Puzzling Package – The Runes of Odin [Review]

By Odin’s Drinking Horn

Location:  at home

Date Played: March 2021

Team size: we recommend 2-4

Duration: 4-5 hours

Price: $135

REA Reaction

The Runes of Odin felt like a complicated tabletop escape game… or a light alternate reality game (ARG). We were presented with a few beautiful artifacts, many documents, and just a little direction. From that point it was on us to read, analyze, and puzzle our way to answers.

This was a higher commitment experience than most of the tabletop games that find their way into our dining room. It was well executed. The story was extensive and engaging, and most of the puzzles were solid, with one standout and one that didn’t do anything for us.

Our biggest issues with this game were two fold:

  • The hint system was under baked for how demanding the game was.
  • The ratio of flavor to gameplay felt off. There was so much to read, touch, and look at, but if you took the true puzzle components and looked at them in isolation, they made up a small fraction of the game.

All of this culminated in a big mystery… which may be exactly what you’re looking for. The Runes of Odin wants you to pour a drink, sit back, and take your time with its world. If that’s what you’re looking for, then this is a great game. If spending 4+ hours reading and analyzing documents sounds like more than you’re looking for, then you’ll likely want to explore a different game. It really is a matter of time and taste.

Who is this for?

  • Story seekers
  • Puzzle lovers
  • Artifact collectors
  • Best for players with at least some experience

Why play?

  • Collectible artifacts
  • Extensive world-building
  • Some strong puzzles

Story

Argonaut Exports dealt in ancient artifacts. When they’d happened upon an academic’s half-finished research into Odin, they’d asked us to see what we could discover about the Norse god.

Setup

The setup of The Runes of Odin was straightforward. We’d received a big box filled with documents and artifacts. After reading an introductory letter, it was on us to find the puzzles and figure out what it all meant.

Puzzling Package offered a digital hint system that was good, not great… but we weren’t entirely on our own.

Gameplay

Puzzling Package’s The Runes of Odin was a play-at-home puzzle game, in the style of escape games, with elements of an ARG. It had more content and a higher level of difficulty than a standard tabletop escape game.

Core gameplay revolved around reading, observing, making connections, and puzzling.

Analysis

The Runes of Odin included high quality materials: weathered paper, varied paper types, and collectible props. It was evident that the creators cared about their craft. Two of the items in this game were especially cool.

The Runes of Odin lacked any gating or internal verification system. Thus, it was a bit overwhelming out of the box. For the first 2 hours of our experience, we opened every puzzle path, learned many things, but solved nothing. We spent a lot of time on the more in-depth paths and overlooked the most succinct one, likely intended for onboarding. Thus, although we’d resolved a lot of intermediary pieces, almost halfway through this experience we still had no idea what type of answers we were seeking.

The Runes of Odin included a lot of written content. It was in-character, and amusing. If you want to immerse yourself in this game world, this might be right up your alley.

➖ The signal to noise ratio felt off. Too much of the written material didn’t factor into the gameplay. In addition, one long process puzzle was decidedly not worth the effort. The next step didn’t become apparent, even when the process was complete, and this was a severe letdown.

➕ We enjoyed one outstanding reveal… despite solving it not quite as intended, due to the length of the aforementioned process puzzle, and our eagerness to see the cool part. That said, it was very cool.

➕ Our favorite sequence linked together most of the tangible props with an interesting layered puzzle that included a variety of types of solves. This segment engaged our whole group, and was a ton of fun for everyone.

➕/➖ Another tangible prop was a great idea, clued phenomenally, and really fun to interact with. That said, when many trials revealed nothing, we consulted the hints, only to learn we had solved everything correctly… but the stars weren’t aligning.

➖ The most beautiful prop in the box (in our opinion) didn’t have a place in the game. We didn’t need to use this to solve anything. This was a missed opportunity. We’d been looking forward to how this would come into play.

➖ The hint system lacked explanation of the solutions. It needed more granular explanations, right up through the final step of each puzzle.

➖ The only answer verification in the game was the hint system. This was true up until (and even after) we’d completed the game. When we finally arrived at a solution, one that we felt mostly – but not entirely – confident in, due to the nature of the sleuthing involved, the game culmination did not instill confidence. In fact, if we hadn’t already checked our final answer in the hint system, the conclusion of the game would have sent us running for the hint system. There’s a point where world-building and flavor detract from gameplay.

➕ /❓ In terms of value for the price, there’s a lot here for the right person. At $135, The Runes of Odin is expensive. However, it’s easily 4-5 hours of gameplay for a small group. If you want to read, immerse yourself in this world, and think like a researcher, it will be pretty cool. You have to be excited to find your own starting place, and patient in determining the puzzle flow. If that’s all true for you, there’s a lot to enjoy here. Plus, the game materials and all the props are high quality.

Tips For Players

  • Space Requirements: a small table
  • Required Gear: pen and paper

Buy your copy of Puzzling Package’s The Runes of Odin, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Puzzling Package provided a sample for review.

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