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Billy Brown

Tabletop escape room games

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I've long been fascinated with the idea of physical escape rooms but being down in deepest, darkest Cornwall means that there aren't many within a reasonable driving distance and getting a group together who are willing to travel further is proving difficult.

 

However, I was delighted to receive Escape the Room: Mystery at the Stargazer's Manor for Christmas. I had no idea that there were tabletop versions out there, and while I'm still hoping to try out the real thing, this was an excellent stopgap. Makers Thinkfun recommend 3-8 players but my wife and I played through it as a pair and we managed to beat it in well under the time limit. I think more than three would probably be overkill, personally.

 

While we got through it relatively quickly, the puzzles were great and even when we worked out what we needed to do straight away it took a decent amount of skill to see them through to the end.

 

I see there's a second in the series from Thinkfun, which we'll definitely pick up soon. But does anybody know of any other takes on the escape room theme that are currently available? There are a couple I've seen that are on the way:

 

 

But if there's anything else out there I can get my hands on now, please do post them here.

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I remember hearing the Dice Tower podcast recently talk about Escape Room: The Game, which you've not mentioned. Tom and Eric both seemed to enjoy it, and the concept sounds fascinating. I'd not realised that there were other escape room-style games out there, so thanks for making a thread about them.

 

I wonder if we're getting these now because designers have seen how successful games with a "limited" lifespan can be, with titles like Pandemic Legacy and Time Stories. In some ways I'd reckon it must be easier to design a good single-play experience, than it is to design a good regular board game.

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Yeah, that makes sense. I get why some would balk at the idea of a game you can't play through more than once but I think it offers up fascinating possibilities. Time Stories looks so good and I don't have an issue shelling out for additional scenarios when the pricing is akin to a trip to the cinema or similar. Unfortunately I'm late to the party with that particular game, so I just hope they reprint the expansions.

 

Thanks for the link to Escape Room: The Game! That's exactly the kind of thing I'm after. Do you know if there are plans to release it in the UK? Unfortunately Amazon only has the German version. Fingers crossed it's just a matter of time. 

 

 

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TIME Stories expansion reprints are supposed to be coming first half of this year. However, it may be worth pre-ordering the new one due this month anyway (I have!)

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Excellent, thank you! I asked Space Cowboys on Twitter and they reckon the reprints should be available from next week but didn't realise the next one was due so soon. 

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On 07/01/2017 at 12:55, Billy Brown said:

Excellent, thank you! I asked Space Cowboys on Twitter and they reckon the reprints should be available from next week but didn't realise the next one was due so soon. 

 

The English reprints? Bugger, I'm skinny at the moment but I'd want to get them before they turn to rocking horse shit again. 

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I don't get why they printed so few of the expansions in the first place, given that they're absolutely essential to continue playing the game beyond the first scenario. Looking at BGG ownership stats, 13,000 people own the base game but the biggest-selling expansion has only 6,000 owners, so they printed less than half as many. It's bizarre that have been reprints of the base game, but none (until now) of the expansions, which are just decks of cards.

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4 hours ago, Pelekophoros said:

 

The English reprints? Bugger, I'm skinny at the moment but I'd want to get them before they turn to rocking horse shit again. 

 

Yes, I specifically asked about UK availability. They said The Marcy Case should be available this week (although I've seen no evidence of that yet) with the others following "very quickly". I've ordered the base game and the new expansion in anticipation, so I hope they're on the level!

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On 1/3/2017 at 12:08, Billy Brown said:

However, I was delighted to receive Escape the Room: Mystery at the Stargazer's Manor for Christmas. I had no idea that there were tabletop versions out there, and while I'm still hoping to try out the real thing, this was an excellent stopgap. Makers Thinkfun recommend 3-8 players but my wife and I played through it as a pair and we managed to beat it in well under the time limit. I think more than three would probably be overkill, personally.

 

Thanks for this. I played through it with my daughters yesterday and thoroughly enjoyed it. Probably took us close to the recommended 90 mins and while we got a little bit stuck in places we soon figured out what needed to be done. 

 

I hope you 

 

Spoiler

Saved the machine and the town? By dismantling the control panel...

 

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21 hours ago, Danster said:

 

Thanks for this. I played through it with my daughters yesterday and thoroughly enjoyed it. Probably took us close to the recommended 90 mins and while we got a little bit stuck in places we soon figured out what needed to be done. 

 

I hope you 

 

  Reveal hidden contents

Saved the machine and the town? By dismantling the control panel...

