Criss cross is a 2017 release from designer Reiner Knizia and published by Grail Games. It is a super simple, yet very addictive, roll and write game that can be played in about 10 minutes. The game play up to six people as well as solo.
Players are given a sheet of paper with a 5x5 grid. There are two unique six-sided dice with symbols on them. Each player writes a different symbol in the top left corner of the grid. A player will roll the dice and then all players use these dice to draw the symbols rolled on to their paper. The two symbols must be placed next to each other and one of the symbols must touch an already placed symbol. Once all players have written the symbols the dice are rolled again and the process repeated until all players either have a complete sheet or cannot place anymore symbols.
Points are awarded for groups of like symbols in each row and column. The player with the most points is the winner of Criss Cross.
Final Thoughts on Criss Cross
I enjoy a roll and write and wanted to introduce my work group to this mechanism. Criss Cross is a great addition that I am so glad I picked it up. Rules are simple and easy to explain and you can be playing in minutes of unboxing. The game is very accessible to all players, has a quick playing time and can be picked up and played by almost anyone.
It's a very light game, yet there are decisions that need to be made to maximise your scoring. Do you go for lots of sets of two symbols or sacrifice some dice to score big in one row/column? You can get hit with bad luck with the dice roll but everyone is working from the same "bad" dice. However, there is no mechanism to mitigate this luck so players are left with what has been rolled.
There is an "advanced" variant in Criss Cross. However, to be honest, I would start off with the advanced rules as it doesn't add many additional rules to the game. Instead of scoring just rows and columns you score the diagonal as well. Any rows/columns that do not score give you negative five points. Simple enough additions to throw in to the game from the get go. I wouldn't even tell people its the "advanced" variant and just teach as the base game.
For me, Criss Cross sits perfectly with my work group and people who are not traditional gamers. However, I can also bring this out with gamers as a light, quick playing filler game. Games last five to 10 minutes, it has a small footprint, small box and is light and engaging and can cater for up to six people. It also has a solo play which is a "get the best score" affair and makes for a neat puzzle when you have a few minutes to spare.