Escape Plan Battle for Britain Review | The day is 18th August 1940 and the Luftwaffe have launched a resurgent attack on Britain, where your air base has been hit by the first wave of heavy bombing. As the only survivors, you must access the strategic ops room and mobilise the full force of the RAF to save Britain. But with a second attack imminent, can you also save yourselves?
Date Played: April 2022
Time Taken: 34 mins 55 secs
Planes shot down: 70 out of 71
Number of Players: 5
Whenever that age-old question “What’s the best escape room in London” comes up in ER enthusiast forums, there are a few company names you can guarantee will feature in the answers. Escape Plan is one of them. Currently housed in the Rich Mix arts complex in Shoreditch, Escape Plan have been on the London scene since at least 2015. And their reputation as one of the best in London is well deserved based on their consistent theming, the attention to detail and the sheer number of puzzles their rooms contained. You can tell from the moment you enter their basement space that people at Escape Plan love what they do.
I’d played both of Escape Plans other games, The Adventure Begins and Roll Out the Barrel (which has been hanging onto my top game spot for a while now) previously so it was with a lot of excited anticipation that I arrived with my team of fellow ER nerds to take on Battle for Britain. Only recently reopened in Shoreditch, the game is already the rave of the ER scene, with glowing reviews and promises of an extraordinary and nail-biting finale. So with expectation piled up on top of my anticipation could it possibly live up to the hype?
Top Secret Mission Briefing
All of Escape Plan’s games are set during or shortly after World War II and the narrative for Battle for Britain takes place on one very specific date, 18th August 1940. The Battle of Britain has been raging for a month and on this date, known as ‘the Hardest Day’, the German Luftwaffe made an all out effort to completely destroy Britain’s Fighter Command. With that historic backdrop, the game makes you members of the RAF and the only survivors of a bombing raid on your airbase. Under continuing enemy fire your first task is to gain access to the strategic ops room. Once inside you must then take control of the full force of all available RAF squadrons and push the German planes back out of British airspace. Your final aim is not to escape, but to shoot down as many aircraft as you can before your time runs out. It is this last angle that makes Battle for Britain stand out as different to most trad ERs. You are told from the very start that your goal is not to escape from the room in under 60 mins but to bring down as many of the German planes as possible. The maximum it is possible to shoot down is 71 – the real number of German losses inflicted on that day in August 1940.
“Never was so much owed by so many to so few”
The game is effectively in two parts, although they aren’t equal in complexity or time needed. The first part is closer in style to a ‘normal’ ER in that involves solving several puzzles that will allow you to open the door to the strategic ops room. Escape Plan love a good meaty, physical prop repurposed into a puzzle and this room has you tackling challenges involving bikes, barrels and road signs. Logic, spatial awareness and code breaking all come into play in this room and every puzzle is substantial and satisfying.
So far so linear. But once you’re in the Ops room the game becomes much less of a straight line from one puzzle to the next and it’s very easy to split up and figure out several puzzles at the same time. As in Escape Plan’s other games, the physical puzzles are a real joy. The set design and build are probably the best in London (IMHO) with the clear love for both puzzles and crafting evident in the high quality, hand built nature of the props. Why buy in an everyday padlock when you can build your own miniature puzzle boxes? And as with the first room, there are lots of period props and objects that have been converted into puzzles, some of which are beautifully novel and unlike anything I’ve seen in other ERs.
The puzzles aren’t just beautiful, they are myriad. There is a lot to do in this second room, with each individual puzzle helping you towards the meta puzzle that is the game’s climax. This is both a blessing and a curse. The sheer number of puzzles means that even a big team can split up and work on separate elements, feeding their results back into the bigger picture of the final puzzle. But it does also mean that you can feel like you’ve only played a fraction of the room. My team of 5 ER regulars and enthusiasts all left saying that we felt we’d only seen a small proportion of the puzzles. What we had solved was very satisfying but we felt we’d missed out on quite a lot. That, however, is the fault of our decision to put five puzzle-addict, ER geeks in the same room at the same time, not a fault of the game itself.
Once the individual puzzles are solved, you are ready to complete the final challenge. I won’t give away details as part of the joy of the game is the discovery of how the climax happens. But it is a nail-biting, nerve-jingling conclusion to the game that will make even the most cynical player feel patriotic and proud to have served in RAF colours. It is inevitable that whoever plays, there will be cheering.
While Roll Out the Barrel still remains my favourite of their games, Battle for Britain is another string in Escape Plan’s ‘one of the best ERs in London’ bow. It has all the same loving attention to detail, hand crafted props and vast range of puzzle styles and challenges that have made their other games so popular. The slight twist on a traditional ER structure makes for an interesting change to the norm, while there’s also enough satisfying individual puzzles to keep even the most experienced of players entertained. To make the most of the room, I’d advise any ER enthusiasts to play with a max of 2-3 people so you get to see and play as many of the puzzles as possible, while for less experienced players, around 4-6 would make it easier to get everything done. And as a final piece of advice from a team that managed to shoot down 70 of the 71 planes – double check your workings before committing to the final challenge or that last Luftwaffe bomber might just escape to raid another day.
Battle for Britain can be booked by heading to Escape Plan’s website here.