Saturday will see the biggest DASH yet

DASH 10 logoOn Saturday, the tenth edition of the DASH puzzle hunt takes place around the world. That’s more literal than usual this year; the event will be played in 23 locations in six countries, smashing previous records of 16 and three respectively, with Australia, Canada and Cyprus are set to join the family and host their first events. Welcome!

Happily for us, London is hosting its sixth edition, and this too is set to be the biggest one yet; all the tickets sold out in under 24 hours – possibly well under 24 hours, for it didn’t seem wise to hang around to find out – and through a piece of heroism from the London Game Control team, there are set to be well over 40 teams in London this year compared to a previous record of two dozen. I very much hope to see you there; please say “Hi!” if you see me.

The current weather forecast for London is for a dry start to the day that is set to get cloudier, with an increased risk of rain, as the day progresses; classic DASH weather. The player’s guide sets the form; there have been repeated suggestions from GC that teams need to brush up on their cryptic crossword clue solving skills, and that scissors and clear tape will prove essential this year. Other than that, it may be worth a browse to see what features have been added to ClueKeeper between last DASH and this one, much as the introduction of Zappar integration between DASH 8 and DASH 9 could have been taken to hint at the mixed-reality nature of the final DASH 9 puzzle. It might also be worth looking out on the morning of the day for tweets from Australian DASH players who will finish their event before the rest of the world starts theirs, though I’m sure nobody will post spoilers.

London GC has suggested that there will be a nine-hour overall time limit for puzzling plus transport. In comparison to previous years, I get the impression that the teamwork icebreaker will see a return this year and that this year will contain more content than last year; perhaps a “fast team” time back to between two-and-a-half and three hours, and a “usual team” time of over five hours. A suggestion that London teams might think about planning lunch between puzzles 5-6 might be interpreted to point to relatively quick puzzles early on and longer ones later in the day. I would expect over 600 teams to play worldwide, perhaps 400 of whom will be on the expert track. The logo with its appropriately ten-pointed star-pair design fits right into the tradition of every DASH logo since DASH 6 having a gold/yellow background, except one!

Misremembered Apple and The Magpie have demonstrated world-class form over the years, rubbing shoulders on the scoreboard with teams who have been extremely close to, or even at, the top in other years. There are other excellent solvers in the UK dotted around a number of other teams. (I am not one of them!) I don’t imagine any teams having members with nearly as much escape room experience as team RecklesS2, if that proves a factor. My favourite London team name is Tactical Yutnori, and I very much hope to find out who is behind a team name that is pure Genius.

As ever, set your expectations for a come-down at the end of the day, once the final meta is over and you have to make your way back from the fictional Old West to the factual West End. Why not stay around for a drink and a chat with your fellow solvers at the end, if you can? Many, many thanks to all the people who have put together the hunt: the global co-ordinators, all those who helped playtest and test-solve and the London volunteers on the day. Really looking forward to what’s very likely to be a fantastic event!

Prepare to register for DASH 10 in London

The tenth DASH puzzle hunt will happen in London on Saturday 22nd September. DASH stands for “Different Areas, Same Hunt”; part of the attraction is that the same event will also be run in cities across the United States, in Europe and in Australia on the same day, so competition is more global still than it has been in previous years. At this time, this year’s line-up features 16 locations in the US, four in Europe (London, Enschede and Amsterdam in the Netherlands, and Nicosia in Cyprus) and one in Australia (Melbourne). Other locations might yet be added later; Boston has hosted every DASH to date but hasn’t yet found a host.

In DASH, teams of typically 3-5 players solve maybe 8-9 puzzles as quickly as possible over the course of, perhaps, 5-8 hours. You travel (generally walk) from puzzle location to location, enjoying the journey and hopefully the weather. The travel is not timed, so you can take whatever comfort breaks, meals and other pauses you like between puzzles, though there’s an overall time limit for practicality. The cost is a flat US$60 per team around the world. Each team is required to bring a smartphone running iOS or a recent version of Android; much of the administration will be performed by an app called ClueKeeper. Bring your own pencils, scissors, tape, clipboards, lemonade, magic wands, marked decks of cards, pentagons and so on.

DASH has historically tended to concentrate on word and picture puzzles, rather than logic puzzles, with a focus on pattern recognition and some codebreaking here and there along the way. Some puzzles may draw on previous ones; there may well be a metapuzzle to tie everything together at the end. The DASH style is to have an overarching story running through the event, though there aren’t many clues as to this year’s theme yet. Take a look at past years’ puzzles from DASHes 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2 and 1 to get a feel for the form and difficulty level.

DASH tries very hard to be accessible and family-friendly:

  • It’s possible to register for the more difficult Expert Puzzles at the very start of the hunt, though clear guidance is given as to which level of difficulty will suit you best;
  • It’s always possible to take hints on each puzzle if they’re required (indeed, the software keeps rolling hints along on a timed schedule even if you don’t ask for them) and there’s never a worse punishment than a missed scoring opportunity for not solving a puzzle;
  • The puzzles are often designed so that everybody in the team should be able to contribute to each puzzle, because feeling “we solved this together between us” is fun;
  • In practice, there really is an ethos of offering as many hints as are required in order to get people through as many puzzles as possible and making sure people are having fun at all times.

It has only been confirmed relatively recently that some superstars have stepped up to the mark to keep the streak of DASH happening in London every year alive. Organise your team now as registration for London is expected to open at 2pm, UK time, on Saturday 9th June. Previous years have had space for around 25 teams in London and last year there appeared to be only three slots left after 12 hours. As puzzle events become more and more popular, I would expect DASH to sell out more and more quickly still, unless it proves possible to host more teams.

More information may well be posted at the London Twitter feed, or send questions to the London organisers. (If you’re less interested in playing and more interested in helping out, or if all the teams’ places have been filled, you can also volunteer to help, and maybe even playtest the puzzles if you’re really quick – so if the 22nd September date doesn’t work for you, this might be your chance.)