We were given the opportunity to review Cryptid Café by 25th Century Games. You play as a server working at the aforementioned Cryptid Café. A husslin’ and busslin’ cafe where cryptids come to chow down on tempting treats. If you’re a fan of games like Cooking Mama or Overcooked, then this game will scratch that itch. You place your servers to get as much food as possible to fulfill customer orders. The game is fast paced, hectic, and charmingly cutthroat.
The game is broken down into rounds with 4 phases. The number of rounds depends on the player count, with less players having less rounds per game. The phases in each round are: Sending Out Servers, Sharing Tips/Collecting Food, Serving Customers and Clean up. Each round will consist of each phase, with Serving Customers being unlikely in the first round or two (depending on your luck). After all rounds are finished, the player with the highest tips (i.e. most points) wins.
To begin setup is fairly simple. You place the Kraken’s chef table in the middle of the playing area. All of the food tokens are placed within player reach. There are 5 different foods, all of which have fantastic names. Hexpresso, BLTE, Cinnamonster Rolls, Hot Apple Spider and Al-Bone-Digas (a pun on albóndigas which is meat balls in Spanish). The artwork and tokens are a beautiful seamless mash of cryptids and delicious, albeit creepy, food. Finally, each player grabs a player mat and a deck of cards. Each player begins with two cards placed in the green slots on top and each player has the exact same cards as all players. All players also begin with two bonus action cards. We will go over bonuses a little later, for now just know everyone has the same abilities as everyone else. Give players 5 one coins and the game is ready to play. Setup is quick, however, there are not bags for each token type so if you’re a stickler for organization then you will be sad when you find that your food tokens will all be mixed together, making setup cumbersome.
The first player is the person who most recently went out to eat. On your turn, each player will perform phase one, then phase two, phase three and finally phase four. To begin phase one, you simply look at the Kraken’s chef table and select where you want to go. There are 5 lines (one for each ingredient) and 3 spots in each line. If you are the first person in line you will get 3 food items at the end of the turn (pending a few other things). If you are second you will get 2 and if you are third you get 1. It pays to be first in line. Each player will continue to place their servers in whichever line they want (and can). Once all players have placed all 3 of their meeples, phase one is over.
Phase two consists of sharing tips and collecting food. Each line is solved one at a time. To share a tip, you will give some money to the chef to… well… cut in line. It pays to be first but it can also cost to be first. If you share your money you get to be first because money makes the world go round. Even in the cryptid world. Once you have moved up in the world (and line) you bump everyone back and the line is solved. You can only share your tips once per round, so make sure you share at the most critical time. As a house rule, we added the possibility of competitive tip sharing. Meaning that if someone paid to bump you back, you could pay to bump them back. It added a nice auction-like mechanic to the game they made it a very competitive game. After tips have been resolved you simply collect however many food tokens pertain to that line and you repeat for the next lines. Once all lines have been finished, phase two is over.
Phase three is feeding customers. At the top of your monster cards are food token symbols and a number. As should be obvious, the number means how many of that particular food item a monster needs to eat in order to fulfill their hunger and needs. If you have the required number of food tokens then you may feed them. Each monster also has a particular color/cryptid icon. If you manage to collect three of same type you make a set. Once three are collected you gain 3 points and any additional cards of that type will add 1 to your total at the end of the game. It should be noted that it is rather difficult to collect sets. The points you gain depend on where on your player mat the card is. You gain the appropriate number of points by immediately getting the correct number of coins. Cards will be moved during phase four, the clean up phase.
During phase four, you collect your servers and your unfed monsters are moved to the right 1 OR 2 spaces. As they move to the right, they will have been waiting longer and will be less likely to leave a good tip. (Just like real life, no one likes to wait a long time for their food.) The green slots will net you the most amount of points, the orange the second most and the red the least amount of points. If you manage to not feed the cryptids by the time they reach the end of the spaces, they will give you negative points at the end of the game. You may be wondering why you would want to move 2 spaces instead of 1. The answer is that after moving your monsters, you refill all the green slots on your turn. So if you decide to move 2 slots you’d refill 2 slots, giving you more opportunities and options for feeding at the cost of making other customers potentially unhappy. After cleanup, the next round begins and the round token is moved, and the first player card (the slime and pepper) goes to the next player. Players continue through the appropriate number of rounds until the game is over.
There are two bonus card that each player starts with. The manager card allows you to switch the order of any two monsters in your lineup. This lets you gain more points if needed or helps avoid harsher penalties for not feeding cryptids. The Change My Order card lets you swap a monster’s order with any other unfed monster. This lets you use cheap monster’s order to fulfill higher scoring monsters. There are also penalty cards that may be drawn during the cleanup phase. The penalty cards affect everyone and will make a specific ingredient unavailable or make your line move 2 spaces at the end of the game.
The game is tough, challenging and very competitive. You will find yourself being angry at being unable to collect any hot apple spiders when your monsters ALL need hot apple spiders. It is strangely similar to feeling hangry. It is a fun fast paced game that will leave you wishing you could eat at The Cryptid Café.
Language Barrier Playability: Great! This game is pretty much all symbols, numbers and has very little text. The text that is in the game can be translated very quickly and remembered.
Replayability: Good. This game is definitely one you will play many times but it is a little long depending on the player count. So you may not play it repeatedly on the same night.
Artwork: Fantastic. The art style and mashup of creepy, cryptid and cooking is comical and creative. (A lot of alliteration for emphasis).
Strategy: Light. There is some strategy but it’s very dependent on luck and to some extent strategy.
Quality: Excellent. The pieces are sturdy, cards are textured and the sasquatch servers are probably the best meeple we’ve seen in a long while.
Instruction Manual: Excellent. Short, quick and very well illustrated. What you need from a good manual.
Organization: Good. The pieces all fit in the box and there is a spot for everything. If we’re being nitpicky, we would have liked to see more baggies for the tokens or more slots for the tokens to be separated. When setting up the game again and having only one bag for all 5 types of food, it can be time consuming to separate all the pieces again. I suppose you could leave a giant pile and just let people pick at it as they need, but what kind of monster does that???