Saturday, July 20, 2013

Escape The Curse Of The Temple

Most board games have a suggested playtime printed on the side of the box, helping you pick a game that might last 30-45 minutes, or one that lasts 90-120 minutes. However, this estimate is usually wildly inaccurate, as you lose time explaining the rules to new players, checking the rulebook for a clarification, or getting bogged down in the dreaded "Analysis Paralysis" common when players have a number of choices in order to proceed.

In Escape The Curse of the Temple, players have only ten minutes, and always only ten minutes in which to succeed. It comes packed with a soundtrack CD, and you can download the tracks direct from the games website if you've left the concept of a CD behind in the last decade. You start the game my pressing play on the MP3, and you have until the MP3 runs out to survive. The MP3 lasts ten minutes, with an event at roughly 3m30s and again at around the seven minute mark.

As soon as players here "Escape" in an ominous voice at the start of the soundtrack, they start rolling the five dice they hold, and don't stop! The faster you roll, the more likely you are to survive. You have to match symbols on the dice with other on the tiles that make up the chambers of the tomb, uncovering new rooms, moving and completing objectives. Your goal is to escape the tomb as a team. If even one member gets left behind, everyone fails.

Escape is a co-operative game. You can share roll results to unlock the dreaded locked dice belonging to other players in the same chamber or work together to reach the higher goals in some chambers. If the party gets split, it can be a race against the clock to rush back for lagging members who have been stuck in a chamber due to bad dice rolls.

This is easily the most intense board game experience I've had in a long time. It's pulse-pounding on a level usually reserved for video games and blockbuster movies. Board games are usually more sedate, as players weigh their options and chose the best strategy for the turn. Even horror themed games like Arkham Horror don't really get the players anxious. You have all the time in the world to make your decisions, and can debate with other players at length about the optimal strategy to deal with the current situation. Escape is frantic. Every moment you stop to look at your dice and think about where to go next costs you valuable seconds you are not getting back!

Thanks to a successful Kickstarter campaign, Escape comes with two expansions already in the box, both of which add alternate chambers to the tile deck and new rules, such as treasures or curses. Playing with curses raises the manic hilarity, as players are suddenly forced to play with their left hand on their head, not speak any more, or discard any dice that fall off the table for the rest of the game, a killer curse as you only start with five dice, and any board gamer or role-player will tell you that dice fall off the table all too often!

Escape is a great way to get a gaming night going. It puts everyone in a good mood, and plays fast enough that you're not losing significant time for that game of BattleStar Galactica or Pandemic that is coming up.

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