So today’s blog post isn’t exactly escape room themed. Wait, what?! A non escape room post on The Escape Roomer? Scandalous!
Unless of course you count the fact that many of the Taskmaster series have incredibly puzzle-y and escape room-like challenges in them? And that Alex Horne himself is an escape room enthusiast, which we found out when we interviewed him. Both things are how I’m going to justify writing this post. That and I don’t know an escape room enthusiast who isn’t also a fan of Taskmaster. When I posted about my party on Instagram, everyone who reached out asking how it went and tips for throwing their own party were puzzle people. It leads me to one conclusion: The Taskmaster fans and escape room enthusiasts Venn diagram is a circle.
To celebrate my twenty something-th birthday, I decided to throw a party. But not just any party, a Taskmaster themed party. I gathered all of my favourite people in one room, locked the doors (just kidding), and gave them a series of tasks to complete. Throughout the process I learned a thing or two about writing good challenges. As a game designer, writing Taskmaster challenges doesn’t usually come up in my day-to-day work, but there was a lot I learned from theories of player progression, gameplay beats, the archetypes of fun that went into planning and executing the gameplay. That’s a lot of words for: I tried really hard to make it fun, it paid off, and so I wanted to share some tips and tricks with you.
Design Your Own, or Buy the Game?
The first question you want to consider is probably whether to design your own challenges, or buy one of the many, many resources the Taskmaster team have available for sale. If you buy the board game or book, the host can also take part! But then you lose out on the fun of coming up with your own wacky and wonderful challenges yourself.
If you do wish to purchase a list of ‘challenges’, the Taskmaster store has many:
- Taskmaster Secret Series Game
- The Secret Series Game invites you and your family and friends to take part in your own series of Taskmaster games at home!
- Taskmaster Board Game
- Compete with your friends and family in a series of ludicrous tasks to be crowned Taskmaster Champion. Judge or be judged. It’s time to summon your inner Taskmaster.
- Taskmaster Card Game
- Featuring favourite tasks from the TV show, this travel-sized card game brings the essence of Taskmaster to your very own home. Judge and be judged. Your time starts now…
- Taskmaster Expansion Pack
- 40 all-new task cards to add to your Taskmaster Board Game
- Bring me the head of the Taskmaster book
- 101 next level tasks (and clues) that will lead one ordinary person to some extraordinary Taskmaster treasure…
Picking the Best Environment
The first consideration was: Where am I doing this party?
- If it’s sunny out and you have a local park, this is an ideal place to throw a Taskmaster party
- Pro: The large space makes for large-scale constructing and crafting challenges, as well as search-and-find challenges, pretty much anything involving water (and so on)
- Pro: It’s always fun to be out and about in the sunshine
- Con: Whatever materials you want your players to use, you’ll have to bring with you
- Con: Toilets! Gotta let your players take toilet breaks
- Do you have a garden? Well, best of both worlds!
- Pro: Same as above!
- Con: Way fewer con’s here, except to say – careful of making a mess! It’s your garden you’ll have to clean up.
- Hiring a space, such as a private function room.
- Pro: A dedicated space where all the tasks can take place
- Pro: Most places will cater / include drinks, and you might even have access to some impressive AV equipment
- Con: You’ll have to stay away from particularly messy tasks.
- Con: You’ll have to bring everything with you.
- Why not go all out and rent out an entire Taskmaster sized building!
- Pro (or Con): Your Taskmaster event no longer has to be one evening long, why not make it a whole weekend long?
- Your own apartment. This is what I did, and it worked for me!
- Pro: Your own space, to get as messy and loud as you like!
- Pro: Everything you need is already there at home
- Pro: You have your own AV
- Pro: If you have a garden, perfect.
As indicated, I did mine at home. Unfortunately I don’t have a garden but I did make good use of the surrounding neighbourhood area with one particular (not messy) outdoor task. But you’ll know what suits you best!