 

 

We did indeed! Really glad you enjoyed it as much as we did. We ordered the second one ('Secret of Dr Gravely's Retreat') pretty much as soon as we finished the first and it's just arrived from Amazon having been out of stock for a few weeks. We should be playing it tonight or at least one night this week, so I'll let you know if it's as good as the original.

 

Incidentally, we took part in our first 'real life' escape room at the Eden Project on Saturday, which was excellent aside from some misleading hints from an over-eager game runner. We just missed out on completing it but it's definitely further increased my interest in all things escape room.

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On 1/16/2017 at 12:47, Billy Brown said:

 

We ordered the second one ('Secret of Dr Gravely's Retreat') pretty much as soon as we finished the first and it's just arrived from Amazon having been out of stock for a few weeks. We should be playing it tonight or at least one night this week, so I'll let you know if it's as good as the original.

 

Well, we played it a couple of nights back and it's well worth the £13 or so we paid. While the format is the same as the first, the puzzles are different enough to make it feel like its own thing. Definitely recommended if you enjoyed the first!

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Well I didn't know tabletop escape games were even a thing until I saw this thread.  I'd wanted to tackle a real escape room for years and I finally got to try Pandemic in America's Escape Room in Orlando about eighteen months back and loved it.  As I haven't had the opportunity to try another one since, I found myself quite intrigued reading this thread and discovering there is a way to somewhat simulate the escape room experience at home and so I ordered the two Escape The Room titles from Amazon and they arrived today.  It may be a couple of weeks before I get to break either of them open, being one-shot games I want to wait for the right evening, but thought I'd better grab them now as stocks were quite low.  Fingers crossed my ageing brain cells are up to the task now!

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We finally broke open the Secret of Dr Graveley's Retreat last night.  There were four of us and we all really enjoyed it.  It actually does a good job of replicating a real escape room experience, although overall it we found it just a little too easy and finished it with plenty of time to spare.  It is still good value for money, and thanks to the handy guide on the ThinkFun website, it is now all packaged back up again ready to pass on to my daughter.

 

We have Mystery at the Stargazer's Manor here too.  Have I played them in the wrong order,  is the first one a backwards step mechanically after playing the second one, @Billy Brown?

 

 

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9 hours ago, Stejay said:

We have Mystery at the Stargazer's Manor here too.  Have I played them in the wrong order,  is the first one a backwards step mechanically after playing the second one, @Billy Brown?

 

 

No, I don't think you'll be disappointed. They're similar mechanically but the puzzles are different enough that you should get just as much enjoyment out of it as the other one. The difficulty level is similar too, though, so I'd brace yourself for another relatively easy run if you got through the second one quickly.

 

In other news, it looks like Unlock! will be released next week off the back of winning the 2017 As d'Or. Can't wait to get my hands on that one.

Edited by Billy Brown
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We played Mystery last night and did enjoy it as much as Secret, but again completed it with about thirty minutes to spare.  Saying that, I did

Spoiler

pop online for a hint for the part where you have to fit the shapes on the star map.  We were convinced straight away that was what we needed to do, but it was late and we were all tired after already playing several other games beforehand and we couldn't get the shapes to fit at first so decided that the solution must be something else instead.  After about ten minutes looking for an alternative solution we caved, got the hint and cursed as we read that we had the right idea in the first place!)

 

Unlock! is already in stock at Gameslore.  I ordered it yesterday.  With three scenarios for £25.29 it works out slightly better value than the Escape The Room games, and it will be nice to tackle something with different mechanics next time and an accompanying app to give out the clues, keep time, etc.  Get ordering it, @Billy Brown!

Edited by Stejay
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Excellent, thanks for the heads-up on that. I'll get it ordered!

 

I realised today that the print and play demo scenario is completely separate to the three included ones in the main game so I think we're going to have a go at that at some point over the next couple of evenings.

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Yes, it's supposedly half the length of a full scenario so not too shabby either.

 

Don't forget to post back with your thoughts on it.

Edited by Stejay
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Hmmm.  My copy of Unlock! has arrived today, and I'm a little disappointed as it is literally just a set of sixty cards for each of the three scenarios.  I haven't opened the decks or anything yet, and it may well be an excellent game, but it just looks a little, well dull after playing the two Escape The Room titles.  For me at least, they look a lot more interesting with the various envelopes that you get to open as you progress, all filled with varying clues, components, etc, rather than having spent £25 for just the 180 playing cards you get with Unlock!

 

Fingers crossed I'll love it once I get around to playing it.

