It’s World Puzzle and Sudoku Championships week

World Puzzle and Sudoku Championships logoThe World Puzzle and Sudoku Championships are happening in the UK for the first time this week at the Selsdon Park Hotel and Golf Club, just south of Croydon. The ninth World Sudoku Championships are already underway (see, for instance, a preview in the Independent on Sunday) and will crown their World Champion tomorrow; the 23rd World Puzzle Championships start on Thursday and run until Sunday Saturday ((ETA: Thanks, Ken!)).

This site is particularly excited about the World Puzzle Championships and really enjoyed reading the competition’s Instruction Booket, admiring the inventiveness and ingenuity of the puzzles that – frankly – are way out of our league. Nevertheless, looking at the registration list, we can attempt to consider the championship as the sporting event that it is and make some predictions for the sake of them having proved wrong soon.

A starting-point for treating the World Puzzle Championship as a sport is the Wikipedia article, but the motherlode is Tim Peeters’ site. You can get the results from the three most recent championships within the World Puzzle Federation‘s newsletters for 2012, 2013 and 2014, each with the results from the previous year’s championships.

This year there are 22 nations who have sent national teams of four solvers to the World Puzzle Championships, though nine nations additionally have sent “B” teams and there are also nine “United Nations” transnational teams. (In total, there will be 29 nations represented at the World Puzzle Championships.) This makes this year’s event relatively large to those of recent years, though not exceptional.

The 22 years of the World Puzzle Championship have only seen four different national teams win. The Japanese team won one, the Czech team won three, the German team have won four and the team from the United States of America have won the remaining fourteen. The US team has a 22/22 record at finishing in the top three places, the German team have finished on the podium 12 times in the last 14 years and the Japanese team’s unbroken run on the podium stretches back nine years. The Czech team were on the podium seven times in the first ten years; the Hungarian team have made four podium appearances and the Dutch team three, including two second places. Other teams on the podium have included Argentina, Belgium, Canada, Croatia, Poland and Turkey.

The US team return three from last year’s championship winning team, headlined by four-time champion Wei-Hwa Huang and 2011 champion Palmer Mebane. William Blatt made it to the top ten last year to make the play-offs, as well. The change is that Thomas Snyder, four times on the podium for each of the World Puzzle and Sudoku championships (three times on the top step for Sudoku) has been replaced by MIT’s Anderson Wang. Big shoes to fill, but it would be a major surprise not to see their 22/22 streak on the podium become a 23/23 streak. Can they make it onto the top step again? Quite a few teams will have something to say about it.

Ken Endo described the Japanese selection process in his blog; the Japanese team deliberately include one first-timer in their World Puzzle Championship line-up, so long as they make the top ten of their domestic qualifying contest, and fill the remaining places with the top three outright. This year’s new blood is Yuki Kawabe, backing up Hideaki Jo (who has finished in the top six for six years in a row), Kota Morinshi (improving from 26th to 11th to 8th over the last three years) and Ken Endo himself, who was top among the B-team solvers last year. Hideaki, Kota and Ken took second to fourth in this year’s WPF GP and Yuki was eighteenth. Several teams have two world class solvers and a few have three, so a large part of the destiny of who will win the world championship may come down to the strength of the fourth team member. Judging by the WPF GP results, Japan may have the strongest fourth member.

The German team starts with Ulrich Voigt, bidding for his tenth title. His nine championships go back as far as 2000, and he’s not yet won three in a row – so a title this year would represent that distinction for him. He is well supported by his brother Roland, who finished second in 2002 (to beat Ulrich!) and who also has a sixth-place finish in 2011, when he hasn’t been involved running the German selection process. Florian Kirch finished tenth in 2009 and has three other top-20 appearances, and Martin Merker was very competitive as a guest last year, backing it up with 20th in the WPF GP as well. Very likely to be there or thereabouts once again.

If this site is going to pick a team to make it onto the podium for the first time, it will be brave enough to pick Slovakia, who finished fourth in 2013. They return all four team members from last year; Peter Hudak made it to the top ten and took part in the play-offs and their other three members were competitive, finishing in the top 27 official places. Definite contenders, as experience counts a great deal. Similarly, the Czech team return all four from last year, and are likely to be there or thereabouts. The Dutch team feature Bram de Laat, ready to make a break for the podium after going 9th-7th-4th in the last three years, and two-time World Champion Niels Roest makes a return. Rick Uppelschoten makes his ninth appearance, a top-20 solver more often than not and Annick Weyzig has two top-40 places, so they too have definite outside podium chances. The Hungarians include 2007 champion Pal Madarassy and 2012 fourth-place finisher Zoltan Horvath, so are well in the mix.

