Escape rooms have spread across the UK and Ireland from the Shetland Isles to Penzance, from Galway to Margate and so many places in between. It’s interesting to muse what the furthest point from an escape venue now is within the British Isles – perhaps somewhere in the Outer Hebrides? Fortunately, even if the nearest venue is further than you’re willing to travel that doesn’t mean you have to miss out on all the fun. As previously mentioned, there are a variety of mobile escape rooms already operating but, realistically, they’re very expensive for a single game. The good news is that table top games are starting to appear and while they’ll struggle to re-create the feel of a real escape game, they come at a fraction of the cost and are potentially significantly more convenient – no careful scheduling to make sure that everyone turns up at exactly the right time. For just two or three pounds per person players can treat themselves to an escape room in the comfort of their own home. Indeed there are now a number of different brands on the market and, if enthusiast channels are to be believed, more on their way.
1) Escape Room in a Box: The Werewolf Experiment.
Following an incredibly successful crowdfunding campaign, Escape Room in a Box have been beavering away for the last six months getting ready to ship to their 2000+ backers. As is often the case with crowdfunding campaigns, there’s a long leadtime between making the order and receiving the goods but, according to their updates, they’re doing well and plan to ship by February 2017. In the meantime they’ve been popping up in boardgame and escape room conventions around the country.
The game follows the story of Doc Gnaw who. The game states that it’s suitable for 2-6 players and lasts 60-90 minutes.
The crowdfunding campaign might be over but it’s not too late to get in on the act – you can pre-order your copy for 60USD (although shipping to the EU will add almost 50% on top of that). If you’re still uncertain then you can read a variety of reviews on their crowdfunding campaign site including this one by this site’s friend and escape room reviewer, the Room Escape Artist.
2) First to get a game on to our shelves, with the “Escape the Room” series, was Thinkfun a toy maker focusing on the educational end of the market. They released Mystery at the Stargazer’s Manor several months ago in the UK and have recently followed up with Dr Gravely’s Retreat. Both games cost around the £15 mark with the former being aimed at anyone over the age of 10 and the latter at teenagers and above. Nominally they claim to last for 90+ minutes but, among the enthusiast groups, 30-45 minutes seems to be pretty typical. You can read reviews at the Room Escape Artist or, if you want a UK based opinion, the Logic Escapes Me (full disclosure – the author of the latter review is also the author of this article).
Mystery at the Stagazer’s Manor is set in a small town in 1869 where a well-respected astronomer has not been seen since the untimely passing of his wife. Strange things have been happening at his manor – loud and unfamiliar noises, an unpleasant smell, and smoke billowing from the observatory. You and your friends enter to solve the mystery.
Dr Gravely’s Retreat is set in 1913 and in it you play the the lucky winners of a free stay at Foxcrest Retreat where Dr. Gravely offers the latest in spa treatments and relaxation reserved for those of high social standing. Unsurprisingly, it turns out that the retreat is not quite what it seems…
According to their website, more Escape the Room games are planned for the future.
3) Escape Room the Game was originally developed in that hotbed of room escaping, the Netherlands. It’s now being advertised in Australia and the US and so it’s surely only a matter of time before it appears on our shores. Interestingly this game comes with four separate scenarios of increasing difficulty, each of which lasts sixty minutes. Unsurprisingly they’ve gone for some of the staples of escape room themes with Prison Break, Virus, Nuclear Countdown, and Temple of the Aztec. To encourage the escape game vibe, they provide a “chrono decoder” which, as well as counting down your sixty minutes, can be used to test whether you’ve got the correct answer at each stage, deducting a minute from your time if you choose incorrectly…
The game is written by Identity Games but distributed by Spin Master overseas.
4) Enthusiasts who have read a little about the history of escape rooms will no doubt have come across SCRAP, considered by many to be the company behind the modern day concept of escape rooms. As part of their recent “Escape from the Submarine” game marketing they advertised a new take home game called PuzzBox. Initially available in a limited run of 100 copies priced at 45USD and only for local pickup in San Francisco they sold out in short order indeed. Given the success of SCRAP generally, and the popularity of this offering in particular, one would imagine that they’ll soon follow up with additional runs although this site has no idea if that will be restricted to North America or not.
5) Finally, a game that hasn’t even been translated into English yet but perhaps if your German is good or if you fancy really upping the difficulty level, then the EXIT – das spiel range is for you. According to the website, it’s suitable for players of 12 or above and they’ve currently got three different games that retail for about £15 apiece – the Pharaoh’s Tomb, the Secret Lab and the Abandoned Cottage.
Know of any other escape rooms in a box? Please let me know via the comment box below or via email – details on the About page.