Your group of friends is walking around this old house. You enter a room to have a look. Just as the last person crosses the threshold, the door slams shut. You try the handle and find that you are locked in. You realize that you are in imminent danger and must get out before time runs out!
This might seem like a scenario from a murder mystery novel, but hundreds of Escape Rooms across the country have been popping up and challenging groups to see if they can solve the puzzles and “escape” before time runs out. Some of the rooms are pretty elaborate and pricey, while others are a bit more simple and affordable. In any case, replay-ability is fairly low as the number of puzzles can be limiting depending on the location. Some locations have several rooms that each have a theme or unique setup, while others simply rotate a single room with different setups. You need to be sure that if you return to a location that the scenario is not the same as you would be at a great advantage and the experience maybe spoiled for you or your group. Pricing for these rooms is fairly reasonable and as always gets more affordable the bigger the group gets.
For an even more affordable option that does not require scheduling a room or even leaving the house, you can get “Escape Room in a Box”. There are a couple different companies making these products with varying degrees of complexity. I recently played Escape the Room: Mystery at the Stargazer’s Manor. In this version you are trying to help an old astronomer before things go horribly wrong. When you open the game box you have instructions right on top that let you know how to setup the game pieces and how to start the scenario. The group size I had was limited to 2 hours and after about 90 minutes we completed the scenario safely and exited the room. The puzzles ranged from simply matching shapes to crazy tangrams or twisty pipe mazes. My group was pretty rounded and each player had a decent grasp on at least a couple of the puzzles. The game does give a link to a website if you need a hint.
Overall, I was very glad to have purchased this game and I am now a little more interested in attempting a bigger escape room experience. The components were mostly paper and cardboard tiles but they were constructed well. The game has instructions on how to pack everything back into the envelopes properly so that the game can be reset and played again. Which may seem odd since escape rooms inherently do not have much in replay value. You could either host another group or give the game to another group for them to enjoy. I ran this for a group of friends at a recent convention and they had a great time. I plan to get some of the other scenarios and have preordered Escape Room in a Box: The Werewolf Experiment which must have some consumable pieces as they sell a refill pack. I can’t wait to see how that ones plays.