What about the home team? Neil Zussman and James McGowan enjoy a friendly rivalry at the top of the order, both finishing well in the top 20 last year, and both in the top 10 of the WPF GP this year, showing their form. They’ve both been red hot on qualifying tests in the past, not just winning the national title but beating all global competition in the UK Puzzle Championships of the last two years. Both will strongly fancy their chances of making it to the top ten and the play-offs this year. Steven Barge has three past WPCs to his name, finishing top of the UK solvers twice, and Thomas Powell came about half-way last time. It’s not clear that there is such a thing as “home advantage” in puzzle championships – indeed, dragging attention away from some of the top solvers to be on the organisational side must be a disadvantage, and the Dutch and Hungarian sides look stronger than they were last year – but last year’s sixth place for the UK team showed what is possible.

This is the point where the Canadians, French, Polish, Turkish and so on curse this preview for not highlighting them. It would be a delight for any of them to take this as inspiration to prove this preview wrong, especially if I’ve swept them aside into just the “and so on”!

This World Puzzle Championship is trying something different on the Sunday Saturday by featuring one final team round with very considerable bonus points on offer to the fastest finishers, almost analogous to the play-offs that have long been a part of the individual competition. Indeed, the fastest eight teams will get a second round of puzzles, in which the team members themselves will move about the life-size grids to demonstrate their answers rather than just putting dots on pages. My suspicion is that this final round will be crucial as to determining the overall outcome of the championship, and it may well be that at least two or three teams are in with a realistic chance at the start of this final round. It’ll be exciting!

For the sake of punditry, if you make me pick a single winner… it would be safe and predictable to pick the USA as winners for a fifteenth time, but I think 2014 will be the year Japan win their second world championship.

Bath Escape

Bath Escape logoIt seems a reasonable generalisation that if you’re reading this blog, there’s a good chance that you enjoy discoveries, particularly pleasant surprises. It’s always a thrill to find a new exit game of which this site was previously ignorant. There was an even bigger pleasant surprise recently when Essa got in touch to introduce Intervirals, a fan blog about room escape games. (Seems like a good idea!)

Essa’s site has been running since February this year, so this site happily tips its cap to acknowledge Intervirals’ seniority. It’s full of posts crammed with excellent links, taking a global view more effectively than even the Around the World posts made here, plus information about coupons and discounts analogous to this site’s Dealwatch posts. Most impressively at all, Intervirals has national exit game directories for fifteen European countries and fifteen other countries from around the world. That’s dedication and bravery for you, and Intervirals goes straight into this site’s blogroll and links page.

There’s also considerable resourcefulness and talent; Intervirals knew about Bath Escape, which has been open since mid-June when word had not reached this site. (How many more similarly covert exit games are there out there? The more, the merrier!) This is a great find because it’s a very interesting proposition.

The site features two exit games called Six Locked Doors and The Haunted House Escape. The first of these sounds like an unusually high quantity of doors, making it quite a big game as they go; quoting an ideal team size of 4-5 (and a maximum of 6), this game has a time limit of 75 minutes, pointing to a meatier challenge than most. Teams of 3-4 are recommended to go for the 60-minute Haunted House Escape instead.

However, the site also really cleverly features walking tours of Bath, and these take a form much more like a sequential puzzle hunt, where location-specific puzzles direct you to your next destination and the next part of the story. These can be played by teams of 2-6 and are estimated to take 2-3 hours; it may well be that they’re not against the clock at all. The first two games are Case No. 219, exploring Bath landmarks, and Victoria’s Secret, centred around the Royal Victoria Park, taking in the Botanical Garden and the Royal Crescent.

This site is not familiar with anybody else taking exit games and puzzle tours together, but it’s a smart pairing – if you like one, there’s a very good chance you’ll like the other, and there’s something to do on both indoor and outdoor days. The fact that both of them converge at the Princes’ Treasury tea room also makes it sound like a really well-integrated facility. (Check out the tea room’s crepe menu from October! Mmm…) Don’t think too hard about the pronunciation here, but what could be finer than an escape and a crepe?

