New Game Weekend: Escape…From The Temple Curse

escape As I’ve previosuly written, I grew up on Indiana Jones and the cliffhanger world adventurer genre in re-runs of old movie serials. Games like Fortune and Glory are loads of fun in taking on the guise of a rustic hero globetrotting to exotic locales in search of treasure and reknown while dodging enemies looking for to dastardly foil your mission. A few weeks ago at Metropolitan Wargamers I had a chance to run through a few games of another adventurer game, Escape…From The Temple Curse from Germany’s Queen Games. Released in 2012 after a successful Kickstarter campaign, Escape is a fast-paced game in which you and your fellow player-adventurers race through a temple collecting treasures and escaping before the temple collapses.

escapecontentsEscape begins with each player placing their adventurer on the starting temple tile. Simultaneously, players begin furiously rolling five dice apiece. Rolling a green adventurer allows a move while a blue key or red torch reveals a new room, opens a treasure or allows for a gem to be picked up. A black mask “curses” a die which is set aside and cannot be used in a subsequent roll. Once a gold mask is rolled, up to two cursed black mask dice can be put back into play. Players may share dice results if they occupy the same chamber, adding a collaborative element to the game. Quick-paced decisions need to be made constantly as players need to stay close enough together to help each other but also spread out to cover enough ground to gather gems to unlock the exit to the temple.

Unlike most games I play over many hours, Escape plays out in no more than 10 minutes of real time. The game uses an actual recorded soundtrack which builds in intensity over the course of the game until a warning sounds and the temple crashes to ruins. Not only does the soundtrack serve as a game timer, but it also adds a real cinematic aspect to the game. It’s as if you’re playing through an old Saturday matinee movie serial.

Playing the game is crazy, even more so as the number of players increases. From the moment the soundtrack begins, people are rolling dice, shouting to each other, mapping new routes, running into roadblocks, collecting gemstones, falling victim to a curse or finding a treasure. Two expansions make offer additional temple tiles as well as curse and treasure markers. Curses might make a player lose a die if it rolls off  the table or force them to not speak. Treasures do such things as reveal magic doors between chambers or transport you magically to another part of the temple.

The game plays so fast that any decent gaming session allows for multiple games to be played with increasing difficulty by adding in more of the expansion elements. In the few games I played with the maximum of five players at Metropolitan Wargamers, we successfully escaped the temple at around the 8-to-9-minute mark each time. Although our bunch at the club was compromised of experienced gamers in our 20s-40s, Escape is simple enough in its rules that families would find the game to be a kick. Regardless of the make up of the players, Escape…From The Temple Curse is loads of fun for anyone looking to live out their cinematic adventure fantasies in a manic and fun-filled tabletop game.

Favorite Kickstarters of the Month (August 2013)

These days it seems like a month doesn’t go by that some Kickstarter horror story makes the rounds. Projects vanish, people lose money to scams or entrepreneurs running Kickstarters go belly-up with their success. This past week, the owner of a successfully-Kickstarted game called Corporate America wrote about his experience. The piece gives a solid, balanced look at the real economics behind running a Kickstarter game campaign. It’s a good read and worth bearing in mind while taking a look through the game campaigns I’ll be watching this month.

duelA Duel Betwixt Us: This two-player card game pits two 19th-century gentleman in a game of manly combat. By using their workers, each player is able to mine for ingots used to create weaponry and armor for combat. Once ready, a player selects a duel and then brings their arms, armor and stack of dirty tricks to the fight. The very Victorian artwork reveals a hilarious game of codpieces, drunken miners, oddball weaponry and double-crossing at every turn in the quest of woman’s favor.

incursionIncursion: Released by Grindhouse Games in 2009, Incursion is yet another take on an alternative post-WWII world where Nazis and Allied forces persist in protracted combat as a Doomsday Device threatens world destruction for all. This sci-fi-fuelled game is full of fantastic weapons, evil scientists, daring heroes plus zombie Nazis and combat gorillas. This second edition and expansion of the game adds all sorts of plastic miniatures to the game, new missions and rules for three players.

freedomFreedom – The Underground Railroad: I grew up in Western New York, a hotbed of the Abolitionist movement and gateway to Canada for escaping slaves. Academy Games is adding the story of the Underground Railroad to their Birth of America Series of games that has already covered the American War of Independence and the War of 1812. There’s a lot of real history packed into this intense strategy game as players take on the role of allied abolitionists alluding slave trackers while escorting escaped slaves north to Canada along eight routes. Historical events and people shape the game along the way, making this game a really fascinating vehicle for retelling the story of the Underground Railroad.

