Trapped on an Island

Treasure Map

Being trapped on an island has a long and storied history, so it seems fertile ground for generating escape room themes. Six months ago you’d have been out of luck if you’d wanted to actually play a game on an island, but whether you fancy going as a pair like Robinson Crusoe or a larger group like the Swiss Family Robinson, the local scene has recently expanded. The political geography of the UK and Ireland can be a bit tricky at times, so while this site bills itself as a resource for exit games from the UK and the Republic of Ireland, there are some games which, while technically falling outside that definition, are included here nonetheless.


When two sites opened almost next to each other in Inverness, it seemed like it might be tricky to definitively state the location of the most northerly escape room in the UK.  Fortunately, Locked Shetland has now come to our rescue as the undisputed record holder. For an island with a population of about 22,000 and around 65,000 visitors a year, it’s definitely on the smaller side of audiences. It’s probably also the most remote escape room facility in the UK. Indeed, it’s not clear whether its nearest escape room neighbour is even in the UK, with Bergen, Norway being about the same distance as Inverness.

Their opening room is entitled “The Study” and comes with the following description: The professor has spent years of his life looking for the ‘Eye of Egypt’ a magnificent diamond. Finally, after all that time he has found it. You and your team on the other hand have spent ten minutes to get yourselves locked in his study. Now what took him years to find, you’re going to attempt to find in an hour! You and your team have an hour to solve the clues and puzzles to find the jewel and escape the study.

Beta testing took place earlier this month according to their Facebook page and booking is now open.  The game costs £44-72 and can accommodate 2-6 players.

The Isle of Man

At the very end of last year, Exit Strategy quietly arrived on the scene and kept well below the radar for a while. If the name sounds familiar, that’s because it is. Exit Strategy on the Isle of Man is, to the best of this site’s knowledge, unrelated to its relatively near neighbour in Liverpool. Unsurprisingly, the Isle of Man venue is located in the capital Douglas, just outside the town centre. On an island that is no stranger to speed, it’s also not surprising to see that they keep a leaderboard of the fastest times in each room, although they’ve deemed number of hints more important than pure speed. There are currently three games available, priced at £16-20pp:

In Prison Break, you’re aiming to rescue your friends from jail: Framed and captured, two of your team mates may never see the light of day again. Can you free them and escape the call before the guard returns. The game requires 3-6 players.

In Police Academy, it’s the end of your training academy. Do you have all the skills required to become part of our crime investigation team. This is your graduation challenge. You have 60 minutes to prove yourself, hone your skills and plan your EXIT STRATEGY. The game accommodates 2-8 players.

In Jewels: Museum Heist you play criminals out to capture a priceless gemstone. The Kelia Dynasty Diamond is on display in our museum. This prized jewel is too tempting to miss. A heist is in order. Can you beat the museum’s security, solve the puzzles, and escape with the gem? The game accommodates 2-8 players.

Portsea Island

If you’re reading this with a blank face, fear not. While you may not have heard of the island itself, you almost certainly know of the city that sits on it: Portsmouth. Yes, if you look carefully on the map, you’ll see there’s a thin stretch of water splitting the centre off from the mainland. Situated on the island, and therefore qualified for mention here, Real Escape UK opened a month or so ago.

Taking advantage of the city’s maritime history, their first room has a nautical theme. Deep within a shipwrecked flagship lies the Captain’s Cabin. The door swings shuts behind you and it’s just you and your team-mates under the deck.

According to interviews, they intend to open up other rooms at the venue in the not too distant future. Price for the current room is £18-21 per person for 3-6 people.

The Isle of Wight

Again, this is slightly old news, but it hasn’t previously been covered on this site. Random Rooms opened in March of this year and offers the inhabitants of and visitors to the Isle of Wight two rooms, both costing £60 for up to six people

In Prisoners’ Room you have been wrongly imprisoned in a far away country; your task is to send an encoded message to Rescue Forces so they locate you and help you escape from “Mountain Prison” while in the Goddess Anuket’s Curse Puzzle Room your task is to find a mysterious gemstone hidden in your great uncle’s study, and prevent it from releasing the Curse of the Egyptian Goddess Anuket at the exact moment of a planetary alignment.

