Designer: Kristian Amundsen Ostby
Artist: Oliver Schlemmer
Publisher: Queen Games
Escape is undoubtedly one of the most unique game I own. No question about it. You know how I know? We haven’t played this game in years and my partner still remembers the game. That is a sign that the game is both unique and memorable enough that her engrams are intact.
Escape is a co-op game where players will spend 10 minutes frantically chucking dice hoping to escape a collapsing temple. A sound track lasting 10 minutes will accompany the game and during this time, players roll 5 dice trying to uncover and explore dungeon tiles hoping to find an exit. As players move about the dungeon tiles, they will have to roll the appropriate symbols on the dice to advance. Players can sequester dice of the desired symbol and reroll the remainder. For instance, two adventurer icons are required to pick up and place a new dungeon tile while an adventurer icon coupled with a torch icon is needed for your meeple to move from one dungeon tile to the next. Once an action is fulfilled, all dice are unlocked and need to be rerolled for the next action.
The goal of players exploring the dungeon is two fold. First, to uncover the exit tile. In addition, players must find specific dungeon tiles where players must roll a number of matching symbols to collect gems. Some tiles will allow players a choice to unlock multiple gems. These gems come from a magical reservoir and each game starts with a pool of gems depending on player count that must be depleted in order to escape the temple. To get the gems, players must collectively roll a number symbols on their dice to retrieve the gems. Unlocking a single gem can be done usually by one person because you only need 4 matching symbols. To unlock 3 gems, up to 10 matching symbols are required which means between 2-3 players must coordinate their efforts to get the task done.
Why deplete the gems from the reservoir? Well, assuming you find the exit tile, all players must individually roll a number of key symbols based on how many gems are left over plus one more in the reservoir. So if you more than 5 gems left in the reservoir, you will not be able to escape. Since this is a coop game, one person failing means the entire team is lost. Luckily, for every adventurer that exits the temple, one bonus die can be given to another player trying to escape. This really creates a lot of hair raising tension-filled game moment.
Ahh, but life as an adventurer ain’t that easy. Two things make your escape complicated. First, twice during the 10 minute span, all players must move their meeple back to the starting tile before the door slams shut on the sound track. Failure to do so loses the wayward player a single die. Believe me, that’s a big deal. Second, each die shares a golden mask symbol and a cursed mask symbol. If you roll a cursed mask symbol, that die is locked until a golden mask symbol is rolled to unlock two cursed masks. Sometimes, unlucky rolls can result in all your dice being locked. In which case, another player in the same room can gift a golden mask on their dice roll to unlock two cursed masks on your dice pool.
The game is a frantic 10 minutes with lots of shouting and yelling. It’s good fun. Players getting their dice locked will yell for help all the time and rushing back to the start tile mid-game is always hairy. You never know how far you want to explore before the gong sounds and everyone rushes back.
The game is light and short. As I mentioned, exactly 10 minutes. Yet, Escape it’s not something I would choose to play often. Part of my hesitation is that the dice fest is chaotic and pretty error prone. I am sure there are lots of time when I accidentally grabbed cursed dice for rerolls or I misheard someone else giving me a golden mask even though the meeples are not on the same tile. I think practice with the same group greatly helps with coordination, but this requires repeated plays. There are lots of modules and expansions out there to make the game harder and livelier. Even the base game comes with treasures and curses module. I think there is really no need for all this clutter as the base game is enough for us. I also think that the game is so unique that it does deserve a spot in anybody’s collection even though I feel neutral about the game. I don’t dislike Escape, but ok pulling it out every so often. I think the game will be more of a hit with a casual gaming group.
You have a way with words, I really like reading your reviews and look forward to more of them.