The 7th Guest: The Board Game (Review)

Location: Your Home!

Players:  We recommend 2-4

Price: $69.95 MRSP

Old Man Stauf he built a house, and filled it with his toys. Six guests were invited in one night, their screams the only noise.

Theme:

The granddaddy of PC horror games, The 7th Guest has been adapted into a puzzling tabletop game! Take on the role of one of Henry Stauf’s guests, attempt to solve his puzzles, and leave Stauf Manor with your heart’s desire, or die trying.

20190123_0904472561808833025536497.jpg

Ah, the thrill of wandering around Stauf’s creepy manor returns!

First Impressions:

As a fan of The 7th Guest and The 11th Hour, I was very excited to see that Trilobyte games was releasing a board game based on these properties. When the call for reviews came out, I jumped at the chance to give it a spin. At first I was cautious as the computer games have been dear to my heart since childhood, but my expectations were definitely exceeded with this game!

20190123_0904307557849325859346157.jpg

Feeling loooooooonely? 

High Points:

My fiancée and I tried The 7th Guest out one evening, and once we’d given it a quick run through on the quickest game mode, “The Nickle Tour,” we were hooked! We immediately spent the next couple hours running through “The Grand Tour” and have played it many times since. Backing up a bit, the game is based on basic board game mechanics of rolling a special die, (This one is a d6 based on the Ouija board from the original game, and features only the numbers, 1, 3, 5, 7, 9, and 11, which is an odd choice, but somehow works,) and moving towards a destination in order to solve Puzzler cards. Your destination on the board is determined by a number of randomly dealt out Destination cards, (anywhere from 5 for a 2 player 30ish minute game to 18 for a 2+ hour game,) and the Puzzler cards are a mashup of trivia, cryptic clues, mind games, and horror themed puzzles. Each time you reach a room and successfully solve a Puzzler, you discard your current Destination and begin the trek towards your next one. Once you’ve run out of Destinations, you move to the Little Room at the Top of Stauf Manor to solve one final Puzzler and win the game!

It’s a simple game, but is so much fun, especially for a 7th Guest enthusiast. You don’t have to experience the original computer game to enjoy this one however, as my fiancée, who doesn’t really enjoy horror that much, also loves playing this one! Moving around the house is a joy for fans, and all the hidden passages and rooms are detailed just as they were in the game. Some of the best scenes from the game continued to pop up in my head as I played, and every so often a Puzzler would contain a well placed easter egg, so there’s a lot of excellent nostalgic nods for long time fans. The Puzzlers are great fun as well, and are a mixed bag of difficulty, running the gamut from basic trivia to mind melting riddles. Even when it isn’t your turn, these moments remain engaging as you might have a chance to steal the Puzzler if the current player answers incorrectly, so you’ll be wanting to formulate the solution as well! If you do successfully steal, you’ll get to discard your currently Destination and begin on your next one, an awesome mechanic to ensure the game moves at a fairly quick pace!

The miniatures themselves are fantastically detailed renderings of the six original guests from the game, as well at the infamous Lady in White ghost from the upstairs hallway. These look great on their own, but I think they’d also work well painted, and would love to work on doing so if I ever get the chance. Puzzler, Destination, and Mystery Spell cards are all lovingly detailed with renderings from the game and spooky artwork, and set the creepy tone for the game immediately. Every part of the game is infused with the love you’d expect from Rob Landros, designer of The 7th Guest computer and board game!

20190123_0904386178096895751799517.jpg

Want a balloon, sonny? Nah… Nah, I’m good.

Low Points:

For the most part, we absolutely love this game, and are having a great time playing it beyond the need to do so for the review, but there were a few small things we think could be improved on. The die itself does not denote whether the nine is a six or nine with the standard line marking the bottom. It’s easy to remember once you know that all the numbers are odd, but it still confuses us from time to time. The Little Room at the Top mechanic is a great way to end the game, but in order to win, you only have to solve a standard Puzzler. It can be a bit anticlimactic when you get thrown a softball by the Puzzler deck, but I understand why it is handled this way.

