Vault Escape – Pirate Booty [Review]

“The tribe has spoken…”

Location: offered by Vault Escape in Chicago, IL and by partners in the 5 other cities*

Date played: July 13, 2017

Team size: 8-300; we recommend ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Duration: 60 minutes, plus set up and break-down

Price: $250 per group of 8

Story & setting

We were shipwrecked sailors on an island approaching the end of our supplies when pirates came ashore looking for treasure. If we could help them find it, we’d get our share and a lifeline.

Pirate Booty was a pop-up escape room designed for team building, large parties, and other group events. Vault Escape brings the entire escape room – puzzles, props, gamemaster, and even treasure – to the participants in their own location.

We brought home a copy of Pirate Booty from the Room Escape Conference in Niagara Falls in May. David stepped in as gamemaster so that we could puzzle our way to the treasure.

Most of the puzzling took place around tables. There were themed props, but there wasn’t a set. Had David been a professional gamemaster for Pirate Booty, he would have been dressed as a pirate.


Pirate Booty was about collaborative puzzling.

The puzzles varied in tangibility, but they were all at least minimally interactive.

The clue structure relied heavily on written rhymes and riddles.


The team dynamic, combined with the style of the transition puzzles, made moments in Pirate Booty reminiscent of Survivor.

Additionally, the team formation mechanics were clever… and also seemed inspired by Survivor. (No, you do not get to vote people out of the game.)

Pirate Booty had one unexpected and wholly interactive puzzle.


The puzzles weren’t designed for the full number of people in each group. For each individual player, there was quite a bit of downtime spent watching other teammates work on puzzles.

This was exacerbated by the collaborative game mechanics. At a few points, one entire team would have to wait for another team to catch up. The stoppages in play were frustrating.

The props weren’t particularly impressive. Pirate Booty is marketed to corporate groups for team building. It doesn’t really look the part.

Should I play Vault Escape’s Pirate Booty?

Pirate Booty was a confounding game:

It created interesting team dynamics and the puzzles worked well enough.

The props were cute and kitschy as if the game were designed for children’s birthday parties. Pirate Booty, however, is sold as a corporate team building game. In trying to test that accurately, we brought a few Fortune 500 employees into our test groups and none of them would have felt good about playing this game for work, with colleagues.

There is an interesting game buried within Pirate Booty, but it has not been fully realized. It had game flow issues. It couldn’t keep a full team of players busy. Above all, it was targeted at professionals, but looked like a kids’ game.

David put a lot of time and effort into learning the game, setting it up, and gamemastering… and no one was fulfilled.

The concept was intriguing, and Pirate Booty had its moments, but this raid was not worth the plunder.

*Pirate Booty is available from the following companies. The different locations have different player capacities.
Vault Escape, Chicago, IL
Room Escape Adventure, Columbus, OH
Lock and Key Escape Rooms, Buffalo, NY
Looking Glass Adventures, Toronto, ON
Dave Johnson in Los Angeles, CA
Puzzlescape, Hudson, MA

Full disclosure: Vault Escape loaned us a complementary copy of this game.


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