TemplarTemplar – The Secret Treasures: I’m a fan of a number of the Eurogames produced by Queen Games, and Templar looks to be another fun hit. The game plays on two boards, a “harbor board” of warehouses and the other a detailed floorplan “abbey board.” Moving between the boards, players seek to find and hide treasure relics throughout the abbey by playing different character cards. Characters like the Prior, Abbot or Spy act to either aid or foil the Templar’s plans.

zerohourZero Hour – Survivor Horror Card Game: Aside from the occasional run-in with some zombies, I’m not generally a horror gamer. Zero Hour could change that. Play begins with 30 children stranded in the woods after their bus driver dies. Soon, weird things begin to happen in the woods, pushing each child closer and closer to insanity. Somehow, the children have to survive the night until the zero hour at dawn. The gothic design and theme of the entire game makes this look to be creepily attractive. A bonus part of the campaign is a tall plush Slenderman doll, certain to please the darkest child within you.

Favorite Tabletop Games Kickstarters of the Month (June 2013)

I’ve spent a month tracking my favorite projects and looking for new fun stuff on Kickstarter’s Tabletop Games section. Of the five projects I wrote about in May, four have been succesfully-funded to date. I wound up throwing my support behind one of these, Canterbury, and I’m still hopeful things will turn out well for 54mm plastic Civil War toy soldiers project now in its closing days. Here are the other projects I’ll be watching in June.

Princes of the Dragon Throne: This fantasy-themed board game combines deck-building, area control and resource management. Players build recruits and vie for control of the board on their quest to be crowned upon the Dragon Throne at game’s end. There’s a ton of stuff in this box with over 200 miniatures and more than 500 components overall. The levels of support for the game plus the accompanying specially-crafted meeples comes in over $100, but it’s got dragons so the game looks to be well worth it.

Euphoria: Build A Better Dystopia: This Saint Louis, Missouri-based project launched in May but wraps up this month with a very successful funding run. In this worker placement game, dice represent your workers and cards represent elite recruits. Using your workers and recruits, each player attempts to establish a new empire by managing and selling resources, collecting artifacts, building alliances, and undermining your opposition by digging tunnels and launching devious agendas. Dystopian scenarios are a big fave of mine, and the artwork captured in the design of this game is marvelous.

Amerigo: Another successfully-funded game slated to finish its run in June is Amerigo by Queen Games. Players aid famed explorer Amerigo Vespucci in his quest to discover new lands, establish settlements and collect resources in the islands of South America. The game uses a nifty tower through which players drop and draw colored cubes which determine actions available on their turns. Pledging support at different funding levels scores you a copy of Amerigo as well as one (or more) of Queens Games’s other popular historic-themed games such as Alhambra, Shogun or Lancaster, making backing this project quite a deal.

Admiral: In general, I don’t play naval games since I like the variety that a well-laid-out land terrain tabletop allows. That said, this game could get people like me interested in strategic wargaming on the high seas in the Age of Sail. The Ukrainian designers of this game have loaded the base game with 24 1:1700 scale ships that surpass their toy-like colors in their attention. Backers at higher levels get more islands, ships, seascape gameboard tiles and other game components, making supporting this project a fnatstic opportunity to set sail into a different kind of wargaming.

Giant 2 Inch Soft Foam Polyhedral Dice:  My final fave of the month is just goofy and fun. My two sons, ages 8 and 13, are familiar with real gaming dice at this point. But, if I had a small gamer-in-training in my life, these would be on my funding list. The set includes six large, squishy brightly-colored dice used in most gaming (D4, D6, D8, D10, D12 and D20) in a handy cloth storage bag. Appropriate for ages 3+, there’s a whole bunch of options for buying a la carte dice to supplement the basic set, and additional colors and number styles will be made available. What better way to introduce a kid to the wonders of gaming than throwing a few of these on the floor? Then again, they may just go nicely on my desk at work…