With 300 Puzzlers, we will get a fair amount of play out of The 7th Guest, but it’s slightly disheartening to know we will eventually run out. Luckily, there are plans for expansions to ensure this game won’t be a finite experience! Finally, the Ghost mechanic is bafflingly punitive, but luckily optional, so we do not play with it. This mechanic involves a player becoming possessed and being unable to progress in the game until they pass along the affliction to another player by landing on the same square or room, or getting a random Mystery Spell to release their spirit. The mini is the absolute best one in the box, however, so we always use it as one of the player pieces instead.

20190123_0904557432382284507065853.jpg

Beware The Lady in White!

Verdict:

The 7th Guest: The Board Game is a surprisingly entertaining game, even 27 years after the PC game’s original release. Fans of the game will find a lot of value in the nostalgia present, as well as the ability to revisit Stauf Manor one more time for this new experience! The game is also very approachable and intuitive for those who aren’t long time fans, and just pure fun to play regardless. The game is set to begin shipping to Kickstarter backers soon, so I expect this will be available to the general public shortly! You can pick up your copy here!

9/10 (Excellent)

Full Disclosure: Trilobyte Games provided a complementary copy of this game.

The Tower Escapes – A Bootlegger’s Den (Review)

Location: Raleigh, NC

Players: 2-6 (We recommend 2-4)

Price: $28 per person

Time to Escape: 60 minutes

We’re blowing this joint, see?

Theme:

It’s the height of prohibition, and your daring group of rum runners have set up your headquarters in the heart of Raleigh’s judicial district, hiding a successful speakeasy right under the noses of the authorities. Unfortunately, your hubris might be your undoing, as the police have caught wind of your activities, and are set to raid your lair in an hour! The boss has tasked you with getting the cash out of the hideout before the cops arrive, and he’s made sure you cannot leave before the job is done, so work quick or be caught in the act!

First Impressions:

The Tower Escapes was recommended to us by Room 5280, and we were excited to be one of the first groups to experience their rooms! It’s always fun to go to a new place and help with feedback; it’s one of my favorite parts of this job. It doesn’t hurt that The Tower Escapes has such a fantastic location, housed within an old water tower in the heart of downtown Raleigh. That alone was enough to peak my interest.

screenshot_20181204-093055_facebook5845837213427093555.jpg

Hard to believe I’ve walked past this beautiful structure several times without noticing it! It takes an escape room for me to pay any attention, apparently.

High Points:

The room being within a historical building absolutely helps with authentic immersion, and the initial parts of the game feel very much like the underbelly of a prohibition speakeasy. It’s interestingly decorated, but much like Room 5280, only that which is important is included, so the room is slightly sparser, which makes sense theme-wise. We began our game handcuffed by the boss, though we were advised that this was an optional part of the game, so anyone worried about restraints should be aware this isn’t required to enjoy the room. The game starts out slightly non-linear, but becomes strictly linear soon thereafter, but our group of four was well engaged with the adventure from start to finish, with a few hiccups being the only thing removing us from the story.

Game flow works fairly well, this being a fairly linear game, and the connections are mostly very logical. A specific story item was excellently integrated into the game, and bolstered the connective tissue of the game greatly. One particular puzzle was presented very simply, but the reveal of it’s solution was amazingly satisfying for something that seemed basic at first. The climax of the room is a lot of fun, and is a great way to cap off the room.

Low Points:

The room itself is pretty standard, definitely more exciting for beginners than enthusiasts, but we had a good time regardless. There is one particular escape room sin within, as there is a puzzle box that needs to be solved. These are pretty tricky since either people generally know how to open it, or they don’t, and they are fairly underwhelming when they show up in a room. There’s also a puzzle that delivers a fairly large red herring that seemed to us to be a puzzle in itself, but ended up being completely unnecessary to the solution. In two instances, we were able to bypass puzzles entirely, but didn’t realize it as these puzzles do not give much in the way of feedback when solved. In fact, one puzzle that was solved accidentally made us think we’d already solved another, leading to a massive amount of confusion on the whole. Luckily, our game master was able to correct us with a light hint, but I’d definitely recommend adding in a sound to denote when something technical has opened.

