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Subject: Tabletopia thematic playthrough and review-recap rss

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Marco Mewes
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So, I decided to make a little „playthrough experience“ of the solo version on Tabletopia to show off how wonderfully deep the theme of Escape Plan is. I wish I could've written it in my native tongue, but I gave it my best shot in english to write it as detailed and yet entertaining as possible. I'm sorry for any mistakes ...

At the end I'm also writing a little review, as of why I like Escape Plan so much – and which part I just have to critize.

PLAYTHROUGH:

Okay, I'm in trouble. You know the drill: Everything went fine until it didn't. Somebody talked. Now the cops are swarming the town like a bunch of kids at the buffet from Chuck E. Cheese. My best estimate: I got three days to grab what I've stashed around town and get the hell out of here. To bad there are still two problems much bigger than all those cheese-hugging cops: Inspector Sandra is out for my head. She takes things too personal sometimes. And Lieutenant Costa seems to feel the heat too. Too bad he was in on the gig. Nothing worse than a crook with a badge – or more dangerous. He knows where the cash is as much as I do. hell, by now half the town might know. It's time to make a move …

Day 1

The day starts as bad as it could have: I've been told that Sandra is raiding the nightclub early in the morning. They say people were still dancing, while she thrashed the place. It's the one location I HAVE to get to: there's a 100 grand stashed away there. But now that Sandras snooping around, with a SWAT-Team outside, it's a risky move. To make matters worse: She found my connection to some quick cash at the general store and to some guy owing me a ride in a chopper. Could've used them both.
Damn, Sandra.

Lieutenant Costa also does his thing. Someone's seen him making a scene at the Art Gallery. Not too much stashed there, but still 50 big K. Those two are already all over the place. Also, Costa intimidated one of my spys. Loyal fella – well, not anymore, now that Costa's got him in his pocket.

Now I have to act. I can't risk going to the night club. Not for now. I'm in no condition to avoid Sandra AND the feds. And I'm not too eager for a run-in with Costa either. He'll never let me off the hook without emptying my pockets first. So, without much choice, I sneak through the industrial zone and into the Gym at the riverside. Never trusted that place, so I didn't stash too much here, but I'm still good for $8.000 cash on the hand. Money's money. And I might need it later on.
The good news is: There's another guy here owing me a ride in his Helicopter. Now that he knows what I'm up to, he offered to help me out if needed – for a fee, of course!

It's becoming afternoon, when I hear, that Sandra's about to move, I take the chance: Off to the night club, als long as nobody else finds my stash.
Just when I leave the Gym, they see me: The SWAT Team. Fellas in black. I hate running, especially when those bullets are flying around my head. I can shake them, but one lucky stray got me. It's just a flesh wound. Still hurting though. And annoying the heck out of me.
Still I manage to reach the nightclub. Sandra's still here, but she's done and almost gone and doesn't see me. Still – people will hear about my chuzpe. Street cred and notoriety count for a lot, and mine just made a jump up.
At least I get my cash. 100.000 sweet, green crisp little bills. Now I'm on the right track. The owner's not too happy though. Between Sandra's Raid and me taking out my cash from his business, he's out. Doors closed. Take that, Costa. Well, better you than me, buddy.
I also find my other spy still sleeping it off in the middle of the dancefloor. He's here to help me get a grip on my assets. And boy, will I use him.

Costa has been seen over at the Convenient Store at B-Avenue. Sure as hell he's raiding his locker in there.

Finally Sandra is moving out. But damn – she's heading over to the art gallery. That's it. They too are closing up. I might get in through the backdoor, If I find that key, but for now, there are 50 grand I won't get to just now. And even worse: Sandra picks up the snitch and the informer, who always helped me out when the going got tough. I just hope they'll keep their mouthes shut …

My endeavours haven't gone unnoticed. Like I said: Notoriety is a … you know. Now some cops entered the neighbourhood to make maters worse for me. In exchange, I found some asset for a general key. It's not cheap, but it might come in handy somewhere down the road.
At least Sandra's workings haven't gone unnoticed either. Someone – Costa I guess – was able to send some cops after her. And even better: It's the SWAT team outside of my door, that's packing up and going after her. Maybe my luck's starting to turn?

