Escape Tales: The Awakening

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Escape Tales: The Awakening Review | Players take on the role of Sam, whose daughter has been in a coma for a couple of months and whose doctors still cannot explain how or what caused it. According to them, everything is fine with the girl; she’s healthy and shouldn’t be in this condition. Sam is desperate and looks for answers everywhere he can.

Enter Mark, a man whose son was once in a similar condition. Mark is quiet on the details, handing Sam a scary-looking book containing a ritual called “The Awakening”. Mark promises that the book contains the answer, but Sam will need to prepare himself mentally for the journey ahead. Sam must transverse a whole different reality! Through determination, and a bit of luck, he will be able to find his daughter, understand the cause of her condition, and wake her up.

Completion Time: 3-4 hours
Date Played: Summer 2020
Party Size: 2
Difficulty: Medium

A sinister, story-driven game

The Awakening is a spell-binding, mysterious experience, merging board game and escape room, all pulled together by an emotionally charged, superb story. We played this during Lockdown 1.0 in Summer 2020, and absolutely loved it! We had added it to our wish list for a while before purchasing, and we are soo glad we did (and have since gone on to buy the other two games released by Escape Tales because it was so great and we wanted more!) because this game is a worthwhile investment!

The Escape Tales games’ format is an escape room style card game. But where, in an escape room you are challenged to complete the game within an hour, there are no time limitations in the Awakening, and encourages players to fully explore the story world they find themselves in, getting an amazing 3-6 hours of game play out of this story!

Logistically, this means that the game works as a choice based narrative, combining the use of a puzzle book with various cards, and an online app to input your answers and access clues. Players are required to solve puzzles to access objects or snippets of information. You are then required to make a series of (sometimes morally ambiguous!) choices, in order to progress through the game, moving you through various locations. You only have a limited number of moves in each location, so you need to think carefully about whether you *really* need to look at the teddy bear…

We found because of the decision making aspects of this game, that it worked well to play as a pair, as we could discuss our options and come to an agreement over what to do next. While the game is marketed for 1-4 players, we feel that 2 is the sweet spot for not having too many opinions on what to do next, while being able to talk each other into good decisions and out of bad decisions!

Image (c) Tabletop Board Games

You have chosen wisely

There is a good level of re-playablilty of The Awakening, as there are multiple different endings that players can end up with, depending on your choices throughout the game. This is great, as investing in a boxed game, it’s nice to know that you can play it again and get a different outcome! Lots of play at home games are designed to be played once, so it’s good to know that we can pass this on to someone else to enjoy without having the fear of ‘destroying’ anything that would affect future players’ game play!

By a very happy accident, we ended up with the most successful outcome (in the circumstances…), so we were pleased (read: extremely relieved!) about this. We did have a peek at the alternative endings and have to say, if you do choose less wisely, things certainly don’t go so well…

We got so engrossed in the story that we played the game in one hefty sitting (probably about 3-4 hours) ⏰ Considering that this is a play at home game, it is extremely immersive- we felt transported into a sinister ‘in-between’ land of those who have passed, or nearly passed!

The puzzles were challenging and logical, and managed to be varied despite the card based nature of the game. We got stuck in a few places, and definitely made some questionable decisions looking back 😦

The Beautiful Game

No, no, not football! We’re still talking about The Awakening and how beautiful this game’s aesthetic is! The artwork in the game was brilliant. We loved the style of the drawing, the theming and the colours used to create the perfect atmosphere for the story. The room cards are so vibrant, and each room you explore is so different.

In our first play through, there were some rooms we didn’t even mange to reach due to the choices we made, so when we glimpsed 👀 these when packing away the game we were definitely inspired to replay- we want to go to the bathroom next time!

Content warning

We would 100% recommend The Awakening games, but would add a provision that the story can get quite dark in places, with a content warning for themes of suicide, so tread cautiously if this concerns you. Perhaps give Children of Wyrmwoods a go, which doesn’t have a content warning, we’d definitely recommend giving Escape Tales a go!