Verdict:

A Bootlegger’s Den is a good room for beginners, though a couple of gating issues and vagaries within a couple puzzles hold it back for enthusiasts. The owner, however, is very receptive to feedback, and with a few tweaks, I’m sure this one will definitely improve. I’d recommend trying it out if you have a fairly inexperienced group, but escape veterans might want to check out one of the other rooms on offer for a more challenging experience. You can book your time in the Bootlegger’s Den here!

6.5/10 (Alright)

Full Disclosure: The Tower Escapes comped our tickets for this room.

Backstage Escape Games – The Cabin at Beachstone Lake (Review)

Location: Myrtle Beach, SC

Players:  2-7 (We recommend 3-5)

Price: $34 per person

Time to Escape: 60 minutes

Santa’s not here right now.

Theme:

From the Backstage Escape Games website:

Are you ready for a chilling Christmas story?
In the small town of Parkview Point, something strange has happened at the long-abandoned cabin on Beachstone Lake. Quiet for years, the cabin has suddenly sprung to life with Christmas decorations and cheer. All across town, children noticed that their gifts under the tree and letters to Santa were missing, replaced with a terrifying note from Krampus. The half-goat, half-demon evildoer has challenged anyone to enter the cabin and escape with the gifts. If they do, then the town will experience joyful Christmas seasons for decades to come. If they fail, then Christmas will be forever canceled in Parkview Point.

First Impressions:

We happened to be in Myrtle Beach during December, and while this room runs all year, it seemed like the perfect time for some holiday themed escapes! Even better, this room wasn’t all warmth and tidings of good cheer, there’s a Christmas-hating demon on the loose to outwit! Krampus is such an interesting character, and to have a room revolving around him seemed like it’d be an excellent time!

High Points:

What an immersive room! The initial game briefing takes place at the front of the titular cabin, and sets the tone with a quaint exterior accentuated by whimsically tortured Christmas decorations. To add to the charm, a radio announcer comes over the loudspeaker to deliver the half-wacky, half-creepy story, and keeps the immersion going by starting up a fantastic Christmas themed playlist that’s ever so slightly ominous. The inside of the cabin is just as awesome, with perfect décor and fantastic technology that removes you entirely from Myrtle Beach and transports you to the chilly winter world of Krampus! The story is well delivered through every facet of the game, whether it be puzzles, the evolving room itself, or the notes left behind, keeping us wholly engaged throughout the experience.

Puzzles are excellent, and highly varied, allowing for our team to divide and conquer this non-linear room. The game flow is hugely intuitive, and will make sense to even the newest of players with it’s tactile and creative interactions. Every step of the way gives excellent feedback, and so many of the creative enigmas housed inside the room are just pure fun to solve. It constantly feels like you’re truly working through the demented machinations of Krampus brought to life as you work through the many physical activities and manipulate the various props. There are a lot of hidden items, but they are stashed at key points during the game, ensuring the experience doesn’t become a glorified scavenger hunt, and the meta-puzzles build towards satisfying ah ha moments. Almost every step of this game is pure puzzle solving bliss.

Low Points:

There is one point within the room that can be absolute auditory torture if you don’t achieve your goal quickly. We did not, and our sanity eroded. I think that was the point, but still, that was rough. Near the end, I had flashbacks to a couple of the overly long puzzles from Backstage’s other room, The Legend of Atlantis. In an otherwise excellent game flow, these puzzles can really bog a group down, however, there was only one in The Cabin at Beachstone Lake, and I jumped on that grenade willingly since I tend to be at least decent at solving that type of puzzle. Our group of 3 was fairly comfortable in the room, but still tripped over each other now and again, so I can’t imagine stacking the maximum of 7 in here, so I’d recommend attempting this one with a smaller group if at all possible.

Verdict:

The Cabin at Beachstone Lake keeps up the stunning quality that Backstage Escape Games initially produced with Atlantis, proving once again they’re the bar for Myrtle Beach escape adventures! This room is perfect for anyone looking for a truly memorable outing, and if you’re in the area, you absolutely should try it out! Book your time matching wits with Krampus here!

