EXIT: The Game, part 5

I played EXIT: Abandoned Cabin with a group of friends yesterday. I warned them of my experiences that I described in my last few blog posts, but they were willing to accept the challenge.

We finished in one hour five minutes and used no hint cards, which gave us a final score of nine stars. It’s the highest score I’ve seen in this escape-room series.

Here’s what I think made the difference:

  • Abandoned Cabin is rated the easiest of this series of games.
  • We had five players that brought a good mix of skill sets. For example, one of us was experienced with dominoes, which turned out to be relevant for one of the puzzles.
  • Another of us was really good at the “arts and crafts” tasks required to solve some puzzles.
  • My experience with four other EXIT games was of some benefit. For example, I could tell them that it was possible that there would a solution might involve the game box itself.

Overall, it was a positive experience.

There’s only one more EXIT game that I haven’t played: Pharoah’s Tomb. I asked the other gamers if they wanted to try that one, though it’s rated as one of the toughest games in the series. They were willing to play it at a future gaming event.

So against my expectations, I will order that final game. Let’s see if we handle the challenge, or whether it will send us crying to our mummies.

EXIT: The Game, part 4

Forgotten Island was a different experience than my last EXIT game. I solved it in three minutes.

Let me back up a second before I explain that: After my previous blog post, the responses of my friends on Facebook suggested that they too were no longer enthusiastic about playing any more EXIT games. I had spare time today, so I decided to play EXIT: Forgotten Island while I did my laundry.

All EXIT games follow a common pattern: There’s a decoder disk with rings of symbols on them. The outermost ring contains abstract symbols that are the same from game to game (crescent, diamond, square, etc.); the three inner disks’ symbols vary from game to game. When you select a combination of symbols, the decoder disk displays a number that corresponds to a card within an “Answer Deck.”

I solved the first riddle quickly, and turned the three inner dials to their symbols. However, I misinterpreted the riddle and picked the wrong outermost symbol for the three inner symbol. By coincidence, my choice matched up with the answer card for the final riddle of the game. So I turned over what I thought was the answer to the first riddle and read that I solved the game!

I decided to go back and play the game for real. I quickly figured out my mistake and went through the entire game normally. At the end, it took me two hours and I used three hint cards, for a total score of five stars.

Those “two hours” are a bit generous on my part. There were times I got up from the game to dry and fold my laundry. I stopped the timer, but I can’t promise I didn’t think about the puzzles while I was in the laundry room. On the other side, there some “arts and crafts” activities that would have gone much faster if there were someone else with me. My real time was two hours twenty minutes, but I decided to discount the extra time because of delays due to solo fiddling with game components. If you don’t accept my adjustment, then my score is lowered to four stars.

This time, the riddles seemed fairer. When I had to resort to the hint cards, I felt that if someone else had been there to supply additional insight I might not have had to use the hints.

I’ve got one more game, EXIT: Abandoned Cabin, sitting in my game bag. I’ll see if any friends are interested in playing it at the next couple of gaming events I attend.

EXIT: The Game, part 3

I’m stuck at home for a while, so I decided to tackle an EXIT game solo: Polar Station. It took me 3 hours and 15 minutes, and I used 6 hint cards, which gave me a score of two stars. This is the lowest score I’ve seen in any EXIT game I’ve played so far.

Even though I solved some tricky puzzles on my own, there were at least three “C’mon, you’ve got to be kidding!” puzzles whose solutions I never would have gotten without the hint cards. One was a puzzle for which I didn’t realize I needed to have solved other riddles first; it looked self-contained with the materials I had. In another puzzle, I was forced to pull a hint card because I couldn’t tell a one from a nine in a card’s artwork.

It wasn’t all bad. I did have have several “AHA!” moments. But when I compare my first EXIT experience with my second one, and consider that Polar Station was supposed to be easier than Forbidden Castle, my enthusiasm for these games is waning.

Of course, I can’t tell if the score would have been better if other people were playing with me. Sometimes a different perspective is all you need.

I’ll play the last two I’ve got, hopefully with friends. After that, I think I’ll let my escape-room board-game experience rest for a good long while.

Sweet dreams are made of these

The other night, I dreamed of a whole bunch of clowns singing a song. (Don’t worry; they were on TV, so I was safe.) It was a nonsense song they sung over and over again. Then I woke up.

Thinking on it, it occurred to me that I’ve often dreamed of people singing. I wondered why that was.

Then I figured it out: It’s how my dreaming mind interprets my snores.

So the next time you hear me snoring, remember: The clowns are singing!

They’re tougher than they look

I’m driving home in the dark on a wet road. Suddenly a deer bounds into the road about ten feet in front of me. Even though I’m going at the speed limit (yes, really!) there’s no way I can avoid hitting her. I slam on the brakes, but the deer collides heavily with my left front bumper. I have the impression that I’ve just run over the poor thing.

I stop. I think “What do I do now?” I look around. The deer has been flung to the other side of the road. Before I can even get a visual impression of whether she’s been injured, she leaps up and bounds across the road heading back the way she came.

