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!

Coming to London: A Tail of Two Cities

"YOU have found CONEY" logoExciting and unusual news! The storied interactive theatre company Coney have started a Kickstarter project entitled A Tail of Two Cities: Adventure 1. Quoting the description:

A Tail Of Two Cities is a series of surprising performances which take the audience on a journey through the financial district of a city, exploring our beliefs, roles and relationship to the economic crisis. We’re gathering stories from those working at the heart of the financial system, and from those living on its margins, to craft a world into which the audience will step.

Adventure 1 begins with a phone call that might feel like magic, and a parcel that arrives for you in the post. From there, you’ll find your way to a secret location on the edge of the City of London, where the adventure really begins. […]

We already have the core resource to make a basic experience for audiences to play, with a little telephone magic. But we would love to turn Adventure 1 into a truly magical adventure for the audience, with performers hidden in plain sight for players to encounter, background stories researched comprehensively, and a rich sound design for… well, that would be telling – just trust that it will be worth it.

There are further hints about the meaning of the title, and the nature of covert play in general, discussed on their Who Has Got The Tea Bag? page. (Up Jenkins!)

A Kickstarter pledge of £10 gets you an experience with the telephone magic. Double that and you’ll also get “a tiny artefact that unfolds to reveal the secret behind Coney’s practice”. However, the big one, for £150: “You’ll be led on a little adventure that happens wherever you are, at a mutually convenient time. It will start with a phone call, and continue on a journey to somewhere nearby.”

The project needs £3,000 to fund, and it’s reached just past half-way with nine days to go. On the balance of probabilities, with the way Kickstarter works, particularly with the reputation that Coney have worked so hard to build up, it’s very likely to make it, possibly in October. Also coming up from Coney, look out for a possible further outing for Early Days (of a better nation) during Parliament Week in November.

All the news

Newspaper iconThe site has been a little quieter than usual recently due to a combination of relatively little news and real life. This site never promised to be an every-day-something-new site, though there has been a reasonably long run of daily posts, and longer gaps before this. Contributions from readers would be welcome.

Here’s the news that we do know, though:

  • Escape of Edinburgh have a tremendous write-up in the Edinburgh Evening News, reinforcing the power of connecting with the local media.
  • There has been previous mention of Can You Escape? of Edinburgh. While their Indiegogo didn’t get as far as their goal, it’s very encouraging to see continued signs of progress, not least a new logo. Their Twitter comment of Lots going on behind the scenes at the minute to open in time for the @edinburghfest[…] also sounds extremely positive. This site wishes them well and hopes for more good news before long.
  • There has also been previous mention of A Door In A Wall‘s The Diplomatic Corpse. Sadly the run finishes very soon; a recent tweet of theirs says We’re sold out tonight and through the weekend! Tomorrow is your last chance to unravel the murder of Emilio Ninkash, so if you want to act, act quickly.
  • Clue HQ of Warrington are now taking bookings, though the opening date has been pushed back ever so slightly to Wednesday 2nd July. It’s a cute coincidence to see their use of the “one hour of oxygen left” motif also being used in SCRAP America’s seventh pop-up exit game in San Francisco, Escape From The Moon Base. They had 451 teams of six over five days, of which 16 won – not even a 4% success record. Gulp.

That’s all for now; more news as it arrives.

What’s happening this weekend

weekly calendarSo there have been a couple of preview posts recently, but this weekend is as busy as any yet seen by this site.

Are you in Norwich? The Knightmare Convention, discussing one of the most beloved children’s puzzle shows in UK TV history, starts today, featuring a hunt very late on Saturday night, which promises to be distressingly cool.

Are you in Wrexham? Saturday sees the Silent State hunt through the town, as part of the European Opera Day celebrations. Tickets are still available, with the ticket page promising “a mixture of puzzles, music, intrigue and theatrical happenings”. Even if the puzzles were dialled down fairly low, this would still promise to be distressingly cool.

Are you in London? If murder mystery is your thing (and if it isn’t, you’re probably lost) then “get ready to explore, puzzle and pun your way through the streets of London” with a door in a wall‘s The Diplomatic Corpse hunt. Tickets are £30 per head for a 4½-hour team game, though twentysomethinglondon have a discount code for Tuesdays. Early reviews seem as positive as you would hope for an event that promises to be distressingly cool.

If any readers go to any of the above, this site would be delighted to feature reviews or reports from any of these events; please send e-mail to the usual address.

Are you far from Wrexham, Norwich and London? It could still be a big weekend! Solvers from all nations are invited to take the two-hour UK Sudoku Championship paper online between now and Monday night – and, if that’s not enough, the World Puzzle Federation’s Sudoku Grand Prix features 90 minutes of puzzles from Japan this weekend. Alternatively, Logic Masters Germany feature the 2½-hour online qualification round of the German puzzle championship this weekend; instructions are available in English, and it’s good practice for the US and UK counterpart puzzle contests of the same length over the next two weekends.