Coming Up With Tasks
You know your players better than anyone else – so as you’re reading this you might already have some ideas of what sort of questions to give them. Maybe you have a particularly athletic group of people and can challenge them to do sporting activities, or maybe you’ve got a group of puzzle people and want to try your hand at one of those “escape the caravan” tasks from the TV show. It’s your party, so it’s your rules!
The ones I came up with are very specific to my players – a mix of people, some puzzley, some less so. I’ll write the tasks I came up with at the bottom, but in general, here are some fun tips to coming up with tasks:
When coming up with team or pair tasks, split up couples and put people with surprising parters.
If nothing else, it’s an excellent way to break the ice! In any case, couples (generally) work far too well together and you don’t want to give anyone an unfair advantage.
Come up with tasks that make people laugh.
Think ‘silly’, and think ‘party’. Taskmaster isn’t about being the best (well, maybe), it’s about doing things you’ve never done before that you might look incredibly goofy doing. I loved leaning into that.
Come up with tasks that take a range of time and mix them up satisfyingly.
I made an error with one of my tasks being too long, and put it too late into the game. Don’t be like me, break them up and mix them up with long-short-long-short. If you’re also serving drinks, the drunker players get the less patience they’ll have (but the goofier they’ll get!). Use this to your advantage.
Surprise players with a “Part A” and a “Part B”
A Part A might feel innocuously simple, coaxing the player to pick or do something in a certain way that is suddenly turned on it’s head in Part B.
Give tasks that make for great photographs!
After all, you want some fun memories to remember the day by, right?
The best ways to come up with tasks are to re-watch old series for inspiration, or just look at a fun round-up article like this one. There’s also a handy website here which is a super invaluable source for playing Taskmaster at home.
So, what were my tasks? They were:
- In your teams, you have 30 minutes to find something that fits each of the following categories. You can take a photograph, or bring the physical item back. It’s up to you. 1 point for each ‘best item’.
- Pareidolia (Something that looks like a face, but isn’t)
- Something that reminds you of [host]
- The quirkiest street art
- An optical illusion
- The incorrect time
- Something pink and fuzzy
- The smallest object
- 100 years old (exactly)
- Is it cake?! (something doesn’t look edible but is)
- Greg. Someone called Greg.
- A menu with an item costing exactly £6.50 on it
- Most unusual food fusion (e.g. pizza ice cream)
- The meaning of life
- The most Scottish thing
- Happiest looking dog
- Something that will offend [person in the team] the most
- A famous person’s doppelganger
- The most unlikely thing in your team’s colour
- The cheapest thing that isn’t free
- Design a new board game that does the exact opposite of another board game. For example: Peacehammer instead of Warhammer, or Reverse Snap where you have to ‘SNAP’ on any non-matching group of cards. We will play both games and decide collectively which team wins.
- Decorate the best cupcake. Your cupcake must be edible. Best cupcake wins.
(the best part is – you’re left with a bunch of delicious cupcakes at the end!)
- Stack the tallest book tower in 5 minutes. However you may only touch books whose authors have the same first letter name or surname as you.
- Send one of the following questions via Text or Whatsapp to someone who will definitely reply. Fastest reply gets the most points. Slowest reply gets 0.
- If a tree falls in the desert and no one is around to hear it, does it still make a sound?
- What if our dreams are actually glimpses into alternate realities?
- If humans had the ability to fly, would we still have developed advanced transportation systems?
- What if gravity stopped working for a day—how would it impact you?
- PART A: Using the periodic table (and not the internet), construct your favourite word using chemical element abbreviations. For example:Fl O W Er
(Flerovium, Oxygen, Tungsten, Erbium)
- PART B: Write a haiku (5-7-5 syllable) poem for each of those chemical elements. Make sure your haiku is factual and informative about the properties of that element.
- Put on a blindfold and follow your partner’s instructions to ‘draw’ something. Guess what they are asking you to draw. Correct guesses win points.
