Moments before Guy Fawkes lit his fuse an anonymous letter tipped off the authorities and foiled his dastardly plot… Who wrote the letter? Nobody knows, but a dusty diary found beneath the floorboards of an old York pub could finally expose him, and this is where you come in…
Date Played: August 2023
Time Taken: 3 Hours
Number of Players: 3
The Guy Fawkes Inn in York is famous for a couple of things. Firstly, the pies. Steak and ale with a beautiful pastry. Very tasty indeed. The other thing (arguably the main thing) is being the birthplace of Guy Fawkes – hence the name…
Yup, Fawkes is kind of a big deal around these parts. Him, Dick Turpin and Vikings. If you’re looking for a theme, then one of those three will probably do the job, and in The Gunpowder Snitch the notorious plotter’s deeds take centre stage.
Presented in a colourful, well-put-together booklet, The Gunpowder Snitch has you eliminating suspects, colours, seasons, and several other things Cluedo style until you are left with the pieces required complete the final puzzle. These allow you to discover exactly who was responsible for the writing of secret letters that, ultimately, foiled the plan. You do this by following a route, finding the relevant landmark, and then using it to somehow decipher a coded message before moving onto the next. Between the puzzles are background details, diary entries and antiquitorial titbits to help fill out the story.
Location, Location, Location
York is the perfect city for such an activity. It’s dripping in history – both horrible and otherwise – and you can’t kick a bush without several ‘most haunted’ pubs scurrying out. There are so many interesting nuggets lurking around, that this mystery barely covers a quarter of the famously condensed city, however that’s not to say there’s a lack of content. The distance travelled was just over three kilometres, took roughly three hours, and included many points of interest that could be missed easily as a tourist. In fact, even having lived there for over a decade, some of the plaques and shields that were required for the puzzles had somehow managed to evade us until this book pointed them out.
The Hunt for the Snitch
Following the clear directions on the pages will see you traverse a section of the famous walls, duck through a snickelway*, and witness plenty of other quirks. Though, if you wanted, you could easily stretch the experience out to a full day by exploring on your own between clues.
Usefully, when the planned routes presented potential hurdles (no dogs allowed or the steepest, narrowest stairs ever created) an alternative was always provided. Though, York can get extremely busy at weekends and some of the areas you need to pass through are obstacle enough in themselves. Especially if you’re looking to stop, stare and ponder instead of being pushed along with the crowd. One puzzle required us to locate and read something that was literally being smothered by a street performer and the huge crowd that had gathered to watch. Another was in one of York’s smallest and busiest streets where every molecule of space was filled with people queuing to secure themselves a small pottery ghost**. Thankfully this has been thought of and, as well as further hints on the back of the book, the clues are available via QR code should you simply be unable to reach your desired destination.
York-based Family Fun
The challenges themselves shouldn’t tax seasoned puzzlers. Most of the tasks are simply a case of finding a particular object and substituting letters for symbols in one form or another. It’s fairly basic, but that’s by design. The bright colours and cartoony Horrible Histories feel telegraphs the experience as one for the family and kids will love searching for clues and helping with some of the easier decoding. There’s certainly a little something for the adults too, though… As well as starting and ending in two of York’s oldest pubs, there are another two visited along the way, offering suitable points to sit, grab a drink and – in our case – argue about what Minerva was the goddess of*** without succumbing to Google. Fun times.
The Verdict: The Mystery of the Gunpowder Snitch
This isn’t a breakneck, high-octane race around York full of fiendish puzzles. It’s a great family day out. It’s also an excellent way to see some of the sites if you’re visiting for the day and partial to the odd anagram. If that’s what you’re after, then you’re sure to have a great time.
* Essentially a narrow street. A portmanteau of snicket, ginnel and alleyway. Legend has it that the Barghest roams them waiting to prey on lone travellers, so maybe bring a friend.
** The York Ghost Merchants on the Shambles benefitted from their model ghosts going viral on TikTok. They are VERY popular.
*** Loads of oddly unrelated stuff, apparently. Including justice, weaving, wisdom, medicine, trade and strategy. It’s no wonder we couldn’t pin it down.
The Mystery of the Gunpowder Snitch can be purchased from Mystery Guides website here.
Note: We were not charged for our experience but this does not affect our review.