For now I decide to lay low. There's a MC-headquarter around the corner, and in the evening I decide to get over. Those cops will never catch me while I sneak around in the neighbourhood.
Butch, their president, greets me like an old friend, and even more so, after I pushed a thick package with $5.000 in his greedy, helpful hands. „Always there for an old friend“, he snares, and waves over two of his guy who, as he puts it, are at my command. For the moment. But there's one thing I know: they WILL be helpful!

Sandra is still on to me and following me closely. Now she's raiding the gym. Good thing I've been there already, 'cause the owner folds like a origami-rat and also closes up his shop. This town will be boarded up for good, if Sandra's staying on her raiding-spree. Also, she confiscates his fast car and jet ski. Well, what's a gym owner doing with stuff like that anyway? Keep going on foot, you lazy idiot!

Lieutenant Costa though … he's going for another spree. A shopping-spree. He's been seen in the shop over at D-Park. Oh yeah, that's where his money is: I know about at least three lockers full of sweet, green cash in there. He's ending the day in style. And a lot richer than he started it.

And so the sun sets. I'm neither in the mood for keeping up, nor do I have anyplace useful to go. Time's getting tight, I know, but for now I take Butch up on his offer to bunk up in his garage, lay my head on my still small, but slowly growing bag of cash and quickly fall asleep.

Day 2

The day starts good: Butch wakes me up cause the kid's here: the little runner who brings me my daily income from the various businesses, I bought into. It's not much – just $7.000. But it's okay for a daily salary. And somehow I immediately feel much more inclined to get something done. Two days left. Make 'em count!
But there's another not so great news too: That exit over by the church, right around the corner? The cops closed it off. I might still get some of my cash there, but there's no way I'm leaving the city through there now. Too bad. Would've been convenient.

While I pack my things, I get the news that Sandra's off to a slow start, drinking some coffee in the store at A-Street. I'm sure she'll raid my locker down there, while she's at it. And my source tells me, she's arresting one of my informants and takes a getaway-car I parked over there. The heat's rising.

So I decide to speed things up a bit. Time for some risks. I leave the MC-club and immediately run into those damn cops looking for me. I can shake them as I jump on the ferry but hurt myself in the act. On the ferry I quickly discover some cops and a fed-team on the lookout. Time to call in some favor by my new biker friends. One of them draws those guys off the boat at the next stop, so they never see me, while I make my way to the casino. On the way I pay my spy to open up some new assets, before I stride into the casino-office and demand my cashout: 80.000 bucks. And in cash, please. Where I'm going, I don't need no chips. I seem to look kinda helpless, 'cause apart from my money I get some bluprints for the local sewer system. Not that I'd stoop to that level, but well – might come in handy.

Lieutenant Costa meanwhile checks up the closed exit – and is walking away with a big bag of cash he stashed over there, of that I'm sure!

As the morning ends, things get worse: The whole town seems to know where I am, and Sandra and Costa are sending everything they got in my direction. Outside the casino, there's all of them – cops, SWAT and the feds, just looking for me.

For now, my plan is to get to one of the safe-houses. Problem is: It's on the other side of town. With some luck, I might get there by subway. But I'll have to reach the station first.
So I ask my biker-buddies again. And boy, do they deliver. It sound's like war out there, while they distract thos cop-armies. Good enough for me though, to sneak back on the ferry. I won't make it to the subway before evening, but there's another possible exit close by. Police-presence is light, and neither Costa nor Sandra will ever show up here, so I feel relatively safe for now. And the best: Since the exit's still open (there are rules of conduct, which forbid me to leave the town just now), I'm able to rake in some more profits and get in contact with an old boxer-friend of mine, who promises to help me out, if need be. I'm sure it will be. While I prepare for the evening, I use that time to treat at least one of my wounds and pay some money for an espresso – it's an expensive asset, but it will offer me some action-time at the night, which I'll need!

Sandra keep's up the spreeing, now over at the shop in D-Park. I can almost see her, ripping up lockers and confiscating the money inside. Plus: she get's another one of my cars and arrests some medic-friend of mine.

Costa narrowly misses her, while he's storming into (I picture it) the shop at A-Street and opens up another one of his lockers.

