DASH 8 is now booking

((No, this site is not really back yet, and there isn’t any April Fool’s Day whimsy this year. Despite the attribution line above, this piece was very kindly written by Iain who ran DASH 7 in London and has written one of the DASH 8 puzzles.))

The eighth DASH puzzle hunt will happen in London from 10am on Saturday 30th April. DASH stands for “Different Areas, Same Hunt”; part of the attraction is that the same event will also be run in 16 cities across the United States on the same day, so competition is global. Registration is open, but is limited to 25 slots. While booking in the US has closed, it is nominally available in the UK until April 16th – though, in practice, with only 11 of the 25 slots remaining, you probably only really have a few days left.

In DASH, teams of 3-5 players solve 8-10 puzzles as quickly as possible over the course of, probably, 5-8 hours. You walk (or take the tube) 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. Thanks to the pound buying fewer dollars (thanks, Brexit referendum) the cost in London has gone up to £29.99 per team, plus a 7% booking fee.

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, and so on. (Tape and scissors are listed as essential this year.)

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. There’ll be a riot if there isn’t a metapuzzle to tie everything together at the end. The DASH style is to have an overarching story running through the event, and we know this year’s has something to do with spies, espionage, and secret agents. Take a look at past years’ puzzles from DASHes 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.

More information will 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 30th April date doesn’t work for you, this might be your chance.)

If you’re looking to find teammates, you might enjoy turning up at Puzzled Pint on Tuesday 12th and looking for teammates in person. (Assuming there are spaces still left by then, which is a considerable assumption.) If you have teammates, then consider this thread a roll call. Looking forward to seeing lots of you there!

Booking opens for DASH 8… oh, wait

DASH 8 logoThe date for DASH 8 has been announced as April 30th and booking has opened in a number of cities across the US. The shape of the logo and the double-0 reference hint at the secret agent theme. The web site is struggling somewhat in parts, as if someone had tried to set the date on the clock back to midnight on 1/1/1970, but individual cities have their own booking systems up and running.

The big issue is that there are some cities that traditionally hit heavily at DASH which are not yet represented this year. 13 cities have been announced, including new entrants Atlanta and Missoula, but nobody has yet volunteered to run the event in previously ever-present Boston. More to the point for this site, it’s still all looking very quiet in the UK. If nobody volunteers to run it here, it just won’t happen. (A couple of people are discussing the possibility on Twitter.) At the Exit Games UK end, things are always busy with Puzzled Pint as well as the blogging; it would be nice to play one of these things as well as to help others have fun.

Could you be the superstar to take it on? Last year’s London leader Iain wrote a call to arms last month as to what is required, along with the official guidelines. DASH in London has been blessed with fun routes in previous years, but the official guidelines state explicitly that it’s okay to run DASH in a single location if the route-planning aspect is the trickiest bit of the organisation. Even if DASH were to happen in a single great big pub all day, any DASH would be much better than no DASH.

Of course, there’s no reason why the event has to happen in London; it could happen anywhere in the UK and still be very likely to draw teams of solvers from around the country!

London’s DASH needs you!

DASH logo

Even the best puzzle hunts need planning. Someone’s got to register the teams, find pubs, hand out slips of paper, check that the pubs serve good beer, make sure the puzzles work, jolly everyone along, and accept the thanks of many happy puzzlers.

It’s not difficult. A day to check out the route and make bookings, another day to run a playtest, a few hours to process teams, some paper to organise, and performance day. Tinsley, the International Co-Ordinator, has put together this information pack for city leads.

I was last year’s city lead for London, and I will do everything I can to make DASH a success. I pledge to transfer

  • experience about venues and locations
  • advice about team sizes
  • social media accounts
  • details of useful helpers
  • last year’s financial surplus

DASH can only run if someone leads it. Right now, there is no leader for London. And no leader means no DASH.

Can you lead the crew? Will you make 150 puzzlers very happy? Email dashinlondon@gmail.com, and let’s talk.

Looking ahead to 2016: predictions for the year

Peering into a Crystal Ball

This site has ran predictions features over the second half of 2014 and over the whole of 2015, assessing the accuracy of the predictions each time so that the world can have a giggle at just how wrong the guesses were in the first place. Let’s have another go for 2016, more because it’s fun than for any other reason. (Compare to the 2016 predictions for London by The Logic Escapes Me.)

