Saturday, 20 September 2014

boardgaming in photos: The Message, Escape

9 Sep 2014. Shee Yun (9) and I continued our exploration of Escape: The Curse of the Temple. Now we have moved on to the two modules in the first expansion. The green tiles here are the Illusions module. Upon completion of the two intermediate countdowns, they are removed and placed at the bottom of the stack. This creates holes in the map and players may need to re-explore those spaces. It's a little quirky, but not a major change. At least it didn't have a large impact in the game we played. We still kept the Curses module and the Treasures module. We beat the Illusions module without much trouble.

Then we moved on to the Special Chambers module. This adds a few unusual chambers to the game. Some allow players to place gems, which is a good thing, but to use them, two such chambers need to be used by separate players at the same time. This means your team needs to split up if you want to use them. There is another chamber which contains a chalice. If you discover the chalice during play (which is highly likely), you must exit the temple with it in order to win. Carrying the chalice from room to room requires an extra torch icon to be rolled. So the chalice slows players down. We managed to win again. Next, we will moving on to the second expansion.

12 Sep 2014. Playing The Message: Emissary Crisis at with a group of youngsters (which made me feel so "uncle").

This was only my second time playing this game. The last time I played, I think there were about 7 players. It was a lot of fun and we played quite a few games back-to-back. I always remember that experience fondly. So this time I was quite excited to be able to get 9 players (the max count). Sinbad and Allen were there. Sinbad has played before, and probably many more times than me. Six young men, who had not played this before, were happy to join us.

The Message is a hidden-identity team game, and a big part of the game is finding out who your friends are who your enemies are, while at the same time trying to mislead your enemies about your identity. At the beginning we were rather clueless about what best to do, and we happily started throwing black messages around. Whoever receives three black messages is eliminated. It is probably not a good idea to try to randomly kill people when you are not sure who is friend or foe. But it is funny, and it creates excitement.

At some points in our games, we had a fair bit of confusion. I am not sure whether it was because some players made mistakes and caused others to make incorrect deductions, or because some players drew wrong conclusions based on partial information. Either way, wrong assumptions can easily escalate as everyone is watching everyone else's actions. Incorrect assumptions lead to incorrect actions, which causes others to make even more wrong assumptions. In one particular game, Ah Yung played two Prove cards on Player A (sorry I forgot your name) very early in the game, which meant he definitely knew Player A's identity. Throughout the game, I watched their behaviour and felt very sure they were teammates. However when the game ended, I was surprised that they were on opposing teams. What's funny is Ah Yung himself was shocked too. He too thought Player A was on his side. Player A himself knew he was on the other team. Since there were two Prove cards played, most likely one of them made a mistake when executing the cards, and this cause the whole game to be played under an incorrect understanding (at least for Ah Yung). We had a good laugh. It was too late to try to figure out who made the mistake, but it didn't matter. The dumbfounded expression on Ah Yung's face was priceless. Neither of their teams won anyway, it was an independent identity player who won.

The detective character was the most remembered character this time, and he featured in two of the three games we played. The player playing the detective character gets to see every single Prove card played by any player, which means he is collecting a lot of information. But I guess it can be tiring too having to digest and remember all this information.

One of the funniest moments in this game is when a player, through actions, leaks a very strong hint to his identity. Everyone starts laughing because it is so obvious. One guy's special winning condition (which applied only if his identity was an independent) was he would win if on his turn someone else won. Then for a few rounds we saw him trying to give a third red or blue message to another player, i.e. blatantly trying to hand the victory to someone else. One of the beneficiaries was me. I had two blue messages in front of me, and he directly sent me a third. However I just looked at him and smiled. I wasn't on the blue team. I was actually red. He had thought I was on the blue team because I already had two blue messages and no red messages. Little did he know that I had been screaming inside for always getting the wrong colour. Also one red message which I did manage to get earlier was robbed from me. When I got the third blue message and didn't declare victory, everyone started laughing, because the cat was out of the bag. I was either red, or independent.

The Message was just as fun as I remembered. It's very engaging because you need to pay attention to what everyone is doing, or saying, or looking at, or smiling about. It's a game with plenty of table talk and joking and teasing.

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