We started with the outdoor “find all the things” task, and I used this as an opportunity to split the whole party into groups of people who didn’t know each other. I also made sure to have a Taskmaster superfan and extra competitive person on each team. This gave me extra time to set up the next task, and people loved running around whilst it was still bright and sunny outside.
Next, we did the remaining challenges randomly. Some particular favourites were the texting challenge (one replied immediately and others still haven’t replied even now!), the book challenge was also a lot of fun – but then again, I’m a serial book collector and there were plenty of books hidden around the house people could use.
The one challenge which probably didn’t work as well was the game design challenge. Again, as a game designer I was excited for this one – but it was the very last challenge and whilst I’d hoped it’d be a fun note to end on, it was after midnight by then and I think everyone was simply quite tired! The other challenge which I needed to amend on the fly was the drawing one – I originally wanted everyone to draw twice and instruct twice, but it would have taken far too long, so we ended it after just one round.
This is all learning for next time – and hopefully learning you can apply if you’re planning your own party!
Creating the Envelopes
To create the envelopes, this was super, super simple. From watching the TV show, I noticed they’re not actually “envelopes” but sheets of card that have been tri-folded and sealed shut with a wax seal. Now, finding a wax seal is the gold standard. Taskmaster sell their own official envelope with a seal here. Or, you can get these custom made like these ones on Etsy, or get your own personalised seal and buy the wax separately like this product here.
If you leave it fairly last minute to get something custom made like I did, you could also make your own. I went super simple: I drew out some simple wax seal outlines, shaded them in red, and them wrote TM on top. Which of course stands for TaskMAIRI, right? *cough*
To create the contents of the envelopes themselves: I opened up a Google Doc and selected the “Special Elite” font. This isn’t the official font or anything, but it was the closest I could find. Then, in print-layout I made sure each task was on a separate page at an appropriate size, and then printed the whole thing out on card.
The whole thing took less than a few minutes, and whilst having real wax seals would have been very cool – I was happy with the outcome!
Hosting the Games
The next thing a good Taskmaster party needs is a good Taskmaster! Am I a good Taskmaster? Pfft, probably not (I’m far too kind with giving points). But it’s all about the confidence and a fancy chair to sit in, am I right?
Unless you’re playing a pre-purchased Taskmaster game, your last big challenge is probably going to be deciding who and how to ‘host’ the game. This should ideally be the person who came up with the challenges. So if that’s you, then that’s great! But if you want to offload the hosting onto a particularly charismatic friend, by all means.
My two top tips here is firstly to do like the TV show and make sure that everyone gets a chance at reading out a challenge, so that the host’s role is purely judging. And, on the topic of judging, try to make sure the tasks aren’t too ambiguous in terms of “who won”. It’s super fun to judge, but “best thing” is so much harder to judge than “fastest to complete”, and nobody will argue. Unless of course you want arguments then… “Best thing” away!
But, at the end of the day, hosting a Taskmaster themed party is all about fun and your goal as hoster of the Taskmaster party is to make sure everyone has fun and feels happy… And doesn’t go home feeling like this:
My heart breaks, honestly.
In my party there were seven participants. This meant that each round there were 7 points up for grabs. 7 to the winner, 6 to the second place, and so on. In some rounds *cough cough* the outdoor ones, I awarded points for every item ticked off on the list. This meant that the winner walked away with a massive 60 something points, but everyone was at least over 40 by the end. Again, not exactly true to the original inspirational show, but if I’m the Taskmaster, I’m going to award whatever points I want to whatever task I want to – and you should too! It’s your party!
Last but not least, the prize!
What are you waiting for, grab the papier mache! It’s time to make a lifesize version of your own head.
I’m joking… Unless?
For my Taskmaster event, I gave the prize of a pineapple. It was the most head-like item I could find in the supermarket the afternoon before the party. I might have gone for a cantaloupe melon and stuck some googley eyes on. But at least this way your winner has something useful and delicious to take home.
With that, I think all that’s left for me to say is go out there and host an awesome Taskmaster themed party!
If you do – please do let us know how it goes!