Cryptid Cafe is “a game of legendary appetites” by Chip Cole and Lennon Cole, and also illustrated by Chip Cole. It’s published by 25th Century Games and Squatchy Games.
The box says it’s best for ages 10+ and supports 1-4 players. A game takes 30-45 minutes.
How to Play
Every player starts with five coins, three bigfoot server meeples, a personal board, and their own deck of customers and events. Draw the first two customers and place them in the green spaces of the Customer Service track.
Send out Servers
Each round, players will “send out their servers” to request dishes from the master chef squid. No player can have more than one server in line for a particular dish.
Share Tips and Collect Food
Once everyone places their servers it’s almost time to collect the food. But the last waiter in each line may choose to “share tips”, paying the chef coins to move up in line and push all their rival servers backwards.
Once all tip-sharing is settled, each server meeple earns food according to the number they’re standing on.
(We take the servers back to our player boards as we collect the food, to make it easier to remember who has collected what.)
Now players may simultaneously serve their cryptid customers, using the food dishes they’ve collected that match each customer’s order.
When an order is successfully completed, players receive coins according to that customer’s position on their Customer Service Tracker. Then they move the customer card to their “served” area.
Clean Up Phase
Keep unused food for future rounds.
Then everyone moves all their remaining cryptid customers to the right along the Customer Service track. (Players may choose to move all customers one space, or all customers two spaces.)
If a customer would move past the end of the board, they become a Walkout! Walkouts will subtract from tips at the end of the game.
Draw new cards from your deck to fill the green spaces on your Customer Service tracker. If a player draws an Event card it goes into effect for the whole table; they draw another card to fill their personal board. Event cards are always negative, but thankfully only one can be in effect at a time.
End Game Scoring
After nine rounds (or eight rounds for four players), everyone’s shift has ended. Time to tally the tips!
Earn bonus tips for sets of three or more cryptids of the same “type” – air, water, or earth.
Subtract tips for Walkouts, as indicated on their cards.
Of course, servers also have to pay for wasted food that’s still on their personal board – one coin for every two food tokens.
Who has earned the most tips at the Cryptid Cafe?
Every character in Cryptid Cafe is a silly monster – the customers, the master chef, and the servers. The customers seem friendly, although a little impatient to get their meals.
Even the dishes have a silly monstrous twist to them. My favorite is the Hot Apple Spider – or maybe the Cinnamonster Roll.
But unfortunately, that’s the best part of the game.
Not Enough Salt?
Apart from the art, Cryptid Cafe feels bland. Every player has the same customers in their deck. And although there’s some jockeying for position on the food board, everyone has the same opportunities to get food items. Since most customers require more food than a player can pick up in one round, there’s little urgency to get your food right away.
The only twists are in the event cards, which either make it harder to get the food you need, or move your customers along faster so you’ll be forced to take a lower tip value from them. But they feel punishing rather than adding excitement to the game.
There are two chances to mitigate bad luck, with cards for Manager (swap two of your customers) and Change My Order (copy another customer’s order). Each player can use these abilities once during the game.
Table for Two? (or One)
Since the main interaction in Cryptid Cafe is maneuvering for position on the central board, it’s really intended for three or four players. You can play with two players, or even solo, but then you’ll need to use automaton decks. We’re on record for not being very big fans of automatons to facilitate a game “supporting” two players.
These automatons behave exactly as you’d guess: draw a card to determine a food station. Then roll a die to see which position (3,2,1) the automaton takes at that food station.
When all the server meeples are placed, move from left to right along the food stations to “share tips”, rolling the die each time an automaton is in the last position. They’ll probably get to move up.
Neither Salty NOR Sweet
We didn’t enjoy Cryptid Cafe. The theme is cute, but there is no flavor to the gameplay. Every round, you just try to get the right combination of ingredients and feed your customers. There just weren’t interesting decisions, and it felt more like a math optimization exercise than a game.
In addition, this game is really intended for only three or four players. Otherwise, you have to add cumbersome automata. And just like the event cards, they don’t make the game more interesting, just harder or more obnoxious.
Kids interested in restaurants or monsters might enjoy Cryptid Cafe – but for the rest of us, it’s a pass. We’ll be playing other games this Halloween season.
But if it sounds interesting to you, you can find it on Amazon, direct from 25th Century Games, or at your friendly local game store.
The Family Gamers received a copy of Cryptid Cafe from 25th Century Games for this review.
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Age Range: 10+ (can go younger – very little reading)
Number of Players: 1-4 (best at 3 or 4)
Playtime: 30-45 minutes