Monday, July 9, 2018

Do we need a nine card party game?

In my never-ending browsing through PnP games, I came across Cypher from the 2016 Nine Card PnP contest. I’m pretty indifferent to party games but a nine-card one intrigued me.

Cypher is a game for two teams where the clue giver uses dice and cards to randomly generate two clues. They then come up with a word that fits those two clues and their team has to guess that word with the other team also getting a chance to guess.

Eight out of the nine cards are double-sided clue cards with six clue words on each side. The person in the clue giver seat draws cards and rolls three dice. Discarding one of dice, they place a die on each card, showing what the clue words are. They come up with a word and whisper it to the enemy team’s clue giver. (Actually, the rules say a word close to the right word. Have no idea why. My way makes more sense)

The clue giver’s team gets three guesses. The ninth card is the road card, which is basically an axis of hotter-colder and more letters-fewer letters. After the first two guesses, the clue giver can use the card and a cube to help their team. If they don’t get it after three guesses, the other team gets one guess without access to the road card.

And the enemy clue giver doesn’t get to be part of the guess so I don’t know why you don’t just whisper the actual word to them. In fact, not doing that opens up wiggle room for cheating so it really doesn’t make any sense.

First team to five points wins.

Now, I haven’t played Cryptic, although I have made a copy and I wouldn’t mind trying it. It doesn’t strike me as an amazing party game but it certainly seems like one that should work and be fun. I’ve seen worse.

It does have one crucial issue. Since you have to come up with your own secret word, that means the players have to have some level of creativity. And that can be a game killer with some groups. Apples to Apples was such a big success in part because creativity was optional. (I’m not thrilled with that but I think it is very true)

So, if I ever get to teach this game, I’d give my standard Zendo advice. Don’t tell get too cute or clever, particularly at the start. What seems simple in your head can be crazy complex in practice. 

At the same time, that creative freedom means Cryptic offers a lot of breadth and replay value. Between that and being only being nine cards, three dice and one road marker, Cypher seems like a great game to have in your bag just in case you need a party game. (Okay, Charades and I Spy just require warm bodies so this isn’t the ultimate travel party game)

So I’m kind of surprised I’d never heard of Cypher before and that it apparently never got passed the beta stage. It really seems like a decent party game that can fit in at least some wallets. I’d think that’s something folks would want.

Maybe I need to look at more PnP and/or micro party games.

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