The website points at plans for three more rooms, two of which already have concrete themes: a bank heist and a motel room.


We started well north of the mainland, so let’s finish well south. The Escape Tunnel is a new escape game that opened last month on the island of Jersey as part of the Jersey War Tunnels centre. If you’re not familiar with Jersey’s story during the war there’s plenty on the parent site, but it’s clear that the theme for this escape game has been created very much inside the history of that time.

It is 1943 and Chief of Combined Operations, Vice Admiral Lord Louis Mountbatten, has conceived operation Constellation, an offensive against the Channel Islands. A team of commandos are to land on Jersey and break into Ho8 (Jersey War Tunnels). Your mission, which you will have one hour to execute, will be to find the locations of the newly constructed Fortifications once you have accessed the German Commandant’s Office. You will have to search, identify clues and decipher puzzles to find the locations and uncover the code to unlock the door.

The room costs £15 per person and has space for 4-8 players.

STOP PRESS: Apparently one escape room isn’t enough for Jersey. This site has just learned through Scare Tour UK that Secrets Beneath, a scare attraction on the island, have opened Outbreak, a live actor, multi-room zombie escape game. Do you have what it takes to help save the world from a lethal Zombie virus? The Black Fox Military Corps require help to retrieve the anti virus that will stop the virus from spreading. To complete your mission you and your friends will have to complete mental, physical and psychological tasks to escape each room, and retrieve the hidden elements of the vaccine. The game is already open and costs £18pp for non-exclusive tickets.

Where else?

That, as far as this site is aware, is the full list of exit games currently open on the local islands (other than the British and Irish mainlands themselves, of course). It’s interesting to speculate which would be next though: If this site had to hazard a guess, Anglesey seems the next most likely with a population of nearly 70,000 and high tourist traffic. If Shetland can get one…

And we’re back…


There’s no other way to start this post than to say a huge thank you to Chris for all the work he put into Exit Games over the past couple of years, not to mention outside of the site through things like the Unconferences. When I first got into escape games, this blog was my font of knowledge and in taking it on, I want to make sure that the people who are just starting out on that crazy road have the same opportunities I did. Of course, Chris hasn’t gone away entirely! He’s still around on the scene and, if you haven’t already, you can continue following him via his new blog, Ex Exit Games, or on Twitter.

So who am I? Well, my name’s Ken and I’m an escape enthusiast who’s been following the blog for the last year and a bit.  You may have seen my name crop up as someone who regularly contributed information about new venues or have met me at the London unconference. You may also be aware that I run a review site, but I intend to keep the two entirely separate and this will likely be the last time I refer to that dual role here. To the best of my abilities, Exit Games will continue with its impartial reporting – announcing new games from across the British Isles and maintaining an up-to-date listing and map.

If you’ve been paying careful attention, you may have noticed that the site is a little out of date at the moment. I’ll be working over the coming days to fix that, specifically aiming to get the map and escape venue list fully accurate again (or as accurate as it can ever get in this fast-changing industry!) as well as listing all the escape rooms that I’m aware of that are under construction. Alongside that, my intention is to continue publishing news that I think is of interest to the enthusiasts in the UK and Ireland.

This is a learning curve for me, and I’m trusting you, the readers, to keep me moving in the right direction. If you have any comments, questions or concerns, please reach out to me, either through the comment space below, on Twitter or via email.


In which I make my escape

"End of Part One" graphicGood news! I will be blogging in future at Ex Exit Games. The URL is the same as this one except with an ex at the start – – and I hope that you decide to follow me there. Future posts will be like the ones over here since March, except less… rigorous.

Bad news! I do not intend to make any further posts to Exit Games UK.

Good news! I would be delighted to turn over to somebody else. (Ideally it would be someone not associated with any commercial escape game sites. There have already been at least two very good offers.) The only going concerns on are the map, most recently kindly updated by Ken, and the list of exit game locations, which has not been updated since late February. I would advise that you delete everything else on the site to emphasise that it will no longer be updated; I will maintain a complete archive of Exit Games UK at Ex Exit Games.

How’s about that for a news sandwich?

