Thursday, July 5, 2018

Book - The Librarian's Almanaq



Publisher:
Author:
Roy Leban
# of Players:
1 or more (I recommend 3-5)
Duration:
8-40 hours for a single person, less for groups
(although players aren't expected to time themselves)

Game Design & Mechanics
  • I'm a regular visitor on Kickstarter, looking for new boardgames and - duh - any sort of "Escape Room in box". Given that, it would've been hard for me to miss The Conjurer's Almanaq, a very successful project which nears completion as I write this. The price tag for this KS seemed a bit high, but I had noticed the mention of a precursor book, more affordable, and available on Amazon. That, I had to see.
  • That first Almanaq initially started off as part of the 16th annual Microsoft Puzzle Hunt. Puzzle Hunts (where some puzzles lead to more puzzles, and so on) are fairly common in the US, but we don't see them as much in French-speaking communities, it seems. (We apparently prefer treasure hunts, car rallies, and the like.)
  • I find it a bit hard to properly write about this book given that, ideally, you'd approach it without any preconceived ideas, fully enjoying the thrill of discovery. If that's how you feel, you can stop reading now, I won't take it personally. 😇 For those who'd prefer to get a small idea of what they're buying into, let's proceed...
  • The book opens with some basic instructions, and then comes the Opening Puzzle, where you're asked to tear out (that's tear out đŸ˜±) actual pages out of the book. Lots of pages.
  • Those pages will have to be assembled in a "grid" of sorts. (I won't say more.) Once you have the answer to this first puzzle, you'll use it to unlock another list of pages to tear out. Those pages cover 8 additional puzzles. You'll have to figure out which pages goes with what puzzle. Sometimes, you'll even have to figure out exactly what it is you have to do. With those 8 answers, you should be able to tackle the Final Puzzle.
  • And what about the pages you didn't rip out? Well guess what - they're all fake! Decoy puzzles, lovingly placed in the book to force you into finding the right ones. (Which, let me remind you, are the ones you've been savagely pulling out. đŸ˜”)
  • Heeeeey, have you been losing weight?
  • The author has set up a web page where individual answers can be validated, and where you can also get a couple hints for every puzzle.

Pros
  • If you want to get value for your money, I'd say this book gives you at least five times more gaming time per dollar than your typical "Escape room in a box".
  • It can be a great introduction to Puzzle Hunts, given how clear the rules are, and how easy to is to validate your answers.
  • In spite of the simplicity of the material (because, y'know, it's a book), some of the puzzles still came up as fresh and unexpected (to this reviewer anyway).
Cons
  • I'm placing a #notquite tag on this review because the book might be missing some of your favorite Escape Room elements: there's no theme proper, no time limit, and nothing I would count as "searching".
  • If you're a regular on this blog, you can guess how freaked out I was to have to destroy my own book. Be assured that this time around, there just isn't any workaround.
  • Although me & my friends are all functionally bilingual, none of are native speakers, and it showed. If you're in the same situation, rest assured you will need an English dictionary and access to Wikipedia, and you will also have to validate pretty much all your answers in the Opening Puzzle. If the very idea of using an online tool to look for anagrams upsets you, then you'd better get yourselves some English-native, word games enthusiasts.

Another (free) suggestion
  • If you have a taste for Puzzle Hunts and never played "The Fool's Errand", you definitely should. This game from the 80s can be download for free from the author's website.

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