Full disclosure: A review copy of Cryptid was provided by Osprey Games.
Alright, here’s one I’ve been excited about for … years, maybe? I really enjoy deduction games, and I’ve been trying to find more to play (though that Dragon Ball Z CLUE has been … compelling). Naturally, a lot of friends have told me good things about Cryptid, and I’ve been interested in trying it out! Now I have. So let’s dive into Cryptid and see what I thought!
You are a cryptozoologist, and finally, after years, you’ve found the location of the legendary creature. You’re so close to proving it exists, so you propose a challenge to your colleagues. First one to find it, wins! You’ve got some risky clues and a bit of knowledge, so you think you might be able to figure it out. Naturally, you’re not above a bit of subterfuge, though; it’s important that you find it first, after all. Will you be able to suss out the creature’s location? Or will this end up being one more mystery beyond your grasp?
Setup isn’t too bad, though it can be pretty easily improved via the online app. If your preference is manual, then choose a random card:
The setup will show you how to arrange the board pieces:
It will also show you where to place various structures. For the basic game, you won’t use the black structures:
You can set the pawn aside until the game starts. The card should indicate a board layout with options for player counts. For your given player count, give each player a Clue Book in turn order:
Note that you may not be giving player 1 Alpha, player 2 Beta, and player 3 Gamma; check the card to see which players get what books. The card will also indicate which Clue number each player uses, so, have them check the corresponding Clue in their Clue Book. After doing that, give each player the discs and cubes in their color:
You should be about ready to start!
A game of Cryptid is a deductive hunt for the legendary creature. Each player knows one thing about its habitat, but all Clues overlapped indicate exactly one space on the board where the Cryptid lives. Guess it correctly, and you win!
Before you start, each player must place two cubes on any two spaces on the board. When placing a cube, it must follow these rules:
- A cube cannot be placed on a space with another cube.
- A cube must be placed on a space where the Cryptid cannot live, according to your Clue. That means if your Clue is “within 1 of water”, you can place a cube on any space that is not water or not adjacent to water.
- You cannot place a cube on any space with one of your own pieces.
Once every player has placed two cubes in turn order, the full game starts! On player turns, you may either Question or Search.
As a Question action, you can choose any player. Place the black pawn on a space with no cubes and ask that player if the cryptid can live there. The player must then place one cube on that space if, according to their clue, the cryptid cannot live there. If, according to their clue, the cryptid can live there, the player must place a disc on that space.
To Search, you must first place a disc of your own on the space you’re planning to search. (This does, implicitly, mean that you can only search places where, according to your clue, the cryptid could be.) Once you do, starting with the player on your left and proceeding in turn order, each player must place a disc or a cube on that space, according to their clue. As soon as one player places a cube, the Search action ends. If every player places a disc, the game ends and you win!
End of Turn
At the end of your turn, if one of your opponents placed a cube as a result of your Question or your Search, you must place one of your own cubes on a space of your choice where, according to your clue, the cryptid cannot be.
End of Game
As soon as one player finds the Cryptid, they win!
There’s an additional two-player variant available on the site. In this, each player controls effectively two players, and gets two clues. This means that during setup, you place two cubes as normal, but they can be clues of either color that you start with. Also, assign a color to each clue; you’ll use that, going forward.
On your turn, you Question and Search as normal, but with one new caveat: depending on how you’re questioned, you may have three possible results:
- Both clues are valid: If the cryptid can be at a location based on both of your clues, you place two discs.
- Only one clue is valid: If the cryptid can be at a location based on only one of your clues, you place a cube of the other color.
- Neither clue is valid: If the cryptid cannot be at a location based on both of your clues, you place a cube of either color. Your choice! You can use that to be tricky, if you want.
Other than that, the game plays the same as normal! As soon as a player finds the cryptid, they win!
Player Count Differences
I’m honestly fascinated by player count differences, in this game. No matter what, all clues overlap in such a way that there is only ever one spot on the board that can satisfy all given clues. That’s super interesting! But that means different configurations of boards and clues are required for different player counts, and the app has to take that into account before generating the board state. Again, very cool. I wonder how that works! That all said, I do prefer this at lower player counts for one particular reason: potential misplays. If a player leaks a ton of information, then it strictly benefits whoever the next player after them is. At higher player counts, the likelihood of that being me is relatively low, compared to lower player counts (or two players, even). That doesn’t mean I wouldn’t play Cryptid at 5, but it does mean that I’d at least be a bit more likely to play at the lower end of the possible spectrum. It’s worth noting that the two-player game is fairly different, as I outlined above, as players get two clues and can place either two discs or one cube, when asked. I think that’s great that they added a formal two-player variant, and I’ve quite enjoyed it. So, all that is to say, gentle preference for lower player counts, but I still enjoy the game enough to attempt the higher end.
