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Cryptid, a Mystery of a Game and a Mystery Whether to Keep

I've enjoyed every play of Cryptid so far, and there have been 5 in the week that I've owned it, but I don't know if it will stay in my collection long term. 

Cryptid is a pure deduction game. The players are treasure hunters (mythical creatures really but I prefer treasure), but they all have parts of the location without the whole location. Throughout the game the players will slowly learn more about the other players and what they know, and eventually one player will figure out what the other players know, and get to the treasure first. The skill in the game is twofold. Being able to look at the other players and figure out based on what they've indicated, what their clue must be. And then secondly being able to reveal as little information about yourself and what you know as possible.

And therein lies the problem. While I love it so far, and am eager to play again, I see a shelf life on a game like this. As a perfect information game, there are three ways this plays out. Option 1 is that multiple players figure it out at the same time, and then turn order comes into play. Option 2 is that you realize the flaws of option 1, and therefore make an educated guess before perfect information is achieved, and thus win or lose through a guess. Option 3 is that you simply are better at analyzing the perfect information then the other players, and you therefore win. It's this option that I'm scared of. 

One of the aspects of game design that I find essential, is that a great game with great players, should be a challenge for all involved even if some players have played it 3 times and other players have  payed it 15 times. While I recognize that a first play is always to some degree a learning game, within a few plays, all competent players should be able to play on the same level. Obviously this will never happen perfectly, but degrees of separation matter. The less multiple plays impact your likelihood of winning, the better. I can pull out Blood Rage with a mixed group of players, some who have played it twice and others ten times, and not know who's going to win. But if I pull out Galaxy Trucker with my group, a game that I've played at least 15 times, I will win every time. And that's why I eventually got rid of Galaxy Trucker, despite loving it.

Cryptid is amazing, I will play it again and again until this problem rears its head. But I believe it will rear its head. Unless all players are at the level of perfect information, which will ruin the game in its way, I am concerned that multiple plays will give a significant advantage to spotting the patterns earlier than others. And if that happens, it would be even worse than Galaxy Truckers or other such games. At least in other games there's an engine being developed, a game that takes place that can be fun even if you walk in knowing you won't win....but in Cryptid, finding the treasure is the game. Unless you believe you have a reasonable chance of winning, then you're basically just spending the game helping the other players win. And that's not fun for anyone.

I highly recommend Cryptid. While sharing some surface similarities with Tobago, it's really its own beast, a unique game worth playing...and hopefully worth keeping.


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