- Designer: Gregory Grand
- Artist: N/A
- Publisher: Blue Orange Games
- Release Date: April 2020
Disclaimer: This game was provided to us for review by Blue Orange Games.
Luke: When I first heard about Cross Clues, looking through the photos and info, I quickly began to have flashbacks to endless nights of Codenames. When that game first came out, people couldn’t get enough of it, and even now I find myself stuck playing a match here or there.
Phil: Not a fan, I gather?
Luke: It’s a fine system and allows for large groups of players to participate at once, but turns take a bit too long, the Cluegivers can seriously drag down the pace of the game, and oftentimes you’ll find a few players not say a word because there are already too many people crowded around the table.
Phil: I can see that. I quite enjoy having it on hand for more casual parties, but it’s certainly not a favorite game of mine.
Luke: So yeah, I didn’t have high hopes for Cross Clues, but you were particularly interested in giving it a go, so I figured we might as well.
Luke: And while this style of game isn’t necessarily my jam, Cross Clues does a better job at being a succinct guessing game for 2 players.
Phil: I couldn’t agree more. For those of you unfamiliar, Cross Clues is a co-op game in which all players are trying to help one another fill the central grid of cards. The game ends when all clues have been used, at which point the group scores based on how many clues they guessed correctly.
Everyone draws 2 clues to ponder over, and whenever anyone has a 1-word clue in mind, they can say it out loud. Everyone else then has a set amount of time to guess where that clue belongs in the grid of options. Depending on the difficulty level, there will be a certain number of rows and columns, with each associated with a particular clue. The grid coordinates are a combination of the clues from that row and column.
Luke: So you’ll end up getting ridiculous combinations like “ring detective” or “fire wardrobe,” which is both funny and interesting. Whereas something like Codenames relies on the number of diverse cards included, Cross Clues has a far wider pool of options with fewer cards due to how they are randomly combined.
Phil: If the group gets the guess correct, everyone earns a point and the card is placed in its appropriate spot. Otherwise, the card is discarded face-down so only the clue-giver knows which coordinate was just removed from the game. This can lead to interesting moments late in the game in which players are armed with the knowledge of previous mistakes to help deduce what future options may be, but each person only knows so much.
Luke: And that’s about the long and short of it. And the game is short, around 20 minutes, which makes it another great filler game to come out of Blue Orange’s doors.
Phil: And it plays pretty well at 2-players. Because no one has to wait on the other to provide a clue, it allows for everything to run quicker and smoother.
Luke: Ah, but is it better than Codenames: Duet, the 2-player co-op iteration of Codenames?
Phil: I’d say it depends on what you’re looking for. To me, Cross Clues is great because it feels streamlined and easy to get to the table. Codenames: Duet can feel a little finicky and more involved, especially if you’re choosing to play the campaign mode. But hey, some people are looking for that level of involvement from a game like this.
Luke: I’d say, if faced with a choice, I would prefer to play Cross Clues simply because it mitigates the wait between turns and helps players with AP not to feel pressured to rush to share a new clue. Anyone can take as much or little time as they want, and yet everyone always has something active to do.
Verdict: Cross Clues makes for a great social game if you want something light, compact, and easy to teach. It may not be for everyone, but I think it’s a solid filler that should be considered if you’ve enjoyed the Codenames series in the past.