Escape Board Game Review
Escape! Curse of the Temple is an immersive board game, where players are trapped inside a cursed temple, and their only hope is to work together to, well… escape. If a player doesn’t escape in 10 minutes, then everybody loses. This review is broken into three section, narrative, game mechanics, and opinion.
Note: The following is a narrative review, that is designed to help potential players understand the atmosphere and story the game is trying to represent, kind of like a trailer. If your only looking for opinions and a description of the mechanics feel free to scroll past this to the next sections.
Your running through a sandstone hallway, desperately running towards the next doorway hoping it doesn’t lead to a trap. You get there and you start rolling your dice, so far you’ve rolled the green adventurer that you need to pass, but you still need a key. Picking up the 4 remaining dice as fast as you can, you immediately drop them hoping for that sapphire key – hands are shaking at this point, you look down and your heart fills with dread. A black mask… a curse. That dice is now unusable, leaving you with only three dice left to get what you need. Even more desperate now you grab for your dice, only to accidentally send one flying off the table. Reaching down to get it, its the key you’ve been searching for!
You scoop it up and head through the door. There’s no traps in this room, but there’s no magic gems either. You need those mystic green stones to escape. You rush to the next door and start rolling for the symbols you need to pass. Your first roll yields you a golden mask, curing your curse. You can now use all 5 dice again. Filled with dice, your hand is clenched ready to throw down searching for the red torches you need for the next door. As your hand starts to move down an ominous noise sounds in the background, a gong. Your heart fills with dread, you know you only have 38 seconds to get yourself back through all the previously explored chambers. To get back to the center where it’s safe.
5 rolls gets you back through the first door, 4 rolls gets you through the second, you can hear your own blood pumping through your ears, your dice shake with your whole body. That last roll gets you through the final door, you’re now in the center chamber where it’s safe. Looking around you see two of your fellow adventurers, but where’s the third? The jungle drums beat faster, you hear the heartbeat of the temple echo through the winding hallways, and then the sound of a giant stone door slamming followed by a not so distant scream.
The soundtrack resumes to normal, looking around at your adventurers some of them have cursed limbs (dice) – Mark’s not doing well, he only has his feet left. You all decide to split into two groups so you can share die rolls, and the all important golden masks. You’re the best off, so you go by yourself in the direction of your lost companion. At this point all anyone cares about is finding the exit. All the emerald gems in the temple can’t get you out if you don’t know where the exit is. Making your way through the previously explored chambers, you decide to keep left, for that is the last direction anyone saw your missing companion. The first two chambers don’t hold anything or anyone. After rolling a green adventurer and blue key you enter the third chamber, the room is dimly lit with torches, but then you see something… in the corner… is that… yes it is! It’s Jonathan!
He’s missing a leg, and one of his arms is placed on top of his head. “I’ve been cursed” he explains. “I ran into a cursed chamber, which forced my hand to become attached to my head. I tried to make it back in time, but only rolling with one hand made it hard to roll fast enough. In the end my leg got caught under the door when it slammed shut, so now I am as you see me now, one armed and one legged. I have been fortunate enough to get rid of all my black masks though, so I still have my 4 remaining dice to roll.” You offer him help up, and he grasps your palm with his only remaining hand. He uses you as support, and you make your way to the next door. Using your combined dice, you quickly roll the symbols you need.
The next room is a jewel room. You have eight combined dice, and the last roll gave you a black mask, but you both decide to try for the second row of gems. The second row requires seven blue keys, but will yield you two gems instead of one. You don’t have enough dice to try for the third row. Your next roll gives you another black mask, but you still have just enough to get the keys. 5 keys. 6 keys. One more… 7 keys! You unlock the two gems, removing them from the gem depot making your future escape easier. Now you only have 7 of the previous 14 gems in the depot. After rolling again you make it through the next chamber door, and it’s the exit! Now you just have to gather your remaining adventurers so they can roll to escape. Looking towards the other end of the unraveled board, Fred and Nancy are not doing well. They are still plagued with black masks. Looking across the table, you lock eyes, there’s fear there. You know the soundtrack will be ending soon, but they are eight chambers away with 4 dice between them. “We’re not going to make it” says Nancy. “We will. We can always provoke a turn of fate” you say. “If we give back a gem we can all re-roll our black masks, that will give you the chance you need to roll your way through the chambers to get to the exit in time.” She silently nods, and you place the gem back into the depot.
Everyone re-roll’s their black masks, and now its just a race against the clock trying to roll the dice as frantic as possible. As they make their way towards the exit, you and Jonathan roll for the 5 keys needed for escape. As you roll the final key you need for escape, Nancy and Fred burst into the exit chamber using a secret passage. “I didn’t get a chance to use that treasure earlier, so I figured I would make an awesome final entrance” she explained. At this point in the game you realize Fred hasn’t said anything in the past five minutes, he must have come across a silencing chamber and been cursed. Thankful you never encountered a cursed chamber, you hand Fred one of your die, as per the rules when a character escapes. He gratefully accepts and he and Nancy start rolling for their 5 escape keys 3… 4…. 5….. YOU DID IT! Everyone has escaped, and as everyone dusts themselves off with their no longer cursed limbs, bodies shaking, you hear the sound of the temple collapsing behind you. Everyone heaves a sigh of relief, big smiles on their faces. This was the most intense 10 minutes and 57 seconds anyone had ever experienced. Everyone gives high fives all around, the campaign was a success.