Now open in Brixton… but not for long: Oubliette

Oubliette logoThis site has always been rather… reticent to post about Oubliette, which opened in Brixon, south London, in January. The road to Hell is always paved with good intentions; as hinted at, Exit Games UK knew Oubliette’s proprietors, at least a little, before it opened and even volunteered to sand down some of the floors and walls in the building, which it hasn’t done for any other game. (Yet!) Exit Games UK even has a cracking interview with the proprietors while they were getting started which was, at one point, intended to be the “before” part of a “before and after” piece.

When you begin to play our room escape game, you walk through a door and find yourself plunged into New Pelagia, an Orwellian dystopia full of suspense and suspicion. The people here are watched over by the love and grace of JCN, a huge pervasive computer and CCTV network. The government rations and controls everything to keep things tidy – there are rumours that sometimes people get tidied away too.

You are members of the underground resistance movement who are being sent to infiltrate the ((propaganda office at the)) Ministry of Perception and find out what happened to a double agent who has mysteriously disappeared.

It’s a sixty-minute game for teams of up to eight; teams of six are recommended, but a team of three escaped, once. The price is higher than most at £30/player, but you get more for your money than from most rooms. In its months open, the site has received considerable praise from unusual sources, notably in the (mostly computer) game design and review community. Emily Short‘s review discussed the game in a way that this site doesn’t recall an exit game being discussed before:

…when, as a result of puzzle-solving, a new bit of story occurred — and again I’m being intentionally vague here — it generally ramped up the anxiety and threat level. I’m used to story-as-reward in video games, but here there was story-as-punishment. Solve the puzzle quickly? STORY GETS MORE WORRYING. This felt like a pretty natural and pleasurable extension of the existing principles. And it wasn’t as though we were going to stop trying to escape the room in order to avoid having more story bits happen to us!

If you’ve played and enjoyed exit games before, but never had that sort of experience, and if those sorts of descriptions sound like your cup of tea, then there can be few higher recommendations for the originality, intrigue and interest of this game. (On the other hand, if you know you’re lousy with dystopian stories – *raises hand* – then it might set your expectations as a game that might not be for you, and that’s cool too.) Closer to home, the game was reviewed at The Logic Escapes Me, rushing straight to very near the top of the recommendations; it was discussed in the first episode of the Escape from Reality podcast as well.

So why discuss this site now? The latest news is not good: the site is set to close, in its current form, at the end of Saturday 18th June. The Adventure Society shop, used as a framing device for the staging of the game, may also have to go on its next great adventure.

You may be thinking: ‘But I thought you were a permanent Escape Room?’ and yes, so did we. We were all set to sign paperwork to extend our lease by another year, when suddenly the landlord changed his mind. Now we’re staring at a countdown trying to get as much done as possible in the time remaining – which is kinda apt really. (…)

‘Are you going to open up somewhere else?’ We’d like to, but we don’t know, finding a space to move into and installing everything takes time and money, neither of which we have in spades. We may end up just selling off what we can and junking everything else. If you know somewhere we could move to, store things or someone who would buy things, please let us know!

All right. This is very clearly a special game in a busy field, which may very well not be around for long. On the other hand, there may be people for whom a demonstrably, tried-and-tested, game with a unique extent of focus on its story would surely be of interest in a business sense as well as a player sense. The business model for Oubliette is a bit different from that of most other games, and to try to make it fit in a similar box to most other games would be to destroy some of the ways in which it is most attractive. Nevertheless, a game this distinctive and critically acclaimed would be a remarkable addition to any facility, so the countdown is on… in more ways than the usual one.

Can a puzzle contest simulate an escape room?

World Puzzle Federation logoThe World Puzzle Federation‘s rolling Puzzle Grand Prix contest has its fifth round this weekend. It’s a free-to-enter online puzzle contest where you are given an hour and a half to score as many points as you can by solving paper-and-pencil puzzles. You can start at any point after 11am UK time on Friday and must conclude by 11pm UK time on Monday.

