You awake in a daze, slowly coming to consciousness as alarms blare in your ears. Beyond the cracked windshield in front you the fires continue to grow, new explosions shaking your escape pod like a rattle. The remnants of your once great Colony Ship lay scattered around the strange, blue landscape. As you ponder which faction could have sabotaged the vessel, a drone darts past your pod carrying a load of brilliant crystals to an Engineering Platform. In the distance, you can see other drones buzzing about, and several large vehicles launched from the ship’s bay carrying Pods into a gaping cavern. Pressing your face against the glass, you can see the sun overhead, but from the display on your dashboard you can see the temperature is already lower than your crew can survive on their own. You know it is now up to you to save your faithful crew from this disaster, and you better get moving before those other factions spring any more explosions on your unsuspecting peers. To the caverns below!
In Cryo, a new board game by Z-Man Games, two to four players will take up the task of saving as many survivors of the colony ship’s crash landing as they can manage by escorting their escape pods to the underground caverns before sunset. With the alien terrain dominated by a freezing climate and strewn shards of the space station jutting up out of the ground, you’ll need to rely on your three drones to do the heavy lifting. Collect resources, gather energy, build vehicles, and rescue your crew before time runs out!
Each turn, you’ll send out a single drone to one of the crash sites on the board to perform an action. Each worker space has between two and four arrows, each one pointing to an action you might take. You will then choose one action to execute. The actions vary depending on your location, though every location will have pods for you to rescue, as well as a number of diamond-shaped chits to choose from. When you select one of these chits, you can either discard it to gain the resources showing, or choose to add it onto your Engineering Platform. We’ll talk about the Platforms soon. Otherwise, the more unique actions at each crash site are as follows:
Engineering - This area allows you to convert Crystals into Energy. Energy is important as it allows you to send your vehicles loaded up with pods deeper into the caves underground.
Labratory - This area offers the option to convert any of your available resources into Nanites, which act as wild resources.
R&D - This area allows you to spend Tech in order to draw and/or play cards to your Engineering Platform.
Dispatch - Add a pod from your Engineering Platform to one of the Salvage Sites. These generate you resources during the Recall Action, and prove to be very valuable over the course of the game.
The most interesting and unique aspect of Cryo, though, is the Engineering Platform. Once you’re ready to bring all those drones back to base, you’ll execute the “Recall” action. In addition to bringing your drones back, you’ll collect resources from Salvage, and choose an event to resolve, most of which will provide one resource, though some will be the Sabotage action, which will blow up pods that have yet to be rescued from that area.
Now, when you place a drone back into one of the available slots on your Engineering Platform, you can choose to take the action below. The chits mentioned above can be nestled into your player board to allow you a ton of flexibility in how you play the game. The first slot will just allow you to collect the resources on the chit, while the rest of the slots will offer you a conversion of some kind. The second slot, for example, offers you a single pod to rescue from anywhere on the board for whatever resource chit you place there. The others include conversions for Energy, Nanites, Cards, and one double-blank that allows you to create an entire conversation equation from scratch.
Cryo’s clever use of the Engineering Platform, coupled with the Salvage location, brings a light but flavorful engine-building mechanism to an already colorful worker placement experience. The flexibility to adapt your player board to what is showing on the board, and whether or not your opponents beat you to your favorite Salvage port, means you get to make the most of what you’re given. You can also discard a chit from your Engineering Platform during your turn to not only free up a slot to reuse with a new combination you might stumble onto, but discarding the chit nets you the resources as well. This means nothing is ever wasted in your pursuits!
The other phenomenal aspect of Cryo is the card system. Each card has four distinct sections, and each one offers different benefits. You can discard a card from your hand once per turn to collect the printed resources (the same Scrap action I mentioned above with removing chits from the Engineering Platform), and I have certainly found myself drawing a ton of cards just as a resource engine in past plays. The top section of the card contains Upgrade text, which you can play to your Platform to grant you an ongoing benefit, like reducing the cost of a particular action, or spending Energy for an extra action. The third use would be to play it in your Hanger as a Vehicle, which you will use to transport those pods you’re running around trying to rescue. Finally the fourth use is found on the side of the card, which provides Missions, and contains an opportunity for end-game scoring. I absolutely LOVE multi-use cards, and having four different options for each card is all the decision-making I could ask for.
All in all, this game offers a lovely (albeit deadly) setting, a wonderful array of meaningful decision-making opportunities, and some super cool 3D drones to add a really nice tactile element in a game where your resources are tracked on a recessed player board. This game also has a very light take-that element, in that you can execute the Sabotage action, which could result in removing your opponents’ unrescued pods, but this is easily mitigated (most of the time). While I am personally not a big fan of the take-that genre, this small aspect of the game is fitting and certainly serves a strategic purpose without pushing tension too far. The production quality is really nice, and the game flows very smoothly.
Definitely check this title out when you get the chance! You can find Cryo available at our webstore.