Club Drosselmeyer 1943 – Digital [Hivemind Review]

Club Drosselmeyer 1943 is an interactive audio experience, created by Green Door Labs in Boston, MA.

An assortment of puzzle components.

Format

Style of Play: interactive audio experience with tabletop puzzle components

Required Equipment: computer with internet connection, mobile device, pen and paper, scissors, and a printer if you purchased the print-and-play version

If you’re playing with remote friends, you’ll need a video conferencing platform (like Zoom) to communicate. One person will make many phone calls (ideally on speaker phone).

If you are based outside of the United States, note that telephone-based interactions are critical to this experience.

Recommended Team Size: 2-6

Play Time: 2 hours

Price: $35 for print-and-play or $55 Drosseldossier of mailed components

In advance of the live shows in December 2020, there were also Drosselboxes of mailed components for $65, which is the version most of our reviewers played.

Booking: with no more live shows, you can now purchase a printable PDF or mailed Drosseldossier and play at your leisure

Description

The year is 1943, and every citizen has a role to play in the war. You’re corresponding with non-player characters through a phone line, hoping to advance your mission of aiding either Herr Drosselmeyer, Rhett the Rat King, or both!

The story and gameplay were delivered by a blend of printable (or shipped) puzzles, a web-based radio show, and phone-based interactions.

Note that the radio broadcast and phone number are connected. If you’re playing in a group, you must make all the calls from the phone number linked to your radio broadcast.

A wax sealed envelope from Drosselmeyer Industries Inc.

Hivemind Review Scale

REA's hivemind review scale - 3 is recommended anytime, 2 recommended in quarantine, 1 is not recommended.

Read more about our Hivemind Review format.

Cara Mandel’s Reaction

Rating: 3 out of 3.

A game so nice I played it twice! When David and Lisa first told me of the wondrous annual Club Drosselmeyer extravaganza I was so smitten with the idea I nearly flew to Boston to attend at the last minute. Alas, I chickened out, figuring I’d make it the next year and sadly that never came to be. So, when I heard a remote version was being planned I immediately purchased a ticket. And it did not disappoint. Between the charming, well-produced radio program, the wonderful and challenging puzzles, the live actor interactions, the multiple paths and possible endings, and the general sense of frenzied fun, this was a thoroughly delightful experience. I played a second time with a different team and, with a few small exceptions, had an almost entirely different experience. I highly recommend this game and I hope to attend a future Club Drosselmeyer in person!

Cara in period garb with her America Calling Pamphlet.

Matthew Stein’s Reaction

Rating: 2 out of 3.

Club Drosselmeyer 1943 is an ambitious at-home reimagining of the in-person Club Drosselmeyer format – a truly magical annual extravaganza of swing dancing, puzzle solving, and immersive character interactions. Last year, I flew out (from California to Boston!) to see Club Drosselmeyer live and was absolutely blown away, though my two teammates for this at-home version didn’t have that point of reference. There are many different ways to experience this show, and my single-household team opted for the print-at-home version without a live show (no live actors).

I loved the individual elements of this experience. The tech backend is particularly impressive, seamlessly integrating an elaborate phone tree system into the audio tracks that form the core of the show and thus allowing for branching narratives, multiple endings, and a replayable experience. The puzzles were quite fun and immersed us in fascinating wartime topics, though certain explicit puzzle elements felt awkwardly non-diegetic, especially without live acting to smooth out narrative framing, and the puzzles were notably easier than the ones in person. Non-puzzle activities also provided multi-sensory immersion into this 1943 world, including one particularly tasty diversion.

I’m rating this experience 2 stars -“I recommend this game to escape room players in quarantine” – in the most literal sense; while this remote adaptation contained many creative and innovative elements, it doesn’t quite match the experiential cohesion of the in-person Club Drosselmeyer, which I’d highly encourage you make a beeline to post-quarantine! Overall, I think Club Drosselyemer 1943 actually tried too hard to match the format and flow of the in-person experience, leading to its divergent narrative and interactive elements feeling at times overwhelming rather than expansive. For my team, a major sticking point was the radio broadcast; while beautifully produced, it’s intended as a timer to keep the show to 2 hours, a timeline which doesn’t quite work with most of the puzzle solving, and the experience of pausing audio tracks to then have them auto-restart 2 minutes later felt like we were battling the system the entire show. The intention to keep most interactions paper- or audio-based, and thus screenless, also left some room for improvement: alpha answer submission on a phone quickly grew tedious, and I’d love to have seen an in-world visual interface for the broadcast – perhaps an interactive 1940s radio image – as I spent a fair amount of time pausing and scrubbing through modern-looking audio players. Nonetheless, this show is absolutely worth experiencing, and I greatly look forward to seeing future iterations on this format.

Theresa Piazza’s Reaction

Rating: 3 out of 3.

Club Drosselmeyer pivoted to a wonderful and period-appropriate radio show this year, where I almost forgot that I wasn’t allowed to leave my house! The story and puzzles in Club Drosselmeyer 1943 were wonderful, the interactive phone line was a delight, and having a Drosselbox prepared and shipped is a luxury I would afford myself again and again. While I participated in the live show, I would have preferred to do more chatting with the live actors, which is a real change considering in person at Club Drosselmeyer, I am perfectly happy sitting at a table solving puzzles and not interacting with any actors. For those of you who can not normally make it to the Boston area, I really hope you got a chance to experience Club Drosselmeyer this year; it was something special.

David Spira’s Reaction

Rating: 3 out of 3.

Never bet against Club Drosselmeyer.

I’ve been to Club Drosselmeyer in person every year that it has operated, and I’ve raved about its grandeur, spectacle, and intensity. Club Drosselmeyer was a giant puzzle party filled with dancing, live music, performance, and roleplay… it was so many different things to different people. It was my favorite annual event, and I was mourning the loss of it this year.

Never bet against Club Drosselmeyer.

The online adaptation was a more faithful adaptation than anything I could have imagined. The puzzles were great, the radio show was fantastic, the branching narrative left plenty of room for exploration, and the use of music from past productions gave it the right feel.

My biggest issues were with the many things competing for our attention. The radio show, the puzzles, a baking project… while the frenzy that is Club Drosselmeyer feels like spectacle in real life, replicating that frenzy in a digital space felt more chaotic. In real-life Club Drosselmeyer you choose what you’re doing (even if your choices are incidental); in digital Club Drosselmeyer, it doesn’t feel like you are fully in control of what main quests, side quests, and bemusements dominate your experience (even when you are making those choices).

I wish I was there in person dancing with Lisa and solving with our friends and family, but since that couldn’t happen, I sure am glad that we had the chance to tune into the “radio show” and I love that there is now a persistent version of Club Drosselmeyer that can be played by anyone, anywhere, at anytime.

Never bet against Club Drosselmeyer.

2 thoughts on “Club Drosselmeyer 1943 – Digital [Hivemind Review]

  1. What a fabulous experience! It was exciting and fresh, especially to be guided by a radio show (with alternate paths depending on the actions taken by the players). I also loved the narrative as well, which is important to me. And it also meant there was wonderful original music being performed while we were solving puzzles. So expansive.

    I agree with: “the experience of pausing audio tracks to then have them auto-restart 2 minutes later felt like we were battling the system the entire show.” This turned the strength – the radio show – into a liability. But I trust they will sort it out on the future.

    There are 7 different endings, so I recommend getting and playing multiple times.

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