Cryptid: Urban Legends Review


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15 May 2022
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Like a mothman to a dim light bulb

I don’t know if this game is smarter than me or not. I enjoy myself a good brainteaser and have a particular soft spot for duelling games, but for some reason I just cannot click with this perplexing cube shuffling game for two players.

In Cryptid: Urban Legends (a small box spin-off from the 2018 game Cryptid from the same designers) one player will take the role of an investigator looking for a potentially terrifying creature of unknown origin, whilst the other will be said creature, who in reality is a big moth in dire need of some peace and quiet. The board is set up in a checkerboard pair of rows, with alternating empty and city card spaces. Each round players will be playing cards to distribute sensor cubes from the card-less spaces of one row to the empty spaces on the other, with the Cryptid trying to arrange sensors so that their presence can go on the furthest spaces of a row, whilst the investigator ensures that the Cryptid cannot call out a colour combination or number of cubes that would allow them to place two presence markers on the new row (with presence only being permitted if the combined sensors on either side of a city card matching the called out statement, as well as being diagonally adjacent to presence on the previous row.)

Players take turns to either play an action card from hand, draw two more from their deck or activate their wild card to use any of the three possible movements: Split lets a player take all the sensors in a space and divide them between the two diagonally opposite spaces, shuffle moves a single sensor over a city tile on the same row, then down onto the new row from either diagonal space, whilst align lets a player move all of one sensor colour in the same diagonal movement.

The artwork design is impeccable, with the translucent plastic markers and gorgeously illustrated action cards adding a layer of metropolitan mystery to the game, hats off to Kwanchai Moriya for their phenomenal work on bringing the hunt through the misty city to life.

However, there’s minutiae to the rules that feel a little unintuitive, with everyone I put the game in front of (myself included) taking multiple games before they felt like they had a basic understanding of how to play. In addition to the tricky unique win conditions each player can attempt, you can also win by gathering evidence tokens randomly revealed on city cards that get added to the play area, making it hard to narrow down exactly which is the better way to win.

The reactionary nature of the game’s see-sawing actions considerably lengthens the playtime, as the moment your opponent takes their turn, any possible plays you may have been considering are most likely thrown out of the window. In many ways the game captures the bamboozlement of trying to catch a moth in your bedroom under a glass, with neither of you being entirely sure on what’s happening.

Just when I thought I had an idea of this game, my opponent would play a card and I’d instantly be at a loss of what to do, sometimes outright losing on the spot, without my opponent even realising what they’d done. If spatial awareness, abstract cube relocation games are your jam, the wonderful design and travel size makes it an ideal curio to tuck away in a collection of novelty titles. Personally though, I’m not a fan of spending more time teaching a game than actually playing it.

Matthew Vernall

PLAY IT? MAYBE

There’s certainly more to this game of outwitting and arranging cubes than meets the eye, though you may begrudge the amount of time it takes to truly appreciate it

TRY THIS IF YOU LIKED Mancala

Yes, these games might be thousands of years old, but a lot of Cryptid: Urban Legends moving sensors reminded me of these literal classics. If you’re looking for a modern take on this ancient game, this might be the one for you

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Designer: Ruth Veevers & Hal Duncan

Publisher: Osprey Games

Time: 30 minutes

Players: 2

Ages: 14+

Price: £20

What’s in the box?

  • 41 Game cards
  • 10 Plastic cubes
  • 9 Plastic discs

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