“Oh! It’s like Sequence,” was my first thought when I saw this chip placing, card laying game. And while that wasn’t far from true, Cross Ways offered some interesting twists on this familiar game.
If you are not familiar with Sequence, allow me to explain: In Sequence you play a card and place a chip on a corresponding spot on the board, the game is won by getting four chips in a row of your color. Each card is represented on the board twice, so you always have some small choice in the game about where you place. Otherwise, the game is largely about luck of the draw, and if you like that kind of thing, more power to you. However, I for one have always found there to be far more interesting ways to fill my time.
So how is Crossways different? For starters, it is a bit more strategic. You see, the places on the board are not marked as “King of Spades” or “Eight of Hearts”, instead the board is covered in much simpler spaces such as “Black King” and “Red Eight”, so you could place the King of Spades, or the King of Clubs, on that space. The goal of the game has also changed. You are not trying to simply get four in a row, but get a line of pieces that span the board. This allows you to zig-zag around the board, taking the path that will suit your cards best.
When I drew a pair while playing Sequence, I would curse my bad luck. The cards were always on opposite sides of the board, and were almost never helpful. However, in Crossways, drawing pairs is a very good thing, because pairs act as a wild card. You get to place two chips anywhere on the board you like. This could be on the same spot (and therefore blocking it), or it could be on two different spots, your choice. Being able to play on any two spots throughout the game is a huge advantage that takes away the need for a “lucky draw”. Sure, you have to be lucky enough to draw a pair into your hand, but that is a relatively minor problem compared with needing to draw one specific card out of a deck of 104.
Runs are also special, but here I think the mechanics break down slightly. If you have a run of three cards (such as the 2, 3, 4 of hearts) you can remove three chips from the board. If your run is four cards long, you can remove four cards. Given that the game is played with a double deck of cards, this isn’t an impossible feat. Granted, this adds a deeper level of strategy (Do I save that 2 and hope to complete a run, or do I use it now?), but it also tended to be overpowered. Getting a run just wasn’t all that hard, not really any way. It commonly happened four, five, even six times over the course of a short game. That’s a ton of pieces being removed! And while it’s fun to do the first time, by the fifth, it just seems like a stall tactic. Can’t we get on with the game already?
From the games I ran, the game also didn’t scale very well. As a two player game, I found the game to be semi-strategic (as strategic as a game that is dependent on lucky card draws can be), but because of the runs removing chips, the game went on for much longer than desired. Perhaps if a run only removed 1 chip, that would be fixed. Alternatively, when three or more people played, the game always seemed to be over in a blink, typically in less than five minutes.
For the light casual gamer, I think this would be a fine addition to your collection, and even a preferable one over it’s predecessor. You’re likely to get more game play out of this because of the light strategy element. It keeps the game interesting. However, for most strategy or Euro gamers, I don’t think this is going to hold your interest, and after a round or two, are likely going to feel like you wasted your money. Regardless, this is likely one that I would consider keeping in my personal collection, because it will be a good one to pull out when grandma comes to visit: simple enough for non-gamers, and just enough strategy that we seasoned gamers don’t want to stab ourselves in the eye (unlike some other popular American games… *cough* Monopoly *cough*). Really, it boils down to choices, and Crossways offers a plethora of choices to choose from, which its predecessor did not. And I for one always appreciate having a range of options.