9/10 (Excellent)

Full Disclosure: Backstage Escape Games comped our tickets for this game.

The Deadbolt Mystery Society – The Seaside Strangler (Review)

Location: Your Home!

Players:  We recommend 1-4

Price: $24.99 per box, plus $4.99 shipping

A quaint seaside village sporting taverns, fishing, and brutal murder.

Theme:

From the Deadbolt Mystery Society website:

The Will Street Detective Agency has received a tip about The Seaside Strangler murders that has led you, a consulting detective, to nearby Gold Hook Island to investigate.  The tiny island of Gold Hook is home to a mere 32 families and can only be reached by ferry.  With a few eating establishments, stretches of uninhabited beachfront, and The Kingfisher hotel, Gold Hook is a quaint tourist getaway in temperate months and is mostly cut off from the mainland in the winter.  After the National Weather Service announces that a nor’easter is headed their way, the residents of Gold Hook begin to evacuate the island using the small ferry that makes the two mile journey back and forth to the mainland. On its way back to pick up the last batch of residents, the ferry experiences a mechanical failure that renders it inoperable, leaving you and a few other people behind on the island to fend for themselves during the storm.  Not long after the storm begins to hammer the coastline of Gold Hook, one of those left behind is found strangled with a length of strangely knotted rope, leading you to conclude that The Seaside Strangler is one of those who didn’t make it back to the mainland.  The police and Coast Guard are unavailable for the next twenty-four hours due to the extreme weather so help will not be coming any time soon.  Leaving the island is not an option.  Your only choice…determine who The Seaside Strangler is and close a case that the police have been unable to close. 

First Impressions:

I love lighthouses. I bought the fantastic Dark Fall 2 back in the day because it had a lighthouse on the front cover. Also because anything Jonathan Boakes touches turns into gaming gold, but that’s not the point of this article. The point is, when I saw the preview for the newest Deadbolt Mystery Society box, I was smitten with the fog and foreboding lighthouse in the distance. Turns out there’s even more to this box than cool aesthetics, though!

20190114_1139222815677439869351912.jpg

A mystery hundreds of years in the making!

High Points:

Beyond the cool theme of this month’s box, the experience itself is absolutely packed with puzzles, and as always, they are built upon a non-linear game flow that fashions layer upon layer towards the ultimate conclusion! The added bonus with this case, however, is that there isn’t just one mystery to solve! While you’re tracking down the Seaside Strangler, you’ll also happen upon a historical conundrum that has just recently come back into the public eye, for better or worse. These two mysteries intertwine, and the story slowly releases tidbits throughout while building towards the excellent climax. This box takes a cue from my favorite Deadbolt box, The Cabin, by stranding you on Gold Hook Island with the suspects and dropping story related events as you solve. This is always a great touch, and helps add to the immersion and atmosphere that this subscription has become so adept at building.

The puzzles themselves are pretty excellent, with clever bits of evidence scattered among the many items included with the box. These hints are very intuitive and making connections between the myriad of clues is an always satisfying experience. The puzzle solving is well integrated with the storyline, and gives you everything you need to jump between the modern day murders and the centuries old treasure hunt without sacrificing quality between the two. Recently, Deadbolt has taken to focusing how players intuitively approach the investigations, and the case note booklet included within the most current cases is a brilliant way to guide players without holding their hands. Finally, it is appreciated that the QR code madness has toned down a bit, and while the online presence is still there, it is handled in a different way for some parts, which was welcome. Only having one or two tabs open on my phone was a big relief.

20190114_1138502217125391922601454.jpg

Low Points:

There is one particular code that has seen a lot of use not only in Deadbolt boxes, but other subscription boxes, so veterans are going to tear through it without much thought, and it’ll be fairly old hat to boot. Also, the suspects didn’t feel quite as well fleshed out in this box as they tend to in others, most likely because the real focus was the historical treasure hunt, but after catching the Seaside Strangler I felt we hadn’t really learned much about the suspects themselves. In fact, other than the obvious motive, the culprit’s characterization was pretty flat, which isn’t a spoiler since the others were definitely not quite as bombastic as some earlier boxes, Asylum and The Cabin come to mind as excellent examples.