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Picked up a copy of Unlock! off of a trading group - hoping it might be something I can play with my non-board gaming partner as it's more logic puzzles than "loads of bits on a board" as she describes most of my games (Scythe, Stone Age, Caverna to name 3)

 

 Have printed off The Elite Scenario at work and might try and give that a go first then if she's not into it I can just take it to our groups game night on Wed and try it there after we play the Mysterium promo game night that our FLGS is holding.

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Oh man, my team failed to escape the Elite scenario, and I place the blame entirely on the rest of the team, who discarded cards we still needed, left the puzzles to me to solve (I did all of them) and muted the phone, leading to a good 5 minutes of wondering what we were meant to be doing for a while. Still enjoyed it though.

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You know there is one in Newlyn ? Or are you not that deep and dark?

 

Seems like a lot of southwest Cornwall stuff cropping up lately! Is half the forum living next door to me ? What a terrifying thought! 

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My wife and I have worked through all of the Unlock! scenarios now, including The Elite. I was concerned after playing through the short tutorial that these would be way too easy but thankfully that's not the case! We didn't complete any of the full scenarios within the given time frames, although the game encourages you to keep going even if you run out of time, so we did end up finishing them all.

 

While I understand @Stejay's initial thoughts on the game's price considering it 'only' includes cards, I think the puzzle systems the cards allow are really quite elegant. When you factor in the app that comes with the game, which needs to be interacted with throughout and works pretty well, I think the value is there.

 

The puzzles overall were pretty satisfying but I will say there were a couple of obtuse solutions along the way, with one in particular that just seemed at odds with everything the game had taught us up until that point. I'd also advise reading the rules properly. Although you can get almost everything you need from playing the tutorial scenario, there was one sticking point for us early on in the first scenario that would not have been an issue if we'd taken heed of the full rulebook.

 

Despite all that, the positives far outweighed the negatives for us and we'll be buying future expansions with no question.

 

On 1/3/2017 at 16:47, revlob said:

I remember hearing the Dice Tower podcast recently talk about Escape Room: The Game, which you've not mentioned. Tom and Eric both seemed to enjoy it, and the concept sounds fascinating.

 

The English version of this finally popped up on Amazon so we grabbed it and played through the first scenario last night. It was good fun and different enough to Unlock! and the two Escape The Room titles to keep things interesting.

 

The early puzzles were pretty straightforward and more observation-based than logic tests, which I was personally disappointed with at first. However, once we got past the first stage things opened up and there were more taxing elements introduced, while maintaining the need for a keen eye.

 

In fact, having now taken part in a real life escape room, I'd say the main section in the Prison Break scenario has come the closest to capturing the essence of that experience by giving us an actual room layout to actively scour for clues and encouraging us piece those elements together to progress.

 

This one also has a nice physical element to it: it comes packaged with a battery-operated 'Chrono Decoder' which players need to plug physical keys into in order to communicate code solutions and progress.

 

It also has a regulated hint system, allowing you to take prompt cards at specific times and choosing whether to read them then and there, or saving them for later / not reading them at all if you're still in full flow. This should have worked really well but I was pretty miffed with the hints in the end. Most were really obvious, while others flat out gave the answers needed to progress, which was really disappointing. Thankfully we only looked at most of these after we'd already moved on so didn't have too much spoiled.

But overall definitely another one to explore if you've enjoyed any of the other games of this type. It looks like there are already new expansions out in Europe and hopefully hitting the UK soon; again, if the quality stays the same throughout the rest of the base scenarios, we'll be getting those too.

 

On 3/14/2017 at 16:31, Strategos said:

You know there is one in Newlyn ? Or are you not that deep and dark?

 

Seems like a lot of southwest Cornwall stuff cropping up lately! Is half the forum living next door to me ? What a terrifying thought! 

 

Sorry, only just seen this! We're in Penryn so it's a decent drive away from us but we've definitely got it marked as a future venture. There's one in Camborne now too, so I think we'll probably give that one a try first when we get the chance. Whereabouts are you?

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14 minutes ago, Billy Brown said:

 

Sorry, only just seen this! We're in Penryn so it's a decent drive away from us but we've definitely got it marked as a future venture. There's one in Camborne now too, so I think we'll probably give that one a try first when we get the chance. Whereabouts are you?

 

Haha right now I'm sat in Penryn where I work.... I feel like we've had this conversation before :) (something about music ?) But I live down Penzance way. We did the Newlyn one a while back, it was good fun. I've never done any others to compare it to though.

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15 minutes ago, Strategos said:

 

Haha right now I'm sat in Penryn where I work.... I feel like we've had this conversation before :) (something about music ?) But I live down Penzance way. We did the Newlyn one a while back, it was good fun. I've never done any others to compare it to though.

