Club Drosselmeyer 1940 [Event Review]

The cat’s meow.

Location: Cambridge, MA

Date Played: December 17, 2017

Team size: we recommend 2-6 depending on the experience you’re looking for

Duration: about 2.5 hours

Price: $49-85 per ticket

REA Reaction

Club Drosselmeyer brought together swing dancing, a fantastic band, magic, acrobatics, puzzles, intrigue, a beautiful setting, and lots of interaction. The 2017 show fixed or dramatically improved the gameplay issues that I discussed last year.

If you didn’t get to attend the limited run in December 2017, and if they run a sequel, find a way to get to Boston for this in December 2018. Hopefully they’ll run a 1941 event.

The red and gold Club Drosselmeyer stage with a 7 piece jazz band playing.

Who is this for?

  • Puzzle lovers
  • Jazz lovers
  • Swing dancers
  • Immersive theater fans
  • People who are fine with crowds
  • People who don’t need to be part of every interaction
  • Any experience level … for puzzlers or dancers

Why play?

  • Spectacle
  • Dance, acrobatic, and magical performances
  • Music
  • 1940-themed party
  • LARPing
  • Puzzle hunt-style puzzles

Story

One year after Club Drosselmeyer 1939, we again found ourselves in our dancing shoes stopping another Nazi techo-conspiracy in a reimagining of The Nutcracker.

Last year, when we learned that Drosselmeyer Industries was creating fighting robots to support the war effort, we prevented the plans for these bots from falling into German hands.

This year we found ourselves in between two factions: Drosselmeyer Industries and King Technologies. Both fighting robot manufacturers wanted to earn a military contract with the US Government.

To determine who would win the contract, a robot from each maker would battle at the end of the night. It was up to us, the attendees, to help the companies upgrade their bots for battle.

Lisa and David dressed up and swing dancing on the Club Drosselmeyer floor.
Yours truly tearing it up on the dance floor.

Setting

Club Drosselmeyer 1940’s setting was identical to last year’s production, near as I could tell. The only additions were upgrade boxes for each robot, and an intimate back-stage set for winning teams to encounter.

We returned to the OBERON Theater in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where the stage was decked out with signage and bandstands to remind you that this was Club Drosselmeyer. The staging was decadent and beautiful.

The actors were decked out like it was a Christmas party in the 40s. As attendees, we dressed the part as well. (Those who didn’t dress for the occasion did it wrong.)

The evening included intermittent stage performances ranging from magic by Herr Drosselmeyer himself, to Lindy hop and waltz, and even an aerial silk act.

Gameplay

In keeping with last year, we had our pick of swing dancing, puzzling, interacting with characters, drinking, and watching the show unfold. Any attendee could do any combination of these activities.

Dancing was always an option, unless the performers were on stage.

Fantastic night at Club Drosselmeyer. #puzzlehunt #swingdancing #immersivetheatre

A post shared by Lisa & David 🔑 (@roomescapeartist) on

The puzzles were delivered puzzle-hunt style, as mostly paper-based challenges. There were 5 different missions, each consisting of a series of puzzles. The missions culminated in a single meta-puzzle. Each mission was assigned by a specific character in the show who provided both the challenge and the context for it.

Upon completing a mission, we were given punch cards for different robot features. We could drop them into one of two boxes to upgrade the robot of our choosing. This was essentially a voting feature. As players solved puzzles, they gained the opportunity to support either the good or the evil robot.

An anecdote: I was eavesdropping on a team debating which robot to support. One guy persuaded his friends to upgrade the evil bot arguing (and I’m paraphrasing), “It isn’t really clear if he is bad. He just seems like a stronger, more fierce bot.”  Many folks upgraded the Nazi-bot that evening. To me it was abundantly clear that this was a battle of obvious good and evil. It was interesting to observe. 

Standouts

Everything that was great about last year’s Club Drosselmeyer still applied to the sequel, without exception. I’m not going to rehash them. There were also some critical improvements this time around:

The evening’s introduction clarified our role, as attendees, in the evening’s festivities. It gave direction as to whom to approach and how to start playing.

Lisa's father in a fedora and suite sitting at a small table looking at puzzles with Lisa.
Lisa and her father looking mighty mysterious.

The characters were able and eager to provide direction if we were confused. Additionally, there were extra Club staff floating around who would help out for a flirt or a bribe. (Fake money was casually dropped and hidden throughout the Club.)

The devastatingly long lines that we contended with last year were virtually gone. The longest that I waited to meet with any character was about 3 minutes. Because the lines were eliminated, there weren’t the same crowding problems that we had previously encountered.

The acting was a whole lot better. It also put greater emphasis on dancing and farce, which played much better to the strengths of the cast.

The teams that completed the main game got some nifty bonus interactions. The first team to complete the game (which was us, at the first performance) also made a decision that impacted the finale.

Shortcomings

Even with the gameplay improvements, it was still difficult to figure out how to approach gameplay. Were we teammates with our table mates? (Only if we wanted to be.) Could we team up with others? (Yup.) Did you need a team? (No, but you wouldn’t finish the game on your own.)

We uncovered a lot of fake money, but we weren’t clear how to use it. It also lacked value because it was overly abundant.

Much of the stage acting, while improved, was still a little forced.

While the finale played to the strengths of the performers, it got a little bonkers. This was amplified because some characters and plot threads were serious and others were farcical. It was a bit challenging to keep up with the tonal leaps.

Tips for Visiting

If they run it again next year:

  • Dress up. Even if you don’t go full 1940s period accurate, put on a suit or a dress or something. You’re going to feel silly if you show up in jeans.
  • They don’t open the doors early. Bring warm layers. They have a coat check.
  • Be open to all that Club Drosselmeyer has to offer.

Club Drosselmeyer took place in December 2017 and is not currently running.

 

2 thoughts on “Club Drosselmeyer 1940 [Event Review]

  1. You overheard a real-life fascist, sounds like. Good to be able to identify those people, expose them, and avoid them forever.

    1. I don’t think he was a fascist. I think he’s the kind of person who would be ok with a fascist. It was more banal than anything… Which in practicality is only nominally better.

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