This fifth round is particularly interesting to this site because it’s being set by puzzle authors from the US who have chosen to theme some of their puzzles in the “casual” section around what they’re calling “Escape the Grand Prix”. For all intents and purposes, don’t worry about the distinction between the “casual” and “competitive” sections unless you’ve been solving every round and getting almost all the “competitive” puzzles correct; just solve whichever puzzles seem most entertaining, whichever section they’re in.

You are trapped in a room with a stack of puzzles, wondering if you’ll be able ((to)) finish all of them. Between you and the end is one Mastermind puzzle. But it seems to be in code, with twenty different letters corresponding to different digit values from 1 to 9 (e.g., X = 2 or Y = 6). Perhaps solving the other puzzles, some normal in appearance and others with some of the same code letters, will help. Not all puzzles will be useful to crack the code, but you never know where important clues will be found so search everywhere. Can you figure out what digit each letter stands for and ‘Escape the Grand Prix’ before time runs out?

Take a look at the Instruction Booklet which is a 3.3 MB .pdf file; the booklet hints at the sort of tricks it might use to secrete digits’ identities throughout and also shows you what other types of puzzles there will be on offer in the contest. The contest goes out of its way to offer puzzles in a wide range of levels of difficulty, and you know what styles of puzzles will be featured in advance so you can have a good idea whether you’ll enjoy them or not. You can even get some practice in on the types of puzzles that you know you’ll be facing in advance, if you like. The first four rounds were great fun and this one should be even more so!

Can there ever be such a thing as “too many”?

Overloaded brainThis post is far from a claim that there are “too many” exit games in the UK. It is, however, a call to consider whether there can be a meaningful concept of “too many” games, and – if so – what “too many” might look like.

One follow-up question is whose perspective is being used to ask the question. As a player, can there be too many games? If the lack of replay value drives you to seek out more and more games to play, the bar for “too many” would surely be set very high, if it existed at all. If someone were to want to play every game that existed, or play a game at every site that existed, then a quest to keep up with every new opening might exceed the time and resources you have available. However, such a quest without limiting yourself to a relatively small area strikes this site as an inherently pretty extreme task. While it’s a delight that new sites and games continue to advance the state of the art, surely there comes a point where additional games, except the latest and greatest, have relatively little to offer. This may or may not be before your resources run out.

From the perspective of someone trying to make a living either as staff or owner of a game, “too many” may look quite different. Our society is capitalist; no business has an inherent right to survive. (It’s amusing to consider the existence of an exit game in a planned economy; surely a meritorious citizen would have to apply to play and then wait months or years for a space to play.) On the other hand, the extent to which a game thrives or even survives may not reflect the quality of the game in question, so much as other matters like the effectiveness of the way in which it is marketed. It seems sadly likely that there will be some brilliant games which fall by the wayside even when lesser – or merely good – games continue for longer; for those businesses, the raised bar for continued survival might be said to have arisen from too many games.

Another way to look at it might be that “too many” simply reflects more than “the right number” – and presupposes that there could be such a thing as a right number. Someone at last week’s unconference seriously looked forward to the thought of there being 300 or 400 sites in the UK; no names, no pack drill, but it was someone who knew a lot about brand expansion. It’s certainly true that the UK has fewer sites than some other countries – even some other smaller countries – and that, say, London has fewer sites than other major conurbations. Do the UK and London have to be at the top of these charts, though? Is the demand really there? The signs have looked good so far, but there surely has to come a point where things find a natural limit.

Do you suppose there could be a million players in one year? How about three million? (There aren’t many hobbies who get three million players in a year; an estimate sufficiently credible for the BBC suggested that there were only four or five million people who played tennis at least once in a year, with maybe a tenth of that playing once a week.) Even allowing for people playing multiple games, and enthusiasts bringing the average up, considering real-world typical team sizes, a million players in a year might look like 300,000 games in a year. (Maybe 250,000; maybe 400,000.) That’s 5,000-8,000 teams per week, keeping the numbers simple. When looking at it last year, the figures pointed to a room (not a site) being more successful and popular than most if it was played twenty times a week, with more than half of these at weekends. So a million plays a year might look like roughly 300 rooms, all being pretty busy at weekends. There were more than 230 rooms in the UK and Ireland at the end of 2015, and quite possibly close to 300 rooms in the UK alone by now.