That said, predictions are only so-o-o-o interesting. It’s more fun to think about plausible edge cases; it’s more fun to predict a long shot than something more obvious, but who’s to say what’s obvious and what isn’t? This list of predictions will also attempt to minimise the extent to which it covers previously-trod ground, as “this was an entertaining long-shot that didn’t happen last year and remains an entertaining long-shot this year” isn’t particularly exciting. A couple of other starting-points for predictions: this site will steer clear of predicting things it believes to be foregone conclusions already, and this site will attempt to make the most ambitious predictions that it feels confident making; this site would set over-under lines for the numerical predictions only a little above the figures quoted.

This site considers each of the following to be at least slightly more likely than not:

  • This site will become aware of more than 51 exit game openings in the UK and Ireland in 2016. (Not part of the prediction, but this site suspects that at least 40% of the openings will come from brands and people already in the business in 2015, with a decreasing number of people starting from scratch. Deliberately short-lived pop-up games are not included in the count.)
  • This site will become aware of more than 13 exit game closures in the UK and Ireland. Not every closure is a catastrophe: some businesses have decided to deliberately run a game with a finite duration, possibly with later sequels in mind.
  • At least one brand will have at least nine locations open in the UK and Ireland in 2016. (This is perhaps the most marginal of predictions, but eight seems just a little too safe to predict.)
  • Crowdfunding will get harder; no reasonably traditional exit game based in the UK or Ireland will attract more than £5,000 in funding in 2016 unless the people behind it have an established track record in this or another closely related industry.
  • Many of the biggest gaps in the market will close. At least one exit game will open in 2016 within eight miles of the main train station in at least four of the seven following locations: Reading, Portsmouth, Milton Keynes, Hull, Middlesbrough, Coventry and Peterborough. (This site has heard people talk about possible sites in two of these, but that’s far from a done deal. Other possible cities have been rejected from the list for being too safe a prediction.)
  • The exit game industry will continue to grow sufficiently quickly that this site’s estimate for the number of unique players in the UK or Ireland by the end of December 2015 reaches or exceeds 750,000.
  • There will be a meeting in the UK or Ireland in 2016 with exit games as its focus which attracts more than 50 attendees.
  • This site will become aware of someone that it does not already know at the time of making this prediction running an exit game for friends and family on an amateur basis within the UK and Ireland in 2016 using something more elaborate than, say, a Breakout EDU kit or similar.
  • London and at least two other UK towns will each hold at least four Puzzled Pint events in 2016. (This site has six possibilities in mind.)
  • There will be a UK DASH event and it will sell at least 25 team spaces – or sell out completely if the organisers choose a lower capacity – within 12 days.
  • There will be at least 18 locations in at least three countries around the world at this year’s DASH.
  • Ulrich Voigt will win the World Puzzle Championship this year for his eleventh victory in seventeen years.
  • David McNeill of Northern Ireland will defend his over-50s title in at least one of the World Sudoku Championship and the World Puzzle Championship; hopefully both!
  • This site will finally predict the WPC winning team after picking second place for the last two years.
  • This site loves stories of marriage proposals taking place at exit games and there have been at least ten customer proposals on record. A more interesting prediction is that by the end of 2016, this site will become aware of at least one proposal between a couple who got to know each other by both working at the same exit game.

This site considers each of the following to be less likely than not – maybe something like 30% likely each? – but nevertheless these are interesting possibilities.

  • Some company may bring larger-scale live escape events to the UK, with relatively many teams playing the same game at once. (This is inspired by SCRAP’s Real Escape Game events playing in France and Spain as well as other continents, and is surely slightly more likely than last year.)
  • An exit game brand in the UK and Ireland may take over at least one other existing game, or maybe even another exit game brand altogether.
  • There may be a single-day puzzle hunt in the UK and Ireland that is not the continuation of a series run in previous years and that attracts at least a hundred players.
  • There may be some interactive transmedia storytelling (or an Alternate Reality Game, as people called them a decade and a bit ago) to promote a new exit game or a new room at an exit game.
  • This site may become aware of an Irish exit game community; the rooms do exist, as well as the Boda Borg centre at Lough Key and doubtless other things far too cool to exist in the UK yet, so it would be a delight for someone to start a blog with an Irish focus and maybe even get meetings going as is starting to happen in the UK.

This site considers each of the following to be much less likely than not – maybe something like 15% likely each? – but nevertheless these are entertaining outside possibilities.