 

No way! I don't think we have talked about it before (although my memory is pretty bad so apologies if so) -- I've just searched the forum for mentions of Penryn and I assume you're thinking of this exchange with Richie? 

Will drop you a PM in a sec if that's okay.

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Do these bear much replay value?

 

Me and the other half love escape room games, so we'd probably be into these as a halfway house. 

 

But if they have a hard limit of replayability it might make sense to have a bit of a resale thread on here. So I could buy ones that you're done with, and unlikely to revisit.

 

 

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Yeah they are pretty much a one and done affair, I'm playing through Unlock! with the missus just now but once I'm done I'll probably be selling on for £20, some of the others involve opening envelopes and might not have a great resale value though.

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On 21/03/2017 at 12:37, Billy Brown said:

My wife and I have worked through all of the Unlock! scenarios now, including The Elite. I was concerned after playing through the short tutorial that these would be way too easy but thankfully that's not the case! We didn't complete any of the full scenarios within the given time frames, although the game encourages you to keep going even if you run out of time, so we did end up finishing them all.

 

While I understand @Stejay's initial thoughts on the game's price considering it 'only' includes cards, I think the puzzle systems the cards allow are really quite elegant. When you factor in the app that comes with the game, which needs to be interacted with throughout and works pretty well, I think the value is there.

 

The puzzles overall were pretty satisfying but I will say there were a couple of obtuse solutions along the way, with one in particular that just seemed at odds with everything the game had taught us up until that point. I'd also advise reading the rules properly. Although you can get almost everything you need from playing the tutorial scenario, there was one sticking point for us early on in the first scenario that would not have been an issue if we'd taken heed of the full rulebook.

 

Despite all that, the positives far outweighed the negatives for us and we'll be buying future expansions with no question.

 

 

The English version of this finally popped up on Amazon so we grabbed it and played through the first scenario last night. It was good fun and different enough to Unlock! and the two Escape The Room titles to keep things interesting.

 

The early puzzles were pretty straightforward and more observation-based than logic tests, which I was personally disappointed with at first. However, once we got past the first stage things opened up and there were more taxing elements introduced, while maintaining the need for a keen eye.

 

In fact, having now taken part in a real life escape room, I'd say the main section in the Prison Break scenario has come the closest to capturing the essence of that experience by giving us an actual room layout to actively scour for clues and encouraging us piece those elements together to progress.

 

This one also has a nice physical element to it: it comes packaged with a battery-operated 'Chrono Decoder' which players need to plug physical keys into in order to communicate code solutions and progress.

 

It also has a regulated hint system, allowing you to take prompt cards at specific times and choosing whether to read them then and there, or saving them for later / not reading them at all if you're still in full flow. This should have worked really well but I was pretty miffed with the hints in the end. Most were really obvious, while others flat out gave the answers needed to progress, which was really disappointing. Thankfully we only looked at most of these after we'd already moved on so didn't have too much spoiled.

But overall definitely another one to explore if you've enjoyed any of the other games of this type. It looks like there are already new expansions out in Europe and hopefully hitting the UK soon; again, if the quality stays the same throughout the rest of the base scenarios, we'll be getting those too.

 

I still haven't played Unlock!  I'm glad to hear that the value is there.  It just look a little bare-boned for the money.  I felt the same when I opened my copy of Machine Koro for the first time.

 

Thanks to your mention of it, I have also just added Escape Room: The Game to my increasing pile of shame.  Thanks for that!  Now this really looks the part, certainly the most appealing of all three types of tabletop escape games I've seen so far.  Assuming the gameplay is decent, I think it'll prove the best value for money too, especially if the forthcoming add-on scenarios are reasonable priced.

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For any Unlock! fans here, whilst it is available to download as a free print and play, the BGG store have now got the mini twenty card scenario The Elite for $5, or $8 total with delivery to the UK.

 

https://boardgamegeekstore.com/products/unlock-the-elite

 

It is fully playable without the base set too, just the iPhone or Android companion app required, for anyone curious but not quite enough to buy the main game yet.

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Played Escape! With family & friends at the weekend, and after some initial skepticism (the tutorial was somewhat noddy) we all had a great time with the first scenario which we j-u-u-u-s-t failed to complete in time.

There were five of us, and everyone came up with at least one solution that nobody else got so we came away feeling like Dr Clever and the Clever Gang. 

The scenario's got all the replay value of an Ice-Cream DVD, but I'll be happy with three sessions for the price (minus whatever ebay thinks it's worth afterwards).  

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