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Subject: 4VP REVIEW - Escape: The Curse of the Temple rss

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Mike Harrison-Wood
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Most board game reviews don’t have a time limit, but if you want you can see if you can read the entire rest of this review in the time it takes to listen your favourite short song.

Hurry!
How preposterous an idea! Imagine! A time limit in a medium that doesn’t normally have a time limit! Unless you’ve played the classic VHS based horror game Atmosfear (or perhaps the more contemporary Space Alert), then having such a predefined time limit within a boardgame of all things will be a relatively new concept. Obviously there are competitive games where each turn is timed (speed chess for example), but to have the entire chronological progress of the game be mapped out beforehand can at first seem unnecessary and overly frivolous.

In Escape: The Curse of the Temple (E:TCOTT)(EtCotT)(etceteraoverthetop) you get some temple tiles, a lot of custom dice and a CD.

The dice are used to explore and perform actions within the temple. The running men are used to explore new tiles, the keys and the torches are used to move around and take actions. The masks are mostly horrible… We’ll come to them later.

The CD has the track that you use to play the game. It’s a little over 10 minutes and supplies the start, finish, lots of tense ambiance and the occasional “run back to the centre” gong. Having the track playing removes a huge problem that would occur with a more analogue method of time keeping, such as an egg timer or sun dial, whilst also supplying a spoooooky built in sound track.

The way this ambiance based time limit ties in to the gameplay is that there are no “turns” as such. Everyone rolls their dice, explores the temple and pays for crystals SIMULTANEOUSLY. This leads to a lot of shouting. But good shouting. Not “you’re an asshole” kind of shouting. This is because this is a co-operative game, it’s the “Shit, I’ve got five keys, someone give me three more, come on, come on, COME ON!”. You’re basically shouting for four reasons:
1) There’s music playing, it’s ambient, but gets louder at key moments
2) Everyone is rolling dice simultaneously so there are lots of loud clattering noises to contend with.
3) There’s a time limit. You need those keys and you need them NOW. THIS MEANZ SHOUTIN
4) EVERYONE ELSE IS SHOUTIN O GOD SHUT UP ABOUT HOW UR LOCKED I JUST FREED U I NEED KEYS

But why? Why do you need these keys? What is it about these keys that will make you shout in peoples faces to acquire them? Well listen up, champ. As you explore the temple you will find pedestals on which to place gemstones. The game starts with a pool of gemstones that you need to place around the temple. The fewer gemstones in the pool, the easier the target roll for escaping the temple will be. At the start of the game, there are so many gems that you literally can’t escape.

You have ten minutes to find the exit and enough pedestals to make your escape possible. At two points within that ten minutes the soundtrack’s gong will demand that you return to the start room. Any player failing to do so will permanently lose a dice, making the game that bit harder.

This is comepletely co-operative and that means that everyone wins, or everyone loses. If only one person is stuck in the temple after ten minutes then bad luck, you all lose. Because of this, there are a couple of parts of the game where players must cooperate directly with each other. One of the sides of the six sided dice has a black skull type picture, and you will grow to hate this side. This side makes your heart drop and your bowels release. It is so terrifying because unlike every other side on the dice you CANNOT reroll it. It is locked in place. This die is now useless. Bad luck I guess? Fortunately there is a way of unlocking this misery and that’s with a gold skull type picture. By spending one gold skull you can unlock two black skulls. Hooray, odds are in your favour that you can save yourself. However, we’ve all been in that dire situation of rolling 5 dice and gasping in disbelief when you see you’ve rolled 5 “ones”. It happens, you realise it’s unlikely, but with the amount of times you are rolling your dice this game (a lot), it crops up more than you would initially think. Now the clever aspect is that you can spend your gold skulls to unlock OTHER player’s black skulls, the rub being that you must be in the same square as the other player. This really puts the emphasis on exploring in either one big group, or at least a couple of smaller ones.

There are times when there is a large temptation perhaps to leave other players behind. They might be pissing and whining about being locked and you might think it’s funny to let them rot, maybe you’re too far away, or maybe you just don’t like the cut of their jib, but ultimately you must not leave them to die. I guess narratively you just get so overwhelmed by survivor’s guilt that you later commit suicide or something. Luckily, helping them out also gets you to re-enact that often repeated cliché of a character tripping in the final corridor, before a second character turns to help them up and they both run together, jumping at the last second to avoid the sudden and well-timed cave-in behind them. Whilst over played in the movies, this type of action is genuinely exciting to be a part of, and grips you right to the end of the game.