There’s an awful lot of supply out there already. Whether there’s “too much”, and hence “too many” sites, remains to be seen; fingers crossed that demand remains strong and has further to grow.

Coming soon: HIQORA, the High IQ World Championships

High IQ World Championships logoThere’s an interesting and unusual-looking online puzzle contest happening on Saturday 28th May: the first round of the 2016 edition of HIQORA, the High IQ World Championships. It has an interesting structure: there will be two online rounds, with the top scorers from the first advancing to the second and the top 12 scorers from the second winning flights to, and accommodation for, the live world final in San Diego. (No clue if there’s any prize other than the trip and the title, but that’s easily good enough alone.) The first round is set to start at 4pm UK time on Saturday 28th May, and will be held simultaneously around the world, so it starts at 8am in San Francisco, 11am in New York, 6pm in Moscow and so on. (The web site suggests that it starts at 8pm in Beijing, but this may be a typo.) Can’t help feeling that this is even more of an advantage to people operating on European time already, and it does seem a shame that there won’t be many people who get to start at 1pm, 2pm or 3pm, but any time is bound to inconvenience some more than others.

The duration of the first round is yet to be confirmed. “The two Online Rounds will each be up to four hours in length, and held simultaneously around the world. Activities and questions are drawn from the HIQORA Championship Framework which explores multi-disciplinary aspects of high intelligence. Examples of these activities and questions may include: learning to play a new board game; interpreting complex literature and language passages; interactive case studies; mathematics and graphical workouts; spelling bees; memory workouts; knowledge of geographical facts and figures; and various exercises across science, technology, education and maths (STEM).

You may be given the rules to a new board game, or other pre-reading, 72 hours in advance and thus a relatively limited time to master it. That sounds like rather a fun sort of challenge. It’s tempting to wonder whether or not the championships will attempt to be culture-neutral. The signs would seem to point to that not being a top priority, and (at the risk of an interpretation, which this site would love to learn is incorrect) might seem to imply a focus on English language culture. On the other hand, this would appear to be only a small part of the focus of the overall test.

One comment in the FAQ is particularly striking: “(…) it’s important to note that HIQORA is a test of natural intelligence, so study as such is of lesser importance to success in the competition than natural abilities.” This site tends to believe that puzzle contests covered by this site generally tend not to go out of their way to make that sort of distinction, and this is the point at which it’s tempting to get a little cynical about the extent to which a contest truly could separate natural abilities from facility at, and familiarity with, IQ test puzzles. Had this been clearly marketed as, say, “an IQ puzzle championship” then this site would have embraced it with open arms. On the other hand, the wide variety of components to the challenge mean that it seems to be intended to be more than just an IQ puzzle championship. That’s fair enough and probably makes for a more interesting event, but can something culture-specific really be a fair test of natural abilities to people around the world for a true world championship?

By way of full disclosure, I’ve never taken a formal IQ test and Mensa has never seemed appealing to me. That said, the Mensa members I’ve met in person have been thoroughly convivial to a (non-gender-specific) man; when I was taken as a guest by a Mensa member to a Mensa meeting – for that is perfectly possible – I enjoyed my evening there. While I tend to be leery at best when it comes to exclusivity being sold as an inherent virtue, I am thoroughly supportive of the necessarily elitist World Puzzle Championships as adding to the jollity of the world, though much of my favourable opinion comes from the context of the WPF’s outreach and accessibility of its qualification and Grand Prix events.

Whether the trimmings and trappings of the contest appeal, you’ll know whether or not it looks like a fun way to you to spend a few hours. At worst, it would appear to have a lot in common with the sorts of contests and challenges that this site enjoys. While the inflexible timescale may hinder – for instance, I’ll be between night shifts – it’s far from the only contest to have specified a particular timeslot in an attempt to avoid some people getting to see the questions before others. While nominally some people are charged US$40 for participation, several sources online quote HIQORAHighIQ as a code for free entry.

If you take part, this site wishes you well – and please come back and tell us all about it!

