Cross Clues

Updated: May 12


For generations, parties have been the dominion of cutthroat contests of skill and trivia between friends. How many times have you literally fought to the death over a game of Pictionary or Boggle?


But in 2018 Just One changed everything. And while Just One may not be the first co-operative party game, it’s hard to deny that since its release Cooperative Party Games have been on the rise. Which brings us to Cross Clues.


Cross Clues is a co-operative party game of code cracking cleverness mixed with the pressure of a timer.


Unboxed


  • 10 Tiles

  • 25 Clue Cards

  • 50 Code Word Cards

  • 5 Minute Sand Timer

  • Rules


The components for the game are, on the whole, fairly nice. They come in a nice magnetic clasp box, which is a hallmark of the small box Blue Orange games. They have a retro 1950’s americana look to them with a pink and blue palette and the whole thing looks very pleasant on the table.



The meat of the game are the code word cards that make up the grid and change the game each time you play and there are 50 of them with 2 words aside, giving you 200 words to use and near infinite combinations.


Despite this it is still possible to get a grid composed of strikingly similar words, which will make the game much harder. I would recommend flipping or rotating cards that are too similar for a better experience before you begin.


The rules themselves are clear although they lack clarification on what makes a valid clue. For example they fail to mention if abbreviations, proper nouns or onomatopoeia are permitted.



A Quick Overview


To play Cross Clues, first choose the game type, you can play express, classic or expert and the only difference is the size of the grid. Layout the grid cards, A-D and 1-4 for a normal game, along with a single code word card at each to create a grid (4 x 4 for classic mode.)


Players are then each dealt a clue card showing a grid reference and the time begins. Players don’t take turns, but instead any player who wants to may shout a single word clue. The other players must then decide which two words in the grid the clue relates to, giving a grid reference as their answer.



The player who shouted out then either places their card into the grid if the coordinates are correct or discards it and draws a new one. This process continues until all the cards have been played and the score is determined by how many cards were correctly placed into the grid.


Once you have the concept of the game locked in you can add a timer, 5 minutes for a normal game, which puts the players under pressure to think of clues and get the cards into the grid before the time runs out.


Thoughts


Cross Clues sounds great in premise but in practice I find it just okay. The game has competing elements which jar for me. On the one hand it wants you to be clever and give a creative clue that links Guitar and Dinosaur, but it wants you to do it with the pressure of a timer. The game is also one of diminishing possibilities, after enough clues have been given, you don’t get the card in the right spot because you thought of a clever clue, it’s just the only place the card would fit. In this way the game gets less fun as it goes on meaning it peters out rather than ending with a climax.


The game also plays up to six and as each player is holding one coordinate card this means that in a six player game there would always be 5 spaces the players know cannot be correct out of 16 and as the game continues that ratio of possibilities is further reduced.



The game can also have a very uneven spread of interaction. Being dealt a single clue card means if you can’t think of a clue for your words you might only give one clue in the entire five minutes. And sometimes there just isn’t a good way to link your words, especially if there are lots of similar words in the grid. For example we had a game with Car, Train and Airport on one side of the grid meaning that clues that related to transport often would fit into any of those three slots.


In a 2 or 3 player game players have a hand of two cards, which gives you more options to be able to play and means you aren't stuck staring at a single card unable to think of a good clue.


Cross Clues reminds me very much of another party game, So Clover but So Clover succeeds where Cross Clues fails for me. It allows you to be clever with your clue giving because it doesn’t have that time pressure. If you can’t think of a linking word right away you have three other links to work on while you do and the puzzle of the game is presented all at once, preventing the diminishing possibilities problem.


Cross Clues’ unique selling point, then, is the timer, which does make it more frantic, but ultimately takes away from the experience in my opinion. And while you can play without the timer, that does amp up the problem of diminishing spaces for cards to be played as players have more time to puzzle it out making Cross Clues more of an activity than a game.



What did others think?


Dave - "Interesting game, which starts quite hard but get's easier as you deduce the other clues."


Richard - "It’s a fun, but frustrating party game that’s a slight twist on Codenames. If you already own Codenames, I’m not sure it’s worth owning both but it’s still a good game in its own right"


Ian - "It's clever in its simplicity, but it's hard to avoid repeating a clue when someone has guessed incorrectly. Similarly, repetition affects the replay value somewhat for the same reason. Would potentially be a good game for a group of English language learners."


Final Thoughts


While I have enjoyed my plays of Cross Clues, So Clover offers a very similar experience but with a more robust game design behind it.


A copy of Cross Clues was provided for review by Coiled Spring Games.

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