All the news from the world’s exit games

Newspaper iconThe previous post contained a collection of links with exit game news from Europe; today’s news collection looks a little further afield.

Yesterday, this site linked to this German live escape games blog, with a map linking to known sites around Europe. With a tip of the hat to Scott, a site about online escape games is attempting to collate a global live escape game map. Ambitious, but brilliant! There’s only one post to the site’s blog so far, but this site looks forward to others. A rising tide lifts all boats. (Spoiler: something very cool in this regard very soon.)

One of the most interesting exit game developments in the US is Trapped In A Room With A Zombie, remarkable for already having a dozen locations across the country, East to West, North to South. The creator, Marty Parker, is prominent and fascinating in mainstream publication interviews; his take on his own segment of the industry in Art Attack Philly is well worth a read to give you a sense of his perspective on his own cottage industry, which you can put into context by reading other interviews from newspapers in Columbus from February and Boston from July.

Lastly, across the border to Canada – specifically, the province of Ontario. Scott, to whom we referred above, curates an amazing Ontario exit games catalogue, and the wide availability of games also attracts local press interest. (Why has Toronto evidently become a hub in the same way as Budapest and Beijing? Professional enigmatologist Stacy Costa, a SCS Instructor at the University of Toronto, had this to say.) It’s the location for the Canadian operation of the original Real Escape Game, as discussed at Motherboard, with The Star taking a wider look at the popularity of the genre across their area.

With so much interest in exit games, it would appear logical that there could be the demand for other sorts of puzzle events in the Greater Toronto area. Perhaps this might be another conurbation in which the likes of DASH and/or Puzzled Pint might take root. There aren’t yet puzzle hunts in quite the way they are known elsewhere, as far as this site can tell, but a spy-themed game seemed to have quite a few similarities (though, sadly, the domain discussing the event appears to be no more) and the FISH Scavenger Hunts annually held in Toronto, and Vancouver, also sound spectacular and relevant.

Toronto does have its own sort of hunt that may be all its own. Tip of the hat to the German Live Escape Games blog for this one, and it’s the sort of story that makes you check that you’re not reading a satire site by mistake. The Simcoe Reformer suggests that there have been scavenger hunts in Toronto where the prizes to be found are, well, cannabis. A larger event planned for September promises to put the “pot” into “jackpot”, or perhaps the other way round.

This might sound like a plot from a Cheech and Chong movie, and it might be the plot of one. The Canadian stereotype of politeness, legality and good order holds firm, though. Participants are not invited to dig up random leaves and take a chance at smoking whatever they find; instead, the prizes are vouchers. In order to claim your prize, you have to be one of the 11,000 locals with a medical marijuana licence already.

Rob Ford would surely approve!

All the news from Europe’s exit games

Map of part of EuropeIt looks like Iceland, at least, is missing from the above map. This site will apologise for this omission as soon as Iceland gets its first exit game, which probably won’t be too long. Let’s start by sweeping up a few stories from around Europe; next, we’ll feature a few stories from further afield.

Live Escape Games is a German weblog which attempts to provide a map of all known exit games from around Europe. (You’ll find a link to it on this site’s blogroll.) It’s interesting to see a dozen of them identified from around Germany, plus another 23 from around the rest of Europe. It’s always difficult to know whether there are others not yet known – and attempting to cover the whole of Europe is delightfully ambitious, not least because of the language barriers – but it will probably get easier over time. The wonderful granddaddy site of them all,, reports 81 different sites across Hungary, though no map.

Another addition to the family is of Romania, with gorgeous graphic design. It details a site in Oradea, just on the Romanian side of the border with Hungary, and a site in Timișoara, rather closer to the border with Serbia. It also features what this site would be willing to bet is the premiere Romanian-language blog about exit games, linking to us with a heartbreakingly gorgeous graphic.

There’s also a corking English-language article on about the apparently language-neutral Sweet Escape exit room in the city. Supposedly many of Budapest’s exit games are language-neutral, though arguably that limits the scope of the puzzles that can be offered there. The article is worth reading for a number of cute stories, of which this is perhaps the one most of interest to this site:

there are fan clubs which are organized with one goal in mind: to visit and solve every Escape room they find. There was a team among our players who already had visited 17 other rooms before.

