Thursday, June 1, 2017

Boardgame - EXIT: The Game - Kosmos




Publisher:
Kosmos, Thames, Iello
Designers:
Inka & Markus Brand, Ralph Querfurth
Artists:
Silvia Christoph, Franz Vohwinkel, Michael Menzel, Martin Hoffmann
Languages:
German, English, French
# of Players:
1-6
Age:
12+ (10+ in my opinion)
Duration:
120 min

BoardGameGeek References:

Game Design & Mechanics

Picture from the manufacturer's website
  • At first glance, you might think that EXIT ripped off some ideas from both ThinkFun's "Escape the Room" and Space Cowboys' "Unlock!", since it features both a code wheel and a deck of cards. Ironically, though, EXIT is the oldest of all 3 games, having been released in Germany 2 years ago.
  • Let's start with the cards. They come, in fact, in several types. Riddle cards are pretty straightforward. They're identified by a single letter on their back. If told to "get clue X", you fetch that card. Riddle cards typically show a clue of some sort, but they can also have a picture of game scene, a new room you just got access to, etc.
    • The "hidden object" mechanic found in Unlock! isn't present here, although it's possible to see a picture of Riddle card inside another picture (meaning you should pick up that matching card).
  • Every "lock" in the game is associated to a pictogram, and it's always "solved" by combining 3 icons found on the code wheel. The wheel then gives you a number, and you check out the matching Answer card. There's an interesting twist, however - the card might simply tell you you're wrong, or it might show you an array of small pictures. You find the image depicting the lock you're trying to open, and you consult the matching card number.
    The neat thing about this gimmick is that, in addition to providing two-tier validation, it prevents the players from opening a lock they haven't found yet. You see, the pictures shown on the Answer cards don't have the logos on them, so even if you figured out how to solve the "star" lock, it can't happen if you haven't got to that lock yet, since you wouldn't know what it looked like.
  • Help cards come in sets of 3, one for each lock. The first card tells you what you need in order to solve the lock. The second card gives you pointers as to what needs to be done, and the third gives the solution outright. The more cards you use, the lower your final score.
  • When the game starts, all you have is the code wheel and a booklet. Somewhere in that booklet will be a picture of the room you're in, with the first locks you'll have to deal with.
  • Once you've read the final Answer card, the time it took you to finish and the number of Help cards used are tallied to give you a score, going from 10 stars (less than an hour, no help) to 1 (over 2 hours, over 10 cards).
  • The last but not least of the game's features is the fact that the game is meant to be played once. And I don't mean "once" as in "a player can't play the same scenario twice", but rather as in "the box is meant to go in the garbage". Players are encouraged to write on things, tear them out, cut them off, and so on.
Pros
  • These games are especially "meaty". Difficulty-wise, they're on par with their competition, and the 2-hour duration advertised on the box is the real deal. After playing most other escape-room-in-a-box games, I always feel like playing another. With these, I always felt fully sated. ūüėč
  • The price point is pretty good. There are plenty of escape room that cost more for one single player than an EXIT box.
  • Using a scoring system means that players can actually choose between taking their time and not taking hints, or using multiple hints to finish quickly.
  • The fact that cards and components can (and will) be teared down allow for a number of clever, original puzzles.
Cons
  • For people like me, the biggest turn-off is definitely the "single use" angle. In recent years, there have been plenty of "Legacy" board games, which are meant to played by the same group over a few sessions, and eventually thrown away. As much as I can agree on the principle, I find it a lot harder to cope with the destruction of a single-session game. In the past, I've enjoyed lending my games to other people, and even watching them try their best at solving it. Being unable to share that experience with others without buying a brand new box is, to me, a big issue.
    That being said, there are ways to circumvent the single-use aspect - see my notes below.
  • Although I didn't notice it at first, it seems the puzzle sequence is pretty linear - you open lock A, then lock B, etc. Nothing in the game mechanics actually prevents concurrent puzzles, but it just happens to be that way.
  • According to the scoring system, you can flip through Help cards like crazy, read every single puzzle solution, and still end up with 4 stars...

UPDATE - Spring 2018
  • With the second batch of scenarios, two small-but-nice improvements have been made to the series. First, every game now has an official difficulty setting. Second, Kosmos has come up with a companion app that can act as a timer while playing some background music.

Gilles' Guide to Sparing your EXIT box

Alright, so you've decided you'd rather keep your copy of EXIT in a good enough state so you'd be able to have it played more than once, even if that means some of your friends will tease you for being such an obsessive-compulsive freak. (Word up, Marc-Antoine! ūüėé) Here are my tricks for you:
  • Keep an All-in-One printer close by
    Without a doubt, this is the most straightforward way to get quick copies. Many printer/scanner combos have a "Copy" button that makes the device work like a copy machine. If yours doesn't, you can still scan a page then print it back - just make sure you disable any "Fit to Page" setting and print at the exact same size as your originals.
  • Snap a picture and doodle over
    A friend of mine took an overhead photo of a page using his tablet, and began doodling directly over the picture. If that's something you have experience with (say, for work), it can get good results pretty fast.
  • Keep blank sheets nearby
    Tracing paper can be expensive, but most printer paper is "light" enough to be see-through. You can place one such sheet over the booklet and trace lines on it using a pen or pencil.
  • Use baggies/sleeves and fine-point sharpies
    Kudos to my wive for thinking about that one. Another effective way to write over a page or a card without permanent damage.
      

Errata

  • In the first printing of The Secret Lab, the 2nd clue of the "six-pointed star" lock could be misleading (the puzzle was simplified but the clue wasn't updated). So if you have an older box, the first paragraph of the card should read:

Scenario Results

The Pharaoh's Tomb
Official difficulty: 4 / 5
Played with: 5 players
Result: 3 Stars. Finished in 105 minutes. 7 Help cards used.

The Secret Lab
Official difficulty: 3.5 / 5
Played with: 4 players
Result: 9 Stars. Finished in 85 minutes. No Help cards used.

The Abandoned Cabin
Official difficulty: 2.5 / 5
Played with: 7 players
Result: 7 Stars. Finished in 80 minutes. 2 Help cards used.

Le Mystère de la Première (Free Print-and-Play mini-scenario)
Official difficulty: 1 / 5
Played with: 5 players
Result: 10 Stars. Finished in 9 minutes. No Help cards used.

The Forbidden Castle
Official difficulty: 4 / 5
Played with: 4 players
Result: 3 Stars. Finished in 100 minutes. 6 Help cards used.


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