Did DASH 8 leave you wanting more?

whatsnext

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 latest links

A golden chain of linksRather than contrive a connection, perhaps it’s best to be blunt and just say that this site thinks the subjects of these links are cool and hopefully you may do too. Let’s start with some interactive theatre.

  • The Lowland Clearances has been running at the Camden People’s Theatre daily at weekends for the last two weeks and does so again this weekend; indeed, the Sunday performance is sold out already, so it’s Saturday or bust, hoping for repeats down the line. This is explicitly playable theatre, happy to describe itself as live role-playing, safe in the knowledge that the intended audience knows that live role-playing doesn’t necessarily imply rubber weapons in the woods, as fun as that is. It’s a game about city-building and use of space and this review makes it sound spectacular. Kudos to Hobo Theatre for putting it on and to Camden People’s Theatre for hosting it; more, please!
  • Further down the line, A Door In A Wall Have announced an attractively-priced preview for their next public event. This one is set indoors, rather than being a trail around town as they have used in the past. This preview has no marking of answers and declaration of a winner, which hints that you will effectively be invited to decide whether your interpretation and understanding of the story is sufficient for you as a metric for success. It’s not yet clear whether this non-scoring system is a one-off for the preview or the plan for the final version of this piece.
  • Further still, the Sedos theatre company are putting on Such Stuff As Dreams Are Made On for two weeks in mid-April, billing itself as an “immersive adventure through Shakespeare’s final play“. In this, “The Docklands Shakespeare Society has invited respected Shakespeare historian Dr. Bianca Corbin to speak at an evening of recitation, interpretive dance and song ((…)) Four hundred years after William Shakespeare’s death, his final play, The Tempest, and the Bard himself both come to life on a lost and forgotten island… only, not quite in the way he remembers writing it… ((…)) Sedos’ first immersive theatre production takes 15,000 sq ft of a building in London’s Docklands and brings the world of The Tempest to life in a celebration of Shakespeare’s life and works. Audiences will be able to explore the island unguided, hear its sweet and sinister noises, sit in Prospero’s armchair, drink with Stephano and Trinculo and follow the spirits of the island as they torment and entertain the island’s mysterious inhabitants.” Sounds like this may pack a punch. *blows dog-whistle*

What else is cool right now? This little lot:

  • A Kickstarter campaign that has recently funded but still has a week left to go is Puzzle Your Kids! promoted by Eric Berlin, who has a long and storied track record. Subscribe and receive weekly word puzzles for kids aged nine and up! Might be a little US culture-specific, but that’s the worst thing that’s likely to be said about it. If the campaign reaches a stretch goal, everyone will get weekly logic puzzles as well, and there are occasional kid-friendly puzzle hunts (six to ten thematic puzzles plus a meta-puzzle) planned as well.
  • This site wasn’t aware that there was such a thing as a preview site for crowdfunding projects, but apparently there is and a crowdfunding project called Escape Room in a Box: The Werewolf Experiment is coming soon. (Very soon, depending on time zones and how quickly Kickstarter move.) US$45 plus potentially considerable shipping and you’ll get a box of puzzles sent to you for you to solve with your friends in a self-assessed hour time limit. The makers have anticipated replay concerns and are heading them off at the pass with plans for a refill pack so that multiple teams might each be able to enjoy the same single box. As Liz Cable pointed out, this is something of a renaissance of play-by-mail gaming. Back in The Day, if you wanted to play a game designed to be played by far more people than you could fit around a table, you had to play games postally; it was a little like a MMORPG with a latency measured in days rather than tens of milliseconds and bandwidth measured in… well, in elastic bands. These days games are playing to their strengths by sending through serious physical artefacts that cannot be transmitted electronically. Looks exciting, anyhow. Many thanks to Ken for pointing this out.
  • World of Escapes is another UK exit game directory with the distinguishing feature that you can provide user ratings, not for sites as a whole but for individual rooms at each site. It also looks rather smart. Many thanks to Ken for pointing this out.
  • It would be an exaggeration to suggest that this site has wish-grumbled this into existence, but an entertaining exaggeration. The Logic Escapes Me now has a beta version of a reviews aggregator for London escape games – and, if you’ve played more than a handful of them, you can have your ratings included in the aggregation as well. This is a very exciting development and a suggestion of what the future might look like – perhaps a more critical TripAdvisor where you can have reason to take the reviews without a large pinch of salt. Many thanks to Ken for working this out.
  • Intervirals recently pointed to Somewhere Secret in Fort Collins, Colorado; this pay-what-you-want exit game (cool for the pricing alone!) sees people try to open a treasure chest. Inside the chest is a map; winning teams get to take a copy away and are then invited to follow it to obtain a token hidden somewhere in Colorado that might be exchanged for a real prize. This doesn’t need monetary value; by the height of adventure alone, this is beautifully cool already.

