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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Thursday 29 April 2021

Thoughts from the Yellow Meeple:- Cryo

Game: Cryo

Publisher: Z-Man Games

Designer: Tom Jolly, Luke Laurie

Year: 2021

New Z-Man games always catch my attention, in particular because they don't release a ton of games every year and each one seems to attract a fair amount of buzz. Cryo definitely has the eye-catching artwork that was enough to get my attention, and Luke Laurie seems to be a designer name to look out for these days with both Whistle Mountain and Dwelllings of Eldervale receiving many positive reviews.

So, putting aside our disappointment with Z-Man's last big release, Paleo, I went into Cryo excited, particularly by its description as an 'engine building, worker placement game', in addition to its good looks. In Cryo, you are hostile factions vying for control of underground caverns on an icy planet. From the safety of your engineering platform, you can send out drones to scavenge resources and ultimately transport your crew to the caverns.

In Cryo, each player has three workers and on your turn, one worker is placed into a spot on the board which either allows you to perform one action adjacent to the space your picked, or allows you to drop your crew into the underground caverns. Instead of placing workers, you can alternatively recall workers onto your player board. Your player board can be customised so that each spot allows you to gain resources or convert resources in some way and you can choose which slot you want to return each worker to in order to customise your windfall. The length of the game is most often determined by how often players recall their workers. If more players recall early, before they have placed three workers, then the game length will be shortened as a result.

In order to win, you wither need to get points from having the most or second most crew in the different underground caverns, or you can try and get points from cards which give you small personal objectives, like having lots of leftover energy or having a certain number of crew in a single cavern. In order to succeed with either victory point objective you'll need to carefully manage resources. Exploring the caverns is not cheap, and it's sometimes in your best interest to explore deeper in the hope that other players won't follow you. You'll also need to bring your crew onto your platform first, taking up more of your precious worker placement actions. Stashing cards for end game scoring requires grey resources, both to obtain cards and to play them, and it needs you to make the tough decision of whether a card should be used to transport crew, as an ongoing ability you can use in the game, or for those end game points.

As a worker placement game, Cryo is very simple and nothing revolutionary, but where it tries to stand out is with its engine building. It's not an uncommon complaint for engine building games to feel like they're over a little too soon, but for me this was really pronounced in Cryo. It feels as though you need to do something early in the game to give you an edge that will make your game unique from other players. There are really three options for this;

    1. Add upgrades to your personal player board - for this strategy you're going to need a lot of cards and a way to get grey resources easily
    2. Upgrade your player board to create a pleasing chain of new resources or upgrades when you recall workers each turn
    3. Add crew to the salvage area to boost the number of resources you get when you recall workers

All of these seem like good options but the game is too short to do them all and you can spend the first two rounds simply prepping yourself to have a good rest of the game, and then realise that the 'rest of the game' isn't all that much game at all. I love to engine build and I want to take advantage of all these ideas, weaving together a nice sequence of powers for myself, but the game just won't let me explore and have fun with this.

Cryo had some great moments and cool combos that come from the engine you have built, but those great moments don't come all that often, since the grid to try and get any resources, let alone the perfect combination of resources is hard. The personal upgrades in particular were really enjoyable to try and trigger, although it is tough to set aside enough resources or create enough opportunities to trigger them multiple times over the course of the game.

Ultimately, I love all of the options in Cryo, I just wish I could do more with them in each game, rather than feeling limited by the game's short length. More and more I am feeling that I need games to let me free to have all of the fun rather than imposing restrictions and Cryo falls into the restricted category that doesn't give me the joy I'm looking for. For the Yellow Meeple, Cryo is a 5/10.

Cryo was a review copy provided by Asmodee UK. It is available at your friendly local game store or can be picked up at http://www.365games.co.uk  

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