If you’re in such a club and you find this article some day, please say hello in the comments section below – and if such a club decides to bag the games of the UK and Ireland for their collection, bring it on!

The “Top Secret” one-day Cryptic Treasure Hunt in Essex

A logo for the location where the puzzle hunt took placeMonths ago, this site previewed the “Top Secret” One-Day Cryptic Treasure Hunt that happened last Saturday. Here’s a second-hand report of what happened.

The event took place at the so-called Secret Nuclear Bunker at Kelvedon Hatch in West Essex, just outside the M25. The site is a tourist attraction now, but has a history of having played a number of different roles in civil defence over the years.

One challenge that puzzle hunt organisers face is trying to set potential players’ expectations appropriately, not least to give people the right information to judge whether this is the right hunt for them or not. (Not that there are a great many hunts to choose from! At least, not yet…) It’s a particularly difficult challenge for a one-off or first-time hunt, as a good technique is being able to point to (at least an account of) a comparable hunt. This hunt had its original flyer (.pdf file) that cunningly contained hypertext (marked “Top Secret!”) that linked to a teaser that give a hint to the location.

The hunt offered the teams the chance to attempt to retrieve clues from within a variety of rare, valuable and intricate mechanical puzzle boxes, construction puzzles and the like. These clues would give hints, in various media, towards decoding a metapuzzle to find the exit of the bunker section of the hunt.

One particularly popular and clever puzzle saw the teams exploring a recreation of the nuclear bunker within Minecraft – upon finding a particular object hidden in the virtual world, teams were directed to find a clue hidden in the counterpart location in the physical world.

Outside the bunker, there was a later clue requiring use of part of the ropes course on site, and the conclusion of the hunt saw a very visual demonstration of where Stephen Miller, who organised the hunt, got his Pyro Puzzles brand name from. You can see how atmospheric the location was and judge the reactions of the players from this collection of photos from the event.

There are many different parallel puzzle hobbies in the UK and Ireland, often with little overlap – the armchair treasure hunt hobby, the logic puzzle contest hobby, the mechanical puzzle hobby, the DASH-and-Puzzled-Pint hobby, the exit room hobby, and so on. Part of the impetus for this site is to try to bring elements of these hobbies together and help people who know they like one to find other hobbies that they may enjoy as well.

It was clear that most of the entrants to this hunt came from one particular background. The extremely positive social media response goes to show how well-received the hunt was and how well the hunt succeeded in its evident aims.

Many thanks to organiser Stephen Miller and team for putting the show on; it’s clear that a great deal of effort goes into running any puzzle event. This site notes the imminent release of his Fire mechanical puzzle, the start of the Elemental series, and looks forward to further developments.

Interview with Daniel Hill, proprietor of Escape

Scottish flag graphicThere are two new red pins, representing exit games set to open soon, in the Exit Games UK map. One is for Escape Rooms of London, which opens on Friday as discussed yesterday. The other relates to this Facebook post with the exciting news that the very popular Escape site of Edinburgh is set to open a second location, this time in Glasgow. Exit Games UK had the pleasure of an interview with Daniel Hill, the man behind the Escape business. The questions asked by Exit Games are tagged with EG and Daniel’s responses with DH below.