- Try to avoid leaking information. This is kind of the crux of the game, yeah? Almost every time you place a cube, you’re leaking some information about your clue by giving a bunch of examples of what your clue isn’t. A savvy player can pick up on these and eventually work out what your clue is (or make a lucky guess and spend half the game falling victim to confirmation bias). If you keep track of what information you’re leaking as you place cubes, you can try to at least avoid leaking new, additional information, which may help.
- Be wary of your initial placements, as well. I made some mistakes in my first game and leaked a ton of information with my first placements. Instead, try to limit them to leaking the same pieces of information, if you can. In a two-player game, I generally recommend using the same color cube for both cube placements, rather than mixing it up, so that you’re only giving one piece of info.
- Try not to always ask about spaces that are relevant to you. If you continually ask about spaces where the cryptid could be according to your clue, players are eventually going to notice and figure out how to work backwards to what your clue could be. It’s annoying, but try to occasionally focus on other spaces. There are ways to make those spaces useful!
- Ask about places that give you a lot of information, if you can. You don’t always have to look for spaces where the cryptid could be; you may have a lot of success asking about places where you know the cryptid could not be, so that you can potentially suss out your opponent’s clue without leaking any of your own information. Asking about spaces that are close to lots of terrain types can eliminate the “within 1” clues pretty easily, as can asking about spaces near structures (or, better yet, near multiple structures). In the Advanced Game, this can still be helpful, but it may not yield as many results (since the clue is, itself, sometimes a negation).
- Use the board’s layout to your advantage. You can occasionally throw a cube into a space that’s only adjacent to spaces of the same type, which might leak very little information. You may also have spaces that are close to several structures, which can quickly help you eliminate those structure-based clues, as well.
- Keep in mind that players can ask any other player, not just the player to their left. This is a pretty common thing that players forget, since they’re kind of just … used to asking the player to their left (the long-term bias of turn ordering). Changing it up can give you insight on other players’ clues, or help clarify something that might have been unclear after an opponent’s question or turn.
- Search actions can leak a ton of information, so try to be sure that you’re right. You do have to indicate that the cryptid could be in the place that you’re searching, so that’s a lot of information to suddenly have to give out. Try to avoid Searching unless you’re pretty confident that the cryptid could be there.
- Confirmation bias is real; try to be cognizant of it. My general strategy is to just assume what a player’s clues are and update that assumption whenever something contradicts it. Just keep in mind that if you emulate that strategy, confirmation bias (the bias of only looking for information that confirms something you believe to be true) can start filtering in. You need to occasionally check locations that will contradict that confirmation, otherwise you may end up making assumptions that can cause you to get drawn off-track.
- The players’ clues combined can only indicate one space on the board. That’s critical. You can use this to your advantage! If you think that you know a player’s clue, checking to see if the overlap of all clues produces only one location is a useful way to check. If the overlap produces two or more spaces, then one of your clues cannot be right.
Pros, Mehs, and Cons
- Love the art. Kwanchai Moriya continues to specifically never disappoint. He’s just … very good. I love how the game turned out, and his use of color is sublime. Great choices, great look.
- I’m also a big fan of deduction games more generally? I’m really into them! I think it’s because I grew up on Clue, but this and The Search for Planet X and The Shipwreck Arcana really are just some of my favorite titles, mechanically, that I’ve played in a long time. I like having to think about other players’ moves, and I think cracking the location and figuring it out feels great. Even if you don’t fully get it, you’re usually pretty close by the end, which also helps.
- Plays surprisingly quickly! I really do consistently think the game will take longer than it does. Sometimes it’s just … you place a few pieces, look at the board again, say oh, and it’s over. Once everyone knows what they’re doing, I’d be surprised if it took longer than 30 minutes.
- I particularly like the app support for this game. The app is very good. It generates the board, shows players clues, stores clues for later, confirms the result, and will even offer you a hint if you need one. Plus, the boards it generates don’t seem to be the same board configurations on the cards, so if you somehow use up all the cards you can still play via the app!
- It can be played online with some effort, as long as one player can show the board. You just need to functionally replicate the board on all players’ ends, or be willing to show the entire board on the shared screen. It seems doable, if you can’t get an in-person game set up.