The main idea of this game is every player is an adventurer trapped inside a cursed temple. The only way to get out is to explore the temple, unlock magic gems, and make sure you head back to the central room whenever you hear a gong. This game is played on a timer, via a CD soundtrack that comes with the game. The sound tracks last nearly 11 minutes each, there are two to choose from, the differences being how often and how many times one is expected to run back to the central chamber before the door slams shut. If you get caught outside the chamber when the door slams you lose a die permanently. Fortunately the gong gives you a 38 second warning before the stone wall comes crashing down.
You start the game with 3 tiles on the table, a central chamber and two accompanying chambers. You add more rooms, as you unlock doors. Doors are unlocked by rolling the right combination of symbols on the five dice you are given. You can lock certain symbols in place to use them at a later time, or continuously roll until you get what you want. If you roll a black mask, you may not use that die until you roll a gold mask. A gold mask unlocks two black masks, thus why you may want to hold onto them. You must also roll certain symbols to unlock gems, the less gems you have in your gem depot when you try to exit the temple, the fewer keys you have to roll. Once the game is set up and you begin the soundtrack a very ominous and demanding voice tells you to “Escape,” and from there you are expected to start rolling your dice as fast as you can to try to get through doors, and explore the chambers. There are no turns in this game, everyone plays at the same time rolling dice as fast as they can. That said the game is based on an honor system, hoping no one pretends to roll something they didn’t. The basic game comes with two built in expansions, treasures and curses. There are at this time three other purchasable expansion boxes, including one that allows the addition of a sixth player. With so many expansions the game has a lot of re-play ability.
Escape is a game for those who seek adventure, and more importantly wish to seek adventure while working with others. This game allows one to live out their childhood Indiana Jones: Temple of Doom fantasies, and explore a forbidden temple with their friends, while trying to find magic gems to help them escape. Sounds simple enough. That being said, this is not a game for those who do not cope well with stress, for this is a VERY STRESSFUL GAME. The set up is easy, the rules are simple, but trying to escape what can become a very long and convoluted temple while eerie jungle drums and gongs ring at you, warning you that you are about to die. Not so easy.
This game is recommended for ages 8 and up, but I imagine with a little help you can include a younger audience. The physical game pieces are of very good quality, wooden character token, molded plastic gems, sturdy card board tiles. This is personally one of my favorite board games, which is why it is the first one I have reviewed for this site. That said one has got to be in the right mood to play it – it is not a game to help you unwind and relax. However, if you’re in the mood for an adrenaline rush then you have found the right match. It is the only table top game I have ever played that has physically left my hands trembling as I played it. As shown in my narrative above, the game is very immersive, one will feel as though they have actually managed to escape a real cursed temple by the time the game is through with them.
Some of the other benefits to this game include:
- Being able to play solo: Not many games you can play by yourself but this is one of them. This games plays between 1-5 players, and 6 if you buy one of the expansions.
- The game will always be short: The play time is limited because of the timer. So including time for set up and explaining rules to new players, games shouldn’t take you any longer than 20 minutes, especially since you build the board as you go. So if you don’t have a lot of time, but your looking to kill time this is a great game.
- Soundtrack is on YouTube: One might think that having to rely on a CD might be a downside, I myself have not owned a working CD player in several years. Fortunately all of the tracks have been added to YouTube by fans, including a few extra tracks. My personal favorite track replaces the original ominous soundtrack with the Yakety Sax whenever its time to rush back to the center.
- You don’t have to explain the rules: The CD that comes with the game includes audio instructions on how to play, so if your one of those who tends to fumble over themselves when explaining the rules, this takes all the pressure off of having to teach new people.
- Ecologically Sustainable: Queen Games the creator of the games prides themselves on only using ecologically sustainable resources
- Supporting small business: One would think such high production value would have to come from a large company, Queen Games has a total of 8 employees according to their KickStarter biography, 6 from Germany and 2 from the US.
- Zombie Version: If you like the idea of this game but prefer a different theme, they have also come out with a zombie version of this game
Note: Because this game is extremely difficult, especially when expansions are used, we often incorporate house rules. Our house rule is if there are more than 5 keys needed for the final room when its finally uncovered, and we have little time left to escape, dice do not need to stay locked down to count. So each time we roll a key it counts and we can keep rolling that dice without undoing our progress. This is particularly helpful if fellow players lose dice to the door, by not making it back to the center in time. The rest of the temple has to be played by normal rules though, otherwise the game might actually become moderately easy.
For more about this company check out their KickStarter, where they are currently trying to raise money for the Escape! Big Box, which is a special version that includes all the expansions, as well as other bonus material. https://www.kickstarter.com/profile/1016374822
You can also visit their website at: http://www.queen-games.com/en/
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