And so the evening comes. There's not much I can do about those cops, and I'm not that good a sneak, so of course they get me, while I try to reach the subway. Some shots and one nasty hit later, I'm sitting in a rocking car, moving to the other side of town. I run through the park and reach my safe-house relatively unhurt. And it's worth the risk: There's another 90K stashed here, waiting for papa. I also found my black locker key and some old „I owe you“ from Butch, claiming that he has to help me one more time for a mere 1000 bucks. I'll make use of that!

Sandra keeps missing me by a hair's width. Right now she's thrashing through the casino, looking for me, and closing it up for good. Too bad for Costa, but he seem's to focus on his stupid lockers anyway … (Also, rumour has it, that Sandra's been locking up some ninja in the casino – boy, I would've loved to see THAT go down!)

And as sure as the sun is setting outside, Costa has been spotted at the next shop, this time in C-Row. He's going wild for those lockers!

Sandra seems to have gone a bit too wild at the casino, cause police-radio has it, that someone called the cops on her. So there's some movement in town going in her direction.

And so the night comes. Costa and Sandra are sound asleep, but thanks to my extra-expensive espresso, I'm still on the move!
It's time to pay that boxer his two grand, for which he's distracting those feds and SWAT-teams, so that I can sneak out and through the park into … the shop at B-Avenue. Time for some shopping and using my own locker key!
I buy myself a police hat and a swat helmet as a disguise and pick up some gas. It's 4K for eversthing, but since I'm desperate, it's still a fair price. Then I use up my black key to grab another bag with $70.000 from my locker. It's starting to add up.

But since the night's up too, I decide to lay myself to rest. Tomorrow is the big day. I'll see, what else I can scrape together – and then it's a matter of getting out of here!

Day 3

Again I'm woken up by some runner bringing me my income. (How do they keep finding me?) It's getting less and less, I'm only getting 5K, almost half of what I'm used to.
So, today's the day – I'm leaving town. Hopefully. Let's see, what else I can grab on my way out.

Another exit has been closed shut by the police. Only one exit's left – interestingly the one I've already visited, close to the subway station, which might be useful tonight.

Suddenly the door to the store flies open. Is it the SWAT-Team outside? I take a peek. Damn. It's Sandra. She's ripping open another locker and already has one of the snitches in her car.

Now it's getting worse and worse. I have to get out, but also have to avoid Sandra (whom I count as a cop) AND the SWATs outside. Good for me that I've got those disguises. I sneak past Sandra with my cop-hat, change it for my SWAT-helmet so that I can sneak past them and reach another safe-house just in time. Here I get another 60K, a brown key I might not be able to use anymore and another fixer-asset, which might help me to refresh myself.

Just as I start to relax myself … Lieutenant Costa walks in through the door. It seems, I'm all out of luck today. He takes himself a key and some fixer stuff and grins at me. Oh, I know what he's after … my cash!

Since it's almost afternoon, I have to leave. Which is kinda tricky. I decide, that it's time for the sewer, even so that entry costs me 2K. Plus I have to get rid of Costa. At least there's some honor left between thieves, so he doesn't ask for ALL of my money – just the usual bribe: $3000.
And then there's that SWAT-team outside. And Feds again. So I have to call in my final favor with Butch. For 1000 Bucks, a whole horde of bikers appear outside in the park, distracting the cops enough, that I can slip underground and make my way through the sewers all the way to the reastaurant.
Here, another 70K await me. And since I still got 10K cash left, I pay two of them for my resfreshment. And suddenly a lot of my assets are back in play. Also, I use up my complimentary healing so that I can tend to another wound of mine. And finally, I get myself a final contact: a fixer, who would help me take some action during the night. Hopefully I won't need him, but better safe than sorry!

Sandra keeps raiding another safe-house, but at this point, that doesn't pose any threat to me anymore!

And now damn you, Costa! The Lieutenant, it seems, is done! He's heading over to the final exit … and vanishes into thin air! Which is bad for me, since now I have to pay my way out of here. Which right now I can't, cause I got 8000 bucks in my pocket and with that am 2000 bucks short. Tell me about a turn to the worse.

