(Part of a series, reviewing games I played in September 2013 at That Board Gaming Thing.)

Image courtesy of trenttsd@BoardGameGeek
(Image courtesy of trenttsd@BoardGameGeek)

A party of intrepid adventurers, working together and trying against all odds to find their way out before time expires…. no, I’m not describing yesterday’s game Forbidden Desert. While the overall theme of cooperation, exploration and escape is the same, Escape: The Curse of the Temple is not quite so contemplative. Instead, it’s a mad dice-fest that only takes (exactly) ten minutes to play.

The idea is simple. You are explorers, trapped in an ancient temple. You have ten minutes to search the temple, find the exit, and get everyone out before they are entombed forever. The temple is represented by tiles laid out on the table, and as you explore, you reveal new tiles. Each player has a marker representing them, and dice which you will continuously roll for the entirety of the game. It’s a real-time game: there are no turns, you just keep rolling and shouting at other players what you’re up to, hoping that they get to you and help out.

The dice are used for exploring and moving through the temple, activating gems (more on that in a bit) and avoiding curses. You start with five dice, each with various symbols on them: two adventurers, one torch, one key, one gold mask and one black mask. To move into a new room, you need to roll the two symbols on that tile. To explore and reveal a new tile, you need to roll two adventurers. If you roll a black mask, then that die is cursed and you can’t re-roll it — the only way to clear it is to roll a gold mask, which allows you to clear up to two black masks. In some cases you can end up with all five dice as black masks, in which case your only hope is that someone else can get to your room and “loan” you a gold mask to free up two of your dice.

Finding the exit is not enough. To leave, you also have to activate gems in the chambers that you’ll uncover throughout the game, again by rolling symbols on your dice. The more players that help out, the more gems you’ll be able to activate at one time. For every gem that is unactivated, each person will have to roll that many keys on their dice to escape. As you start with five dice, and the number of unactivated gems you start with is always larger than that (for example, with five players you start with fourteen gems), it’s clear that you’ll have to dedicate some time to activation.

And if that isn’t enough… as I mentioned, you start with five dice. But every three minutes or so, you have to return to the starting tile. If you don’t make it in time, you lose a die. And if you don’t have enough dice to unlock the exit, you may be trapped forever. Now, those who make it out can give a single die to those who remain — but do you really want to depend on that?

As you might expect, the tension gets rather high: you’re trying to find the exit, activating enough gems so you can unlock it, but still trying to get back to the center periodically so you don’t lose any dice. And all of this is driven along by a ten minute soundtrack — a CD comes with the game, or you can download the MP3s off of the website. Alternatively, there’s an egg timer you can use — but what’s the fun in that?

The main box also comes with two expansions: one which adds treasures than can help you out, and one that adds curses… which don’t. We haven’t had a chance to try them yet, but I’m sure we will at some point.

We had a great time playing Escape at That Board Game Thing, and have subsequently purchased it. It does have two downsides. The first is that at 10 minutes it’s too short for a full cooperative game — but it does make for a nice filler, or for one game in a night of short games. The second is that it is very frenetic, which may turn some people off. But for those who love that sort of time pressure, and who love rolling a lot of dice, it’s great fun.

Final verdict: Buy.

This entry was posted on Friday, October 4th, 2013 at 7:42 pm and is filed under Board games, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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