Crypt from Road to Infamy games created a bit of a Kickstarter storm back in 2018, promising a small box with a lot of game. 11,646 people backed it and the game hit all its stretch goals, most of which are now available in the retail edition available on the Zatu store. So, should you consider this game now or send it into the vaults of your mind?
The game plays incredibly simply and quickly between 20-40 minutes, depending on player count. It is best in a four but works well with 1-3 as well. But due to the mechanics employed, the sweet spot is when you have three other opponents all trying to grab the loot!
The King is dead!
In Crypt, you play as the offspring of a recently deceased king who asked to be buried with all his earthly possessions. Feeling like you are missing out on some of the family goodies, you order your servants (who take the form of dice, of course!) to get them back for you.
On your turn, you place your servant dice onto the treasure cards. The number of treasure cards available each turn will be dependent on the number of players. For example, in a two-player game, there would be two face up and one face down. The face-down cards will let you know the set the card belongs to, but not the coin value. You win by having the most points at the end of the game, through coins you collected on the treasure cards, bonus points from the collector cards, and each servant dice still available to you.
When you place dice on a treasure card, this does not mean it is yours. It simply means that your servant is trying to get it for you. The other players can then place their dice onto cards, including the ones you have already tried to claim. This is if they are willing to place their dice with a higher face value than you. In a two-player game, it will then go back to the first player, who can place any remaining dice but only on one card. In a three or four-player game, the last player has the same limitation. Each player will have three servant dice of their colour with which to make these bids.
You cannot just put servant dice showing a six all the time, knowing no one can place a higher dice than you, for two very interesting reasons. Firstly, you can group dice. So, two dice showing fours would trump one dice showing a six for example. A six is not the highest you can bid. Secondly, and most importantly, to win any treasure card where your dice ends up with the highest number on it at the end of the claim phase, you must roll that dice. If you roll a number lower to the dice face you had claimed that card with, you will then lose that servant dice. Lost dice are placed in the box lid. In order to get them back, you must miss a turn at claiming a treasure card in a later round. So, you need to place your servant dice wisely. Not so low that they will just be taken off, but not so high you risk losing them. There is a fun and delicate balance here.
Long live the King!
A two-player game of Crypt could look something like this. Player one places a single dice showing a two on one treasure card and a second servant dice showing a four on another. The second player then places a single dice showing a one on the remaining unclaimed card and two dice, both showing a two, on the card the where the first player placed their single dice showing a two, knocking that first dice off. The first player can now place dice on one single card. They currently are winning one card and they really want to get back the card they just lost. So, they place two dice, each showing a three, and knock their opponent's dice off. All players now roll to see if they can beat their claim number. They claim the cards regardless of the rolls; the risk is whether they lose their dice or not. Any unclaimed treasure cards go into the box base.
The cards are in sets and there are bonus points to be scored for having a certain number of cards in each set. There are six collector cards which all offer certain powers or end-game scoring opportunities if you meet their requirements, similar to Splendor. These collector cards are double-sided too, so there are a lot of options and variety here. One of them, the Jewellery collector, offers you the chance to score your highest value Jewellery card twice. The Idol collector lets you re-roll one die. The Remains collectors will give you a whopping 10-coin bonus if you manage to collect four cards in that suit. There are many others, and this offers a nice variety from game to game.
How do I look darling?
In a four, Crypt is a joy to play. There is a constant battle where you are trying to work out how high to place your dice, based on how far you think your opponents are willing to go to risk their own. Going last means you can only place onto one card, so being second to last seems to be where the most power lies. The first player has to take a lot of risks and often ends without any dice on the cards unless they play very aggressively. You will quickly learn how the other players are favouring certain suits, and what strategy they are employing to try and win them. This becomes a fun tug-of-war mixed with push-your-luck. You'll take more risks, trying to get the treasure cards you need to meet your end game bonus criteria, all the while trying to outdo your opponents' own attempts.
The art in the game is a little mixed. The treasure cards are beautifully designed, with a simple and clear layout. The icons are bold and bright and the reverse has a nice top-down view of the crypt with the card's set shown clearly. However, the character and collector cards have this very odd style that doesn’t fit the rest of the game. Some are quite realistically drawn, such as the female purple and male black character card, whereas others are quite cartoonish. There is something about the faces of the others such as the Manuscript collector that is also a little unsettling.
The dice are great and the box itself is amazing. I love it when the box is used in the game. It is a minor thing here; you just use one half to discard cards, the other for dice. But I like the fact they are used and brought into the mechanics of the game in this way.
Overall, I have to say this is a great value game for the price. Don’t expect anything too crunchy or deep in strategy, but it does something quite unique with the dice I have not seen myself before, and I do enjoy this game. If you enjoy games like Splendor, Villagers or Unearth, then Crypt could be for you.