I look up from the notepad in front of me, catching the eyes of my partner across the room. They have a slightly furrowed brow and a look of confusion on their face.
“That’s like the third time you’ve made a strange noise while you’ve been looking through those cards, what are you doing?” they say.
“I’m up to my eyes in Egypt just now, important things going on” I reply, smiling.
“You’re an arse. I want you to know this,” they respond, before shaking their head and turning back to the television.
This hasn’t been the first time this exchange has happened you understand, because since I delved into the envelope that Inside The Box Board Games sent me, I’ve been making a mixture of noises between frustration and jubilation as I’ve gone through the preview sample puzzles for Crypt X.
Earlier, I was sitting on the floor, with a collection of playing card size illustrations spread in front of me, a finest example of the Pepe Silvia meme, trying to piece bits of the puzzle together, all in the hope of find patterns and connections and clues and solutions. On occasion I’ll make one of those involuntary noises, as I realise how bloody stupid I’ve been for not noticing something that was sitting pretty much under my noise. Other times, I’m throwing a card aside because it’s pissing me off, because I’m seeing things that aren’t there, or not seeing something that should be there.
Crypt X is like one of those puzzle compendiums that your Aunt or your Gran used to buy you in the summer holidays when it was raining for the fourth day in a row. The telly only had 4 channels and you weren’t in your own house, so the toys there were frankly shite and dull and something you played with when you were a baby. So you started with the simple word searches and crosswords and spot the differences, before you end up in the more complicated word puzzles and logic grids.
You end up analysing and making decisions and guessing and logical leaps and things click into place where there was nothing before but confusion.
Crypt X is like those skills being re-awoken in your brain, reminding you that other games are about following rules, where this is about taking rule sets and extrapolating on them. In a short time, you realise that Crypt X isn’t trying to be clever, it is clever, very clever. There are many times when I was playing through the singular puzzle cards, that answering one tripped something in my thinking that made another card make more sense, and the variations of puzzle is enough to keep you interested so you can move form one card to another if you do get stuck. That being said, there were a couple of cards that didn’t seem to make any logical sense to me no matter how much I played around with them. Miss-steps I guess are only to be expected in a new product with so much imagination that has gone into them, but sometimes I felt that it was trying to be a bit too clever.
What I didn’t get to look at was the app that accompanies the game and help provides the scoring tracking and clues if required. The answers from the cards are either words or numbers, and you input them in as you go in order to unwrap the mystery of the disappearance of your professor of Egyptology. Which means you’re up to your eyes in pyramids and hieroglyphics and wonderful striking art work that all fits onto a deck of cards. To me this opens up Crypt X to more than the normal tabletop market, edging into the box escape room and possibly further into the mainstream as puzzle fans look for something new and inventive to tackle.
Crypt X is challenging, thoughtful and an occasional brain burner. It maybe needs to watch and not be too clever for the sake of it, as solved puzzles will always be more rewarding than frustrating ones. I also worry about longevity once all the clues have been solved, but I would certainly be happy to spend time in the company of friends solving the mysteries that ITB has brought to the table.
We were provided with a preview copy by ITB for this preview which contained a limited number of puzzles.
We did not access the app during this article so cannot comment on performance.
Peter from ITBB has appeared on the podcast on several occasions.
You can look at the kickstarter on https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/itbboardgames/crypt-x-a-narrative-puzzle-game