What’s next in the UK after DASH 6?

calendar iconSo you had a fantastic time at DASH 6, are suffering a bad comedown and are wondering what’s next, knowing that you don’t want to have to wait a whole year until the next one. (OK, I wrote “you” when I’m really referring to myself, but I don’t think I’m the only one.) So what’s happening before then?

Nothing’s quite like DASH, but there are interesting things going on. Nothing has quite the full package, but there are things that can scratch some of the itches.

If you’re in London and want a murder mystery game that will lead teams around London looking for clues and meeting characters, you don’t have long to wait at all: a door in a wall‘s The Diplomatic Corpse will run every evening and some afternoons from 2nd May to 15th June. If you’re in Wrexham rather than London, there’s Silent State, “a roaming theatre game […] a mixture of puzzles, music, intrigue and theatrical happenings“, happening three times on 10th May.

If you want a full in-person hunt, there will be a Treasure Hunt at the Manorcon board games convention in Leicester on 20th July, and also a One Day Cryptic Treasure Hunt in Essex on 3rd August. The latter event sounds really exciting, though it comes from a different tradition of Armchair Treasure Hunts rather than DASH-style puzzle hunts; if the principle sounds good, you’ll likely really enjoy this write-up of an event by the same team in 2011 that illustrates what the puzzles may be like. If that sounds good, line your team up and sign up soon!

That’s not your only option, though; if you’re interested in playing an online puzzle hunt as well as an in-person one, the Melbourne University Mathematics and Statistics Society’s annual puzzle hunt runs from 5th to 9th May. This traditionally features puzzles of a variety of difficulties from a moderate team difficulty to a very high ceiling indeed, but is one of the world’s great hunts with a ten-year tradition behind it.

If you want logic puzzles, more like puzzle 3 from this DASH than anything else, there are plenty of options. The World Puzzle Federation’s Puzzle GP tournaments happen once every four weeks; in fact, there’s one in progress right now, so clear a 90-minute schedule to finish before 11pm on Monday night. A longer challenge is the 2½-hour US Puzzle Championship on 17th May.

If you want to see (at least some of!) the people who turned up at DASH, many of them play at, or run, Puzzled Pint in London on the second Tuesday of every month. The style of the puzzles bears some similarities to that of DASH, though it’s an evening’s challenge rather than a whole-day event.

All of these events, and more, are listed in the event calendar at this site; when we learn about more events to add, we’ll write about them in our blog, which discusses puzzle events and much more, not least exit games, also known as escape games, locked room games and so on. There are currently eight exit game sites open in the UK and one in Ireland, with one more in the UK currently closed for refurbishment. New sites are opening on a roughly monthly basis at the moment.

So it may be another year until DASH, but there are loads of fun things going on. Keep visiting this site and we’ll share exciting news as we get it!

Up with The Larks

"The Larks" logoManchester group The Larks, formerly known as Larkin’ About, have produced what they describe as “unexpected blends of gaming, interactivity and the theatrical” since 2010. I particularly enjoyed reading about their 2011 Treasure Hunt project in Bristol and Cardiff, Gate Crash; in 2012, I was very disappointed to have to miss the presentation of their work at the local Stockton International Riverside Festival.

More recently, The Larks had a Cornerhouse microcommission at The Point in Eastleigh, where they spent six days developing a project entitled Escape, that bears a considerable degree of similarity to the exit games we know and love. Their progress is described in this Development blog and summarised in the following video:

Their Twitter feed suggests that they are continuing to work on the project (for instance, The Larks’ events page suggests they had a playtest last Tuesday, so look out for further playtests in the future) and I look forward to seeing it come to fruition. With their considerable experience, they could well produce something spectacular, theatrical and distinctive.

The Larks’ Twitter feed is also well worth following for the other links they post; they recently linked to ticket sales for Silent State, coming up in Wrexham on Saturday 10th May. “Music has been banned in the town of Wrexham and silence ensues. The town is now a very different place […] being caught in possession of musical artefacts of any kind comes with a very high price. But there is hope….rumours are spreading behind closed doors of a resistance. […] Silent State is a roaming theatre game and is a mixture of puzzles, music, intrigue and theatrical happenings. The event plays out on the streets of Wrexham town centre and requires participants to move between several locations on foot. Participants will be placed in groups of six – you can come as a ready made group or we can match you up with other players on the day.” The event lasts 1½ hours, will be run three times on 10th May and tickets are a very reasonable £5 per player. The video on the ticket sale page is well worth a look.

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.