Challenge Anneka? No, Challenge You

"Challenge Me" logoNot so long ago, on another forum, this site learnt of a casting call for a forthcoming ITV show provisionally entitled Challenge Me. “Do you have an unique skill or unusual party trick or know someone who does? Something that no one else can do? Could you use that skill to take on a huge challenge and win cash in the process?” It sounds something like a monetised version of You Bet!; let us not refer to the end-of-the-pier show that was the BBC’s Epic Win a couple of years ago.

The application page suggest that “We are looking for people with crazy, unique and bizarre skills and talents. These can be absolutely ANYTHING you can imagine! Big, small, serious or downright bonkers – we want you!” It’s not clear whether applicants have to be alone, or whether pairs or larger teams could apply. It’s tempting to wonder whether someone, or some people, could apply claiming “I can get out of any escape room” and then challenge ITV to build a room from which they cannot escape. It could make for some entertaining TV at the very least, though might well be out of the budget of TV these days.

However, if they want something a bit more straightforward, this site would like to see a sudoku champion take on a memory champion to produce a complete grid. The sudoku champion would see the grid with a usual number of digits placed, then would have to fill in all the missing digits. The memory champion would see the completed grid, memorise the position of all 81 digits, then reproduce it from memory. Both are impressive mental feats when done at champions’ speed; it would be possible to devise a sudoku of appropriate difficulty to make it a close, televisual race.

The unaffiliated-to-branded-beer world record for memorising numbers in a minute hasn’t been attempted for a while (different disciplines go in and out of fashion…) but with improvements in the pack-of-cards speed record, the 100m sprint of memory records, it’s tempting to guess that the top memorisers might be able to memorise the 81 digits in about 30-40 seconds or so, plus perhaps another 20-30 seconds to reproduce them from memory. There are plenty of speed sudoku solution videos out there; this one has Jakub Ondroušek (who has made the top three of the World Sudoku Championship five times) solving a 26-given puzzle in barely a minute and a half. Now you can’t calculate a sudoku’s true difficulty from the number of cells given, but it would surely be possible to create a sudoku which looked impressively sparse and difficult but could actually be solved to any given timescale.

There’s an interesting TV show in China whose title translates as The Brain. This has Chinese citizens with remarkable talents compete in domestic competition and the most successful competitors representing their country in international competition against representative teams from other countries. You can see China-Britain matches from last year and the rematch from this year on YouTube.

Clearly they’re all in Chinese, but you can fast-forward through to the challenges in which you can see the stars demonstrate their skills – and the UK team’s introduction videos have the UK team members self-introducing in English with Chinese subtitles and making all manner of exaggerated and aggressive claims at the producers’ request. These are huge fun, not least because British team captain Ben Pridmore (world memory champion in 2004, 2008 and 2009) is actually delightfully sweet and self-effacing in person, when some of his predecessors have been willing to cast themselves as relatives of Charles Big, who married into the Potato family and double-barrelled his surname.

US readers may be interested to know that Fox produced a one-off of a show called SuperHuman in January and are now casting for a full series, which bears a great deal of similarity to the Chinese format and which Wikipedia suggests may be a local US version. US puzzle superstars may be of particular interest to the show and might wish to throw their names into the ring; the trouble (for the show!) is that the best US solvers tend to be just as modest and polite as the aforementioned Ben…

Did DASH 8 leave you wanting more?


This site has always declared its constituency to be Escape games, puzzle hunts and more and the escape games have had to take a back seat for some time. Perhaps you’re coming here for your first time, or one of your first times, as a result of DASH, or perhaps you couldn’t go but thought it sounded great; you don’t have to wait another year for DASH 9 to get your fill of puzzle fun. The idea to try to keep a calendar of such things has rather fallen by the wayside, but there are plenty of exciting-looking things coming up:

