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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Saturday 1 May 2021

Keep Droning On:- Cryo

Game: Cryo

Publisher: Z-Man Games

Designer: Tom Jolly, Luke Laurie

Year: 2021

Cryo is a 2-4 player worker placement game that tasks you as a survivor of a ship that has crashed on a strange, and cold, planet. In the last moments about your great starship the resident population split into factions and began infighting. Now you find yourself in control of the drone bay, desperate to preserve what human life you can save, so long as you know you can trust them! You'll send drones out across the planet's frozen surface in order to gather supplies, rescue your crew and construct transportation that can carry the humans safely underground before the cold night makes the planets surface entirely inhabitable.

Much like any worker placement game, on your turn you'll find yourself placing out a worker and then doing the associated action. No action spaces on the board are dedicated to solely one task though, with most spaces are surrounded by three or four actions, of which one can be performed when landing a drone there, making it that little more difficult, though not impossible, to block actions from your opponents. Even the most simple action in Cryo has a slight twist. The resource gathering spots might simply grant you the resources shown on the current face up tile, alternatively you can take this tile and place it somewhere in your drone bay. The drone bay has six places which can be activated when you spend your turn recalling all your drones. These bays can be customised with said resource chips, letting you trade one resource into another or simply getting a free action worth of resources each time you recall.
Each action space is surrounded by several potential actions to choose from. Though at lower player counts many of these drone bays are broken and blocked.
Many of the other actions allow you to spend some resource in order to gain an effect. You can trade resources in order to gain vehicle fuel, rescue escape pods or to play cards. Each cards can be played in three ways: played at the bottom of your drone bay as a vehicle, at the top of your drone bay as an ongoing upgrade that lasts until the end of the game, or face down as an end game scoring bonus. These effects are powerful, but you'll be hard-pressed to generate enough metal to play a large sum of cards and still rescue many people! Once you have a vehicle, and enough people worth saving, you can send a drone to the mines. This drone will escort your precious cargo, at the cost of fuel and resources, to the ever-expanding network of tunnels where human life might just survive. At the end of the game each section of the tunnel with give out points to the player with the most and second most humans residing in it.

The end of the game itself is hastened on by players recalling their drones. Every time this happens the player must take one of the available incident tokens. These can be friendly scavenging operations granting a bonus resource or two, or viscous sabotages setting part of the ship's remains (and any crew in it) on fire. Eventually as these tokens get replaced the sunset token will appear, when this token is claimed the game immediately ends with any humans still on the surface... well at least they won't be set on fire?

While Cryo may style itself as a worker placement game, this very much feels like a means to an end. Pull off the scooby-doo rubber mask and you'll reveal and engine builder with area control elements. The engine building is something I've rarely seen before as you are able to customise so heavily. Taking the drone bay as an example, if you take the time to use your drones to gather resource tokens, then when you recall your drones you'll have the choice of making resources, changing one resource to another, rescuing people, generating fuel or playing/drawing cards. Sure you can only do three per recall, but that only encourages you to focus down on the things you want to do. 

Over the course of the game you can customise your drone bay with new abilities and load up vehicles with rescued people.

But don't get too caught up caught up on making an efficient engine. If you do, you might find you've no time left to run it! Time is very much your enemy in this game, with constant pressure to keep up. Spend too long without rescuing your people and you might find them a little more crispy than you remember. If you don't take the cheap explore new caverns actions then you might find others will, giving them a foothold in the various caverns without having to spend the vehicles and fuel costs normally required. There are so many different ways you can approach playing them game (including recalling as often as possible in order to bring night early!) which does wonders for the replayability.

Cryo is a game that I'm not terribly fond of. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't be. I'm never a huge fan of area control mechanics, and I find them especially egregious in a game that can end so suddenly. I love engine building games, but I like to have that couple of rounds for the engine I built to start humming along smoothly. Cryo doesn't offer you that spare time. The mechanisms in Cryo are near perfectly implemented, there are some fantastic ideas, but all in all it manages to hit enough mechanics that I'm not personally fond of to make me not enjoy the game half as much as I ought to. So bear that in mind, as this game may well be a five for me, but it could easily be an eight for you!


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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