- I also appreciate that this game has a two-player variant and puts 3 – 5 on the box. There’s been some conversations about this online, as far as I can tell, and I think there’s something to keeping your player count to non-variant modes. For me, it means that I know from the start that this is recommended for 3 – 5 players, and that there wasn’t an official two-player mode (at the time). It also means that I should likely start playing the game at 3 – 5, rather than banking on being able to start teaching with two (the two-player variant isn’t recommended for new players). It’s frustrating when that happens, so I appreciate the frankness of Cryptid, even though I definitely forgot about the player counts and tried to play it at two several times before I found out about the variant. I’m not sure what the right way for a game to signal that it has player count variants available, but I prefer them not list a “not recommended for new players” variant on the box as a formal player count.
- That said, the two-player variant is very fun! I have taught it to new players and it’s gone pretty well, but it is a solid and fun variant. It’s essentially the two-player variant for Betrayal at House on the Hill, in which players control multiple characters, but in Cryptid the “two players” you control share information and can choose which of their cubes they want to play (if they both can’t find the cryptid on a space). It’s an interesting and simple spin that works pretty well!
- And an advanced mode! I always like difficulty modifiers. There’s a hint available for all players if they agree on it, and there’s an advanced mode for experienced players. I think that’s a great thing to have in a deduction game, so, glad it’s included.
- Not a ton of time to set up. If you play with the app or with the regular game, it’s pretty quick. Just throw the board together, drop a few pieces, pick colors, check hints, and you’re ready to go!
- The loop of a player turn isn’t too complex, either. The actual deductions you need to make can be challenging, but on your turn you either just ask about a location or search a location. Nothing else to it. Only having two moves that are relatively easy to pick up is great for an otherwise challenging game. It means the deduction is going to be the hard part, not learning the mechanics.
- The player token colors are very good. I particularly like the purple and the teal; they’re both very nice colors.
- On player token colors, I do wish the blue was closer to the blue on the clue sheet, though. Very minor gripe, but I really like that blue color, and would have liked to see it in the tokens. I suppose it couldn’t be, given that the standing stone / shack are already close to that blue color, but, it would have been nice.
- While I do love the logic / deduction puzzle of the game, I wish there were more opportunities for micro-deductions rather than one major deduction. I suppose the micro-deductions are the individual clues, but it would be nice to have more things to find than just the one cryptid. Multi-Cryptid would be amazing, if there were a way to make that work without giving everyone a headache.
- The thing that this is missing is a better way to track deductions. Thankfully, they solved this problem post-release with the Cryptid Deduction Sheet. I think that the game could have been even better if these were like, deluxe dry-erase versions that came with a cover, but, this is a problem I plan to solve through the power of my laminator. If I make 5 of these and throw some dry-erase markers in, we’re pretty much good to go. It would have been excellent if these came with the game, but, given that it’s easy to fix, it’s not the absolute worst problem to have.
- It can be a bummer if the game ends right before you were about to guess correctly. This is how some deduction games work, but not all of them. It kind of ties into my desire for more, smaller deduction options during the game, but it can be very frustrating if you were about to guess correctly on your next turn and suddenly, another player beats you to it and wins. Not much to be done about it, given the structure of this game, but definitely something to be aware of. I tend to mention “game ends abruptly” in this section, more often than not.
Overall: 9 / 10
Overall, yeah, I pretty solidly love Cryptid. I think my favorite part about it is how nicely it fits into the pantheon of deduction games I’m building with The Search for Planet X and The Shipwreck Arcana. Cryptid is short, competitive, and easy to pick up and play, which contrasts nicely with Planet X’s longer, more complex elements and Shipwreck’s cooperative play. A deduction game for all seasons, at this point. What I love about Cryptid is that it has a simple premise, a simple player turn loop, and great online app support to allow for even more possible games than I expected. This means that I don’t even need the cards; I just need to pick players, choose colors, pass out clue folders, and we’re good to go! Plus, with a surprisingly excellent two-player variant, I can play Cryptid with basically any player count that I would expect to have in the near future. My major gripes with the game are also relatively minor. For one, I wish that Cryptid had included its online Deduction Sheet with the game itself; it would have made the game state a lot easier for players to track, and I think that would make learning the deductions required a lot simpler for new players. My other gripe is that Cryptid can fairly unceremoniously end, but there’s not a whole lot to be done about that. You find the cryptid, you win. That’s pretty much the name of the game. I don’t love it when games suddenly end, but that’s also what they do, sometimes. Not enough to keep Cryptid down, though; I think it’s fantastic. Great art, fun theme, and honestly, just right up my alley. So if you’re looking for a delightful and quick deduction game, I’d highly recommend checking out Cryptid! I’ve had an absolute blast playing it, and can’t wait to play again!