Club Drosselmeyer [Puzzle Event Review]

Aces!

Location: Cambridge, MA

Date played: December 11, 2016

Price: $45 – 80 per ticket

Story & setting

Set in a 1939 nightclub, attendees had the opportunity to explore dance, take in a variety of performing acts, and puzzle through a story of espionage and intrigue.

The band was incredible. The venue was awesome. The dancers were on fire. The characters were engaging… and damn near the entire audience was decked out in full costume.

About last night #clubdrosselmeyer

A post shared by Kelly Hansen (@keltastic) on

This puzzling event was so much more than a couple of hundred people sitting around tables solving their way through a manila envelope of puzzles. It was a living, breathing, and occasionally chaotic mystery. No one, not even the actors, knew exactly how the evening would unfold.

Lisa and David in costume swing dancing.
A shot of us swing dancing, courtesy of our friend Denise Kuehner.

Puzzles

The puzzles weren’t delivered to the tables; we had to earn them by interacting with the various non-player characters (NPCs). They would send us on quests to gain bits of information or give us things that we had to solve. While some puzzles were straightforward, others involved less-than-usual interactions with the cast.

Every puzzle advanced the story, even if it only added a little depth to a character.

Standouts

The band and Lindy hoppers were of particular note. Both fit beautifully into spectacle of the evening. Let’s be real; in 2016, a swing band and a gaggle of folks Lindy hopping with style and skill isn’t exactly an everyday occurrence.

The setting was amazing.

The audience looked awesome. We were shocked to see so many people fully commit to the evening. My hat is off to everyone in attendance. Such a classy bunch.

The actors were exceptional at improvising with us. We didn’t see anyone break character.

#snowball #💗 #❄️

A post shared by Annaliese Rittershaus Brauman (@vonvalkyrie) on

The puzzling and live action roleplaying were strong. Our team was split into puzzlers and interacters. Lisa and I spent most of the evening playing with the characters, unraveling the interpersonal mysteries, and dancing. Lisa solved two puzzles and I only got around to solving the last one. There was a lot to do.

Attendees who wanted to dance could pretty much go the entire night doing nothing but dancing.

Attendees who wanted to puzzle could puzzle the night away (if they teamed up with some folks who would handle the NPC interactions).

Attendees who wanted to passively watch everything unfold could simply enjoy that.

Shortcomings

We attended opening night and there were a few places where Club Drosselmeyer felt like a public beta test:

  • A lot of players seemed to struggle getting started and finding their place in the narrative.
  • There were moments when we became confused, and therefore baffled the actors a little bit because they didn’t understand what we weren’t getting (and no one was breaking character, us included).
  • One particular character was a bit too necessary and popular. A line formed to interact with him and that slowed the game’s pace and progression.
  • The area around our table was consumed by people waiting on line to meet with the aforementioned popular character.

The stage acting at the end felt very forced. It was cute, but it wasn’t compelling.

The VIP ticket designation didn’t matter. At any ticket level, audience members made their experience what they wanted.

Club Drosselmeyer’s run is only two shows. The final show is tomorrow night (December 16, 2016).

Should I play Club Drosselmeyer?

Club Drosselmeyer was more than I could have ever hoped for from a puzzling event and I couldn’t help but go in with high expectations.

Puzzling, swing dancing, and interactive theater are three of my favorite things.

We worked hard throughout Club Drosselmeyer and left exhausted. It was worth every ounce of effort. Our team was the only one to unravel the main storyline and thus I got to choose the path that the ending would take.

If you’re going tonight, dress up, become a character, team up, and play hard. There are plots and subplots to explore (many of which went unexplored on opening night). There’s more than one evening’s worth of fun at Club Drosselmeyer. I wish I could go back.

Club Drosselmeyer is sold out… as it should be.

4 thoughts on “Club Drosselmeyer [Puzzle Event Review]

  1. Great writeup. You’ve answered quite a few of the concerns I’d have with this sort of thing:
    – does combining puzzling, theatre and dancing leave you with too niche a market?
    – do people who aren’t keen on one of the three things leave frustrated?
    – do people who want to do all three feel frustrated that they have to compromise?
    – can you make a game that’s playable to the max without leaving a lot of the audience lost?
    – how do you engage the audience properly?

    I’ve been to a few similar events (although none quite on this level) and I’ve always come away feeling that they were amazing but they fell short somewhere. I continue to wonder if that’s just inevitable – if you just can’t make this sort of event perfect. I’m glad that people keep trying though!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. – “does combining puzzling, theatre and dancing leave you with too niche a market?”

      I have no idea what the market size is for events like this. There are some pretty esoteric immersive events happening, and they seem to do pretty well as far as ticket sales are concerned. My guess is that a lot of this will come down to where the event is, how well it is marketed, and the quality of the execution.

      – “do people who aren’t keen on one of the three things leave frustrated?”

      We went with people who weren’t keen on at least two of the three aspects of the show, and they still had a great time. One person we went with pretty much just watched and had a great time.

      – “do people who want to do all three feel frustrated that they have to compromise?”

      Lisa and I were the only people in our group who seemed truly into every aspect of the show. We happily bounced back and forth. In truth, we puzzled less than everything else. We didn’t feel cheated.

      – “can you make a game that’s playable to the max without leaving a lot of the audience lost?”

      I think that depends a lot on execution. If you think of immersive shows like Sleep No More or Then She Fell, these are shows where it is impossible to experience absolutely everything that the show has to offer. You can return to them multiple times and see something new each time. In the case of Sleep No More, you can see lots of new things.

      This is going to come down to who is attending. I am certain that there will be people who leave this kind of experience disappointed… but the same can be said for any acclaimed book, movie, video game, etc.

      – “how do you engage the audience properly?”

      Context is key, and there are any number of ways to accomplish this. I think that the Dross crew did a good job on this. It was a little hard getting started, and the lines at one character were too long, but overall, their approach worked.

      Like

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