Society of Curiosities – Mystery Subscription Box: Madok’s Lost Treasure [Review]

Historical Detective Story

Location:  at home

Date Played: October 10, 2020

Team size: 1-4; we recommend 2-3

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $19.50 per month, or save on individual boxes with a quarterly or annual subscription

REA Reaction

I am a huge proponent of game designers packing a little less into their games, but really getting what’s in there right. It felt like Society of Curiosities was coming from a similar school of thought.

Madok’s Lost Treasure didn’t have a ton of components, but everything that we received in the mail looked and felt right. When we interacted with digital components, they looked and felt natural. This is rare. Usually there’s some junky afterthought prop or a website that can’t even pass as a parody of a website.

A wax sealed letter and a gold coin.

When it came to gameplay, Madok’s Lost Treasure was different. We initially approached it like a tabletop escape room, looking for puzzles to solve, but as we worked through the game’s materials, it slowly became clear to us that we needed to think about things not as puzzlers, but more like researchers. The gameplay was largely in exploring the nuances of the world and applying the game world’s logic to itself. Once we shifted our mindset, we had a great time.

Our biggest knock against Madok’s Lost Treasure was that we felt like it needed to do more to guide us into its style of play.

Society of Curiosities is what I’m hoping to find from a subscription series: fewer high quality, detailed components, deliberately crafted worlds, and smart gameplay.

Who is this for?

  • Story seekers
  • ARG fans
  • Prop collectors

Why play?

  • Beautiful props
  • Strong world building
  • Detail-focused problem solving

Story

We received a collection of documents – both old and new – in the mail, along with a single goal. Solve an ancient mystery and figure out where to send our field team to recover the lost treasure of famed pirate Captain Edus Madok.

Setup

The goal was to unravel a historical mystery, and to that end, the challenges felt like a blend of detail-hunting and researching, with a bit of puzzling.

The emphasis was on experiential world building. The physical components were beautiful and appropriately aged. The digital components were plentiful and felt like they belonged.

An assortment of old seald letters, news articles, and a gold coin.

Gameplay

Society of Curiosities’ Madok’s Lost Treasure straddled the line between tabletop escape game and alternate reality game (ARG).

It had a moderate level of difficulty.

Core gameplay revolved around observing, sleuthing, puzzling, and thinking contextually.

A wax sealed note with a letter containing instuctions.

Analysis

Madok’s Lost Treasure combined a website, mailed artifacts, and text-based character interaction. The different media came together into a cohesive experience.

➕ Society of Curiosities made the most of their mailed components. These artifacts looked and felt great. Rather than create an entire game through tangible elements, they selected specific objects and information, and went the extra mile to make these worth the effort of mailing. There wasn’t a ton of stuff in these mailings, but everything looked right.

➕ The web components looked good and felt authentic. There was enough detail to build the world of the fiction, but not so much to create information overload.

Madok’s Lost Treasure lacked early indicators of how self-contained its world would be. Because of the ARG-like elements, and reliance of different media, we were unsure how to approach this game. It took us a while to understand what was available to us and how broadly that reached.

➕ Society of Curiosities minded the details, both in authenticity and usability. For example, cursive handwriting text fit the world, but the typed translation enabled players to focus on the puzzle rather than interpreting the script.

➕/➖ The website included a comprehensive hint system, but there were some opportunities for added granularity.

➕ We especially enjoyed one spatial puzzle, with multiple layered components. It took us a little time to figure out how this thing worked and initially we were a bit dubious about it. However, as its secrets opened up to us, we plotted our course though it, and loved it.

➖ We encountered one puzzle with a word-based solve that seemed overly reliant on context. The struggle here was that the puzzle was a bit of a jumble and the solution was difficult to verify.

❓ To get the most out of this game, think like a researcher, not a puzzler. The sleuthing-based extractions initially stymied us until we figured out how this game wanted us to think. While this was established early on, it took us some time to find the right mindset to succeed at Madok’s Lost Treasure. Then it was pretty neat! If you’re an avid escape room player, or tabletop escape room player, know that this game also demands a different type of solving… which is cool.

➕/➖ Madok’s Lost Treasure included a bonus mailing. This was a fun little addition. We especially enjoyed a puzzle that built upon the components we’d already used in the main game. That said, we found the research angle of this solve a little too ambiguous as an extraction.

Tips For Players

  • Space Requirements: a small table
  • Required Gear: an internet-connected device, a pen and scrap paper

Buy your copy of Society of Curiosities’ Mystery Subscription Box: Madok’s Lost Treasure, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Society of Curiosities provided a sample for review.

2 thoughts on “Society of Curiosities – Mystery Subscription Box: Madok’s Lost Treasure [Review]

  1. Thanks for playing! We’re glad you got in the swing of things and enjoyed yourselves! Onboarding is definitely a challenge since we do things a little differently with our games.

    1. We love what you’re doing, and seriously, it’s hard to figure out on-boarding when you’re venturing into new territory. Iteration and experience will help thoughtful designers like you.

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