The Civil War delivered to our door.
Location: at home
Date played: February 12, 2017
Team size: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯; we recommend 2-3
Duration: 60 minutes
Price: $29.99 + shipping charged every other month when a new box ships
In a Where in Time is Carmen Sandiego-esque history-changing puzzle adventure, our mysterious dispatchers learned that an equally enigmatic villain was attempting to alter history. We were sent back to 1861 in order to prevent the assassination of Abraham Lincoln from occurring 4 years earlier than it was supposed to happen.
In order to accomplish our mission, we had to seek out the home of Confederate spy Rose O’Neal Greenhow, rummage through her belongings, and uncover the dastardly plans to murder President Lincoln and his family.
Escape The Crate is a subscription service that plans to deliver a tabletop puzzle adventure every other month.
Opting for a lower cost, higher output model, Escape the Crate packed game segments into sealed envelopes that we earned entry into by submitting puzzle solutions to a website. The website also delivered audio messages that narrated the story as well as provided guiding instructions to keep the game flowing.
The website included hint delivery as well. Each puzzle had a series of hints that escalated in detail until the final hint provided the solution.
The components of the game were generally made from paper or inexpensive fabric. There were a few props that were more tangible, but they were the exception, not the rule. At the end of the game, we were instructed to keep a few key components for use with future Escape The Crate shipments. As subscribers, we would build an arsenal of equipment by retaining certain items from each adventure as we chased this time time-hopping villain through world history.
The puzzling in Escape the Confederate Spymistress was somewhere between a Puzzled Pint event and an escape room.
The puzzling was well-themed on US Civil War history, offering a series of challenges based on events, concepts, and people from the era. These puzzles started off simple and grew in complexity.
The escape room vibe came from a reliance on searching, keen observation, and the “locks” that we opened via the Escape the Crate website.
Escape The Crate’s use of US Civil War spy history was a great choice for the game’s setting.
The audio recordings successfully delivered instructions and story while reducing the volume of reading.
The puzzling and flow were generally strong and kept Escape the Confederate Spymistress entertaining.
I like the idea of a subscription service that has players retain key components for future use, thereby reducing the cost associated with each subsequent package while increasing the volume of tools at the players’ disposal.
Two puzzles could have used a little more playtesting; they were both almost smooth. One in particular was lacking a critical piece of clue structure. Having essentially solved it, we had to go through all of the hints on that puzzle and when we found out what we weren’t doing, we couldn’t help but roll our eyes.
I really wish that the website with the digital locks wasn’t case sensitive. I can’t think of a good reason why it needed to be.
Escape the Confederate Spymistress doesn’t look at all impressive. Aesthetically, it has all of the charm of a pile of paper puzzle prototypes in beta testing.
It would be possible to repack Escape the Confederate Spy Mistress for replay, but you would have to carefully unpack everything and not destroy any components while playing. Additionally, the reusable items would need to be retrieved prior to playing the next game. Thus it is essentially a one-and-done game.
Should I play Escape The Crate’s Chapter 1: Escape the Confederate Spy Mistress?
Depending upon what you value, Escape The Crate will be either great or terrible.
If you’re willing to forgo aesthetics and beauty in favor of a tabletop escape room with fairly strong puzzles and you like the subscription model, then Escape the Crate is a wonderful choice. It’s smart and family-friendly.
The low-key approach to component design might actually make for a sustainable subscription model.
However, if this description sounds like a box of ugly puzzles printed on paper that can’t really be shared with more people than the ones sitting at your table when you play… that’s not an inaccurate interpretation of Escape the Crate either.
This is a value judgment.
For what it’s worth, we received a free reviewer copy of Chapter 1, but have since subscribed at full price. We had a good time and want to see where this goes.
Subscribe with Escape the Crate’s Chapter 1: Escape the Confederate Spymistress, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.
Note that Escape the Confederate Spymistress is now a “retired” game that you can purchase individually, outside of the subscription model. Your purchased subscription will start with the current month’s game.
Full disclosure: Escape the Crate provided us a free reviewer’s copy of Chapter 1. We have since purchased a subscription.