Location: Your Home!
Players: We recommend 1-4
Price: $30 per box
From The Conundrum Box website:
The Great Explorer Society’s resident Irish historian, Dr. Ronan Gallagher has devoted the waning years of his life to the study of the fairy realm and the magical beings of Ireland.
His obsession came decades prior when his wife died of Influenza in the 1790s. He heard the banshee’s call, and he dedicated his life to unlocking the mysteries of the unseen world, the realm of the fairies. Ultimately, he believed that if he could capture a banshee, he would be able to reverse the death of his wife. However, the banshee eluded him. He became obsessed with Leprechauns, believing that they were the lowest level of fairy, and therefore his gateway into the fairy realm. He thought once there, he could finally capture a banshee and bring back his lost love. Nobody has seen Dr. Gallagher for months now, and you, the newest member of the Great Explorers Society, were sent on this meaningless errand… errr, special mission to find out where Dr. Gallagher is. Most members of the GES believe that the old kook probably finally caught himself in one of his leprechaun traps and has met his end, others believe that he is held somewhere remote, and only steps away from finally achieving success.
Either way, he owes the society his dues, so go collect… errr, figure out what he is up to! The last contact the society had with him was an empty dues collection envelope with a return address to his cottage in a remote village of Ireland.
The Emerald Isle was definitely a hotly anticipated box for me, as I’m always interested in all things Celtic! Just off the heels of the fantastic Storyteller series, I could not wait to see what The Conundrum box had in store for us this time. This absolutely sounded like the most fantastic due collecting errand we’d ever been sent on!
There is a lot to do before this guy is gonna cough up his dues money.
I was certainly excited about the theme, and The Conundrum Box delivered on the Celtic vibe in spades. With their extras page for every box, there are a few recipes and historical notes, along with what have been some very excellently curated Spotify playlists to build upon the immersive experience of the adventure. The Emerald Isle’s playlist is one I’d be happy to listen to at any time, and I really appreciate the effort the designers put forth to ensure the game is just that much more special. The story itself was a lot of fun, and tracking down our missing comrade through the realms of the fae, (for his dues, of course,) was appropriately exciting. I really enjoyed the inclusion of one particular character, whose trickery and general begrudging helpfulness was enjoyable to engage with. I still recommend a page reader for some of the longer sections of narrative, but the story included within this chapter of The Great Explorer’s Society is wonderfully woven, and probably my favorite of the lot.
The game flow worked well, with a difficulty curve that started with a few easier wins to get the ball rolling, culminating in some deviously clever and challenging puzzles as we made our way towards the climax! Though mostly linear in nature, there were usually at least a couple puzzles revealed during each stage of the game, allowing us to divide and conquer as we solved, or take a break from a particularly difficult conundrum. For the most part, it was clear what bits went together, and many of the enigmas come together intuitively to provide some great moments of revelation. A puzzle similar to one I really enjoyed from The Storyteller makes another appearance, but iterates on the design, expanding how it is solved and creating a great challenge that was hugely satisfying to unlock the secrets of. I also thought that a puzzle we used to “make a new friend,” as it were, was brilliant, using colorful, multilayered clues to find our new pal.
One particular puzzle is clearly very clever after having solved it, but the cluing can sometimes feel almost too subtle due to the overload of information from the time the clue is found, to the point it needs to be engaged with. Since several props need to be used multiple times, (which isn’t necessarily a bad thing,) and there is a lot of information to go through, (especially as more envelopes are opened,) clues appearing somewhat nearer to their relevancy might prevent the flow from becoming mired. The late game was definitely bogged down through the need to review everything, breaking the flow, and though the revelation of what we needed to do was satisfying, it was a slog to get to that point. We found one other puzzle had a small typo, causing a letter to be off, but it was still easy to identify what the code was meant to say otherwise. Overall, this box was fun to quest through, but it was missing a little bit of magic that was what made The Storyteller such an immediately gripping box. This may be due to the amount of paper handouts that are included with Emerald Isle, which are quite as tactile as the many props The Storyteller provided.
In all, the Emerald Isle is a good time, with a dense assortment of challenging, yet approachable puzzles, ensuring that Conundrum veterans and new players alike will be able to enjoy the fantastic story within. While the game flow tends to flag a little at the end, on the whole, I absolutely recommend checking this game out, as the clever puzzling and great storytelling are one hundred percent worth the price of admission! Subscribe to The Conundrum Box here! You can get $5 off your first box with our Promo Code ERA5OFF!
Full Disclosure: The Conundrum Box provided a complementary review copy.