Surely something there to tickle your toes!

Hunting for news

"Puzzle Hunt" and a basket of plastic eggsTime for a round-up of puzzle hunts and related events, both in-person and online:

  • Which to start with, in-person or online? How about both! Breakout Manchester recently posted on their Twitter account that they will be giving away free games at some point in the next day or two to locals who can follow the clues that they post and, presumably, hot-foot it to the clued location. The hashtag #BreakoutBounty may also tell more. Exciting times, especially if you’re in town!
  • Firmly in person, London sees An Appetite for Murder by A Door In A Wall run through October and its shoulders. Several of the sessions are sold out already, particularly at weekends, and many of the others cannot have far to go. This site had the good fortune to get to meet the company’s founder Tom Williams at Now Play This recently and talk hunts and now is even more excited about ADIAW‘s work. If you get the chance to get to play their The Long and the Short of it trading game, it’s highly recommended.
  • Elsewhere in London, Treasure Hunts in London have games coming up as usual, with the next game on the roster being a Trick or Treat hunt around the British Museum. This happens on Hallowe’en weekend, as the name suggests; there are two runs of a version suitable for teenagers on Friday 30th October and the main event on the afternoon of Saturday 31st.
  • Over in France, escapegame.paris points to a “giant live escape” in Paris, a free event being run eight times between Wednesday 23rd October and Saturday 26th October. It’s being run by Team Break, which has rooms in Paris, Lille and Lyon where your team is sent by an agency to combat supervillains. Cool!
  • Online, thanks to escaping.sg for pointing out that while the CiSRA puzzle hunt is sadly no more, some of the people behind will be continuing to run online hunts in the first half of the year, starting from 2016, associated with the mezzacotta web comics. Looking forward to it in the fullness of time.
  • If you can’t wait that long for an online puzzle hunt, online quiz site Sporcle have just started running the Sporcle Intelligence Agency puzzle hunt, running over the next fortnight or so. This isn’t the first they’ve run; their first one was a couple of years ago.

Phew… and those are just the ones that the site can definitely talk about, too!

Coming soon to London: a door in a wall presents “An Appetite for Murder”

a door in a wall: An Appetite for MurderEvery time London interactive theatre company a door in a wall announce a major new work, this site gets excited. Spring and Autumn of the past few years have seen hit after hit, and this site has previewed The Diplomatic Corpse, A Stab In The Dark and The Life and Death of Paul Marrane. That time of year is coming up once more, and with it bringing An Appetite for Murder.

In a professional kitchen, execution is everything. A high pressure environment means that tempers run as hot as ovens and resentments can boil over all too easily. Celebrated chef Amelia Love is London’s newest gourmet sensation, but when her body is found locked in the restaurant’s freezer one morning, a menu of suspects isn’t hard to compile.

Was it her talented apprentice, a spiteful critic, or a greedy partner who committed this chilling crime? Gather a table of hungry detectives and prepare to digest the evidence hidden around the streets of the City as you explore in pursuit of a culinary killer.

The company have found a format that works very well for them. The event is offered on weekday evenings through October (except Mondays and a couple of Wednesdays), plus weekends having both afternoon and evening performances. Not many tickets left on Saturdays already, though. The games are scheduled to run four and a half hours or so, probably with half-hour briefing and debriefing around three and a half hours of promenade-style puzzling. This site really loved the review of the last event at The Logic Escapes Me, which suggests precisely what sort of things might be involved: varied puzzles, highly immersive environments and plenty of characters to interactive with.

With a little horror, this site gets the impression that a door in the wall may have independently reinvented the genre of the puzzle adventure, and come closer to the platonic ideal of the puzzle hunt, more effectively than the puzzle hunts that amateurs have put on in this country already. That’s just not fair – but players are lucky to have such amazing opportunities to play. Book your tickets soon before the remaining dates sell out!