There wasn’t even a dent in my car.

I hope I didn’t hurt the poor thing. At least her running and leaping abilities were not affected!

EXIT: The Game, part 2

This is a follow-up to my previous post.

Last night I played EXIT: The Forbidden Castle with a different group of friends than the ones from last week’s puzzle game.

Notes:

  • The game seriously handed us our butts. It took us two hours and forty minutes to solve it. We used several hint cards, though only three of them told us something that we didn’t already know. The resulting score was four stars.
  • The game I’d played the previous weekend, EXIT: The Secret Lab, didn’t have a difficulty rating assigned by the designer. The Forbidden Castle had a difficulty rating of four out of five, making it the most difficult of this game series that I’ve purchased so far. Only one other game in the series, The Pharaoh’s Tomb is rated as difficult. I’m not sure if I’m going to purchase that one.
  • We were held up by two intense puzzles that, in retrospect, called for serious mind-reading of the game’s designer. Without consulting the help cards, it was implausible we could have solved them in any reasonable period of time.
  • There is a legacy element to the EXIT series that wasn’t in The Secret Lab. The descriptive text in Forbidden Castle suggested that it was a sequel to Abandoned Cabin. At the end of the game, we were told we’d get some minor scoring benefit for the next EXIT game we played.
  • Now that I’ve played two EXIT games, I see a a couple of design issues:
    1. In both games, I was able to solve one puzzle well in advance of being to apply the solution anywhere. For example, in last night’s game, I had the solution to the crescent moon puzzle within the first half hour, but the moon symbol didn’t show up until near the end of the game. This was annoying, because there was no way to test if my solution was correct for much of our play time, and the other players were skeptical that my solution was right or even relevant.
    2. The puzzles are generally linear, with the solution to one puzzle required for the solution to another. I would prefer a more tree-like approach, so that a couple of players could work on one puzzle while a couple of others worked on another.

      On the other hand, most of the puzzles required a common resource (the puzzle book). A tree structure might not help if everyone in the game wanted to look at the book at once.

As you may have gathered by the tone of this post, I did not enjoy Forbidden Castle as much as The Secret Lab. I’m definitely going to play the other, hopefully easier EXIT games I’ve purchased, but after that I may to look to escape-room games from other publishers.

EXIT: The Game

Please don’t buy any of the Thames & Kosmos EXIT games… so I can play them with you!

I purchased my first EXIT game because the series had won the prestigious Spiel des Jahres (Game of the Year) award in 2017. These are “escape room” games: Your character is trapped, and can only escape by solving a series of puzzles. I played EXIT: The Secret Lab with a group of friends, and greatly enjoyed myself. Here’s a picture of me working on the game along with three hot chicks:

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Some notes:

  • There’s no replayability in these EXIT games. Once you’ve played one, you know the solutions to all its puzzles.
  • Game play is “destructive”, in that you may cut apart some of the game components. In theory you could work your away around this (e.g., scanning everything and printing it on a color printer) but in practice that’s too much effort for such an inexpensive game.

    This means that, unlike some murder-mystery party games I’ve played, you can’t pass your copy of this game to someone else once you’ve played it.

  • The game instructions suggest you have a scissors nearby. I strongly suggest that you start the game with a pair of scissors, paper for taking notes, and at least two pens or pencils. You may regret the time spent hunting around the house for these things while you’re playing the game (see next item).
  • A live escape room typically has a time limit. There’s no explicit time limit in EXIT, but the time you take to solve the game affects your score.
  • Scoring is based on how long you take to escape and how many help cards you use to solve the puzzles. You get the best score, ten stars, if you solve the game in under an hour and use no help cards; you get only 1 star if you take more than two hours to solve it and you use more than ten help cards.

    We got a score of eight stars when we played EXIT: The Secret Lab, because we escaped in a bit less than two hours, but used no help cards.

  • You can get a score of four stars if you start the game and immediately use all the help cards to solve the puzzles. In theory one could call this cheating, but hey, it’s your copy!
  • Each EXIT game lists a different number of players on the game box, “1 to 4” or “1 to 6”. We started out with seven players, but three of them drifted away when they found that the puzzles were not to their taste. In practice, there’s no limit to the number of players, but with more than four players not everyone may get a chance to examine each clue in detail.
  • Cooperative games often suffer the problem of the “alpha player” who takes control of everything. That didn’t happen with us. Everyone contributed to solving at least one puzzle, even the ones who only participated briefly in the game.
  • The EXIT games are inexpensive, and expense was definitely spared. In particular, the puzzle wheel that comes with the game is flimsy. The one in my copy had fallen apart, though I managed to repair it. So be forewarned: handle the game components carefully.

I’ve already ordered four more EXIT games: Abandoned Cabin, Forgotten Island, Forbidden Castle, and Polar Station. I’ll bring these games to the next few game events I attend.

Let me know if you want to escape!