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.)