You can purchase Escape Tales: The Awakening, as well as their other games: Low Memory (also great) and Children of Wyrmwoods (we have this on our games shelf ready to play 😃) from Board & Dice for €17,50.

Ratings

Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective: The Thames Murders

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Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective casts you and your friends as the investigators working to solve 10 cases in Victorian London. Pore over a map of the city, consult Watson’s journals and the day’s newspaper for clues, and rush around London to investigate key locations and interview persons of interest. Follow your leads and put together the truth – only you can collect the proof needed to stop whomever is manoeuvring in the darkness.

Rating: Fiendish!
Completion Time: 2 hours +
Date Played: 30th August 2020
Party Size: 2
Recommended For: Murder Mystery Fans, Board Game Fans

Wait what? What is this? It’s a NEW CATEGORY on my website for Board Games? Yep! As you can see, I’ve played Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective back in August and I’ve been holding off writing about it. “It’s not an escape room” I hear you say? No, but it’s very, very close. You’ll have to utilise the same logic and puzzle solving skills in order to crack the case.

Please Note: This game has 10 cases to solve, each taking at least 1 – 2 hours. I have decided to write this review based on the first case only (The Munitions Magnate). Whilst the experience of playing differs from case to case, I feel that this ‘introductory’ case is representative of the experience of playing the game as a whole. If there’s any sort of demand I’m happy to write separate reviews for each case.

So to begin this review, there are a few things to know about Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective:

  • The game is completely narrative based. If you don’t like reading a lot of text, this isn’t for you.
  • I’m calling it a “board game” but there actually isn’t a board.
  • It’s really, really difficult. It took me 3 or 4 cases before I realised it was possible to actually solve a case 😉
  • You can’t beat Sherlock Holmes’ score, don’t even try.

With that out of the way, I’ll explain the game!

This game is best played co-operatively in a team of 2 – 6 players. You could definitely play solo if you like, but any more than 6 players and I reckon it might get out of hand. Actually a few weeks after we played the first case, we had a couple of friends round for wine and board games (within our strict social bubble, I’ll add). 3 bottles in and someone suggests we give it a go. It did not end well. So my second piece of advice would be to be on your absolute a-game when you give this one a go.

You start with a map of London, a case book, the day’s newspaper and a London directory. That’s right! No board, no dice, no meeples. Your case book is the game, it’s in here that the scene is set and the clues are to be found.

Once you’ve heard the case and Watson’s advice, you may quite literally move anywhere on the map in any order! Points are given based on the ‘fewest moves’. When I played with Player 2 I think we were up to 30 locations before we tried to give our verdict of the case. A lot of points = A low score.

In terms of those points, technically you’re up against Sherlock Holmes himself. Beat his score and you ‘win’. But I wouldn’t take this too seriously. He’s super-human and frankly impossible to beat. Fight me if you disagree, haha.

*shakes fist at Baker Street*

I mentioned at the start that this is a review for Case 1: The Munitions Magnate, so a few notes on this. The case is quite simple – it’s a murder. The head of a munitions company is shot and robbed. You interview a connection to the victim and then, the game is afoot.

Plenty of place names and people are mentioned in this introduction, so it’s up to you to choose wisely and follow up the relevant leads.

How did we do? TERRIBLY. We followed false leads, asked for help from irrelevant people, never investigated 2 key places, and eventually condemned the wrong person to prison. Then of course, when Sherlock Holmes explains the true solution it all makes sense. I was reminded of this meme:

But was the game fun? Oh ABSOLUTELY! It’s like nothing else I’ve ever played and is such a refreshing experience. If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like being a detective (or Sherlock Holmes himself!) give this a go. It’s completely cerebral, you’ll have to quite literally solve the case and absolutely nothing is going to be handed to you easily.

Even though you may get a lot wrong and wander down the wrong alleys, it is possible to solve a case. And those you don’t solve, you learn a lot from.

Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective: The Thames Murders can be purchased for between £30 – £50 from any good board game shop, like this one.