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Decrypto is is a board game designed by Thomas Dagenais-Lespérance and released by iello in 2018. It is a word/deduction game advertised for 3-8 players but best for ~6 players. It is a social game, played by two teams, and caters well to a large range of player abilities and game experience.

The game consists of two cardboard stand-ups with slots for four cards each, a notepad for each team, and a series of three-letter numerical 'codes'. Each team gets four random words which are placed in the stand-up, hidden from the other team. Each turn a team member will take a secret numerical code (e.g., 412), and write clues corresponding to the words in the stand-up (in this example, the fourth word, the first word, and the second word). Then, the clues are read out for all to hear.

Hopefully, the clue-giver's team members will have little trouble guessing which words correspond to which clues, as they can see the target words. Hopefully, the other team, not being able to see the words, will not. However, after a couple rounds, the other team will start to form guesses as to what words correspond to which numbers, and will try to guess the target code for each round.

Each round both teams have a clue-giver, and each team has a chance to 'intercept', that is, to guess what the opposing team's code is. The game ends if the opposing team can intercept twice. It is not necessary to guess the words, just to have enough of an idea to recognize that this word looks like it might go with those words. This need to have fairly obscure clues leads to the other losing condition; if a team fails to guess their own code-giver's code twice, they are out, and the other team wins. This leads to a constant struggle to be obscure, but not too obscure.

This is currently my favorite word based and deduction based board game, for a number of reasons. While it is not as simple to learn as Just One, it does add the fun of team play, a competitive element, and a more satisfying end condition. Decrypto also is more flexible, as it can play well with 4-10 players, and can handle people moving into and out of the game without hurting game flow. The advertised 3-person game play requires a slightly different rule-set, and I have never tried it.

There are some downsides: it is best to learn by playing with a person who has played it before, or better, one on each team, as the first playthrough can be confusing. There may also be problems with game balance, as two players that know each other well or share a significant body of specialized knowledge can steamroll the other team (my local group splits up married couples, siblings, and Magic players; it can be logistically complex).

Overall, this is a good game for those who like Mysterium/Detective Club (but without the cool art), Chameleon, and Codenames. The closest games in type are Codenames and Just One, but increased leeway in clue giving and the 'attack' dynamic gives it an increased social aspect that may help it appeal to less word-nerdy players.

Iron Noder

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