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Publisher: dv GIOCHI

Recommended ages: 12+
Time: 30 - 90 minutes
Reset: Yes, reasonably quickly
Players:  1 - 6
Recommended Players: 3 - 4
App Required: No

Another in our series of tabletop escape room game reviews, and this time we are talking about the Deckscape series. The two sets we’ve played are Deckscape: Test Time and Deckscape: The Fate of London, and this review reflects experiences with those two titles.

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There are several elements making Deckscape appealing additions to both school and library collections, the most important of which is that there is no reason any of the components, all of which are cards, need be destroyed while playing the game.  With an incredibly reasonable price, the included cards are of good size and good quality and all the needed information is clearly visible. With care these boxes should see dozens if not hundreds of plays.

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One great thing about about Deckscape series is the good density of puzzles in such a teeny box and price point. To get so many in the box there seem to be a bunch of easy puzzles which help build momentum, right up until players hit a wall and can’t progress at all. Which leads us to the most egregious issue; most, if not all, of the Deckscape puzzles have binary fail states. There is no “oh, we were wrong, so let’s go back and try again”.

Unlike most other escape experiences, if you get an answer wrong in DeckScape then that puzzle is failed; players then take the penalty, and move on. In other words, players don’t have the satisfaction of working through a puzzle if they get it wrong on their first answer. Unfortunately some of the puzzles seem to be designed to make players fail, the game could have used a bit more testing.

At some point in the game Deckscape has players break the deck up into parts as you go through the adventure. These parts are different puzzle chains that intersect with each other, keeping the experience from being narrow and linear by having players work on entirely different puzzles simultaneously. Splitting the puzzle chains also keeps players engaged and interacting with each other as they each have a unique perspective on the tableau of puzzles before them.

As you can see Deckscape, as a series, is not without some problems. The order of the cards in the box really matters, because both sides of the cards are needed, and it is essential that they are revealed in a certain order. This differs from the Unlock series where, because of the way cards are revealed during play, most of them don’t need to be in order. Unfortunately having any of the Deckscape cards out of order has a good chance of actually breaking the game flow. Fortunately, the numbers indicating card order are clear and easy to see so it is theoretically possible to sort most of the deck without ruining any major surprises.

Hint System

I've been out of school for more than a decade, and still my blood pressure shoots up when someone says "there will be a test".  -DD

I've been out of school for more than a decade, and still my blood pressure shoots up when someone says "there will be a test".  -DD

As with most puzzle games, there are always a couple puzzles that seem designed to force all but the most non-linear thinkers to use hints.The Deckscape hint system is two cards with a list of card numbers and a hint written backwards next to them. Unless players are careful it’s pretty easy to accidentally discover a hint.  While it’s great to have the ability to play without an app, it would be excellent to have a mobile app allowing players to access clues without the chance of seeing clues they aren’t looking for.

Suggestions for Circulation

Include copies of the score sheet (card 6 in London, 7 in Test Time), or make one that multiple patrons can use in sequence to replace the existing one. Another possibility would be to put that card in a card sleeve/ziploc bag, or laminate it; either way include a dry erase pen.  It’s also a great idea to include additional card sleeves for cards that include puzzles more easily solved by writing on the card.

Even though the Deckscape games don’t get our highest marks for puzzles or hint systems when compared with some of the other boxed rooms these quick and affordable escape experiences are great candidates for inclusion in a school or library, if you have have someone to sort them every time they are played.

Join us in the Library Escape Room Enthusiasts group to discuss this review or join in other conversations about using escape rooms in libraries.  

Article by Donald Dennis & Stephanie Frey
Stephanie Frey can be found roaming Twitter. She can also be found selling goodies on Society6
Games in Schools and Libraries is produced in association with Inverse Genius and the Georgetown County Library System.
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Posted on March 7, 2018 and filed under Escape Rooms.