There has been a slew of late of word games presented as party games. As we've remarked before on Board's Eye View, if you're attending parties where people are sitting around playing cerebral word games like Codenames (CGE), you're probably going to the wrong sort of parties. Don't get us wrong, Codenames is an excellent game - it's just a stretch to describe it as a party game. That's where Cross Clues comes in...
The name might suggest a crossword puzzle game but it's perhaps more helpful to think of Grégory Grard's Cross Clues as Codenames-lite: a simple, fuss-free, fast-playing word association game that perhaps you really could play at parties.
In Cross Clues, you have a deck of word cards and a set of number and letter tiles. The tiles are laid out to create the axes of a grid (4 x 4 in the 'classic' game but the rules offer you the option of using a 3 x 3 grid for an easier, even quicker 'express' game or setting out a 5 x 5 grid for a tougher, slightly longer 'expert' game). You randomly select word cards and tuck one under each grid letter and number so that a word is showing under each. One player takes on the role of clue-giver. They draw a card that gives them a grid reference and they then give the other player(s) a word that connects the two words corresponding to that grid position. For example, if they draw B3, they suggest a word that connects the word at B with the word at 3. Hearing the word, the other players try to work out which two words in the gris best match it and they name that grid reference. If they are correct, the grid reference card is played to the grid and the clue-giver offers a clue for the next grid reference. If they guess wrong, the grid reference card is just discarded face down and, again, the clue-giver moves on to the next card.
Cross Clues is a fully co-operative game so everyone else is working together as a team to try to get as many of the clues as they can in the time available. The game comes with a 5-minute sand timer, so you're racing against this to maximise your collective score. Because the grid increasingly fills with each correct answer, Cross Clues gets easier as the game progresses (simply because there are fewer options available for wrong answers). Whether through serendipity or design, this serves to add adrenaline into the game as players strive ever faster to complete the grid.
There's huge replay value in this compact magnetic clasp box. The word cards are double sided and have two words on each face, so four words on each of the 50 cards and an incalculably high number of possible permutations. The rules suggest Cross Clues takes up to six players but publishers Blue Orange and distributors Coiledspring Games are overly modest setting this player range: the only upper limit for the number of players is the number that can get sight of the grid.
We're not casting out our copy of Codenames but we may well be using Cross Clues from now on as a way of easing new players into the notion of organising games around the connections between words. And, yes, Cross Clues is a game we'd happily bring to the party.