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Decrypto Review – Codes and Competition

The party game market has really boomed over the past few years. More and more games are entering the marketplace, allowing for more and more players to play games at any one time.

It isn’t uncommon for party games to be word based. There are several mechanics that don’t particularly scale up well, but word games do and thus have become a thriving part of the party game scene. There are several excellent games out there that offer competitive and team based experiences based around words – Codenames and Werewords as examples.

This article today is going to be about another game on the market that is worth taking a look at within that word/party game genre – and that game is Decrypto.



What is Decrypto?

Decrypto is a word based party game designed by Thomas Dagenais-Lespérance and released in 2018. Whilst playing Decrypto the players are split into two teams, and are seeking to be the best decoders to have ever frequented the board game table.

Decrypto is a game about communicating codes to you team and intercepting codes from the opposition. It is for 4-8 players. It can take anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours to play depending on how much time you want to leave for discussion.

How Do You Play Decrypto?

Decrypto starts by having the players split into two teams. Each team gets a screen, split into four numbered panels. Each panel has a red screen, into which keys are placed. The keys have words hidden on them, which the red screen filters out. This makes them visible to the players.


Four words, visible through the red screens.

The players are then given sheets of paper and a deck of “floppy disk” code cards.

The teams take it in turns. One player draws a code card (this player rotates per turn, so everyone gets a go), keeping the code on it to themselves. This code is three of the four numbers in any order, relating to three of the four words. Their job is to write three related or similar words (or phrases) on the sheet of paper in the order directed by the code.

Taking an example, if the words are:

  1. Cake
  2. Chocolate
  3. Bell
  4. Wheel

And the code is 1.4.2 then the words (or phrases) written down by the player may be Victoria (as in Victoria Sponge Cake), Wagon (as in Wagon Wheel), and Ring (as in what a Bell does).

For the first round it is up to the players on that team to guess what the code is. If they get it, being able to see the words, everything is fine. If they don’t get it then they get a Miscommunication token. Two Miscommunication tokens and a team loses.

The opposing team have spaces on their paper to keep track of their opponent’s clues.

From the second round onward, before a team guesses their own code, the opposing team get a chance to intercept by cross-referencing the words used by that team with the words that have come before. If the opposing team guess the codes they get an Intercept token. Two Intercept Tokens and a team wins.


A Code Card with the Words Visible

What Is Decrypto Like To Play?

There has been a fair amount of hype around Decrypto over the past few months and it is understandable to see why. Decrypto has a few really interesting aspects, putting it in a similar family to Codenames but with a twist.

There is something nice and tactile about Decrypto. The screen mechanic works really well and actually sets a nice scene for the game. This is a game about codes and deciphering riddles, and the first thing you are presented with, in the game, is a code in its own right. The keyword is one part, and the red screen is the other. By merging the two it really helps the theme of the game come through, even in a word game (which are traditionally quite abstract).

The game itself is actually incredibly challenging. Firstly, it is incredibly challenging trying to come up with different clues. It is one thing when your team gets words that are all different (“dog”, “house”, “magic” and “swimming” for example); however, when words like “Chocolate”, “Sweet”, and “Cake” all come up at the same time it is difficult to differentiate them. What is more, the clue can’t be too similar to what the words really are. If you are trying to convey “Chocolate” then “Cocoa” or “Double Decker” would give it away, making it easier to the opposition.

Secondly, there is a challenge with trying to understand what the other team has come up with. Contrary to logic, the game isn’t actually about trying to figure out the words the other team are using. Instead, the goal is to try and intercept their code by guessing the order. This is done by trying to find the connection between their clues. Figuring out the keywords helps with this, but it isn’t strictly necessary.

This makes Decrypto a difficult but interesting game. After the first round you learn that you need to really think about the words you give as clues. They need to be on point, but not too on point. They need to be abstract, but not too abstract.

So, what is Decrypto actually like to play? We’ve already covered the fact that it is challenging, but what else?

At its core, Decrypto is a kind of puzzle. It is thought provoking and requires some real thought from all players in order to win the game. There is a gradient of difficulty, with it being the easiest for the team whose code it is to guess right, but since everyone does everything throughout the game everyone gets the chance to give a clue and try to solve one.

One thing that is worth being mindful of is that the suggested playtime for Decrypto, according to Board Game Geek, is 15 to 45 minutes. In reality, our game group has only ever had one game that lasted within that time range. Most of the time the game lasts from 1.5 to 2 hours to play.

Since there is no way of regulating turn length during the game, players have to really keep track of how long they are taking with each round. That being said, this is a minor niggle in an otherwise enjoyable game.



TL;DR: The Good, The Bad, and The Keywords

With Decrypto we can break down the Good, Bad, and Neutral points for the game.

The Good:

  • Decrypto is a challenging game for a large number of players. The team play works well and the general concept means no one should find it too easy. Decrypto is on the heavier side of word games.
  • The little red screens work nicely and help add theme to the game.
  • Decrypto is not a difficult game to learn or play (although, it is difficult to explain to someone).
  • Decrypto is a well thought through puzzle game.

The Neutral:

  • The theme comes across well with the red screens and keys; however, the theme isn’t particularly strong with the rest of the game. It doesn’t necessarily need to be but it is worth noting.

The Bad:

  • The game can take a long time to play and needs the players to regulate how long each round will last.

Conclusion: Decrypto Review

Decrypto is a fine entry into the party game genre. Although the red screens and key cards are not integral to the actual game play (the game could be played with empty slots and normal cards), it is new and exciting. It adds something different to an word game, allowing it to become something more memorable.

Decrypto has much longer rounds than a game like Codenames or Werewords; however, it is a different kind of word game. Decrypto is not just a game but a puzzle – and it is a good one at that. It is about piecing together an image of words, and not just finding the right ones. For that, we give it a thumbs up.

So, what are your thoughts? Have you played Decrypto? If so, what has your experience been like? Let me know in the comments below.

1 Comment »

  1. I enjoy this one. It’s just harder to explain I found. I personally likes the theme that was painted on for the game. All the old technology, like red film technology. My group played it wrong the first go around. We were treating it as a sort of race per turn. So team 1 was saying the clues as team 1 and team 2 we’re trying to solve the code. That was a mess. Lol.

    I did find the stands to be a bit fiddly in my game and wish there was a insert for it to help sort everything. Besides that, I’ll play it again.

    Next “Party Word” game I’m going to be trying is Trap Words. I’d fit that in the same category as Code Names and Decrypto.


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