Escape: The Curse of the Temple is a chaotic ten minute cooperative game where up to five players are faced with their own mortality.
The rules are relatively simple.
Everyone rolls dice, which have custom symbols on them. Three of the symbols allow you to explore rooms, move around the board, and discover hidden gems. The symbols themselves appear on the game board so you never need to consult the rules to know when and how to use them. Another symbol prevents the die on which it appears from being rolled, "locking" it, while the final symbol can unlock up to two such locked dice.
Players add new rooms to the board, trying to find an exit tile and ultimately, trying to escape. However, in order to actually leave the temple, players must not only find and reach the exit, the must also each roll a number of keys greater than the number of hidden gems which have not already been revealed on the game board. This means that a number of challenges throughout the temple must be completed before victory is possible or probable.
None of this is enough to warrant the description, though. What is enough is the small text on the bottom of the game box: "A REAL-TIME Adventure Game". Players don't take turns rolling dice. Players roll dice and use them as fast as the laws of physics permit them to. And they have exactly ten minutes to finish the game (the accompanying audio CD adds not only atmosphere, but also a timer in the form of audio cues). But that's not all! Players also need to return to the starting chamber about three minutes and six minutes into the game, else they lose a die permanently.
What Comes in the Box
This game looks great, but don't let the delightful colors fool you. It wants to kill you.
The game is loaded with tiles which are used the build the temple dynamically through exploration, as well as 25 custom dice (5 for each player), wooden tokens to represent players in the temple, and a bunch of green gems. There are also two advanced "modules" which can be added to the game together or separately to help or hinder the players. One adds curses to the game, which make the game harder to play when discovered, but which can be lifted by wasting time rolling a combination of dice. The second adds treasures to be discovered, each providing a powerful bonus whenever it is used.
Everything about the game evokes the theme. The artwork is great, the CD soundtrack is excellent, and the player tokens even look like Indiana Jones (very small, wooden, monochromatic, pancaked Indiana Jones', but I digress).
There's also an hourglass if you, either out of necessity or silliness, decide not to use the soundtrack. I don't recommend it, given how great the soundtrack is. We also noticed that the sand got stuck sometimes, making the game easier. Not that we minded.
Who is This Game For?
Do you have friends who like social experiences more than strategic choices? Do you enjoy rolling dice? Do you like cooperation more than confrontation? Do you want to know what your friends will do in a crisis? Do you like to lose? A lot?
This game is great in all of those cases. It's a hard game (especially with the added modules). The trade-off is that everyone is on the same team, so when you lose, you ALL lose. This has the neat effect of causing players to demand another round after losing. It certainly doesn't hurt that the game is exactly ten minutes long, making the whole experience something that you'll play over and over again every time you pull it out.
However, this game is certainly not designed for people who want a more thoughtful or strategic experience. There's strategy, sure, but it's secondary to everyone talking over each other in the most uncoordinated team apparatus ever conceived by man. If you don't like intense experiences, this probably isn't one for you, either.
But I love this game, and I think most people will find situations when and groups of friends for whom it would be unforgettably good.
I post all of my reviews to my personal site: http://www.joshuapostema.com/reviews