And so I concede! There's no way left for me to gather another 2K in one move, for which I have to pay another 1000 bucks, so technically I'd need 3K – which would be my income, if there would be any chance to get that. Also, to get another move at night, I'd have to pay 4K to my fixer (plus 1K for another action), so more time only makes it worse.
In other terms: Game over! Lieutenant Costa screwed me over for good, first taking his 3K in bribes, and then rushing for the exit, getting me to pay $10.000 for getting out.
Since there's no way for me to get out of town, I simply call Sandra and ask her to pick me up.
That's my lesson: Don't be greedy! I should've taken the exit on my first step.

A couple of months later, I receive a postcard in my cell. Lieutenant Costa's messy scribbling's telling me about how he's enjoying his 570.000 Dollar he got away with.
I would love to write him back – about how much less I'm enjoying the 578.000 bucks I already had in my hand, just to lose them for my greediness and his timing. (I might have won …)
But well, it was fun …


REVIEW

Escape Plan is a fun game with lot of depth and thematic liveliness.
One of the things Vital Lacerda is shining at, is creating games full of dilemmas, which urge you to do 5 different things at every moment, but only offering you 4 of them of which you might choose 3. So in the end, you're constantly living under the subtle pressure of missing that ONE action, and trying to make do with what little wriggle-room Lacerda's leaving you.

That's doubly true for Escape Plan, in which no single choice is an easy one, especially since Lacerda is mean enough to constantly shrink your ressources while at the same time making you more dependent of them. You always have to decide whether you go for the shorttime cash, which keeps you going, or the big bucks for the endgame scoring .
As my playthrough shows, it's perfectly easy (and most likely the number one rookie-mistake) to constantly go for the big numbers. Like all psychology, when money's involved, it's no question wheter you sacrifice one of your precious actions to go for a $6.000 income, or that $100.000 bag for the endgame scoring. Bigger numbers are ALWAYS more attractive.

And that's the beauty of this game, because yes, sometimes the greedy one might win, but more often, they don't. As is perfectly shown above: once the first player is leaving town, any subsequent player gets trapped between impossible odds. Especially the last player hardly ever has a chance to scrape together those 10K for leaving town plus $1.000 extra for each action.
It easily feels unfair – it sure did for me! I had a perfect plan laid out, and it all went to hell because I drew that ONE card, so Costa left town ahead of me.

But it's never unfair. It's simply greed, that brought you down.

And in the end, that's the one problem I have with this game: because no matter what your strategy or plan is or has been: as soon as day 3 dawns, there's only ONE strategy left – get out NOW! After 3 solo-playthroughs, that's the one lesson I learned: your money-collecting days are over as soon, as you wrap up day 2. Don't even think about getting another dime on day 3. Head for the exit the shortest way possible. Yes, maybe someone else got more money at the moment. But as soon as one player leaves town, it becomes much, MUCH harder for everyone else to even leave the town. So, whoever gets out first, gets the best chances for winning the game – simply because everybody elses chances to even leave the city just dropped drastically.

That does feel kinda anticlimactic, since the whole game is very balanced and well laid out, but the penalties for leaving town after the first one got out, get so high so fast, that it quickly gets nearly impossible, so running for the exit as fast as you can as early as possible actually IS the most rewarding strategy on day 3 – so in a way it feels like a lost day, a lost third of the game, since collecting your money is so much fun in the turns before that.

That said: I've only played solo, and Costa and Sandra are mean and unpredictable, so maybe the problem smoothes a bit down with more human players.
But even if not: Everything on this game is pure fun. Laying out a strategy, predicting the moves of the other players (or trying to), managing your meager ressources, and, as in every worthwile visit to the casino, finding the perfect moment to drop it all and run like hell with what you've got, because the heat is constantly rising up in Escape Plan, and if you're not out by the time it catches up, you'll get burned – and end up with empty hands!

Can't wait to get this on my table!!

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Steve Blackwell
United Kingdom
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Great write up and flavour. Thanks. I’ve been sitting on the edge with this one.

I think you’ve tipped me over. I realise you are wanting to share rules in the text but you may want to think of 3rd day wait as “it’s my goddamn money and whilst I still have a chance to get out of dodge I ain’t leaving without it if I can help it.

Thanks again.

M B
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Adrian Todea
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Very nice review and session report

I think a quick house rule could change the delayed exit penalty slightly if it really was a problem (which it might be - I haven't played yet). For example, make the penalties go up $2k in value once the first player leaves: so 0k - 2k - 4k - etc. And I would keep the $1k payment just to take an action, I think it's part of the fun of the game.

