ShutterBug: Snap Some Sensational Cryptids

ShutterBug game
ShutterBug game

As children, we all dream of uncovering a secret and becoming famous. Personally, I’d love to get a picture of a cryptid: a mythical creature such as a unicorn or a yeti. In ShutterBug from Mike Elliott and Calliope Games, play the role of a freelance photographer, traveling the country to find cryptids (animals whose existence is unsubstantiated) and snap pictures of them. Pursue tips and hope you can get high quality pictures – complete your assignment and some side jobs and become a world-renowned photographer!


Starting equipment: Secret Assignment card, 3 Tips, player aid
Starting equipment

Shuffle the Creature Photo tiles and place them all into the photo draw bag. Players choose pawn color and receive the matching player aid. Then shuffle and secretly deal one Secret Assignment card and three Tip cards to each player.

Each player chooses a starting city hexagon on the board and places their pawn there. More than one player can be represented in the same city. We love the thematic choice for first player: the person who has the most photos stored on their phone.


At the beginning of your turn, populate (or re-populate) the board with photo opportunities. Draw Creature Photo tiles from the bag and place them, silhouette side up, on their corresponding spaces, until seven different spaces on the board have photo tiles.

ShutterBug board
Let’s go!

Then move your pawn up to three spaces. You may not return to a space you previously occupied on this turn, but you may stop and perform a single action at each space.


Quality-2 photo and 2 Tip cards: Rabbit/mountain, Bull-cat/forest
Discarding two Tips to snap the quality-2 photo (left): At least one must match the rabbit-creature, the second can match the forest terrain.

You may trade a Tip card with a player whose pawn is on the same space as yours. Choose a card from your hand to give them, then randomly choose a card from their hand.

If your pawn moves through a City space, draw a Tip card. If you end your move on a City, draw two Tip cards instead.

You may be able to take a photograph if your pawn is on a space that has a Creature Photo tile. Discard the indicated number of Tip cards to take the Photo. The first Tip must match the creature type; all other discarded Tips must match either the creature or the terrain.

Turn End

Once you are done moving and performing actions, check how many Tip cards you have in hand. If it’s more than seven, discard Tip cards to get down to seven.

Once all players have a taken a turn, the round ends. The game ends after eight rounds.


ShutterBug secret assignment
Do you have enough quality photos to meet the minimums?

At the beginning of the game, you received a Secret Assignment – two competing tabloids have hired you to provide them with a specific collection of creature photographs. Unfortunately, you can only choose one to fulfill. At the end of the game, choose whether to score the left or right side of your Secret Assignment card. Add the quality scores from all the photos you have of a creature type. If that number meets the minimum requirement for your assignment, you score all of the photos of that creature you have in hand. But miss the minimum for a creature, and that creature’s photos add nothing to your score.

Side jobs: All 4 Creatures, or 4 photos of the same Terrain
Fill Side Jobs for more points

But wait! The tabloids aren’t the only ones who want pictures! Complete Side Jobs to obtain more points. You can fulfill multiple Side Jobs, and each Side Job can be fulfilled by multiple players.

Lastly, since editors hate to hold the presses, get a two-point bonus for punctuality if your pawn ends the last round in a City space.

May the best shutterbug win!

ShutterBug board in play


photo quality: 2, 3, 1
Quality matters

The unusual theme for ShutterBug struck us right away. The art gives a 1930s outdoorsy vibe with a heavy dose of tabloid reporter. There are so many ways you could represent traveling around a board, collecting sets of items; to be roving photographers looking for fantastic creatures is unexpected. The heavily stylized hexagonal representation of the United States was interesting as well.

The theme helps give some meaning to the point values assigned to the “photographs” – since you’re pitching your photos to a tabloid, they’d obviously be happier with better quality pictures, but they’ll take several low-quality photos if that’s all you have.

ShutterBug Tip Cards
Unusual, even for made-up creatures

The cryptids resemble ones we’d heard of before, but with some subtle changes. These four creatures resemble, but aren’t really, a pegasus, jackalope, wendigo, and supay (horned cat). I wish Calliope had put a name for each creature in the instructions, as it became hard for us to figure out how to refer to them on the board. “Rabbit thing” or “Spiky guy” don’t exactly roll off the tongue.

The simplicity of movement and collecting items appealed to us. No die rolling, no complicated rules – move as many spaces as you want (up to three), and turn in Tips to claim a photo if you can.

Red pawn and purple pawn with a quality 3 photo in between them
I got here first!

Unfortunately, this same simplicity led to frustration for our kids. They’d work out their plans for what photos they wanted, and then become exasperated when they couldn’t get the right Tip cards or when another player “stole” the photos they were aiming for.

We also found that all players had a difficult time weighing the probability of meeting Secret Assignment minimums while playing. Each photo you’ve collected will score only if you meet the minimum requirement from your assignment. True, you get to choose from two different assignment sets, but we often had trouble meeting more than one minimum for either side.

Side jobs: The same Creature in all 3 photo qualities, and All 6 terrains
Side jobs are profitable, but challenging

Side jobs are hugely important to bump a player’s score from “average” to “winner”. But all the side jobs involve getting a variety of photos. Sometimes this simply isn’t possible, given random draws of Tip cards and photo tiles.

ShutterBug is a game that our kids always wanted to start (because they were attracted to the theme) and never wanted to finish (frustrated due to the randomness of the draws). We would recommend it to groups of adults who’d like a light game that encapsulates the thrill of the hunt. Find it on Amazon or at your local game store for under $30.

The Family Gamers received a review copy of ShutterBug from Calliope Games.

  • 9.5/10
    Art - 9.5/10
  • 7/10
    Mechanics - 7/10
  • 3/10
    Family Fun - 3/10


Number of Players: 2-6
Age Range: 8+
Playtime: 20-50 minutes