Sunday 23 April 2017

Escape stories

Story 1

Benz's group has progressed to play Escape with both the expansion modules contained in the base game - the curses and the treasures. I asked them to add both. The curses hinder the players, while the treasures may help them. They can already win the basic game comfortably, so it doesn't make sense to add only the treasures. Adding only the curses might be a little brutal. So I decided to add both for them. The additional rules are manageable. They have attempted this three times, but unfortunately have not yet been successful. I joined them on the third attempt, but it didn't help.

One of the curses removes any die from the game if it falls to the ground. When I taught the game, I said this was one curse which they didn't need to worry about. I said just take care when rolling your dice and you'll never have to concern yourself with this curse. However, in one of the games, Xiao Zhu actually did drop a die on his lap when under that curse. He hurriedly picked it up and threw me a sheepish look, "You said dropped to the ground right? So this doesn't count." I later checked the rulebook, and found that I had taught that rule wrong. A die is lost as long as it falls off the table. Doesn't matter if it lands on the ground, on a lap or on a chair.

Later Xiao Zhu did lose a die to the ground. There was no dispute this time. We were so sure this was a harmless curse, but I guess the game designer knew what he was doing. Losing that die was fatal for Xiao Zhu. He had another curse that prevented him from moving, and he needed three dice to break that curse. The die he lost was his third die. With only two dice left, he was doomed to be stuck in the temple. The game was lost since everyone must escape in order to win.

In the game when I joined them to play, they expected I would play a leadership role and lead them to victory. Unfortunately I was struck by the curse of silence very early on, and remained mute for the rest of the game. I was quite bold in discovering new rooms, which lead to me getting heavily cursed. I also got the one-hand-on-head curse very early. I never realised keeping one hand on your head for 9 minutes could be so tiring. Anyhow, I don't think having me on the team would have made too big a difference. They were already playing quite well. They worked together well.


Story 2

In the subsequent session, I joined them to play all the way through. We had five players, and it was quite chaotic. I realised that previously I had made a mistake. When there were only four of them, I had asked them to use 16 gems. That was wrong. They should have used 14 instead. Using 16 gems made it harder than normal. Oops. Still, it took us many tries to beat the game with treasures and curses added. We only succeeded on our fifth attempt this session. That's a total of eight attempts, counting the three failed (albeit unfair) attempts from the previous session.

There were twice when time ran out while we were already at the exit. We couldn't get everyone to roll enough keys to leave the temple. Once we were so very close that we only had one player lacking keys. We had an agreement that once we reached the door, we would wait till everyone had enough keys before stepping through the exit together. After all, we would only win if everyone made it out. However this was not just a matter of team spirit. There was a practical purpose. Those who already had enough keys would still keep rolling their dice, hoping to get the yellow unlock icons. These could be used to help others in case their dice got locked. It was usually good to stick together.

There were twice we forgot to make use of one of the treasures - the one which let us remove a gem from the gem pool. Had we not forgotten, we might have won. Just one gem fewer could be a matter of life and death. Normally treasures were kept aside and used only when an opportune moment came. For this specific type, we should have remembered to apply the effect immediately and not set it aside.

In the previous session, I made fun of Xiao Zhu for dropping his dice. This time, karma struck. I got the don't-drop curse, and I lost not one, but two dice in that very game. I caused my team to fail because I had the don't-move curse too. By losing two dice, I no longer had enough dice to break the don't-move curse.

Space can be a problem when playing with five, since the game is real-time and everyone is moving pieces, drawing tiles and reaching across the table all at the same time. In one particular game, the map kept expanding in the direction furthest away from me, and I struggled to reach the room my pawn was in. I stood up abruptly, saying "I gotta go", and prepared to move and sit at the other end of the table so that I could continue to play. Ruby thought I meant I needed to go to the toilet smack in the middle of our game.

When we finally beat the game, it was very satisfying.


Story 3

In the next session, I added missions. Normally how this works is one of the six missions are shuffled into the tile stack, and you don't know which one it is until you draw it. When I taught the group to play, I taught the missions one by one, explaining specifically how one mission worked and then shuffling it into the deck. This way the group didn't have to remember all six missions.

The first mission I taught was the holy grail. Once you find the room with the grail, you need to bring the grail along with you all the way to the exit. As part of moving to another room, in addition to the two icons required, you also need to roll a fire icon to carry the grail with you to the next room. So you need at least three dice to be able to carry the grail.

The second mission I taught was the restless ghost. Once you find the coffin room, the ghost appears at the start tile. You need to go all the way back to find the ghost, then guide it to its coffin, before you can exit the temple. To persuade the ghost to move to an adjacent room, you need to be in the same room, and you need to roll two fire icons. You need not move together with it. The two fire icons "push" it to the next room.

In our game, when we found the coffin, it was four or five rooms away from the starting tile. We decided that two of us would go back to fetch the ghost, while the rest continued to explore the temple and place gems. However, without intentionally planning it, we formed a bucket brigade. We created a path with one person per room, all in an uninterrupted chain. Each of us rolled two fires, and we managed to transport the ghost very swiftly to its resting place. I must say that was quite cool and satisfying.

The ghost (old photo).

The third mission was the old tree. The game started with three additional gems. Once the room with the tree was discovered, we could move these additional gems to the room by discovering rooms on the other sides of the three walls of the tree room. In our game, the placement of the tree room was poor. In order to discover the other rooms surrounding it, we had to turn back and take a roundabout way. Whether we went left or right, it was going to be a longish path, which meant that if one direction turned out to be a dead end, it would take us much time to turn back and try the other direction. In hindsight, it might have been a good idea to split up so that we could explore both directions at the same time. We hadn't thought of that then. Thankfully, the exploration went well, and we found a nice path that wound around the tree room, allowing us to place all three of the extra gems.

The tree (old photo).

In one particular game, Ruby and Xiao Zhu almost started a fight. We were all in a room trying to roll fire icons to place gems. Xiao Zhu had rolled three, and his other two dice were locked. He couldn't do anything except wait for others to unlock his locked dice, or for the gems to be placed so that he could reroll his three dice showing fire. Ruby rolled the yellow unlock icon, and wanted to help Xiao Zhu unlock his dice. Xiao Zhu said no and asked her to unlock her own locked dice. Ruby insisted on helping him. They both tried to convince the other, to no avail. The clock was ticking and both failed to explain his / her rationale. Benz and I were alarmed and stepped in to break the fight. At the time we managed to get to 10 fire icons, which meant we could now place the gems, and all the dice showing fire could be rerolled. We asked both of them to stop debating and move on. Thankfully we won that game eventually. After the game we did come back to discuss what had happened. Actually they both had their points, just that when under immense time pressure, they couldn't get those points across clearly. The real-time nature of Escape can trigger all sorts of emotions.

In all three games with missions, we managed to complete the missions and exit the temple before the final countdown. This session Edwin didn't play because he had some work to wrap up. CK joined us since he had some spare time. CK had only played the basic game previously. It was his first time playing treasures, curses and missions. After winning all three games, we joked that it must be due to having CK join us that we were so successful. Or maybe it was due to having gotten rid of Edwin. I hope he didn't hear that! :-P

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