Cryptid Urban Legends
- Designers: Ruth Veevers, Hal Duncan
- Publisher: Osprey Games
- Players: 2
- Age: 14+
- Time: 20-40 minutes
- Times played: 3, with review copy provided by Osprey Games
Cryptid Urban Legends is an asymmetric game of competitive abstract “deduction” for two players from the creators of Cryptid. In this two-player only game, players will take on the role of the Cryptid or the Scientist who is trying to track down said Cryptid.
The goal of the Cryptid is to have presence counters on the leftmost and rightmost city blocks of the game – but only when there are seven blocks in play; thus, you cannot win on the first two turns. The goal of the Scientist is to limit the Cryptid to one or fewer presence markers at the end of a round. If neither of these happens when the deck of city block cards is out, then the player with the most evidence tokens wins.
Each player gets their own deck of 10 cards (specific to their character), and starts with a 3 card hand at the beginning of the game. There are three different types of move actions in the deck – they each affect a chosen group of sensor tokens differently.
Split – split the sensors in a space into two groups, one goes to the left and the other goes to the right. There must be at least one sensor in each group, but otherwise, you are free to split however you want
Shuffle – select one sensor and move it left or right one space and then into the other row diagonally using the same lateral direction
Align – choose one sensor color and move all the sensors diagonally in the same direction.
Each player also gets a wild card on the table, which starts on the inactive side. Any time your opponent picks up an Evidence counter, you get to put your Wild Card on the active side, where it stays until you use it.
The city is represented by square cards, each being a city block. They will be set out in a staggered pattern. Interspersed between those cards will be the three color of sensor cubes (white, pink and black). There is an Active Row (always with fewer blocks) and an Inactive Row (with more blocks). In each round, the sensors are moved from the Active Row to the Inactive Row.
Each round is played with 5 phases: Sensor, Hiding, Victory, Restrict, and Expand.
Sensor – In this phase, players alternate taking one of three actions: a] play a movement card from their hand and take the action on it, b] use a face-up wild card, c] draw two cards from the deck, though there is a hand limit of 4 cards. Continue alternating turns until all the sensors are moved into the inactive row.
Hiding – The Cryptid announces either a number of sensors or a combination of (1, 2 or 3) colors. So, you could say “a total of 5 sensors” or “Red and white”. Then, a presence counter is placed in each inactive block card which matches the announced feature (that is considering all sensors adjacent to the block on BOTH sides) and is diagonally adjacent to a presence counter in the active row. If there is an Evidence counter on this block card, the Cryptid collects it when he places his presence counter on it.
Victory – this is the only time in the round where you check to see if the game ends. The Cryptid wins if there are 7 blocks in the game, and the Cryptid has markers on both leftmost and rightmost blocks of the inactive row. The Scientist wins if there are one or fewer presence counters on the city blocks.
Restrict – If there are seven city blocks in the game, the Scientist now removes the leftmost or rightmost pair of blocks. (Therefore, this phase is skipped in the first two turns) If there are evidence markers on these removed blocks, the Scientists collects them.
Expand – The player closest to the active row now draws the top two cards from the city block deck and places to the left and right of the two cards remaining in the row near them. Now the identities of the rows switch and the next round starts, with the player nearest the active row getting the first move.
The game can end in the midst of any round in the Victory phase if one of the victory conditions is met. Otherwise, if you end a round and cannot perform an Expand phase (because there are no city block cards left in the deck), the player who has collected more of the 5 evidence counters wins the game.
My thoughts on the game
I took this game on a road trip and we played it a twice on that trip. We had two games that went the distance, both ending with the evidence counter win condition. In our games, the Scientist had a very hard time limiting the distribution of the cubes – the Cryptid player generally was able to get the sensor cubes set up to give multiple Presence counters.
I think we were both disappointed at our initial plays because the game is sold as a Deduction game. That word “deduction” is used both in the official description of the game on BGG as well as printed on the back of the box. From what we can tell, there isn’t much, if any, deduction in the game. You don’t have to deduce where the Cryptid is – this is a game about cube movement and cube patterns. There is nothing to deduce about where the Cryptid is – because that is only established once the player picks the conditions. I guess you can deduce that the Cryptid is NOT on blocks that are not diagonally adjacent to previous Presence markers – but that’s about it. We both were hoping this would be a lot more like the game it is based on, Cryptid. As it turns out, the most that they share is the first word in their titles.
After that, the game was on the shelf for a few weeks. Then, I brought it back out for another try, and the next game took a third of the time of the teach! That third game lasted exactly one round as I was able to get the cubes arranged so that my Cryptid opponent could only place one Presence marker. My playing partner was so frustrated with a game that he lost without the game even getting to the point where he could win… He refused to play it a second time, and we moved onto other 2p games.
Designwise, the cards have an awkward format; the only needed information is in the lower left corner, and this means that you can’t see them when you fan the card in the usual manner. I am thinking that the cards were designed this way to allow for the maximal space of the sumptous art of Kwanchai Moriya; but man, I really dislike it when games place beauty in front of functionality… I want to be able to play the game, not look at the art. With these cards, even if I hold them upside down, I still have to fan them wrongways (As if I were a lefty) in order to see the only important bit of them…
Now that I realize these things about the game, I’ll be in a better place for it on its return to the table. I will probably make sure that any newbie gets to be the Scientist on their first turn. I’ll also be sure to dispel and misconceptions that this is a deduction game. When you look at this as a somewhat complex abstract strategy game, I think you’re closer to the truth about the game.
I also found this designer diary to be pretty fascinating, and it helps me undertand the math behind the game: https://boardgamegeek.com/blogpost/129523/designer-diary-cryptid-urban-legends-or-asymmetric
For me, abstract 2p games are not really my jam, and I’m pretty sure I’ll be passing this onto one of the other Opinionated Gamers who likes these sorts of games. I was hoping for a smaller, more portable 2p version of Cryptid, and that is definitely not what you get here. The game is otherwise an acceptable 2p abstract, but the clumsiness of the cards reduces my desire to play it.
Rating: Not for me.
Until your next appointment
The Gaming Doctor