Coming soon to Edinburgh: Exit Plan Edinburgh

Exit Plan Edinburgh logoAnother new exit game opens its doors in Edinburgh on Monday. (Then, presumably, closes some of them again, at least for an hour at a time.) Exit Plan Edinburgh is based in an office complex within Edinburgh’s New Town, with St. Andrew Square probably the nearest stop on the tram line. The site is set to open throughout the day, every day; its first game, The Tesla Cube, has a one-hour time limit and is designed to cater for teams of two to seven. Perhaps there is a hint of local flavour in, at least, an allusion to Edinburgh’s strong history in theoretical physics.

The brilliant inventor and scientist, Doctor Boson, has spent a lifetime advancing and improving upon the designs of his idol Nikola Tesla. In particular, the development of an object called the ‘Tesla Cube’ – a device of near limitless power. Until recently, you were the Doctor’s assistant. That was before he fired you for doing nothing more than simply questioning his motives for developing such a device. This only increased your suspicions about what the Doctor was really up to so you decided to find out for yourself.

You have learnt that rather than using this device to solve the world’s energy problems as he said, the Doctor is in fact working in secret for a criminal organisation and the true purpose of the device is as a key component for a terrible weapon. He intends to hand over his completed prototype to his employers this evening – you cannot allow this to happen but you know that nobody will believe you without proof. The Doctor has just left his apartment to finalise his plans – now is your chance to break in undetected.

The price is reasonably competitive with that of other local games; £44 for two players up to £66 for a foursome and £73.50 for a team of seven. Many thanks to Ken for pointing this one out.

Good news for mid-December 2015

Cartoon of people reading newspapers and a bookToday feels like a day where three cheerful news stories would not go amiss.

The Room of Glasgow are distinctive for reasons including the sizes of the largest games that they offer; their Mansion Room game is designed for teams of 8 to 16 (though there may be some wiggle room) and their Party Room for teams of 10 to 16. Throughout December, there are a number of promotions being launched “by the resident elves”, notably a discount code available for those playing up to December 20th. The most delightful initiative is this one; as discussed on Facebook: “On the 16th of December, we will be hosting a Charity Day. We are offering 3 Party Room games for free for groups of disadvantaged children (from an orphanage, care home, or from poor families). We would like to give the gift of fun to these kids for Christmas, the way we can. We want to give back to the community, and thought it would be great to surprise kids with some caring and fun.” How kind! Exit Games UK commends the site on this thoughtful – and original! – gesture.

Breakout Manchester have launched a second site within the city centre, on the High Street near the Arndale shopping complex. (It’s about eight minutes’ walk from their first location, which remains open.) The new location will feature another John Monroe’s Detective Office, with a new room entitled Vacancy opening tomorrow – “Exhausted after a long journey, you place your bag down on the freshly made bed, ready to relax. Suddenly, an ominous sixty minute countdown begins. No matter what you try, the door will not open. Welcome to Crimson Lake Motel. You check in, but you NEVER check out…” – and a horror-themed Facility X room for players aged 16+ opening soon. “You arrive at an unknown location for a once in a lifetime opportunity; a conference held by the critically acclaimed, Dr. Andrews. His work is widely known throughout the research circles, but he has remained hidden in the shadows for years. What you don’t know, is that Dr. Andrews has gone mad, creating a string of tests that have gone disastrously wrong. He has brought you here for his final experiment.” A fourth room on the site is promised for January, and that’s not all; this new location is a big old space and there may very well be more to come.

Jackie from Locked In Edinburgh got in touch to enthuse about their second room. “Our theme has stemmed from having Pickering’s Gin Distillery sited directly below our escape rooms.” Exit Games UK loves games with local flavour, no pun intended, so the localism here is hard to beat. “The distillery reported a breakin which is thought to be an inside job. Which employee is plotting the distillery downfall and to where are Pickerings planning to move their gin stock for safe keeping? ((…)) A tour of the distillery can be incorporated, although probably best after players escape as the tour includes gin samples which may cloud people’s thinking heads!

Here’s a bonus cheerful news item, not related to exit games: while the shortest day of the year doesn’t happen for nearly another week, we’ve already reached the point in the year where the sun is starting to set later and later. Indeed, the UK is at a point in the year where both sunrise and sunset are getting later in the day, and which one is moving more quickly determines whether the day is lengthening or shortening. Take it as a sign that we’re already making it through the winter!

