Dale Yu: Essen Preview of Crabs!



  • Designer: shane007
  • Publisher: Moaideas Game Design
  • Players: 3-5
  • Age: 12+
  • Time: ~30 minutes
  • Times played: 2, with preview copy provided by Moaideas.

crabs box

Crabs! is a small card game where you try to catch the most valuable crabs that you can.  The deck of 60 crab cards is shuffled and each player is dealt 6 cards.  Ten crab cards are then placed face up on the table as the crab pool.  A separate deck of 18 objective cards is shuffled and 4 of these are revealed above the crab pool.  Finally, the four gear cards are laid out in a row, and each player places their wooden crab token to the left of the lowest numbered gear card.

Karen pondering her play in Crabs!

Karen pondering her play in Crabs!

On your turn, you can take a single action from the following six:


1 – Catch Crabs – take a total of 2 crab cards from the face up pool or the top of the deck


2 – Raise Crabs – play any amount of crab cards from your hand to the pool and take back the same number from the pool

the crab pool

the crab pool

3 – Trade Crabs – play any number of crab cards from your hand to the pool, total the point value of those cards, and then take back any amount of cards from the pool that has the exact same total value


4 – Relax Crabs – choose up to 3 horizontal score cards in your area and turn them vertical


5 – Upgrade Gear – discard an amount of cards from your hand equal to the cost listed on the next gear card and then move your wooden crab onto the new gear card.crabs 2


6 – Bind Crabs – Play one card face down as a rope card and hten play at least one crab card from your hand and calculate the total score (adding in any bonus points from your gear level).  Then, using the chart on your player aid card, you can keep a single scoring card from those that you played face up.  This card could be either horizontal or vertical.


Once you have taken your single action, then you can claim a single objective card by discarding corresponding vertical scoring cards from your area.  If you take a card, replenish the objective card row to four cards.  Next, discard down to 8 cards in your hand, and then check your score.  If you have reached 25VPs, the game end is triggered (play continues until all players have had an equal number of turns).  Otherwise, the next player can take his turn.

gear cards on left, objective cards on right

gear cards on left, objective cards on right

At the end of the game, players score VPs from

  • Scoring cards on the table
  • 1 extra VP for each golden crab
  • Points from your Objective cards
  • VPs from your current Gear card level


The winner is the player with the highest total of VPs.


My thoughts on the game


Crabs! is a cute filler game – though it might be a bit math-y for casual gamers.  In short, you’re racing to get to 25 points, and there really aren’t too many ways to get there.  You have to collect cards from the crab pool (or occasionally from the top of the deck) and then bind them to score single cards each turn.


In general, the higher numbered crab cards are more valuable as they will lead to high binding totals and they are also the cards that will be kept as scoring cards.  However, there is still plenty of value to the lower cards.  Many of the objective cards require you to turn in low to medium sized crab cards, so you might end up being able to capture these smaller cards at a faster rate (because you need lower binding totals to collect those cards), and you might then be able to get a payoff  from the objective cards – they are set up so that you always gain at least one point by collecting them, even if  you turn in all gold crabs to do so.


The composition of the crab pool is an interesting thing.  The pool is not a completely closed system – cards will leave the pool when they are scored, though they might still re-enter the pool when those scored cards are converted to an objective card.  The other way that cards enter the pool is when players choose to draw mystery cards from the top of the deck.  But other than that, cards go out into player hands and then come back in as they are played.


One trick that seemed to work well for me was to trade medium cards in for a handful of low cards.  Then, if the pool worked out right, I could then trade in seven or eight low cards and take back high cards or golden crabs in return.  This didn’t work every time that I tried it, but when it does, it provided me usually with at least two turns of good scoring card opportunities.


When scoring the cards, don’t forget that you have two different possibilities; you can either score the card vertically, or for a lower binding total, you can score a card on its side.  The cost here is that you cannot turn these cards in for an objective card.  I don’t think there is a right or wrong here – it just depends what you think the best way is to get to 25 points.  We have made a habit of counting out the binding totals as you play each card (starting with your Gear bonus, of course) so that player’s options were readily available.  This method also allowed all players to help ensure that the count was correct in a simultaneous fashion, rather than having to recount after the active player had finished.


The artwork is cute and should be appealing to children.  My only complaint with the graphic design is that I wish that the gold colored crabs also had gold colored numbers so that players could easily recognize them.  We had a number of occasions where people missed picking them up or didn’t choose to score the gold cards, but only because they didn’t recognize them.


The game plays quickly, and in my couple of games with it, the 25 point threshold is crossed earlier than I was expecting it to be done.  The game itself is pretty light, and there aren’t really many different paths to explore, so I think that the game does not outstay its welcome at this low point total.  Once we knew the rules, our second game took about 25 minutes for a 4p game.  It will never be the focus of a gaming session, but it’s a decent opener/filler/closer.


Until your next appointment,

The Gaming Doctor



About Dale Yu

Dale Yu is the Editor of the Opinionated Gamers. He can occasionally be found working as a volunteer administrator for BoardGameGeek, and he previously wrote for BoardGame News.
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1 Response to Dale Yu: Essen Preview of Crabs!

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