim Kelly’s original review of the game, it’s here.
Our thoughts on Cryptid
Jonathan H. Liu
I’d already played most of the ten finalists on our list before our marathon gaming session, but Cryptid is one that had eluded me up until then. I love deduction and logic (much to my daughters’ chagrin at times), and I really loved puzzling out the clues, trying to be the first one to find the solution. I also liked the way that you have to think about where to put your required clues while providing as little new information as possible to the other players. Although it’s mostly an abstract game, it does help reinforce the theme of cryptid hunters jealously guarding the information they have.
Like Logan, I was really blown away by the way the game works. The way that 3, 4, or 5 clues can add up on a given map layout to pinpoint a single location is simply mind-boggling, and we spent a good amount of time just geeking out over brilliance of the design itself. I was also surprised by how simple the ruleset is, too: you have two options on your turn, and each of them is easily spelled out. That said, it does require some attention (particularly on the advanced setups) and we found—after a late-night attempt—that it can be easy to throw off the game (or give away your clue) if you’re not thinking straight.
I didn’t have Cryptid in my collection yet, but after playing it with Dave and Logan, I’m convinced it’s one that I’ll need to hunt down for myself. While choosing a Game of the Year is always a tough task—particularly with such a diverse list of finalists—I’m pleased with our final selection, and hope that many others get to experience the riddles that Cryptid brings to the table!
When I first sat down to play Cryptid, I was unsure what I was in for. Deduction games can be hit or miss for me. However, two turns in to Cryptid and I was hooked. Not only was it fun, it played so quickly, we blew through three games in just over a half hour — and that included some discussion about how clever the game was.
This is a game that can be taught in about a minute, whose setup takes about the same, and the solution is almost always found pretty quickly — which is pretty amazing, considering the 108 possible locations every single game. A recurring question has popped up every time I’ve played this game with new people — how was it designed? What kind of spreadsheet sorcery was tapped into to bring Cryptid to life? Well, the designers did a diary on BGG and it’s worth reading.
If you’ve played Zendo, Cryptid will feel a bit similar, as you try to ferret out other player’s rules. However, the theme feels much better in Cryptid. While it’s still abstract, the elements and mechanics of the game draw you in more than most abstract strategy games. Admittedly, this one skews a bit toward older gamers, but I still thought it was the very best game of those that made our list of finalists. I will conclude by channeling the game’s advanced rules: You won’t not want to add it to your collection!
Cryptid takes me back, and I think that’s what initially drew me to it. If you grew up playing the Parker Brothers game Mastermind, then you’ll know what I mean. I can’t count the hours of my life I spent losing at the seminal classic to my more logically-inclined older brother, but it was a lot. Cryptid, while clearly a product of modern sensibilities and decades of change in the gaming community, shares a lot of DNA with my childhood favorite.
A game of deduction in which each player holds a small piece of the puzzle, Cryptid is not only the spiritual successor of Mastermind for games of deduction and logic, but it’s also perhaps the most mind-bendingly smart design I have ever seen. Wholly apart from playing the game, I found myself time-after-time marvelling at the sheer craft that went into creating a game with so many options and variables (board setup, player count, etc) and yet always boiled down to one perfect solution.
And, at the end of the day, Cryptid is one of the more accessible games of the year (much to my surprise). Easy to set up and teach, by the time things get difficult players are invested and, at a brisk 15-20 minute playtime, the negative impact of losing is at a minimum. Yes, it’s competitive, but there are elements that feel cooperative, making it a much gentler experience than a lot of other games I played this year and, more than anything, making it the rare game that is equally accessible to novice and veteran alike. So while I knew early on that Cryptid would be one of my personal games of the year, it was both surprising and perfectly fitting that it would also become the GeekDad Game of the Year.