Designed by Jared and Aaron Kaplan, Croopo first appeared in 2016 as a trading card game. It's a two-player fantasy-themed combat game where players are each turn pitting one of their creatures against one of their opponent's creature. Clearly Croopo is influenced by the now classic trading card game Magic: The Gathering (Wizards of the Coast) but it is lighter and draws on a rather more manageable card set. We thought of it as MtG meets Pokemon (Nintendo).
This new Croopo Origins edition provides players with almost everything they need in a single box - so no need to collect or trade cards, tho' the publishers (Croopo LLC) have indicated that there may be further expansions in the future. Included in this box are two complete core decks of Croopo cards plus the cards for the three expansions that have been published since the game was first launched, so you can just play with two identical decks or you can explore the expansions by supplementing and substituting cards from the core decks. The rules offer guidance on deck creation, and this is a game that would lend itself to card drafting.
But how does it play? Players shuffle their decks and place four cards face down as their 'victory cards'. Players draw four more cards and place these face up in their 'battle cage'. Each turn, and alternating between the two players, the attacker chooses one of the creatures in their battle cage and sends it into battle against the opponent. If the attacker has any 'power up' cards in their battle cage, they can choose to add one to accompany their creature. The defender then decides which creature they want to field, and they too can choose to add a power up card if they have one available.
The creature cards show the number of hit points they can take and they set out how they attack. Almost all roll the two standard six-sided dice supplied in the game but most offer a small +/- modifier on the 2d6 roll, and many have additional modifiers when used against certain creature types (for example, humanoid or mech). Players can see the four cards their opponent has in their cage, so that will inform their choice of creature. The defender has the benefit of not choosing until after the attacker but it's still advantageous to be the attacker because, unless you're unlucky with your rolls, you can expect to defeat the majority of creatures in two rolls. Players alternate their rolls for each contest, with the attacker going first, so the attacker usually has a good chance of getting in a winning blow before the defender gets their second attack roll.
When a creature is defeated, all the cards used in combat go to players' discard piles. The reward for the winner is they can either flip one of their face-down victory cards to the face-up position or, on a subsequent turn, they can take a face-up victory card and use it to refill their battle cage. Otherwise, battle cages for both players are refilled from the draw deck. The game is won by the first player to have taken all four of their victory cards out of the victory card pile and into their battle cage. This means games will take a minimum of 8 and a maximum of 15 turns, so this is really a filler-length game that's likely to take around 20 minutes.
Tho' this is a dice chucker with an inevitably high luck quotient, there are some tactical choices to be made about when to play certain cards, and there are creature cards that offer a choice of how they are used: usually offering a 1d6 roll with a powerful impact if successful but with no effect if it fails - so a 'push-your-luck' gamble where failure places you at serious risk of defeat. The core deck includes a small number of terrain cards. These give bonuses to all combatants that qualify (for example, all creatures that have the mountain symbol) so it can be counterproductive playing them if an opponent might also benefit. On the other hand, holding onto a terrain card will clog up your battle cage and can make you vulnerable by making it more likely that you only have access to creatures of the same type: if I have a creature who is +2 against humanoids, I will be delighted to see that the creatures you have in your battle cage are all humanoid...
We've enjoyed our plays of Croopo Origins, and it's gone down particularly well with teenage children. It's good to see the core game and expansions brought together in this way, and we found the playing board helpful too in earmarking the spaces for each player's 'victory cards', battle cage, draw deck and discards. The one omission from the box is the means of keeping track of the hit points of creatures engaged in combat. You're very unlikely to defeat an opposing creature in your first roll so you each need to keep track of how many hit points the creatures have left. The Croopo rules suggest using pencil & paper but it would've been helpful to have had counters for tracking hit points or even a tracking card, as in Star Realms (Wise Wizard). In the end, we used a couple of d20 dice (not supplied) as hit point trackers.
Croopo Origins is available at Amazon.com
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