- Designer: Reiner Knizia
- Publisher: Grail Games
- Players: 1-6
- Ages: 8+
- Time: 10 minutes
- Times played: about 12, with review copy provided by Grail Games
The past few years have shows a significant rise in the number of “roll and write” (RAW) games – a genre which usually, but not always, has players rolling dice and then each player applies the die results by writing stuff down on a score sheet. So, in general, each player has the same base results to work with, but your overall success (or failure) comes from how you apply those results to your scoresheet.
In Criss Cross, players start with a 5×5 grid. Unlike most RAW games, the players do not start with an identical starting setup – each player has a unique symbol placed in the upper right space in the grid – which can be chosen or decided by a die roll. Make sure that all players have a different symbol to start with. The six icons are: slash, X, circle, triangle, hamburger (three lines) and octothorpe.
The game will be played over 12 rounds. In each round, the two dice are rolled, and each player must enter the two shown symbols. They must be orthogonally adjacent to each other, but that is the only restriction. They do not need to be placed next to anything on your sheet. When all players have written down their pair of symbols, the dice are rolled again and the process continues.
The game ends at the end of the twelfth round – at this point, most of the scoring sheets should be completely filled (you start with one symbol, and then 12 pairs…). As you are placing your symbols, you should keep track of the layout of the board as it is possible to leave single spaces in your grid which can then never be filled in.
Once the sheets are filled in, it’s time to score. You will score each of the five rows and columns. You will also score the shaded in diagonal from bottom left to upper right. Note that this diagonal has a scoring space on each end – and yes, you will score this line twice!
Scoring is based on sets found within each line.
- 2 points – for each directly adjacent pair of symbols
- 3 points -for each directly adjacent 3 of a kind
- 8 points – for each directly adjacent 4 of a kind
- 10 points – for each 5-of-a-kind – that is the entire line comprised on the same icon
- (-5 points) – for each row which does not score positive points.
Each line is scored individually, and the score is written under the column, the right of the row or either end of the diagonal. Sum them all up and the player with the most points wins the game! Ties go to the player with the highest single line score.
My thoughts on the game
Like most RAW, I am drawn to the simplicity and portability of the game. All you need here are the dice and a few score sheets (which honestly could be improvised on blank paper). This is one of the simplest RAW out there, but it doesn’t outstay its 10 minute length. There is a bit of strategy, and a fair amount of push your luck… When I say push your luck – it’s in the way where you sometimes may decide to write in an icon and lock in a lower score or sometimes leave a space empty and wait for a better option to come along.
There is some strategy is working on grouping together like icons for high scoring opportunities. For me, the two best ways to score points are to get a full 5-of-a-kind line of a single icon, though the 2×2 box of like icons is also a good scoring value – as that comes in at 8 points for the box; 12 points if the box is on the scoring diagonal as well… For me, there is a bit of strategy/planning which I have to start working on from about the second roll. Namely, I have to map out the 2×1 blocks that I plan to use in order to not have empty spaces in my grid. The way the game works, if you have a single empty space, you’re guaranteed to have two because you have to place icons directly adjacent to their roll partner.
So… there might still be times when you end up sacrificing two spaces to get the icon you need in the right spot; but I find this is only for such high scoring activities such as guaranteeing that my scoring diagonal is a five-of-a-kind – as that play is worth 20 points on its own.
The rules described above include the expert rules, and there are enough decisions to be made – especially regarding avoiding empty lines which score negative 5 as well as maximizing the diagonal row – to keep your interest up.
A great filler, and one that I am adding to my (burgeoning) box of RAW games.
Thoughts from other Opinionated Gamers:
Joe Huber (3 plays): I found Criss Cross more pleasant than great – but to be fair I strongly suspect I’m not as big a fan of the roll-and-write genre as Dale as. Everything works just fine, but – there’s nothing I find very compelling about the game. Happy to play it when others wish, though.
James Nathan (1 play): Criss Cross is fine. If it was a 2 hr. strategic game, I would probably mean that as a bad thing. However, as a short, small box RAW, I mean that positively. It has a different feel, and doesn’t outstay its welcome or space.
Dan Blum (6 plays): I think this is a good little roll-and-write game in the classic Knizia style – short, simple, and tense. It’s too bad he didn’t release it several years ago before roll-and-write really took off because I can’t see it getting much attention in the sea of more complex and more visually arresting roll-and-writes out there. I’d like to see him do more games in the general space of “generate a random result and everyone uses it,” although this is not his first venture into it (FITS and BITS precede it, and possibly others I am not thinking of).
Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers
- I love it!:
- I like it: James Nathan, Dan Blum, Dale Y
- Neutral: Joe H.
- Not for me…: