TableTopTakes: Criss Cross

TableTopTakes: Criss Cross

It’s roll and write time and there are a ton of roll and write games out there. I decided to take the plunge a few months ago getting Criss Cross, Welcome To.., Second Chance, and Ganz Schon Clever and now I own Cat Cafe as well. So I have enjoyed them, but what did I think of Criss Cross?

Criss Cross is an interesting fast little puzzle game. Every turn two dice are rolled and each player must place the two symbols rolled onto their player board adjacent to one another orthogonally, not diagonally. While you are doing this, you are trying to create rows and columns of the symbols so that they are adjacent to one another so that you can score points. The more symbols you have of the same type next to each other in a row or column, the more points you will score for that row or column. At the end of the game, you tally up your points for each row and column to get your grand total, and whomever has the most points wins.

Now, that seems like you could end up with people doing the same thing if there is an optimal combo to put into play each time the dice are rolled. But there really isn’t that optimal combo, and at the start of the game, since it’s a five by five grid, each player is going to seed a symbol onto the board in the top left corner, and if those are different, that is going to create different scoring opportunities. I’ve played this game with six players before, and you end up with vastly different scoring from everyone, even with some of the seeded symbols being the same.

Image Source: Board Game Geek

There is obviously a large amount of luck in the game as you are dependent on dice rolls, and sometimes that dice are not going to give you what you want. But the game does offer some strategy in where you place things, as you have to consider both the rows and columns for scoring. If you focus too much on the rows for scoring, you are likely going to score lower on the columns, and vice-a-versa, but if you only focus on getting scoring in both directions, someone might score a long string of symbols that might score more points than the blocks of symbols that you are able to create. You also have to be concerned about how you place the symbols onto the board, because the dice must be adjacent to each other when placed. That means, you might have an ideal spot to put two dice, but if it is going to create a pocket of one empty spot, you won’t be able to fill in dice on the final row, since you won’t have two adjacent areas, and that roll might have been good for you.

There is also an advanced version of the game that offers a bit more difficulty and trick to the scoring. First, you have a diagonal that you are going to be scoring as well as rows and columns. Not only are you scoring this diagonal once, you are scoring it twice, once each direction, so if you can build it up, you can score a lot of points. But counteracting that is the negative points you get for a row or column that doesn’t have any scoring. -5 points is a steep price to pay for not having any scoring in the columns, rows, or diagonals, so you aren’t scoring as many long runs, or that is harder to do as a viable strategy.

Either way of playing the game is a lot of fun. I really enjoy this roll and write as a fast game that you can sit down and teach just about anyone. If people are familiar with games, they can probably pick it up, and even if they aren’t a gamer, the game is still pretty straight forward. When you do teach this game, though, the one rule that people tend to forget is that you are scoring adjacent symbols, and the dice you place have to be adjacent as well. I’ve had people forget both the adjacency rules in games that I’ve taught. So I’d remind people of those rules the first few rounds of the game until you’re sure that everyone has it or everyone gives you annoyed looks. Once everyone knows the game, it is going to go very fast in subsequent plays.

If you want to see how this compares to some of the other roll and writes or flip and writes that I mentioned in the first paragraph, you can find that in a Board Game Battle. But I really do enjoy Criss Cross. I think that it’s a good introductory roll and write game, and a good step for people who are familiar with something like Yahtzee to show them how different roll and write games can be. Then I’d introduce them to something like Welcome To…

Overall Grade: A-
Gamer Grade: B
Casual Grade: A-

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