Welcome to The Game Shelf!

After getting into the board game hobby at the end of 2014, we've decided to share our thoughts on the games we're collecting on our shelves. The collection has certainly expanded over the last few years and we've been making up for lost time!

Sometimes our opinions differ, so Amy will be posting reviews every Tuesday and Fi will post on Thursdays. We hope you enjoy reading some of our opinions on board games - especially those for two players.

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Monday 9 December 2019

The Game Shelf Reviews:- Decrypto: Expansion #1 - Laserdrive

Game: Decrypto: Expansion #1 - Laserdrive

Publisher: Le Scorpion Masqué

Designer:  Thomas Dagenais-Lespérance

Year: 2019

Decrypto is one of our favourite party games. It supports 3-8 players and very quickly replaced Codenames at Fi's work board game group. It's a fantastic word game that forces you to think outside of the box and is brilliant for teams and players who might want to drop in and out.

In Decrypto, each team has four secret words numbers 1,2,3 and 4. Each turn, one player will draw a 3 digit clue and will need to give a clue to each of those three words that helps their team to identify the matching words, whilst not giving too much away to the opposing team. Turns go back and forth and so you'll start to give more clues for the same word. The opposing team will try to match new clues to old clues as they start to get an idea for each of the four words. If you guess the other team's code correctly twice, you win, or your own team guesses incorrectly twice you lose.

What Does the Expansion Add?

Laserdrive shakes up the Decrypto experience with the addition of laser disc category cards. Each round there will be one category card revealed for both teams. When giving their three clues, at least one of the clues must match the round's category. But it doesn't end there, if you can give three clues that match this round's card then your will win a treasured laser token for your team.

Laser tokens do nothing by themselves, but if you manage to earn a pair of them then you can use them to take a guess at one of the opposing team's hidden words. Get that guess right and you get one of the white interception tokens, bringing you a step closer to victory!

Amy’s Final Thoughts

Decrypto is a fantastic party game, so we were naturally very excited to see an expansion on the horizon. Laser Drive isn't the most intense expansion. While it does shake up the gameplay it's careful not to shake too hard and damage the experience. A noble endeavor in theory, since I really like Decrypto, so I don't want it to change too much. But I find I'm looking at Laserdrive and wondering if they have been too careful, not changed enough. Is it even worth opening the extra box?

The category cards to provide a nice twist to the game. Having to pick one clue that associates with the round's subject is a fun enough mechanic. It makes you ask questions like "which clue is most like a piña colada?" and that's a fun question. However trying to get those laser tokens is a different notion, trying to give 3 clues that are clear enough for your team but obscure enough to confuse your foes was already challenging enough. Now they all have to start with the letter A? You know what else starts with the letter A? Analysis paralysis! That's what you'll get every round while the clue giver desperately tries to get that laser token. Make sure you start using the timer with this expansion unless you want the game to drag!

On the bright side submitting to the terms of the category card often means that people have to give more obscure clues, which in turn makes the team more likely to make a mistake. This balances nicely with the chance for the extra eavesdrop token. Not only are your potentially furthering your win condition, you're doing it by risking your loss condition. It's got a nice risk-reward feel to it. The sad fact is that the best way to use laser drive is probably to throw away those laser tokens and simply have the category cards add their little challenge to every round. Having to match it with one clue can be hard enough some rounds and it gives that nice little twist to the base game that helps keeps things fresh.

Fi’s Final Thoughts

Decrypto is a game we discovered quite late, but I'm so glad we did! It's one of only a few games we own that don't work for 2-players, because it works so well when we have friends over, or with work colleagues. In fact, I think that through bringing it to work, I've sold 2 or 3 copies. Every time we play the game, we always finish by trying to guess each other's words. Of course, during the game you've started to create a link between some of the clues you've heard, sometimes to a concept, but every so often, there's a golden moment where you just know the exact word. Laserdrive kind of monetizes this concept.

Coming up with clues in Decrypto is challenging yet satisfying. Within your first game, you realise the mistakes that can be made. Your clue might seem so smart, but when you realise at the last moment that it could connect to another word, or that it connects really well with a prior clue, you are kicking yourself. However, if you can use connections to previous clues as a double bluff to throw others off the trail you feel so smart! Laserdrive makes coming up with good clues even harder. Making all three match to the category feels almost impossible, but then adding the extra layers of trying to obfuscate your words is enough to make people's heads explode. It's obvious now why the passive aggressive timer needs to come into play. For me, things were slowed down too much, and the fun of connecting words to a category was lost once you were trying to agonise over connecting all three.

There's a few ways that I can think of to house rule the expansion and make it more interesting, but you really shouldn't have to. Perhaps you only need to link two words to the topic in order to gain a token, or maybe the game extends so that you need three white tokens to win. As it is, I don't think anyone I play the game with will really appreciate the expansion. The categories are kind of fun, and people might like them, but they do slow the game down - and with some players it can already be a bit too slow. I can't really recommend this expansion - I think most players should simply stick with the base game, unless you have a group of friends who are getting far too good at the game on a regular basis - in which case, Laserdrive might mix things up and change the dynamic in some fun ways.

You Might Like...
  • If you ever finished a game of Decrypto by trying to guess each other's word then this expansion turns it into a game mechanism.
  • The categories can force master clue givers into giving slightly more obvious clues.
You Might Not Like...
  • The game is slowed down when using the expansion.
  • It can be far too hard to gain the extra tokens that allow you to guess your opposing team's words.

The Verdict
6/10 The concept of this expansion sounded fantastic on paper - giving you extra ways to gain points by incentivising a mechanism we were already including in our games. The reality was just too difficult. Coming up with three clues that fit the category is hard and slow and you need to do this twice to even get a chance to guess. The categories are fun, but we're unlikely to play Decrypto with the 'guess the word' mechanism with all but the most hard-core friends.

Decrypto: Expansion #1 - Laserdrive was a review copy kindly provided to us by CoiledSpring Games.

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