Now open in Edinburgh: Noughts and Coffees

Noughts and Coffees logoAs had previously been touched upon, there’s an interesting new business called Noughts and Coffees that has just launched in Edinburgh. The plan is for this to be a board game café, where you can go to learn how to play board games or just play ones that you know and like already, also featuring an exit game. The exit game launched on Saturday 12th December and you can already get coffee to take away too; in another month or so, the board game facility should be launched and a second exit game will be made available on the premises.

The exit game has a time limit of one hour and can be played by teams of two to five. The regular price is £66 per team, including VAT, but teams with members who can present a student card can play for just £49 and teams of two are charged only £48. The room is named Area 51, which instantly evokes a theme. “Roswell is a highly debated subject. Imagine something similar on your doorstep… rumour has it that in an Edinburgh there was an incident and hidden away in a basement there is evidence to prove it. No one knows what it contains but you and your friends are about to find out as you have stumbled across it.

Who knows what you might find? This site certainly doesn’t, but knows that there’s only one way to find out. The idea of a board game café with exit games on the premises sounds like the makings of a great day – but with an exit game available there already, why wait to try it out?

Coming soon to Edinburgh: Noughts and Coffees

Noughts and Coffees logoThis might look a little off-topic at first, but stick with it.

STV report that there has been an application for planning permission for a board game café in Edinburgh. The article suggests that the applicant is Daniel Hill, who was behind Escape, Edinburgh’s first exit game and which has grown to Glasgow, Newcastle and Dublin, with licensed games and joint ventures around the world. STV say “Now, the self-confessed gamer wants to create an ultimate destination for puzzle fans and have a board game café and live escape game under one roof.

Board game cafés are nothing new. The most famous UK ones are, arguably, Thirsty Meeples of Oxford and Draughts of London, but this site wouldn’t swear that they were the first. A thread at the Board Games Geek forums asks the question; this site might suggest that the National Chess Centre in London, sadly bombed in the Blitz, would be worth consideration for the UK crown.

However, there are cafés where you can play board games and there are board game cafés, as they are largely thought of these days. Distinguishing features of the latter would include a very wide selection of games, with strong representation from those published within the last twenty years – and the more up-to-date, the better – and staff who will both suggest appropriate games for groups customers and teach the customers how to play them.

The model of combining a board game café with an exit game is new to the UK, but popular in Asia and in the greater Toronto area. Escape Rooms in Toronto maintains a master list of sites in the area and Escape Games Review‘s top spots list highlight four exit game sites which use the model already.

If you’re nosy, the STV article has a link to the planning application so that you might look at the proposed layout of the place. Exit Games UK thinks it looks hugely cool and that the board games café model may well prove to be another part of the future of exit games in this country as well as elsewhere.

Late August news round-up

News round-up
Tuesday night seems to be becoming “list of short news stories” night. This isn’t deliberate, but here goes:

  • Episode five of Race to Escape was broadcast on Saturday night and has made its way to illicit video-sharing sites already. In truth, I haven’t watched it yet, but if it’s anywhere near as good as last week’s then it will be a glorious thing indeed. As ever, illicit video-sharing sites don’t make it easy – there are doubtless plenty of adverts (noisy pop-unders and the like, maybe worse) – but here’s this week’s link to a list of sites, of which will be the first port of call.
  • It’s Fringe festival time in Edinburgh, and three of the local sites have an unofficial competition to see who can get the most famous player come through their doors by the end of the month. Comedians and Dr. Who assistants are being thrown as punches, as if by a heavyweight. How do you judge how famous a person is? Search engine hits, perhaps, but it would take some carefully-selected search terms to ensure you’re finding a famous person and not any of their namesakes. All the participants are winners in this site’s eyes, perched from atop a fence. (This site’s official footballer has been playing rooms in Manchester again, too.)
  • Crowdfunding heroes Enigma Escape of London have updated their site with a nearly-eight-minute video of online video stars trying their game for the first time. It’s probably the best video of its type that this site has seen; it’s a good advert not just for its site, but for the genre as a whole, with the comment “We modified the game so that no spoilers are shown in the video” a telling one. Go and take a look!
  • Escape Plan Live of Chatham, Kent offer not only daytime games but also nighttime “After Dark” games by torchlight as well. One of their first had an additional special effect that even the team behind the game didn’t intend.
  • Clue HQ of Warrington are famous for the difficulty of their games – or, perhaps more accurately, the difficulty of their most challenging games. They also go out of their way to celebrate their most successful teams; they’ve celebrated the first team to go 4/4 at their games (2/2 at Warrington and 2/2 at Blackpool) and now the first team to go 4/4 at Warrington. Full disclosure: one of the team has written for this site! They’ve also posted this graphic, possibly hinting at filling the question-marks they’ve left on their site in discussion of a potential fifth game.
  • Two weeks until Puzzled Pint in London and elsewhere… and two weeks until a possible London Underground strike, making attending trickier. If you go to the London East venue, please would you fill out this form about how any strike might affect your attendance? Thank you!
  • Speaking of Puzzled Pint, one of its co-founders (and Snoutcast veteran) Curtis Chen reccently Tweeted the following: Look, at this point I am more likely to give you money to NOT start up another escape room business. Not a statement about the state of the Portland market, but in the context of its follow-up message, perhaps a call to arms: I mean srsly there are other puzzley experiences you can build for general audiences. Be creative! You can do it! I believe in you!