  • This site is perhaps more excited about the upcoming Raiders of the Lost Archive than anything else. It’s a version of Citydash by the esteemed Fire Hazard, but has a big twist. It takes place in the Victoria & Albert Museum; the V&A are excited about this, but it’s not an official event of theirs. The difference between this and any other Citydash is “(…)this time there’ll be nobody chasing you (and no running in the museum!). We’ll keep the pressure up with twists & turns, surprise clues and leaderboard updates, but you won’t need your running shoes for this one – and you’ll be inside throughout.
    If the running element of previous Citydash events has been a turn-off (*raises hand*) then this may well fit the bill and the theme is gorgeous. You can play solo, in a pair, or in a team of up to five. Tickets for Sunday afternoons in May are now listed for 15th May, 5th June and possibly 28th May. (Thanks to Ken for the heads-up!) 
  • The A Door In A Wall are, happily, continuing to put on their large-scale public events. The next one coming up very soon will be entitled Played to Death. “Each team will need a charged smartphone to hand and we advise you wear comfortable footwear as our story leads you out into the nearby streets in search of puzzles, clues and characters. (…) you’ll have about 45 mins to get settled and work out where to begin your investigation before the game’s opening scene. You’ll be tasked with gathering evidence to crack the case and you’ll then have two hours to explore the area outside: solving puzzles, interacting with characters and collecting clues. Once the time is up, return to the Square Pig ((pub)) where you’ll have some time to make sense of what you’ve found and identify the killer.
    The game will be offered on most evenings and some afternoons (particularly at weekends) between mid-May and mid-June; tickets are already available and have sold out on a number of days already. If you don’t get to play, the company are also offering the A Veiled Threat game on the third Tuesday of every month, which The Logic Escaped Me played and loved
  • This site’s friends at Treasure Hunts In London are also continuing to run their events; the best way to keep in touch with what’s on offer there is their calendar on Eventbrite. Three events are coming up soon: May sees the Art on the Streets Treasure Hunt at the Chocolate Museum on the 14th and the Trafalgar Square Experience at the National Gallery on the 28th; June sees the Naughty But Nice Afternoon Adventure starting at the Annenberg Courtyard of the Royal Academy on the 18th. Prices vary, depending on whether the event includes no food, a cream tea or a full dinner. 
  • The Cambridge University Computing and Technology Society have held a long, ambitious, advanced puzzle hunt annually for the last three or four years, normally in early June after most students have finished their exams. No word whether there’ll be another one this year, but fingers crossed. The logical place to look for more information would be the society’s Facebook page
  • The Manorcon board game convention (15th to 18th July at the University of Leicester) is set to feature a puzzle hunt, probably on the Sunday afternoon. This year’s hunt setters are past hunt setting veterans and multiple-time solving champions, as well as some of this site’s favourite people in the world; attend Manorcon because it’s a tremendous board game convention that started running ten or twenty years before the current breed of board games started to become popular again, rather than just for the puzzle hunt. 
  • Before all those, there’s dear old Puzzled Pint in London – and now also in Manchester! – on the second Tuesday of each month, so as soon as the Tuesday in half a week’s time. The puzzles here come from a rather more DASH-like background, but are deliberately accessible to all and designed to provide an hour or two’s fun for a team enjoying food, drink and good company. 
  • If Tuesday’s too long to wait, or if London and Manchester are both too far to go, there are online puzzle hunts which come to you. The annual Melbourne University Mathematics (and statistics) Society hunt starts at midday, local time, on 9th May. It’s designed for teams of up to ten; you’ll recognise some of the participating teams’ names from the top of the DASH leaderboard, but other teams come from the MIT Mystery Hunt tradition and more. Suffice to say that the MUMS hunt has gained an audience who like to spend hours on deep, research-y, Aha!-y puzzles, though they’re almost always brilliantly constructed. 
  • Staying online, if you like logic puzzle contests then the calendar also looks busy. The World Puzzle Federation’s Grand Prix season’s contests take place every four weeks, with the next starting on Friday 13th May. The next contest is set by the US authors and may be of particular interest; more soon. The move to featuring “casual” puzzles as well as the more high-powered traditional fare adds massively to the fun as well as the accessibility. That’s not all from US authors, though; the US Puzzle Championship will be on Sunday 18th June. Before that, HIQORA takes place on Saturday 28th May; more soon on that one, too. Look out (perhaps at @ukpuzzles on Twitter?) for news of the UK Puzzle Championship as well, which has rapidly become this site’s favourite of the year. Previous UKPCs have happened in May, June, July and August, so this year’s event could happen at any moment. Exciting times!

