Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Boardgame - The Network - The Escapement

The Net Worth

Picture from the official website

The Escapement
# of Players:
1-6 (I'd recommend 3-4)
14+ (due to a few violent scenes)
? (I'd say 3-6 hours)

Game Design & Mechanics

Sample contents from the box

  • For those not in the know, The Escapement is an Escape Room venue from Margate in the UK. I happened to visit it in 2019, during our family trip, and we had a great time there.
  • The first thing you get from this mysterious box is a letter from the "Interesting Circumstance Division" of something called "The Network", a secret organization operating in the UK. They've been compromised, and have decided to ask for help where their enemy would not expect it, namely: your place. ūüėĄ That same letter will refer you to the game's website.
  • Most of the box's contents is split into 3 large envelopes, which you only open when being instructed to.
  • As instructed in the first video, you open the first envelope, have to figure how to get a code out of it, and then enter that code in the website, leading you to another video, and so on.
  • At each step, you can use the "Remote Support" button in the corner to "open a ticket" and request automated hints on whichever section you're currently working on.
  • The box is intended to be single-usage, with pieces you break down and a few things you're supposed to write over.

The ICD portal

  • The visuals are very slick, very modern. We're far from Unlock!'s brigthly-colored boxes. Likewise, the video sequences are well-made.
  • The production quality of those materials is also quite high. Nothing like your average "montly mail-order" box.
  • The puzzles are fairly varied. Each of the 3 envelopes felt like playing a slightly different game.
  • The price point is a concern, especially for us Canadians. If you're in the UK, having the box sent to you will roughly cost you the same as a couple Unlock! boxed sets. Even sharing delivery costs with a few friends, that box still cost me the equivalent of three such boxes. Hard to argue this is "worth" as much fun as nine Unlock sessions.
  • Given the above point, the fact that the box isn't intended for reuse makes it a hard sell. (That being said, I was careful with the components and I could picture other folks playing with my box, even though a puzzle or two would provide a lessened experience.
  • Although that didn't happen to us, I could easily picture the hint system failing to help some players - the hints are never quite explicit, and I could picture a group misunderstanding one of the pointers...
House Rules & Suggestions

To get the best gameplay experience, I suggest you do the following:
  • Play over multiple sessions...
    The three envelopes can be easily be played in 3 different sittings. (Besides, as I said above, they kinda feel like 3 different games.)
  • ...but keep your notes
    The browser might not track which part you had reached, so you might have to reenter your old codes first.

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