The one-player five-hour real-life exit game

Lex's door with a broken lock inside(Tip of the hat to Intervirals for this one.)

Your bedroom door doesn’t work. You go to sleep inside with the door open. You wake up with the door locked. You have the key, but the key doesn’t work. What do you do next?

That’s the situation that yesterday befell Twitter user @toddlerlex. He had a phone with a charger and good reception, so he contacted friends at 7am and the word got out, mostly through social media. He covered the five-hour saga in great detail, attracting the attention of even Mark Gatiss (former Only Connect contestant, among his many other claims to fame). The story reached Metro, the Australian media and doubtless many other countries.

It transpires that the door slammed overnight, breaking both lock and key. Even unscrewing both halves of the lock from the door (and the door handle) proved insufficient and power tools to drill the lock out were necessary. The full story, along with the social reaction, are thoroughly detailed, with – ahem – the full details of the most pressing concerns when trapped in a room with no toilet.

This site’s favourite part was this Tweet:

Lex's plans for later in the day

Lex very kindly and gamely revealed that the game in question was The Life and Death of Paul Marrane; not an exit game as such but this site has covered it before, along with the company’s previous work. Despite – or, though surely not, because of? – the day’s earlier travails, Lex loved it!

This all happened in Islington, so London exit games might want to get in touch while Lex remains famous for his escape exploits…!

Coming soon to London: a door in a wall present “The Life and Death of Paul Marrane”

"The Life and Death of Paul Marrane"This site has previously discussed the work of London interactive theatre company a door in a wall, admiringly previewing their Spring 2014 The Diplomatic Corpse and their Autumn 2014 A Stab In The Dark. Happily, recently the company announced their next big public piece: The Life and Death of Paul Marrane.

The flurry of activity that followed the sudden demise of a perfect stranger was unexpected. There seemed no suggestion of foul play and he had no apparent close friends or family. Even his colleagues were not entirely certain what he did. But from the moment he collapsed on the floor of the bank, Professor Paul Marrane attracted the attention of some powerful figures. Whispered rumours hint at a highly unusual life. Now representatives of four influential organisations are descending upon the area of Poplar in east London, eager to be present at the reading of his will.

Players in teams of three-to-six (by strong recommendation) are required to choose one of these four factions at the start of the game. Will your faction successfully claim Marrane’s estate and use his secrets to your advantage? Each team will need a video-capable smartphone to hand; the story leads teams out into the nearby streets in search of clues and characters. The work of a door in a wall relies on following clues, finding locations, solving puzzles and interacting with characters; they are famed for their pun-heavy sense of humour. This piece aims to have a heavier emphasis on exploration and story than their previous murder mysteries, though there’s still a mystery to piece together and connections to make as you explore the East End.

Maya Angelou said “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel“. Perhaps the role of puzzles in puzzle adventures is slightly overrated, and it’ll be the situations, story, moods and sensations that an adventure generates which you remember, rather than the puzzles themselves. You can play at 6:30pm on most nights in May (not Tuesdays, Wednesdays or Monday 11th/18th) and also at 1:30pm at weekends as well. Tickets are £30/player, but you get a lot for your money, with games expected to last about four hours. The company has an excellent track record of generating memorable, popular and acccessible adventures; bookings opened recently and almost a thousand tickets were sold on the first day.

Sounds very likely to be another hit!

Hunts coming up

"A Stab In The Dark" logoWord reaches this site about a couple of interesting-looking games coming up in the UK at the start of October. It’s arguable whether or not they have as much overt mental focus as something like DASH or similar, but they involve going from location to location, finding clues and solving them. That gives them, near enough, the puzzle hunt nature and makes them relevant as far as this site is concerned. (More about some more very clearly hunt-y hunts coming up soon.)

A little over four months ago, this site covered A Door In A Wall, previewing their Diplomatic Corpse game that ran in London through May and early June. Happily, they’ve got another public game coming up in London: A Stab In The Dark, set in the world of 1970s schlock horror movies. “Adult situations, naughty words, squeezing into tight spaces and a lot of walking” are promised as you “(…) follow the clues, gather the evidence and catch ((murdered horror movie megastar Don Gowin’s)) killer“, so this is not one for the kids. Perhaps there might be something of the feel of the haunted house to it in parts; terror attractions are becoming bigger business in the UK these days.