The annual DASH participation statistics post

Bar chart showing improving performance over timeIf it’s a few days after DASH, it’s time for the annual participation statistics post! Please find below an updated version of a table which details the number of teams on the scoreboard for each city in each edition of the DASH puzzle hunt to date.

Albuquerque, NM 6 6+1 3+2+0 4+0+0
Atlanta, GA 5+7
Austin, TX 2 11 12 13+4 10+4+0 17+6+0 20+4
Bay Area, CA Y(SF)
73(SF) 34+7(SF)
Boston, MA Y 18 26 29 27+2 30+7+1 30+6+0 38+13
Chicago, IL 17 14 10+1 15+9+0 16+24+0 16+16
Davis, CA 16 15 16 13+7 8+7+1 13+7+0 12+8
Denver, CO 3+12+0 6+7
Houston, TX Y
London, UK 6+2 8+13+0 14+9+0 14+8
Los Angeles, CA Y 7 22 21 15+4 15+2+0
(Sta Monica)
Minneapolis, MN 8+7 7+4+0
9+7+0 7+9
New York, NY 12 24 25 30+7 26+15+2 29+15+0 24+15
Portland, OR Y 6 17 19 19+2 11+7+0 10+10+0 12+5
San Diego, CA 7
Seattle, WA Y 32 47 49 49+2 58+4+2 60+9+2 63+6
South Bend, IN 1
St. Louis, MO 2 2+3 7+8+1 8+10
Washington, DC Y 14 22 33 31+1 27+5+0 26+9+0 28+12

Here are some initial interpretations:

1) Errors and omissions excepted, with apologies in advance. The Minneapolis DASH 6 recast figures came from the organisers by private e-mail.

2) The numbers are drawn from the scoreboards and may not reflect teams that participate but do not make the scoreboard for whatever reason, or other infelicities. (On the other hand, it does include teams which do make the scoreboard even despite being listed as “not started”.) DASH 1 does not have a public scoreboard on the web site and thus “Y” represents the hunt having happened there with an unknown number of participants. When there are pluses, the number before the first plus reflects the number of teams on the experienced track, the number after the first plus reflects the number of teams on the “new players” track (DASH 5, 6, 7 and 8), and the number after the second plus reflects the number of teams on the junior track (DASH 6 and 7 only).

3) Interpret “Bay Area, CA” using the following key: SF = San Francisco (1, 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8), PA = Palo Alto (1 and 8), SR = Santa Rosa (2,3), LA = Los Altos (2), SM = San Mateo (3), HMB = Half Moon Bay (5), C = Cupertino (6), SJ = San Jose (7). (Santa Rosa counts as Bay Area, doesn’t it?)

4) It’s not a competition to see whose DASH can be the largest; all DASH organiser teams are glorious, generous paragons of virtue, whether their event had one team or 70+, and the community at large thanks them all for the time and effort that they put in.

5) Many locations had events that were similar in size or even slightly smaller (perhaps for reasons as simple as a higher number of teams who pay but, for whatever reason, just don’t show on the day) than the previous year. As discussed, there’s no reason why bigger necessarily has to be better and there’s no sense in deliberately trying to emphasise quantity over quality. It’s tempting to wonder how much unmet demand there is in the various cities around the world and whether everyone who wants to play is getting to do so in practice.

6) The line-up of 16 locations participating in DASH 8 was actually very similar to that for DASH 7, representing only a substitution of Atlanta, GA to replace Albequerque, NM. Registration was also offered in Missoula, MT, but the event did not happen in the end. The growth in Puzzled Pint over the year has been explosive with 32 locations in April 2016 against 14 in April 2015; it’s true that some of those were previous DASH cities, but surely it seems likely that some cities will go from Puzzled Pint to DASH – and beyond? – rather than the other way around. PP is currently played in five countries; it also seems plausible at the very least that DASH will start to catch up before much longer.

7) The overall numbers of teams has risen over the last three years from 295 to 307 to 333 to 363 on the “experienced” track and from 53 to 101 to 151 to 159 on the “novice” track, with every location featuring at least one team on each of the two tracks.