More and more news

breaking-newsMore and more short news stories at the moment; sadly, they can’t all be longer pieces. Eyes down for a full house.

  • Episode four of Race to Escape was broadcast on Saturday night and has made its way to illicit video-sharing sites already. (There are only six episodes in this series, but so much difference from epsiode to episode; treasure them before they’re gone.) This episode is perhaps the most so of the series to date in a room that looks like it would be tremendous fun to have played. The aforementioned illicit video-sharing sites don’t make it easy – there are doubtless plenty of adverts (noisy pop-unders and the like, maybe worse) – but here’s this week’s link to a list of sites. Megavideoz was the starting-point used here once again.
  • Less than two and a half days to go in the Enigma Quests Kickstarter and less than two and a half hundred pounds required for the project to fund. It’s looking promising, but there’s always more that can be done and those early bird prices look attractive.
  • Edinburgh’s the place to be for exit game excitement while the Fringe is in progress. Locked In Edinburgh have done extremely well before their temporary hiatus starts tomorrow; while the intention was to hold a short run before the venue would be used for a Festival performance, it has proved so successful that it’s now taking bookings for a permanent run from the same address from Tuesday 8th September onwards. Excellent news! The game is set in a disused small animal hospital; unusually, it is a dog-friendly venue, so do bring your dogs along and see if they can sniff out the secrets.
  • The top five entries in the current version of TripAdvisor’s Fun and Games in Edinburgh chart, at time of writing, are all exit games. Great work all round and well worth celebrating!
  • Elsewhere in Edinburgh, comedian Alex Horne and team didn’t have to say “We Need Answers” as they demonstrated that they could answer yes at Can You Escape, and husband-and-wife global medal-winning judoka (? judokas? judokae? Judo superstars, anyhow) Euan Burton MBE and Gemma Gibbons both enjoyed tying Dr. Knox’s Enigma in knots.
  • The stars aren’t just coming out in Edinburgh; The Escape Room of Manchester’s recent Open Night included an appearance by two Hollyoaks actors – but no indication whether they escaped their game or not!
  • Clue HQ of Warrington have launched their fourth game, The Teleporter. In it, the anagrammatic Professor Errol Tepet was a recluse and came up with a number of different inventions during his life time. Not much is known about this device. Nobody knows how he came up with The Teleporter or even if it actually exists – some say it’s just a myth. It probably doesn’t work, but do you fancy a look around? If you’ve played any of their other games before, then you very probably do!
  • CNBC have some rather lovely Time Run clips in a piece on the genre; pity they’ve got a couple of names very slightly wrong, but you can’t have everything!

Coming soon to Edinburgh: Locked In Edinburgh

Locked In Edinburgh logoA couple of pieces of housekeeping first:

  • This weekend sees the UK Puzzle Championship taking place online at no charge; you still have until Monday night to clear a 2½-hour window of your choice and solve the puzzles. The puzzles were great fun and you will probably beat my score. Recommended, even if you don’t normally do puzzle competitions.
  • This site has previously proposed meeting up at The Crystal Maze live attraction; there’s enough interest that this is set to go ahead, and I’m collecting money to guarantee places. If you’ve expressed an interest, you should have received mail about it and should send through money now as described in the mail. (If you haven’t received mail about it, or if you want to jump in, please get in touch and I’ll send the payment details through.) Eight of the 32 places have gone in the first few hours.