  • There might be a TV puzzle show made in the UK or Ireland to match up with the best puzzle shows that we’ve had in the past; if someone were to commission a local version of The Genius and it were to live up to its potential, that would count, or if someone were to make a really good exit game TV show, that would count too.
  • There might be a puzzle competition (as opposed to an armchair treasure hunt or puzzle hunt) launched in the UK or Ireland which is designed to be played in teams – maybe even an inter-town league or an inter-university championship. This site really misses the Croco-League.
  • Someone might start an overtly humorous blog about the genre in the UK and Ireland: two-thirds serious content, one-third shtick.
  • Someone might start an attraction just north of Heathrow called The Crystal Hayes or in South Essex called The Crystal Grays

Reviewing this site’s predictions for 2015

Crystal ballAt the start of 2015, this site made a number of predictions as to what might happen over the course of of the year. The accountability department declares it time to go back, review those predictions and have a good laugh. Expect counterpart predictions for 2016 early in the new year.

There is a 5% chance that an exit game business sufficiently motivates and enthuses its staff to vote it into the top twenty of the next Sunday Times “Best Small Company to Work For” list.

No. Apparently this was never likely to happen in the first place as companies have to be at least three years old even to be eligible for nomination. Companies have won local business awards, though.

There is a 10% chance that the newspapers will find a new style of puzzle that attracts half as much public attention as sudoku. There is a 80% chance that the newspapers will claim they have done, but only a 10% chance that it will actually stick in close to the way that sudoku has.

Not the 10% chance, at least. A quick search for "the new sudoku" points to Hidato in The Guardian, which hasn’t caught on.

There is a 15% chance that the world will gain a second global monthly puzzle event. There’s a definite reason for one to exist: the wonderful Puzzled Pint is for the benefit of the community, which (generally) goes to visit a different venue each month in each city. Suppose there were a second event run for the benefit of the venues; individual bars (etc.) could adopt the event, pledging to host a puzzle night in their location each month. There are places that would find that a compelling attraction!

Not to this site’s knowledge. The closest is Puzzle Night, which has yet to spread beyond Minneapolis – St. Paul in the US.

There is a 20% chance that some company brings larger-scale live escape events to the UK, with relatively many teams playing the same game at once. (For those who get the distinction, think Real Escape Game as opposed to Real Escape Room.)

Couldn’t really say so in the way this was intended. Corporate entertainment companies have games which come close to fitting the bill, but they’re not (to this site’s knowledge) selling team tickets to teams of all-comers. Compare to this Irish event or this Dutch event. On the other hand, exactly those sorts of events are happening in France and in Spain, so it’s definitely possible that they’ll come to the UK at some point.

There is a 25% chance that the 25th anniversary of The Crystal Maze, which will happen on 15th February this year, will see a reawakening of interest and the show will catch the public mood once more.

Yes; yes, with bells on! £927,252 worth of yes!

There is a 30% chance that one of the big players in the leisure industry starts a chain of exit games within its own facilities, or teams up with an existing exit game business which wants to expand rapidly by opening in a number of facilities. For instance, if you’re going to go to either of the branches of the real-snow indoor ski slope Xscape, you know you’re prepared to spend money, and the chance to play “Escape at Xscape” would surely be irresistible…

Not yet proven. The escape room at Namco Funscape would count (though is, perhaps, one-fifth the size of what this site had intended) but this site has not yet seen evidence that it’s available at more centres than the London County Hall centre. If it is available more widely among the chain, then it counts.

There is a 35% chance that the UK team produces its best performance in the next World Puzzle Championship, beating its previous best of sixth from the twenty national “A” teams in Beijing in 2013.

Not quite. As recently discussed, the team were so-o-o-o close to matching their previous sixth place finish, but seventh it will have to be.

There is a 40% chance that another UK city develops a puzzle community like that of London, with at least one regular monthly event and at least one larger annual event – maybe as simply as hosting its own Puzzled Pint and DASH events, maybe something of its own. All it takes is someone willing to be the first onto the dancefloor.

A very honourable mention to the wonderful Exit Games Scotland and their exit game binges, which is something that even the community in London does not have. It would be very prescriptive (to put it far more kindly than it would deserve) to suggest that the community in London is, in any sense, the only way to have a community.

There is a 45% chance that the UK mass media will catch on to just how cool exit games are. Maybe the “The One Show” team will go and play, or someone will take the idea to Dragon’s Den, or The Apprentice might consider them to be sufficiently zeitgeist-y to take an interest. At the top end, this site might dream of a revival of The Adventure Game, which effectively featured (among other things) room escape games a good thirty years ahead of the time.

Only to a very technical extent, what with the UK version of the Discovery channel signing up to show repeats of the US Race to Escape show, and not actually starting to air them until 2016.

There is a 55% chance that at least one exit game will earn the Living Wage Employer mark. Perhaps there is at least one out there which pays the stipulated wage already. This site doesn’t believe that every exit game can afford to pay the stipulated level; indeed, many owners, especially of very new games, will be some way from covering costs, and consistent wage rises might force them out of business outright. However, perhaps there’s a business out there who would take pride from going down this route.