Games start at 6pm on Wednesday to Sunday evenings from Friday 3rd October to Sunday 2nd November; teams of threeish-to-sixish (or register by yourself and join a team) should each bring comfy shoes, at least one video-capable smartphone per team, and senses of adventure. £30/player gets you 4½ hours of fun. (Alternatively, if you’re scared of the dark, matinee performances starting at midday at weekends are also available.) Already 12 of the 33 performances have sold out completely, mostly at weekends; this has to be a vote of confidence and shows the company has dedicated fans coming back from one game to the next, so don’t hang about.

If you’re closer to Cardiff than London, though, there’s a one-off game in the Welsh capital called Eye Spy 2 from 3pm to 6pm on Saturday 4th October. Again it’s a team game, involving “travelling between several locations, finding and solving clues, playing games and saving the world no less“, and again it specifies a lower age limit of 18. There is a requirement for good vision, hearing, some degree of cardiovascular fitness and mobility of extremities; running shoes and dark glasses are listed as essential basic spying equipment to set your expectations for quite a kinetic game. Smartphones and cameras (presumably cameraphones would count here) are also listed as being necessary per team.

This site isn’t familiar with the first game in the series, but the thinkARK group putting it on have plenty of past form, having hosted enticing-looking playARK festivals in Cardiff in recent years, and co-designer Julian Sykes’ blog also gives some hints as to the thinking behind the event. The booking page also has a video that may reveal even more still. There’s a limit of 75 players and tickets are about £16/player, cheaper if you book before 5pm on Tuesday. (Er, the event is almost completely sold out already, as it is, so again quick action is required.) Is there a secret agent in you?

As ever, you’ll find details of these events and all the others know to this site on the event calendar. Get your diary out!

London puzzle hunt theatre: “a door in a wall”

"a door in a wall" logoThe process of learning about new projects is exciting: a passing mention of something unfamiliar in a Tweet here or there, which leads to something unknown to explore. Sometimes you turn up something very exciting that you never knew about. Maybe it’s an exit game, maybe it’s a contest, maybe it’s something like this.

Since 2008, event company a door in a wall have been organising treasure hunts and other interactive games, mostly in London. Sometimes they’ve run for a single night, sometimes they’ve been season-long engagements so that people could attend the performance of their choice. I very much enjoyed this photo essay by Alexa Loy of their “Sheikhs on a Plane” game in 2012; it’s clear that some of the clues involve code-breaking or are otherwise explicitly puzzle-y, making them likely to be of interest to readers. Interviews with principal Tom Williams (The Londonist in 2011 and Little London Observationist in 2012) lead me to like the way he thinks.

However, it’s clear that puzzles are only part of the hunt experience; even in Larry Hosken’s notes from Ian Tullis’s recent “Advice for a Puzzle Snob” talk at the 2014 Game Control Summit, “Talk around the water cooler next week will be about a gadget or a location; not about your puzzle“. The reviews for a door in a wall‘s work indicate that their actors, scenarios, locations and interactions are well worth the money. The fact that the same game is being run many times means that many more fixed costs can be amortised per player. (Arguably, it de-emphasises competition, too.)

Coming up in May and June is their new murder mystery game, The Diplomatic Corpse. “In the ever-volatile country of Paudaguay, you’re never too far from danger […] the Paudaguayan ambassador, Emilio Ninkash, has been murdered within his own embassy. […] In this time of peril, will you answer your consulate’s call to investigate the crime, restore tranquility to our diplomatic community, and bring the killer to justice?” The game will run every evening from 2nd May to 15th June, with additional afternoon dates on some days. It’s a game for teams of ideally 3-6, each team with one video smartphone and a willingness to explore central London. Teams can be formed in advance or on the day and up to fifty tickets are sold per show.

Tickets are now on sale. The standard price for a 4½-hour experience is £30 per player, plus booking fees, though there are still a couple of tickets available at £20 per player for the preview show and Twenty Something London have a code for 20% off on the first three Tuesdays.

It’s tempting to consider a door in a wall to be akin to a British Ravenchase, Shinteki or Mastermind Hunts (etc.) with their mix of public and corporate games. Resemblances can also be drawn to the Walking Shadow Company‘s “theatrical game with puzzles” tradition; their Saboteur game is wonderful to read about and I hope their Cabal game makes it to the stage some day soon.