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Crack ridiculous codes with your friends in Decrypto

Note: Multiple brain cells may be required

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Clayton Ashley , senior video editor, has been producing and editing videos for Polygon since 2016. He is the lead producer of the tabletop gaming series Overboard.

Just a few years ago, Codenames took the board gaming universe by storm with its elegantly simple clue based gameplay. If your gaming group is looking for a new twist on the formula, Decrypto’s genius combination of code cracking and deceptive clues might just be the perfect fit. We played it on the latest episode of Overboard with special guest Alanah Pearce in the video and had an absolute blast (and we barely have two brain cells to rub together).

Decrypto, like Codenames before it, is all about giving your teammates clues. A good clue needs to be precise enough that they’ll know what the hell you’re talking about, but also vague enough that the opposing team doesn’t crack the code instead. Here’s how it’s played.

At the beginning of the game, both teams are assigned four “keywords.” These are never revealed to the opposing team, so players need to be careful not to say them out loud, and instead refer to the number they’ve been assigned. Then, a player on each team takes up the role of “encryptor” and comes up with clues for three of those four keywords. Once the clues are ready, the rest of the players try to match them up without any more help from their encryptor. If they incorrectly match just one of these clues, their team receives a miscommunication token. Any team that receives two of these tokens loses the game.

Where the game gets interesting is that these clues are public information. After the first round, both teams will get a chance to use this information to try to “intercept” the other team’s code. This is tricky the first time around, since there are only a few clues on the board. As the game progresses and clues accumulate, patterns can emerge. For example, if one of red team’s keywords has the clues “boat,” “ocean,” and “sailor,” blue team can probably assume that the next nautical clue they see is also for that keyword. If a team can manage to correctly identify all three clues during an interception round, they receive an interception token. It only takes two interception tokens for a team to win the game!

What makes intercepting difficult is that the encryptor player can intentionally create misleading clues. So in the example above, maybe the clue “wave” is another nautical clue, or maybe red team has the keyword “GREETING” and knows that a clue like “wave” will just confuse the blue team. Encryptors still have to be careful not to get too clever, or their own team might not understand the clues!

Decrypto isn’t as straightforward as Codenames, but the added complexity is rewarding. Clues can be a lot more open-ended (full sentences are allowed), and the encryptor role changes each round, so all the players get a chance in the clue creating hot seat. Check out our Let’s Play video above for a more in-depth explanation of the rules and to see how much fun the game can be, even if you barely have two brain cells to rub together. We played the game over Zoom, which worked out fine, but isn’t ideal. We highly recommend playing the super-stylish physical board game, if possible.

If you enjoy the video, be sure to check out all the past episodes of Overboard over on our YouTube channel. We’ve played tons of excellent board games on the show, and you can find plenty more excellent board game recommendations right here on Polygon!