Criss Cross is an incredibly simple roll and write game from Reiner Knizia but, amazingly enough, not the simplest one he’s made. That’d be Katego.
Okay. Description time. Criss Cross belongs in the same school as Take It Easy. Everyone has their own board and fills it out with the same information. It’s literally multi-player solitaire.
In this case, everyone is filling out a five-by-five grid with the rolls of two dice that have six different symbols on them. At the start, everyone puts a different symbol in the corner. (If you have more than six players, there’s going to be some duplicates)
Then, roll those dice. Everyone has to mark down those two symbols on their grid and they have to be adjacent to each other. Diagonal doesn’t count. And if you accidentally make a square impossible to fill, that’s just too bad for you.
After you’ve filled in your grid, time to figure out points. You score each row and column. Set of symbols (and they have to be next to each other) are what earn you points. A set of two is worth two points but a set of five is worth ten points. Most points win.
There are two advanced rules. One is that you score one of the diagonal lines but you score it twice. The other is that if a row or column doesn’t score any points, you get negative five points for it. I would never play without these rules. Even if I was teaching Criss Cross to a non-gamer, I’d still teach the game with the advanced rules. There’s not much to the game so a little more adds a lot.
Criss Cross reminds me of a lot of games, even within the Take It Easy family. Mountains and Valleys from Sid Sackson’s Beyond Solitaire, Mosaix, Not Another One. However, the game I find myself really comparing it to is Würfel Bingo/High Score.
I like High Score more. Since you are using the sum of two dice, you can use probability to make decisions. However, there’s going to be more variance in Criss Cross on different players boards, which is a good thing.
Okay. What do I actually think about Criss Cross? I’m going to damn it with faint praise by saying I like it just fine. All the parts work, it doesn’t overstay it’s welcome and I’m pretty sure any group I’d show it to would have fun with it. Criss Cross does just what it’s supposed to. It is pretty random but that’s a given when the whole game is twelve dice throws.
However, I have played a lot of games like Criss Cross. And some of the are definitely better, although others are definitely worse. It’s biggest sin isn’t how random it is (that’s both expected and that randomness hits everyone equally) but there’s nothing about it that makes it really stand out in the pack.
The most interesting thing about it when looking at it in a global perspective is that it is so stripped down and basic. Knizia boiled down the idea of Roll and Write to its fundamentals with Criss Cross.
Would I play it if someone suggested it? Sure. Like it said, it does what it is supposed to and it has the added bonus of being super portable. I’m sure I will play it some more. It’s decidedly not bad. It’s just decidedly not special.