Another issue: I think this game might suffer a bit from the big discrepancy in scores (sort of what happens in a game of Food Chain Magnate). From what I've seen so far, some people escape, some don't, some escape with very little and some get out with 500-600 points (which is kinda big).

Still - being a Lacerda fan I have backed this and I think it will be a success in our group as we love Lacerda titled. The added bonus of playing 5 (compared to his other titles) is another benefit in our group.

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Vital Lacerda
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2010 - Vinhos, 2012 - CO2, 2014 - kanban, 2015 - The Gallerist, 2016 - Vinhos Deluxe, 2017 - Lisboa, 2018 - Escape Plan, CO2 Second Chance and Dragon Keepers - Maybe: 2019 - ROTW Portugal and On Mars, 2020 - Kanban Deluxe Edition
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Hi Marco,
thank you very much for the fun and very thematic session of Escape Plan. It was a trully pleasure to read.

About your concernings in the last day? Forget them, you just need to manage your pocket money a bit better. Playing with experienced players I usually see 3 to 5 actions in the last day. So don't you worry, it will improve.
Did you fell the heat?

P.S.
I'm still working on the solo version.
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Marco Mewes
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Hey Vital,

yes, you did a truly amazing job in rising the heat and pleasure. Awesome blending of theme and mechanic.

Thanks for your tips. I figured that I'm just managing my ressources not good enough. Also I've been bummed for having my glorious final move broken by Costa.😎

Anyway - in solo it's hard to predict the moves of Costa and Sandra since they're not bound to the usual AP-limits and can jump all over the place, so it's triple difficult to prepare for day 3. But I might get better with practice.

I will have tons of hours of fun to figure it out.

Thanks for your work and efforts!
Marco
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Vital Lacerda
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2010 - Vinhos, 2012 - CO2, 2014 - kanban, 2015 - The Gallerist, 2016 - Vinhos Deluxe, 2017 - Lisboa, 2018 - Escape Plan, CO2 Second Chance and Dragon Keepers - Maybe: 2019 - ROTW Portugal and On Mars, 2020 - Kanban Deluxe Edition
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Huutini wrote:
Hey Vital,

yes, you did a truly amazing job in rising the heat and pleasure. Awesome blending of theme and mechanic.

Thanks for your tips. I figured that I'm just managing my ressources not good enough. Also I've been bummed for having my glorious final move broken by Costa.😎

Anyway - in solo it's hard to predict the moves of Costa and Sandra since they're not bound to the usual AP-limits and can jump all over the place, so it's triple difficult to prepare for day 3. But I might get better with practice.

I will have tons of hours of fun to figure it out.

Thanks for your work and efforts!
Marco


My pleasure.
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Carter Burke
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This game (and your review) could be turned into a movie. cool
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Marco Mewes
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Well, I'd watch it.
Even though it may already be out there in some form...
 
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A M
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Great review! I'm really weighing backing this one even though it isn't my usual kind of game, and you've given me a lot to think about. I would probably end up playing solo quite a bit, so wish those rules were available now.
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Vital Lacerda
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2010 - Vinhos, 2012 - CO2, 2014 - kanban, 2015 - The Gallerist, 2016 - Vinhos Deluxe, 2017 - Lisboa, 2018 - Escape Plan, CO2 Second Chance and Dragon Keepers - Maybe: 2019 - ROTW Portugal and On Mars, 2020 - Kanban Deluxe Edition
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murjani1 wrote:
Great review! I'm really weighing backing this one even though it isn't my usual kind of game, and you've given me a lot to think about. I would probably end up playing solo quite a bit, so wish those rules were available now.


They are, in the rulebook on the KS page. Still need edition.
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Marco Mewes
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murjani1 wrote:
Great review! I'm really weighing backing this one even though it isn't my usual kind of game, and you've given me a lot to think about. I would probably end up playing solo quite a bit, so wish those rules were available now.


Great, I'm happy if I might have helped you make up your mind.

Other than that: what Vital said.

The solo rules aren't final yet, but they're already in the rule book which you can access on Kickstarter and Tabletopia.
So, my advice: get over to Tabletopia and try them out! (They're really just some more defined varieties from the Sandra-rules ... )
 
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