  • EG: What’s your background and how did that lead you up to the opening of Escape?
  • DH: One of my friends visited an Exit Game in Europe and mailed me the link. We decided we would visit one when he got back, it turned out there was nothing nearby. I was studying to be a Maths teacher but when we got the idea it certainly seemed a lot more fun and it just snowballed from there!
  • EG: How has Edinburgh taken to its first exit game?
  • DH: We’ve had an absolutely superb response. We’ve met so many fantastic people, not just from Edinburgh but from all around the world. It’s really interesting to get perspectives and feedback on how to improve from places such as the States, Norway, Australia etc….
  • EG: Your excellent progress is all the more remarkable given that the site has only been open for just over two months. What techniques have worked well for you at getting the word out around Edinburgh?
  • DH: We did a couple of promotional offers initially through sites such as Groupon. In addition to having an article in the local paper and we were pretty active on social media. This helped us get people in and thankfully the feedback has been incredibly positive. Word of mouth and sites such as TripAdvisor have really driven the business.
  • EG: What are your favourite sorts of puzzles, regardless of whether they fit into an exit game or not?
  • DH: I really like optical illusions, the idea that there is something right in front of you yet you cannot see it frustrates the life out of me.
  • EG: Which puzzles, games and other artworks have influenced you most over the years in your designs?
  • DH: That’s a really hard one to answer as there are so many things that I have played/read/watched over the years. I used to love the books where you would have to make choices as you progressed, the first real “interactive” games I suppose. Then you have games such as Broken Sword all the way up to the apps that are around now. TV shows are an absolute gold mine, I always watch thinking how can I turn that into something I can use.
  • EG: Your Edinburgh Evening News article describes you as a game show junkie. Which shows have most inspired you in Escape and of which other shows do you have fond memories?
  • DH: Yeah it’s true I like a game show! From classics such as The Crystal Maze, Krypton Factor and kids shows such as Knightmare. I’ve started watching a couple of series from the 80’s recently that have given me some interesting ideas so I’ll keep them to myself!
  • EG: Your site might be one of the most intensively used of them all; few, if any, other sites have as many as nine teams through each room in a single day. What does a typical day for you look like?
  • DH: To be honest at the moment there is no typical day. Switching between working in Edinburgh, setting up Glasgow, writing “The Da Vinci Room”, organising corporate bookings and having potentially 18 bookings a day in our two rooms it is all a bit chaotic. Thankfully we have a great team who are prepared to work a lot of hours as we try and get everything done to the right standard.
  • EG: What makes an ideal exit game employee?
  • DH: After having recruited a couple of more members to the team we have primarily been looking for people from a service background with an inquisitive mind. The ability to put the customer at ease very quickly is really important as the majority of the time they are participating in a new experience.
  • EG: Do you have any particularly funny stories from the time you’ve been open?
  • DH: There have been several moments that would have made Youtube gold! We had a team of 3 girls who got stuck and decided to dance until they got another clue! A couple who sang the alphabet song to each other to try and break a code, and one team that pretty much lifted the entire carpet in an effort to Escape…they failed!
  • EG: August is Festival season in Edinburgh. Do you have anything particular planned for this month?
  • DH: We have extended our hours and been building “The Da Vinci Room” for the last few weeks. I’m really excited by this as we have turned a much bigger room into an old study with some really interesting puzzles. Getting the piano up the stairs better have been worth it!
  • EG: You mentioned on your Facebook page that you are planning to open a second location, but situated in Glasgow. What lessons that you have learnt from Edinburgh will you be applying to your Glasgow location?
  • DH: We have gone for a similar format to how we currently operate. The main changes being that we are on the ground floor with windows facing Glasgow city centre and having a bigger site. We have also amended the booking times to make it easier to manage.
  • EG: If you could predict the future for exit games, how do you think it would look?
  • DH: I think we are at the tip of an iceberg. Games are going to get more and more ambitious and I imagine there will be a number of sites opening over the next 12-18 months. I’m really excited about seeing what the other sites have got coming up in the future!
  • EG: If you could give the readers, exit game players and puzzle fans reading this one piece of advice, what would it be?
  • DH: Take your time and be organised, noone is going to present you a puzzle that cannot be completed in the time limit.

Thanks so much for that, Daniel! Glasgow poses a massive opportunity, with the conurbation holding literally millions of potential players. The very strong reviews that the first Escape site earned speak for themselves; anything that gives so many more Scots the chance to join the fun has got to be a big step in the right direction.

Coming to London: Escape Rooms

Escape Rooms logoAnother exit game site is set to open very soon in London! The site is called Escape Rooms, it’s the first site to open in London that’s south of the Thames – the location is great (between Tower Bridge and London Bridge, near the London Bridge station; specifically, you need the rear entrance to a building on Tooley Street) and the first room, Pharoah’s Chamber, is open for bookings from Friday.

This site has been in touch with proprietor Jack about his plans; the Escape Rooms web site is clear and detailed. Results from testing have been really positive; testing with experienced players will continue apace before the big launch of the first room, set in a cursed tomb. The story, as discussed on the web site, reads as follows:

You have successfully passed through all the 12 black hell gates, you are deep in the heart of pyramid – Pharaoh Khufu’s chamber. You are the 100th raider of this tomb; the 99 who have come before you are believed to have perished in the chamber though no bodies have been found. It has been rumoured that their souls have been sucked into Khufu’s tomb to act as his guards for eternity.