On Friday 3rd July, Edinburgh will get its fifth exit game: Locked In Edinburgh. (Tip of the hat to Ken for pointing it out, and this site has no known connection to Locked In Games of Leeds.) The site is “located in the iconic Summerhall complex which originally housed the University of Edinburgh Veterinary College from 1916 until 2011, affectionately known as the Dick Vet. With this history our rooms are created within old labs, operating rooms and theatres which we feel will enhance your experience.” It’s about a mile from Waverley station, just past the University, and buses are extremely frequent.

Continuing the theme, the location is launching with a single game. “Since closing its doors as a Vet School in 2011, Summerhall Complex has become a thriving Arts Hub with many rooms being adapted to accommodate eclectic exhibitions, installations and shows. Some rooms remain empty, unused and abandoned or so we thought… The retired mad Professor, Doctor C. Lion, was never actually seen to hang up his lab coat when the school closed all those years ago. Strange noises are rumoured to be heard late at night, coming from the old operating room. Is the doctor still experimenting? Could there be animals held there against their will?

It’s a sixty-minute game for teams of two to six, accessed through the “Blake 7” tunnel above the courtyard. A second game at the same location is promised soon. Teams of two are charged £45, with additional players increasing the team price to £55, £60, £70 or £75 for the full six.

No animals were harmed in the making of this post.

The news spirals out of control

news-spiralMany news stories that have been left untamed for far too long because of DASHmania:

  • This site has never seen quite so many different exit games, up and down the country, excited about the same thing as they have been about the forthcoming The Crystal Maze Live. Look for the crowdfunding campaign to start this weekend, with all the usual caveats about crowdfunding campaigns. This site became even more encouraged when a friend pointed out that @deanjrodgers, key within the critically acclaimed Time Run, will be producing the project.
  • Rather less far away, and also the result of a successful crowdfunding campaign, Enigma Escape of London has announced an opening date of 18th July and a handsome 25% discount if you book by midnight on 17th August. Well worth considering!
  • Some other sites in London are all flourishing: Agent November announced its largest corporate booking yet, with groups enjoying all three of its games in a single day, Mystery Cube has seen its hundredth group play and Mystery Squad has launched a second case, The Ghost of Lord Holland; this isn’t aimed at the usual sizes of groups but is, instead, aimed at groups of 20 to 40 who all want to play together.
  • In Edinburgh, Dr. Knox’s Enigma has three local competitors and all three have been extremely complimentary on Twitter about it; additionally, the game has earned coverage from STV.
  • Also in Edinburgh, an exciting-sounding special offer promotion has been announced between Escape and the local branch of the Hard Rock Cafe; £32/person (except Saturdays) gets you both entrance to one of Escape’s three games and a meal from the Hard Rock Cafe’s Gold Menu. Sounds like two parts of a very good night!

Coming soon to Edinburgh: some local history

Edinburgh CastleThis site is always a fan of exit games that make themselves distinctive by playing up to their local roots. Some cities are better-suited to this than others. Edinburgh is extremely well-suited, with some particularly grisly tales about the Burke and Hare murders where the titular pair were associated with (and one of them confessed to) something like sixteen nineteenth-century killings, supplying the bodies to anatomy lecturer Dr. Robert Knox. Plenty of source material ripe for adaptation.

Dr. Knox’s Enigma is a site coming soon to Edinburgh which will feature two different games based on the same incidents. The site is in a building on a hill; start at the Royal Mile and take a series of steps down the Castle Rock to a lower street, and the location is half-way down the flight of steps. The first game, Wilson’s Revenge, refers specifically to the 1828 murder of an 18-year-old man with a distinctive limp and pronounced mental health issues; two parallel rooms will be made available. Booking is open now for dates from Monday 9th March onwards. Two more rooms will be made available later, entitled The Barclay Collection, referring to the anatomist John Barclay who offered Knox a partnership in his anatomy school. Possibly not one for the squeamish!

However, launching before then, Escape of Edinburgh will be changing one of their Classic Live Escape rooms into a room that they are entitling The Darker Side of Edinburgh, drawing not only upon Burke and Hare but also, according to their recent Facebook post, upon Deacon Brodie, Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. There’s surely enough source material to support different interpretations and focuses; this site looks forward to learning how different games interpret different parts of the canon and how the interpretations compare. This game is set to launch on Thursday 26th February.

All of which will make Edinburgh the first city within the UK, outside London, to host four different sites, featuring at least six different games but set to grow to at least nine. It’s an exciting place to be!

