Escape: The Curse of the temple
Even the most mundane tasks can be enlivened by putting a time limit on them. Shaving, washing up and ironing all gain new life with a countdown. Consider taking old grandma to the supermarket. It’s probably not the most exciting task, but setting yourself 10 minutes to get down the aisles and back to the checkout with granny in tow. Wouldn’t that be fun? Who wouldn’t want a trolley awash with prune juice, gingernuts and gin.
If you want to get the adrenalin pumping, but don’t want to be banned from your local supermarket you may want to check out Escape: The Curse of the Temple. It is a breathless 10 minute rush through a temple and plays cooperatively for 1 to 5 players. Expect to roll dice, shout for help and curse black masks. The game is designed by Kristian Admundsen Ostby and published by Queen Games.
In the box, you will find custom dice, large temple tiles, player pieces, crystals, treasure and curse tokens, as well as a CD and an egg timer, (if you wish to play quietly). As is usual with Queen Games all the components feel well made and ready to withstand a lot of gaming.
Aims and goals
The goal of Escape: The Curse of the temple is, (and I don’t think I am giving anything away here), escaping from the temple. You do this by exploring the temple and finding the exit. It is simply a matter of starting from a central chamber and placing tiles domino style until you find the exit. Well, it would be simple if it were not for three things; dice, crystals and time. Actually let’s make that four: we can add people to the mix, oh and tables. Yes tables are pretty important too.
Each player gets 5 lovely dice to roll. They are all the same, with sides displaying a torch, key, black mask, golden mask and two faces with a running man.
You need to roll the dice to draw new tiles, move around the temple and place crystals. The design makes it clear what you need to do, with icons clearly displayed on the tiles. To draw a new tile, roll two running men, to move to the next room you need to match what is shown on that tile. You can roll your dice as fast as you like and keep the results of any dice you need. When a dice roll results in a black mask, it is locked, but rolling a golden mask unlocks two black masks.
The crystals start the game stored in a trunk. At the end of the game you need to roll more keys than there are crystals in the trunk to leave the temple. You complete dice rolling feats to place the crystals in the temple and improve your chances of escape. If you get to the exit without placing any, you will be trapped.
I mentioned the game’s 10 minute running time a couple of times earlier and this is because it is the keystone. Without a time limit this game would fall apart.
The game comes with a soundtrack on CD, (also downloadable from the Queen Games website), that guides you through the three phases of the game:
- Explore and run back to the starting room and recover.
- Explore and run back to the starting room and rest.
- Head for the exit and escape.
The soundtrack has everything you would want for a temple escape; drums, gongs, jungle sounds and slamming temple doors. It sets the tone for a frenzy of dice rolling and shouting and blind panic.
Everybody loves people. In Escape all the explorers need to exit the temple before the final door slams, or the game is lost. This means working together, which can be great when you have black masks and a friend in the same room shares a golden mask with you. It can be great when you are at the exit and those on the outside pass you an extra dice to roll the required number of keys. It can be terrible when a friend cannot roll anything but black masks and gets stuck on the other side of the temple.
You will be shouting for your friends’ help. You will call and you will be disappointed because they want to be in the starting room when the clock ticks down. The start room is safe, if you are not there when the shutters come down you lose a dice. You don’t want to lose a dice, you will be a lame duck and a beak is no good for rolling.
Do not play Escape on a small table or an unlit room. You need to keep your dice on the table, scrambling for dice is not part of the escape plan.
Playing with Three
Escape is great to play with two to five, but I haven’t played with one, somehow it doesn’t seem right. The starting crystals increase with the player count to scale the difficulty and this works pretty smoothly.
How easy is it to teach the game?
Say goodbye to any thoughts of teaching while playing and if you have read this far you will understand why. This is a game about rolling dice and the designers have come up with a design that helps lead you through what you need to roll, (even the temple tiles have two torches on the back to remind you).
I have found running through some examples in slooooow mo helps get the points across.
Can complexity be scaled?
If you want to make it easier, just reduce the starting crystal count. The basic box also comes with two small expansions, (Curses and Treasures). I recommend leaving them out for the first few plays.
Can you handicap other players? Do you need to?
Yeah! It’s a co-operative game, so this section can remain blank.
How likely is your child to flip the table half way through?
Your child will not have the breath left to even lift one of the cardboard tiles, let alone complain. 10 minutes of extreme dice rolling will not test anyone’s patience.
Beyond the game
It has been a good way to introduce the Indiana Jones films. We have not discussed the morals behind grave robbing or culture theft.
What do I think?
Escape: The Curse of the Temple would be a below average example of temple exploration, were it not for the ticking timer that piles on the pressure.
The curses and treasures tiles that come with the game bring another level of complexity to extend the life of the game once the standard version loses its challenge. My feeling is that the pain of the curses outweigh the benefit of the treasures. The sort of pain that can see you struck dumb and holding one hand on your head, or permanently losing a dice if it goes off the table.
Escape is a really intense experience. So much so that I cannot play more than two games in a row. I wouldn’t want to lose this from my collection, as you can play with children and adults together on a level playing field, and teaching the game is simple enough.
Do I want to play the game every night? No, I am happy to play every month or so and do not feel a pressing need to buy any expansions. Like a high speed senior citizen shopping expedition – it is fun, but not the sort of fun I want to experience every day.