This chamber is cursed; all who remain in it after 60 minutes will die. You have 1 hour to find the treasure and escape; otherwise you will, as the others, be forced to remain at the Pharaoh’s side forever. Can you light the Flame of Gods and escape?

The site will be opening a second room, Room 33, within a couple of weeks; this has an unusual heist motif, as you are required to steal a priceless piece of porcelain from the fictive Room 3 of the British Museum.

The site declares itself to be distinctive in three fashions: the decoration and story will establish a different atmosphere to that of other exit games, the puzzles will interlock in an unusually organic fashion and the experience is described as “4-D”. It’ll be interesting to know what the fourth dimension is; the story behind Room 33 does see you travelling through time, which is the conventional definition!

More prosaically, from a player’s perspective, exit games sometimes shine on the strength of the unusual things that they permit players to do – if there are particularly cool toys to play with, or rare ways to interact with the environment, the experience will be particularly memorable. There’s no way to know this in advance of playing the game, and revealing the nature of the contents of the room would be one of the larger spoilers possible, but this site has very high hopes in this regard and looks forward to reading what players have to say about the room.

The games will each have a one-hour time limit. They cater for teams of 3-6; the charge is generally £19-£25 per player depending on team size, but there is a special opening discount in place for August, which will see teams pay as little as £15-£20 per player. Get in there while you can; it wouldn’t be at all a surprise if the calendar here filled up as quickly as those of the other sites in town.

Why you should be really excited about the London puzzle hunt in September

Gingerbread men bannerTwo days ago, this site posted about the “Girls and Boys, Come Out to Play” puzzle hunt taking place in London on Saturday 6th September. This site will be posting about this event more and more, and makes no apology for this. If you liked DASH in London, you should get extremely excited about this. If you like Puzzled Pint but want more, this may fit the bill really well.

As discussed, the people behind this hunt come from the The Game tradition of puzzle hunts. If you’re at all excited about the prospect of playing the game of your life, a truly adventurous and spectacular puzzle hunt, then you need to support the September hunt if at all you can. September’s one-day event is just a step on the way to the full experience, but it will come from the principles and thoughts and background of the most intense games in the world.

The biggest difference between what people can expect to see in the hunt next month and what people may have seen at, say, DASH is a sense of location. As DASH is a global event, there can be little or no sense of trying to tie the locations at which the puzzles happen to the content of the puzzles themselves, because the 14 cities will all find their own sets of locations. As Girls and Boys is a one-time event in a single location, the locations can be selected with the puzzles in mind – or, alternatively, the puzzles can be designed to take advantage of the unique properties of the locations along the way.

There is a sense in which this sort of puzzle hunt is slightly less about the puzzles than, say, a DASH, which has relatively little to offer other than the puzzles – but, generally, what puzzles they are! The appeal of a puzzle hunt of this type is not just the puzzles, it’s the adventure. Cool puzzles, yes, but also interesting locations, and a more intricate, specific storyline. It may well be that some of the encounters along the way are more… challenges rather than puzzles, and that’s cool too.

Perhaps the best way to get a feel for the event, and also a bit of a glimpse behind the scenes to get a sense of the thinking behind it, is to know that some of the team running September’s game also ran a similar, but smaller-scale, puzzle hunt in London back in July 2011. There was an intricate web site devoted to it at the time, but that is no more; however, there’s a two-part podcast (part one and part two) in which co-organiser Lisa Long talks about the game past and some of her thinking about games future. If the prospect of this hunt appeals at all, the two 20-minute-ish episodes will really whet your appetite for the event itself. It’ll also hopefully help convince you how you can trust the people involved simply because they are so lovely. (If a bit sweary!)

Lisa has bags of experience both as a player and a game organsier, and the potential players of the UK should be very grateful that she, and her friends, are bringing their minds and experience for the benefits of the playing community in the UK. There is some enlightened self-interest behind it, though, as the hope is that there might be some even bigger and better games still in the UK at some point down the line, possibly as once might have been the case a decade ago – and, from Lisa’s point of view, perhaps she’ll get to play in some of them, rather than having to be involved with running them all the time.

