Escape room games have been growing in popularity, and it’s been exciting to see the progression from online Flash games to real-world constructed games to tabletop versions. If you ever have the opportunity to do a real-world escape room, I highly recommend it, but the tabletop versions are a a fun experience somewhere between the digital-only games and actually being in a built environment.
One of the newest is the Deckscape series, from dV Giochi (perhaps best known for Bang!, the Western shoot-’em-up card game). I visited the dV Giochi booth at Gen Con this year to find out more about Deckscape, and was provided with the two decks to try out.
What Is Deckscape?
Deckscape is an escape room card game for 1 to 6 players ages 12 and up, and takes about an hour to play. Each deck retails for just under $15, and it should be hitting game stores this month. I’ve played with both adults and with my family (including my 10-year-old daughter) and it was fun both instances. There are currently two decks: Test Time and The Fate of London.
Each Deckscape game consists of exactly 60 cards, which are larger than standard but wider than tarot cards. There actually isn’t a rulebook—everything you need to know to play the game will be spelled out on the cards. You will however, need to provide paper, pencil, and a clock to check the time.
Now, because the game consists of puzzles and answers, I really can’t show you too much more of the cards beyond that, for fear of spoilers. What I can tell you is that the illustrations used on the cards are nicely done—the objects are mostly done in a realistic illustration style (though not photorealistic), and the people are a bit cartoony, as you can see above.
The other thing is that throughout the games there are puzzles on some of the cards, and other cards may serve as items or clues that you can keep and refer to. The important thing is that the cards will tell you how to proceed, so you need to pay attention and read them carefully, but it’s also fairly easy to follow along.
How to Play Deckscape
To play the game, you just open up the box, make sure that the cards are in order (get somebody who’s not playing the game to help if they’ve been mixed up somehow) and then start reading the cards. The first few cards will explain what you need to get started, and then sets up the story. In Test Time, you’re visiting Doc Thyme, who has set up a “special test” for his most brilliant students: you! In Fate of London, you’re Scotland Yard agents sent on a secret mission to save London, finding and defusing some bombs.
Each of the game has a couple of clue cards—these have a series of hints, each numbered and color-coded to correspond to a particular card. The hints are printed in mirrored text, and the numbers are mixed up so that you’re less likely to see a nearby card hint accidentally. You’re allowed to use any number of hints that you want if you get stuck—it won’t count against you, but you’ll know you had some help.
There’s also a card that serves as a score sheet: you’ll use it to write down your starting time and ending time, along with the number of errors you make. The faster you finish the game, the better your score—but each error you get adds time to the clock!
Unlike real escape room games or, for instance, the Escape the Room series from Thinkfun, you won’t get stuck in Deckscape on a particular puzzle. In most games, if you can’t find the solution, you’re just stuck until you solve it, and you can’t proceed. Most escape rooms have a countdown timer, and you must find your way through before time runs out, or you just lose.
Deckscape uses a different system. Each puzzle has its solution on the back. You and your team work together to come up with your solution to the puzzle. When you’ve agreed, you flip the card over and see if you were right. If you were, you get to proceed. If not, you mark an error on the score sheet, which will count against you, but you still get to proceed. In some instances, you’ll need a particular item or clue in order to proceed, and if you don’t have it, you get an extra error and must look for that item before you can proceed past the puzzle.
Both of the Deckscape games I played had sections where you split the deck up into multiple piles (sorted by color), so that there were then multiple puzzles that could be solved in tandem. You have to decide in what order you want to approach them, or players can split up and work on things separately as well.
Why You Should Play Deckscape
I tried both of the Deckscape games. I played Test Time at Gen Con with a few of the other GeekDads, and Fate of London with my wife and two older daughters. We did fairly well on both of them, but didn’t manage to get the highest possible score on the London game because we took a little too long. I do like the mix of puzzles, which include logic puzzles, observation, codes, and riddles. Sometimes it’s a matter of finding the right item; other times it’s figuring out how to use the items you’ve found.
The storylines were kind of fun, too. Again, I don’t want to spoil it, but the games have multiple acts, so you feel like the story progresses as you work your way through the puzzles, and there are multiple potential endings, as well.
Because of the nature of escape room games, you can only play each of these once—after that, you’ll know the answers and it won’t be a challenge. It may seem odd to have a one-time-use game, but compared to the price of going to a real-world escape room, $15 for the entire party for an hour’s worth of entertainment is not bad at all. The nice thing about Deckscape games is that, once you’re done, you can put all the cards back in order and give it to somebody else to try. The only thing that isn’t reusable is the score sheet card, but if you track your time and errors on a sheet of paper, even that isn’t a big deal.
If you like escape room games and you’re looking for a few more, look for Deckscape at your local game store! They’re a little more challenging than Thinkfun’s Mystery at the Stargazer’s Manor, but with the clue cards and the way that the game works, I think you could play with your kids and still have a fun time. Since I’ve already played the two decks that are available, I’m eager for dV Giochi to make a few more to try!
Disclosure: GeekDad received a copy of this game for review purposes.