The abstract strategy genre is probably one of the more popular board game genres. While I don’t mind the genre, I wouldn’t consider it to be one of my favorites. I am not entirely sure why as I generally enjoy strategy, but for some reason I typically find a lot of games from the genre to be kind of boring. I was intrigued by Crystallized even though it is in essence an abstract strategy game. The game seemed like it had some interesting ideas that distinguished it from other games in the genre. Crystallized is an interesting abstract strategy game with some good ideas that fans of the genre will likely really enjoy, even if I found it to be a little boring.
After playing Crystallized, I am not entirely sure what to think of it. The game is far from bad. I think some people will really enjoy it. For me though it just felt like there was something missing.
For the most part the game feels like a combination of an abstract strategy game mixed with a tile placement game. The ultimate goal of the game is to try and get rid of as many of your Crystals as possible. This is done by playing your cards to the table and matching colors from the cards that have already been played. You can’t play a card unless it matches every color that is touches.
If you would like to see the complete rules/instructions for how to play Crystallized, check out our how to play guide.
On the surface this seems very similar to pretty much every other tile placement game as placing tiles that match colors/symbols/etc is very common. The cards have a sort of 3D look though where you can overlap parts of cards already on the table. While all of the cards are flat, the design you ultimately end up creating has a 3D look to it.
Where the game really differentiates itself from most other games is that getting rid of your Crystals is the ultimate goal. It doesn’t matter how many colors you can match if you don’t have the corresponding colored Crystals. This adds a interesting dynamic to the game. You need to try and find matches that both maximize the number of Crystals that you can get rid of, while also making sure that you have the matching colors. Sometimes you are better off playing a card that has less matches if it allows you to get rid of specific Crystals.
It might not be evident at first, but the colors of your Crystals becomes a key to your success in the game. The distribution of your Crystals is completely randomized at the beginning of the game. You likely will get quite a few of one color and few of another. What is interesting is that sometimes it is harder to get rid of just one or two Crystals of a color than three or more. This is because you can’t play a card if you can’t get rid of the corresponding number of Crystals.
You always need to keep track of how many Crystals you have of each color. This is because there is an ongoing race to get rid of Crystals for each color. During the game only nine Crystals of each color can be discarded. There are twelve of each color though, so some players will get stuck with Crystals that they will never be able to get rid of. Thus you always need to be aware of the current state of the board. You may have a great play where you can get rid of a lot of Crystals. You may be better off though playing a card that gets rid of your last Crystals of a color before the board is filled up. All of the players will see this and try to get rid of their last Crystals of a color before they no longer can.
This introduces a sort of take that mechanic where you can block another player from getting rid of their remaining Crystals. You even have the opportunity to pass Crystals to other players. At times the game can be kind of mean when a player sticks you with extra Crystals that you no longer have an opportunity to get rid of.
Ultimately this creates an interesting strategic game. There is luck to the game as the distribution of Crystals you get as well as what the other players do will have a decent impact on how well you will do in the game. Crystallized is the type of game though where your strategy will likely end up determining who ultimately wins. The game is a sort of spatial puzzle where you need to figure out the best placement in order to get rid of Crystals.
This can lead to some analysis paralysis especially later in the game as your number of potential options grows considerably. Only having three cards to choose from helps, but it can get out of hand depending on what type of players you play with. If you have to analyze every potential option to find the best solution, the game could definitely drag towards the end. While Crystallized is a game centered around strategy, to get the most out of it you need to be willing to sometimes make a sub-optimal play to prevent the game from dragging on for too long.
I think some people will really enjoy Crystallized. If you are a big fan of abstract tile placement games, I think the game will be perfect for you. I have played quite a few different games in this genre and I can’t recall playing one quite like Crystallized. While the game shares quite a few mechanics with other games in the genre, it truly has a unique feel to it unlike anything else that I have played recently.
As for the game’s difficulty I would say that it is pretty good. The instructions could be a little clearer in a few areas, but nothing in the game is too difficult. The rules themselves can be taught to most players within a couple minutes. It likely will take at least a game for most players to fully understand the strategy and how to best approach the game.
There is a lot of things to like about Crystallized. That said, I found the game to be kind of boring. The abstract strategy genre is not one of my favorites so that could have played a role. This likely won’t be a problem for people that generally really enjoy abstract strategy games though. I just felt like the game was missing something. There are interesting elements to the game. I don’t think the overall experience lived up to the individual parts though. It is kind of hard to pinpoint exactly why I didn’t like the game as much as I probably should have. While abstract fans will likely enjoy the game a lot, I don’t know if the same will hold for people that don’t particularly care for the genre.
As for Crystallized’s components there are things to like and things that could have been better. The Crystals themselves are surprisingly thick. The game comes with plenty of cards where you will never come close to running out in a game. I like how playing the game basically creates an interesting 3D geometric picture. The cards of made of a material which makes them slide a little more than you would like though. This forces you to periodically fix the placement of cards. The Facet Board itself is pretty bland as well.
After playing Crystallized I am not entirely sure what to think of it. The game actually has a lot going for it. On the surface it looks like every other tile placement abstract strategy game, but it has some interesting twists which create a unique experience. While you want to play cards which will help you get rid of the most Crystals, you also need to keep track of each color so you don’t get stuck with Crystals. The game has quite a bit of strategy compared to its luck. While there is a lot I liked about Crystallized, I ultimately found the game to be kind of boring. I am not entirely sure why either.
I think your opinion of the game will likely depend on your thoughts of the premise as well as abstract strategy games in general. I thought the game was solid but nothing spectacular, but I have never been a big fan of abstract strategy games. If the premise intrigues you though and you generally like abstract strategy games, I think you will enjoy Crystallized and should consider picking it up.
Year: 2021 | Publisher: Games by Bicycle | Designer: Frederica Scott Vollrath | Artist: NA
Genres: Abstract Strategy, Pattern Recognition, Tile Placement
Ages: 8+ | Number of Players: 2-4 | Length of Game: 15-30 minutes
Difficulty: Light-Moderate | Strategy: Moderate | Luck: Light-Moderate
Components: 120 cards, 72 Crystals (12 of each color), Facet Board, Drawstring Bag, instructions
- An interesting twist on your typical tile placement abstract strategy game.
- Has quite a bit of strategy as you have a lot to consider each turn.
- If you need to find the optimal play each turn, the game will suffer from analysis paralysis.
- For some reason I found the game to be kind of dull/boring.
Recommendation: For fans of abstract strategy games that think the game’s premise sounds interesting.