Verdict:

The Seaside Strangler is an awesome step back into the Deadbolt Universe, and I greatly enjoyed the immersive storytelling that returned for this entry. The impending storm and multifaceted investigation is an excellent evolution for the series, and I am jazzed for the upcoming Strange Case of Mr. Mindgame! I one hundred percent recommend giving this box a try. Join the Deadbolt Mystery Society here! Right now, you can get 30% off your first box with the Promo Code TRYDMS! You can also see the rest of our Deadbolt Mystery Society reviews here!

9/10 (Excellent)

Full Disclosure: The Deadbolt Mystery Society provided a complementary box.

Break Out Myrtle Beach – Red Beard’s Revenge (Review)

Location: Myrtle Beach, SC

Players: 2-10 (We recommend 3-5)

Price: $28 per person

Time to Escape: 60 minutes

At this point, Black Beard needs to look out for me… I’ve robbed him at least five times!

Theme:

As part of Red Beard’s crew, you’ve infiltrated Black Beard’s ship! Apparently there’s a beard color based pirate war going on right now. Luckily Blue Beard isn’t here, that guy is creepy! Anyway, it’s time to get your revenge and steal the treasure you know Black Beard has squirreled away on his ship, but in order to do so, you’ll need to follow the clues hidden within. You’ll have to do it quick, however, since the ship is only docked for an hour. Once your time’s up, you’ll be off the ship, just hope it isn’t from a plank!

First Impressions:

While we were a bit underwhelmed by CSI: Myrtle Beach, it was the first time we’d been disappointed with this designer’s rooms. Upon entering Black Beard’s ship, we instantly knew this game was newer, as the set design was more up to par with what we are used to from Break Out. As a pirate aficionado, I was excited to bust through Black Beard’s ship once again!

High Points:

As previously mentioned, set design in Red Beard’s Revenge is up to the usual par for Break Out, with the whole area feeling like the underbelly of a docked ship. Lighting is done well, setting the mood without becoming too dim to see properly. The puzzle flow is fairly linear, with a couple points allowing for non-linearity for a short period, and can handle a group of 3-5. There were a few really engaging interactions, both of which were enjoyable variations on some old favorites. Most props and puzzles integrated well together in order to make intuitive sense for a good ah ha moment here and there. Our GM was engaging and helped with hints that she would graciously expand on when were contracted a case of the dumbs on one puzzle.

Low Points:

Luckily, newer rooms at Break Out Charleston and Myrtle Beach aren’t guilty of this, but older rooms tend to contain things that are hidden just for the sake of being hidden. These scavenger hunt items have thankfully fallen out of fashion in today’s market, but unfortunately they persist here. Aimless searching should generally be replaced by a puzzle or clue about how to find these items, as wandering around looking for secrets is fairly banal at this point. There are a couple points at which the connective tissue breaks down, making for some intense logical leaps we are still puzzling over, but overall the room doesn’t stumble down that path overly often. One particular puzzle requires some outside knowledge, which we luckily had but still, math in escape rooms feels more like homework than an engaging puzzle.

Throughout the experience, we ran across a lot of similar locks that required us to guess and check against each one once we had solved a particular puzzle. A bit of cluing as to what goes where would improve this facet of the room greatly. On the whole, the room feels like another puzzle room rather than a fully engaging escape experience, with a story that doesn’t really evolve beyond, “find the treasure,” and puzzles that jump in and out of theme. Reaching the conclusion is anticlimactic since there really isn’t a compelling story there, but it serves well enough as this room’s ending.

Verdict:

I can’t really say that Red Beard’s Revenge is a bad room, but it never really rises above average, as most rooms at Break Out have evolved past the early days design sensibilities seen in Red Beard’s Revenge, so I can’t say it’s too good either. Honestly, it’s a serviceable room that newcomers will enjoy a lot more than escape room veterans, but with four much better rooms rooms available at this location, I’d recommend trying out those instead. You can book your time Black Beard’s Pirate ship here.

5/10 (Mediocre)

Full Disclosure: Breakout Myrtle Beach provided media discounted tickets for this room.