Not as far as this site is aware.

There is a 60% chance that the next World Puzzle Championship will be won by Ulrich Voigt of Germany, which would be his eleventh overall and the first time anyone has ever won four in a row.

While Ulrich was the very clear leader going into the play-off, he was only second place coming out of it, so that prediction pays out on “no”.

There is a 65% chance that the exit game industry continues to grow sufficiently quickly that this site’s estimate for the number of unique players in the UK or Ireland by the end of December 2015 reaches or exceeds half a million… and this site will not attempt to fix the figures just for the sake of proving this relatively weakly-held prediction correct.

You’ll see soon. (SPOILER! Nearly, but not quite.)

There is a 70% chance that at least one exit game will start to advertise itself using a formal endorsement from a reasonably well-known, mainstream national or international celebrity.

Not yet. The Escape Room of Manchester have posted several photos of Manchester United’s Daley Blind playing there, but that stops short of a formal endorsement.

There is a 75% chance that the Puzzled Pint community of London will continue to grow, flourish, with teams getting to know each other ever more closely and look forward to meeting each other at the other puzzle events that exist through the course of the year.

Puzzled Pint in London was getting about 50-60 attendees late in 2014. It has grown so large that it has had to split into two locations and now attracts 90-110 attendees most months. That’s a definite yes.

There is a 80% chance that eleven or twelve of the calendar months of the year will see at least one new site open for business in the UK or Ireland.

Very much so, and any fault here in the prediction was one of a lack of ambition.

There is a 85% chance that there will be a UK-based exit game review blog set up this year, to which this site will very happily link. There are many different sites out there who want the publicity from the reviews that they might get; be any good (goodness knows, this site doesn’t set the bar high) and proprietors will be climbing over themselves to invite you to play!

Yes, hooray! QMSM, Escape Game Addicts and The Logic Escapes Me fill this site with joy every time they post. Still room for plenty more, though!

There is a 90% chance that the London leg of DASH 7 will expand from 8 teams in 2013 and 21 teams in 2014 to at least 25 teams for 2015. The London capacity for 2013 and 2014 was 25 teams, so it’s quite possible that London DASH might well sell out.

The London leg of DASH did indeed sell tickets to 25 teams within the space of about two weeks, so this prediction counts as fulfilled (in an airline sense) even if only 23 teams did turn up on the day.

There is a 95% chance that at least two existing exit games covered by this site will officially call it a day.

Sadly so, ending on a downbeat note, but the strength in depth of the market as a whole is something that causes this site great delight.

News round-up: convention, DASH 7 video and sudoku championships

News round-upLots going on at the moment. Normally this would be three separate posts, but there’s so much else to write about!

1) This site recently mentioned the Escape Games Convention in Stuttgart, Germany on 4th September. Katharina Wulf of co-hosts ExitVentures (who are apparently putting together a printed German-language magazine) wrote on a forum as follows:

We (as the oragnizing team) are trying to make it valuable to come for English speaking people as well. Here some information in English: One highlight will be the talk of Attila Gyurkovics. He is the first operator of live escape games in Europe with ParaPark (Budapest) and the first one who developed live escape games on the basis of flow theory. Attila Gyurkovics will talk about his experience and his future visions. Prof. Nicholson (Wilfrid Laurier University, Canada) will give scientific insights into the field and an overview over the North American market via video message.

((…)) In addition there will be some workshops focusing on following topics: “Live escape games next level” (about innovative new room concepts) and “Live escape games association” (about the creation of common structures for the industry in Germany). ((…)) The video message from Prof. Nicholson and the speech from Attila Gyurkovics will be in English. Beside that we will offer the workshops in English, too. Furthermore we will be able to provide you with information in English for the other agenda items. In the session the participants will elaborate relevant topics in small groups. This can be realized in German or English.

It’s looking ever more tempting, especially for us non-German-speakers!

2) The UK Puzzle Association are running their annual UK Sudoku Championship online this weekend. Start after midday on Thursday, up until the end of Monday, and you have a two-hour window of your choice to score points by solving the 17 sudoku and sudoku variant puzzles. The top two finishers will earn places on the UK team for the World Sudoku Championship. It’s always a great contest for sudoku fans and there are no charges for taking part.