It’s clear that the hunt in September will have considerable quantities of long-established best practice behind it, plus the sort of practical experience that comes only from having been there and done that, and (on-and-off!) three years’ worth of thought and love put into it. It sounds like it won’t be the game that they were expecting to run three years ago, but on its own terms, it’s practically guaranteed to be sensational. Get excited, get your team together (get into the comments section below for teammates, perhaps… or as it’s a London event, perhaps the next Puzzled Pint in London, a week tomorrow, might also be fertile ground?) and get your application in within the next week and a half.

More exciting news about London soon, hopefully!

Now open in Dublin: ESCAP3D

ESCAP3D banner showing two locationsCongratulations to the first exit game site to open a second location, Escap3d, which launched in Dublin on Friday 1st August. The achievement is all the more impressive for being international; Belfast is in Northern Ireland, Dublin is in Ireland. Different currencies, different laws, doubtless many other differences as well. The site is launching with a single hour-long game, charging teams of 2-6 €80 per game. The site is available over lunchtime and in the evening, Wednesdays to Sundays.

A very short-lived Groupon deal sold 78 vouchers extremely quickly; as the vouchers have sold out, there’s no point in going into detail, but those lucky enough to grab the vouchers while they were going have until the end of October to go and play. The Groupon deal also reveals the location of the site, which has been added to the map: it’s at Unit 2, Avonbeg Industrial Estate, Longmile Road, Dublin 12, which is within a mile or so of XIT, Ireland’s first site.

Escap3d in Belfast and XIT both seem to be proving popular, so this suggests that the people behind the Belfast site should be able to put their experience to good use and come up with another hit!

Girls and Boys, Come Out to Play… but do it quickly

"Girls and Boys Come Out to Play" bannerThis site maintains a calendar of events happening on specific days, as well as the list of exit game sites. (The “Top Secret” One Day Cryptic Treasure Hunt is taking place tomorrow – have fun if you’re playing!) For some time, calendar has featured a mysterious entry: “September 6: save the date”. Very excitingly, this site has now been given the details to reveal of a brilliant-looking puzzle hunt. Here you go:

Mother Goose is on the loose!

Help catch her on 6 September 2014… Be quick! Applications close at 23:59 15 August 2014.

Apply here:

More information here:

Questions here:

The application page has more information:

Teams of up to 6 people walk around London and solve puzzles in pubs (and some other places). The event lasts from morning to evening—10am to 8pm—and requires about 3 miles of walking. It costs £40 per team. Since space is limited ((to, possibly, 20 teams)) there is an application to play. (…) 1. Complete the two pre-puzzles (…) 2. Write a nursery rhyme about your team. (…) Applications are due 15 August 2014 at 23:59. We will notify teams by 20 August.

Let’s try to give some more context. Arguably, the coolest people in the world are those involved in a series of incredibly complex puzzle hunts referred to generically as The Game. People who have played DASH might be able to relate to the event as a much bigger version – often up to 48 hours, often non-stop so grab naps where and when you can. While the hunts are dotted with intricate puzzles, they can also feature remarkable physical and psychological challenges along the way as well. (See Joe Belfiore’s very cool TED Talk for more – then look at descriptions of some of the most memorable games of the past, such as the infamous Shelby Logan’s Run or last year’s Famine Game. Prepare to have your breath taken away with the scope and ingenuity.)

While this London event is not that ambitious, being just – just! – a 10-hour event, it’s run by a team with experience of just about everything that the capital-T capital-G The Game community has to offer, and perhaps this might be a step along the way towards featuring games of that degree of extremity on European shores somewhere down the line. While DASH goes out of its way to be accessible, the practically essential space limit on the game does necessitate the pre-puzzles and creative challenge as a barrier to entry – but this is part of the tradition as much as anything, set to ensure that the people who get to play know what they’re getting themselves into. It they’re not fun to work on with your team, perhaps you might not enjoy the actual event itself.

Accordingly, with the longer scope of the day, expect this to be a slightly more severe challenge than DASH. On the other hand, know that the team behind this come from a tradition of knowing how to keep things fun and keeping teams sufficiently challenged to keep them in flow – challenging enough, but not so challenging to be too too frustrating. Nevertheless, when you get your team together, prepare to gird your loins. This may very well be sensational.

Well-heeled readers from further afield might also note that this event is one week before the Armchair Treasure Hunt Club’s annual hunt in Oakham, with a hunt open to non-members. Consider yourself cordially double-dog-dared to travel to the UK for them both, and consider the list of exit games as possible activities to fill up the week in between!