Published on September 6th, 2013 | by Luke Turpeinen
Crootle: A Game of Kaleidoscopic Proportions
Summary: If you like indy toy stores and want a non-violent, abstract puzzle game for a child you know then you should pick this one up. If not, I wouldn't worry about it.
There are several types of games out there, and all of them are designed and marketed towards different people. There are the board game licenses that have survived generations, board games that exist as a promotional vehicle for licenses of another medium, learning games, games for board gamers, and children’s games. Here at Across the Board Games, our authors tend to play and enjoy games made for gamers more than any other type. We are all of drinking age, but still under 40, and none of us have children. I’ll come out and say it right at the beginning: Crootle was not a game made for me. I imagine that children or families may enjoy Crootle together as an inexpensive, non-violent, quick game that is easy to assemble and clean up. Childless gamer folk might not be as interested.
Crootle, at its core, is a fancy way to play dominoes. Essentially what you have is a 16 by 16 grid that holds the cards that you will be playing. Each card is a 2 by 2 grid with up to four colors on them, and your goal is to line up two randomly assigned corner tiles via the cards you draw from a communal pool. You get ten cards to start with, and can potentially get several more during your turn. Using up all of your cards during your turn will net you an additional five cards, and completing a “4-square” will get you an additional two cards. You use up as many cards as you can in your turn, which have a suggested time limit of two minutes.
Game length for us was generally two turns at most; either the first player would win on their first turn or the second player would win on their first turn. Even with the time restriction giving you the feeling of urgency and the other player setting up difficult situation, it didn’t feel like the game was ever really challenging.
As you may know by now, I am really all about high production values in board games. I like good materials and good art, and I am willing to pay extra for these bonuses. Crootle is very minimalist in both art and component quality, which is a decision I understand but don’t get excited for. The box design is very tight around the card pieces, and the game is mildly irritating to put away because the cards don’t fit very well into the case. The cards themselves are on heavy paper that I hesitate to call “thin card stock”, and the rules are printed on normal printer paper. This isn’t quite Cheap Ass Games quality (yes, that’s a real game publisher) but it’s pretty close. I get that production values are a design choice, and I understand that this choice was made to make a fairly simple game more affordable; I get that. I’m just not excited over it.
Nicole and I played Crootle several times within the course of an hour, shrugged at each other and then put it away. The rules were frustratingly vague for the simplicity of the game, we eventually just made some of it up because of the lack of clear direction in the rules sheet we were given. To be perfectly honest, neither of us had much fun. Crootle seems like a game you’d find in one of those independent toy shops that doesn’t sell anything from a major publisher, except maybe LEGO. If you are the kind of person that would buy a simple indie puzzle game for children under eight, then you might be interested in spending $5 on Crootle and you will probably have a good time with it. Otherwise, I wouldn’t really worry about it.
(Editor’s Note: Across the Board Games received a free copy of Crootle for review. The game was played and this review written before Labor Day weekend, and therefore before the Crootle Kickstarter closed. We at Across the Board Games honestly hope that their second Kickstarter campaign better meets their needs and we wish them success!)