3) Lastly, back at DASH 7, Yasmin Curren took extensive video through the day. She has taken weeks of hard work, for which we’re all surely very grateful, to apply her magic; the results are a spectacular three-minute summary of the fun to be had, though perhaps the puzzles – being less telegenic – have to take second place. Be sure to look out for the Quidditch, Wronski Feint and all:



DASH7: the numbers game

Now that's a numbers game

Now that‘s a numbers game

Three points of number work from the recent DASH hunt. Where did London’s conspirators spend your money? Did any cities do better or worse than others. And if your team scored 311 on the Novice track, what’s that worth in Expert points? Continue reading

DASH 7 by the numbers

DASH logoIt’s the annual DASH stats 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.

Location DASH 1 DASH 2 DASH 3 DASH 4 DASH 5 DASH 6 DASH 7
Albuquerque, NM 6 6+1 3+2+0 4+0+0
Austin, TX 2 11 12 13+4 10+4+0 17+6+0
Bay Area, CA Y(SF)
Y(PA)
7(SR)
59(LA)
16(SR)
74(SM)
73(SF) 34+7(SF)
32+3(HMB)
53+17+0(SF)
39+5+0(C)
46+15+0(SF)
37+7+0(SJ)
Boston, MA Y 18 26 29 27+2 30+7+1 30+6+0
Chicago, IL 17 14 10+1 15+9+0 16+24+0
Davis, CA 16 15 16 13+7 8+7+1 13+7+0
Denver, CO 3+12+0
Houston, TX Y
London, UK 6+2 8+13+0 14+9+0
Los Angeles, CA Y 7 22 21 15+4 15+2+0
(Pasadena)
12+7+0
(Sta Monica)
Minneapolis, MN 8+7 7+4+0
(recast)
9+7+0
New York, NY 12 24 25 30+7 26+15+2 29+15+0
Portland, OR Y 6 17 19 19+2 11+7+0 10+10+0
San Diego, CA 7
Seattle, WA Y 32 47 49 49+2 58+4+2 60+9+2
South Bend, IN 1
St. Louis, MO 2 2+3 7+8+1
Washington, DC Y 14 22 33 31+1 27+5+0 26+9+0

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. 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 and 7), and the number after the second plus reflects the number of teams on the junior track (DASH 6 and 7).

3) Interpret “Bay Area, CA” using the following key: SF = San Francisco (1, 4, 5, 6), PA = Palo Alto (1), 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) Phoenix, AZ and Pittsburgh, PA both talked about having locations at DASH 6, but it didn’t happen; however, both cities now host Puzzled Pint, so they aren’t doing too badly and surely their DASH time will come when someone there steps up to the plate. Toronto and Montreal seem likely expansions as well. Where else? Who knows! (This site is rooting for Australia and south-east Asia, but other countries are certainly possible as well…)

6) The overall numbers of teams has risen over the last two years from 295 to 307 to 333 on the “experienced” track and from 53 to 101 to 151 on the “novice” track, with every city but one featuring at least one team on each of the two tracks. The junior track dropped from 6 to 3 but it’ll get there and it’s great that there’s an event that’s proactive in this regard.

A DASH 7 podcast

A microphone by a computerThis will be this site’s last piece of DASH 7 coverage for now, though not forever. Well, you wouldn’t want infinite incantatem, would you?

On Monday night, while the event was still strongly in our minds, four close friends got together electronically to share their experiences of playing the Experienced track at DASH 7 in London, sharing their mishaps and reliving their misadventures. The conversation has been edited down to something a little over an hour long, to fit all the laughs along the way in. Bear in mind that the teams of solvers discussed might politely be described as “mid-table”, so you’re not going to get insight about how people crushed the puzzles in ten minutes flat. Anyway, you can listen by clicking on the traditionally-styled “play” button below; if you’d prefer to download the podcast to treat it how you would any other, there’s also an obvious little “download” button in the top-right.

This podcast references this site’s recap of DASH 7 in London along with QMSM’s recap of playing the Novice track at the same event. The world would love to read – or hear, or even see! – more of people’s experiences at the various legs of DASH 7 around the world. Please share them with us!

If you want more to listen to – from people who really know what they’re doing with their podcasting – then this year’s London city lead, Iain, recorded a brilliant podcast about his experiences as a player at DASH 6 last year; download it from this page and Iain starts about 1:54 through. Very highly recommended, not least to get a sense of Iain’s inspirations and motivations for this year.

If that‘s not enough, or if there are some references in the DASH 7 podcast that still mystify, you can listen to 213 episodes of the wonderful Snoutcast, of which something like 85% discuss puzzle hunts. 100% of them are delightful, whether they discuss puzzle hunts or not, and there’s more than a little of the sincerest form of flattery in the DASH 7 podcast above.

The panellists were:

Right; back to exit games now!