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Decrypto vs. Crosstalk


#1

Codenames is undoubtedly the biggest party game hit in recent memory. It’s a great, well-designed word game by Vlada Chvatil, published by CGE.

However, as the industry is growing, there as been more and more talk about the “Codenames killer” game. This sub is raving about Decrypto , but I think there’s a game that’s been overlooked - Crosstalk .

Decrypto , designed by Thomas Dagenais-Lespérance and published in the United States by Iello, hit the scene last year in 2018. It seemed to show up on this subreddit a lot. Like Codenames, it’s a team game, with each team having a secret list of four words. The cluegiver draws card with a sequence of numbers (like 4-1-3 ). They will then give three clues: the first clue relates to the 4th word, the second clue relates to the 1st word, and the last clue relates to the 3rd word. (This matches the sequence of numbers that the cluegiver had on their card).

The catch is that the opposing team gets to guess the sequence first. If your clues are too obvious (yellow, monkey, fruit) then your opponents might be able to figure out that clue (“banana”) - making guessing the sequence of numbers much easier as they figure out what the words are. If they correctly guess two numbered sequences, you lose.

However, if you make your clues too vague, and your teams fails to guess the sequence correctly, you also lose.

When I played this game at a game meetup, it was sort of fun. However, the game just seems to be klunky. Despite being used to complex euro games, we often messed up the turn order. Teams would guess right after hearing their cluemaster’s clue, even though it wasn’t their turn. (Whether due to excitement, or due to klunky rules, I’m not sure). I suspect it has to do with the fact that you’re right next to the cluegiver, so it naturally feels like there are “sides” to the table. It seems natural that you’d do when your cluegiver gives a clue.

There were also some interesting clues - for example, I remember someone on the other team using “crown” and “police” as clues, so I figured out the hidden word was “Victoria.”

However, while there was a quiet “Cool! We figured it out!”, the game didn’t have the high-fives-around-the-table moments or particularly funny moments, like there are in Codenames or other party games.

Crosstalk came out earlier than Decrypto, back in 2017. This game, designed by Brett Sobol and Seth Van Orden and published by Nauvoo Games, is simpler than Decrypto. We played this past weekend at a friend’s game night. I did hear about this game from Actualol (used to be u/Actualol on here, but I don’t see him). He was famous for his funny Top 10 Couples Games video. Outside of him, though, I don’t think many people talked about Crosstalk as much as Decrypto.

In Crosstalk, there are two cluegivers, just like in Codenames. The difference is that the two cluegivers are trying to get their teams to guess the same word or phrase . The guesses are in a similar format to Decrypto - Team 1 gives a clue, and then Team 2 guesses. Then Team 2 gives a clue, and Team 1 guesses. The catch is that both teams have a secret, one-word hint that only the cluegiver and their team can see.

When we played, my girlfriend gave the secret hint “hero.” She also had to give the first clue, “water.” The other team guessed “Poseidon” - which was wrong. They then gave the clue “fish.” Then my girlfriend’s team easily guessed “Aquaman.”

I think the crux of the game is being able to be vague enough, and yet give really good secret hints. I suspect that giving a secret hint like “idiom” or “saying” might help in a lot of instances - and then using the public clues to point the team in the right direction. (That being said, I think “clavicle” was an excellent clue for “wishbone” - even though that team didn’t get it right.)

Each team also has a hint board (which we didn’t really use). Once per word, it allows you to draw relationships between the words and clues given by both teams, but you are only allowed to use the symbols listed on the bottom of the board.

I think this game was thinky, and still really interesting, even though teaching it to new players was a little difficult. Like Codenames, the game can stall if the cluegivers take too long.

Between the two, I like Crosstalk more . I have a bias - I prefer more elegant games, instead of one with more complex rulesets. I’m also an extrovert, and I find ten-player party game more fun than a quieter, more thinky game with fewer people.

For some reason, people find Crosstalk much easier to grasp, even if they don’t have a good idea about the strategy for the game. I think the extra level of abstraction (the 4-1-3 number sequences) somehow makes Decrypto seem more complicated to people. Compare it explaining the rules and saying, “You give a clue, but they guess first.” People just seem to get that.

I also posted this on reddit, but I thought it’d be a good post here, since some of the SHUXers might have gotten this game for free.


#2

I haven’t played either but I own decrypto. I sort of regret it because my sense is they scratch the same itch but I get utterly anxious about thinking about explaining decrypto to anyone.


#3

I don’t see why - people have picked it up very quickly when I’ve taught it. For people that really can’t stand rules explanations, you can just say “give hints that you think your team will get, but the other team won’t” and get started. By round 2 or 3 they’ll have it all figured out.


#4

The problem I found for Decrypto is that you need someone to referee the game - you can’t join in after the rules explanation.

That being said, I only played the game twice, at a game meetup, with people that I didn’t know that well at the time.


#5

I think people like us can deal with rules explanations but when people go out to a pub (which is my principle zone fro playing party games) there’s a pressure to make it fun instantly. If I can feel in my heart any friction to that it’s a disproportionately large disincentive to try.

Like… you even said it yourself in a way you’re looking at three rounds before people can feel smooth with it which means that time when not everyone is not getting it or having as much fun as they could just drinking beers.


#6

Fair enough. I can’t imagine playing Codenames in a pub either, but I haven’t been in the UK much in the last 15 years, so I haven’t experienced the pub gaming thing yet. I would have thought that anyone there to play games would enjoy figuring out Decrypto as they play, but you know your audience best.


#7

That can be quite a downer in some games (although, sometimes you can find that person who likes to be the MC, like the mod for traditional Werewolf, or the bartender who reads/awards the clues at Trivia Night in the pub. Sometimes the quietest member of a group secretly wants to be the Game-Show Hostess or Host).

That being said, based on your description, I’m feeling Crosstalk might be better for my group(s). Simple rules lead to unexpected complexity. Elaborate rules lead to complication. (They’re both fun, don’t get me wrong!)

Both of these seem to weigh on the simple/complex side. If anyone wants to start a PBF of each, here, at any point, that would certainly help.

(And I don’t know about “Codenames killer,” watching cluegivers squirm in frustration and silence is the main draw no matter what team you’re on.)