Now open in Edinburgh: Escape Hour

Escape Hour clock faceEscape Hour of Edinburgh has already become an exit game with one of the most intriguing backstories we’ve seen, and it’s only just opened. Except it opened in November. Confused?

Steve Nicoll and team have a 20-year history of running backpackers’ hostels, and their current one consistently receives excellent feedback for the good care that its guests are kept in and the positive atmosphere that this generates. Steve decided to get into the exit game field and found an excellent location. At the eleventh hour, someone else put in a bid to lease it for ten years, and it was off the market. Accordingly, Steve used the backpackers’ hostel to host a single-room site, with deliberately little publicity for a few weeks. The initial reviews were impeccable.

However, not so much at the eleventh hour as at the fifty-ninth minute of the eleventh hour, one further check revealed that the bid to hire their intended location had fallen through and it was once more up for grabs, no thanks to the estate agent who had kept the news to himself. The path from there to secure the site was circuitous and fraught, but expensive persistence paid dividends and Escape Hour ended up where they wanted to be all along: right in the middle of Edinburgh’s Royal Mile. Edinburgh becomes the second city that this site covers to get to a third location; who knows – not this site! – perhaps there might be more to come?

The first game on offer is Major Plott’s Revenge, a spy thriller. Major Plott is an ex-KGB general who is out to take revenge on the British establishment, who he blames for his demotion and humiliation back in the USSR. He was the head KGB spy master until his spy ring was busted 6 years ago by a master British double agent, simply known as Agent X. Major Plott has yet again been tricked into hiring an alluring British undercover agent, Agent Y. She has been employed as his personal assistant but has so far been unsuccessful in uncovering Major Plott’s secret plans. She has managed to lure Major Plott out of his lair in a basement office off Edinburgh’s Royal Mile. Your team has been recruited by MI5 to try and uncover exactly what his evil plans are. It is suspected that he may be about to use a nuclear device to reek his revenge. Is he about to blow up Edinburgh Castle? It is your mission to steal his master plan which we believe is hidden in a safe in his office. He is a cunning spymaster and it will be a difficult job to try and find out what he is up to. So far Agent Y has been unsuccessful but she has bought you 60 minutes before he returns…

No time to delay, then! There are advanced plans to rotate the games frequently, and Steve has an excellent idea for what might follow. We may try to widen the appeal in Edinburgh by focusing on some historical themes. Tourists come from all over the world to experience our culture and immerse themselves in our history. Why not play an escape game and learn a wee bit about of the local history too?… Tick off that dose of culture instead of going to the museum! What better way to create engaging memories that will last long in the memory than to learn through play?

Steve also writes: We see the market for escape games in the UK as having exponential potential for growth over the next two years. So Edinburgh now has three escape games, but give it another six months and that number may have doubled. Escape games here are probably at the “chicken and egg” stage. What comes first: escape games, or the people that want to play them? Both need each other to grow. To that end, we don’t really see anyone else in Edinburgh running escape games as our competition until maybe the market becomes over-saturated. (…) We are here to compete with every entertainment activity that people are happy to spend money on as our competition.

To do that, though, we need more people building escape games and therefore building awareness of their existence, in order to create more demand. So both ((Escape proprietor)) Daniel Hill and I will be watching the TripAdvisor ratings intently, not to see who is first but waiting for the day hopefully in the not too distant future that there are three games in the top ten things to do on TripAdvisor in Edinburgh, if not the top five.

We want the experience from start to leaving to be as excellent as possible, in the hope not that it makes our customers not only want to come back ASAP but also want to try any other escape game. I would therefore have no problem displaying posters for other escape games in our premises, especially our local competitors if a reciprocal arrangement can be made. Anyone with posters out there please send them on. (…) Personally what I might like to see is some sort of local cooperation where you might find something like the three Edinburgh, or three Manchester, or three London games coming together to form a joint offer to try and encourage the real enthusiasts out there. They tend not to travel in large numbers and consequently it can be fairly expensive for only two or three players to make a journey and also tick off three games at once. Food for thought maybe.

Extremely tasty food for thought as far as this site is concerned. It’s tempting to wonder how many people might find a game in a faraway town online and not realise they can play much closer to home; indeed, that’s part of the thinking behind the existence of this site at all. If there is interest in further co-operation, contact Steve. Alternatively, whether you have your own game or not, with three different sites, surely Edinburgh might be well worth a visit on your exit game
expedition travels?