There are a few components that are slightly problematic. The main one is with the green crystal-gem-stone-rock-shardsicle type things. Don’t get me wrong, I really like them. They are an intriguing shape, pleasingly geometric to study, and satisfyingly resistant to tessellation. They are unique, they stand out and they are a true curiosity. HOWEVER, this game does have a time limit, and there are easier things to count in a hurry. Every aspect that makes it one of my favourite components aesthically also makes it tricky in a pinch - the tessellation, the clarity, the edginess. You can waste no time, and when they’re in a heaping pile, you have no idea how many you’ve grabbed (2, 3 or 4 maybe?) until you stop and look into you hand to check. Chunky tokens are so depressingly tedious in comparison no matter what artwork is printed on them, but unfortunately when pure functionality is concerned they would be quicker.

Every other design decision is spot on, the tiles are chunky enough, with simple enough artwork to never be confusing or encourage fumbling. The little wooden figures are different enough in colour to be recognisable at a glance and the idea to give players a small colour reference card was a stroke of genius. Everything about this game is about the speed and flow, and so not having to derail someone’s train of thought to ask them what colour character they are is a masterstroke.

The only other problem I have is the lack of variation of the music track. For all its perks the CD only has a small amount of the disk’s total time written on. It would have been a trivial amount of effort on the developer’s part to include easier or more difficult tracks, giving the player more or less time respectively to complete their tasks. If they really wanted to push the boat out, they could have tracks that play the gong at different intervals, which if incorporated with the CD being played on shuffle would really randomise each play through.

Nothing that is bad about this game would be a negative in any other game that doesn’t have a time limit. It is well thought out and not over designed, uncomplicated without being childish. The set up and pack down are speedy, as long as a CD player is easily accessible. Unfortunately problems that hit this game get multiplied in their psychological impact, all because the real opponent is the clock. And the clock never balks, never flinches, never blinks. Good luck, spelunkers, you’ll need it!

Buy Escape: The Curse Of The Temple if:

You and your friends are up for a wild ride. This game is not a merry-go-round on a Tuesday, it is a vertical drop roller coaster. You’re held at the top and are dropped with no looking back until the ride suddenly stops and you all get out. Everyone can now breathe. Perhaps some are pleased with how it went, and perhaps some just want to vomit. It’s an experience that must be tried at least once.

- Mike Wood

This review mentions the core game, but the first expansion is free inside the core box.



For more reviews by Mike Wood and others, http://4vp.tumblr.com/Board
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Derek Stephenson
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Awesome review! I've showed this one to a few people and they're reaction.. was "10 minutes.. what kind of game can be good that plays in 10 minutes" After they all wanted to play it again.. and again.. and one of them went out a bought the game
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Ian Allen
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Nice review.

I played this once or twice. It seemed a near-mindless frantic dice-rolling noisy cluster-fuck with few redeeming qualities.

The absolute only thing I liked about it was the 10 minute duration.

I promptly sold my copy and I never want to play this again.
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Fernando Robert Yu
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glookose wrote:
Nice review.

I played this once or twice. It seemed a near-mindless frantic dice-rolling noisy cluster-fuck with few redeeming qualities.

The absolute only thing I liked about it was the 10 minute duration.

I promptly sold my copy and I never want to play this again.


All of what you mentioned are what makes it fun. BTW it's not mindless, but the gameplay can make it seem mindless if you allow it to overwhelm you, and it looks like it did....

The game is fun, and my youngest son also think so, making it a winner for me! Not to be played EVERY time of course, but managed carefully there will always be opportunities for games such as these.
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oldschoolgamr
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This summer (June?), Queen will begin distributing the 2nd Expansion - "Quests" - to those that backed it. Supposedly, it will add something akin to mission based objectives you have to complete in time as well as finding the exit and escaping... And special character cards with unique abilities...

It will be interesting to see how those additions change the game - could give those that think it's "samey" more variety, then they may be able to enjoy the tension filled fun fest without worrying if it will be the same when they play again in 10 minutes...

Queen Games wrote:
"Every game is different due to the many combinations of quests and abilities"


See http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1016374822/escape-the-cu...

OSG
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