Escape Notice Games – Stolen at Sea [Hivemind Review]

Stolen at Sea is a tabletop escape game created by Escape Notice Games.

Black cat inspecting a series of locked backs with White Star Line First Class baggage tags.

Format

Style of Play: tabletop escape game

Required Equipment:

Recommended Team Size: 1-3

Play Time: 60 minutes

Price: $49.95

Note that this game can be played more than once (but not by the same players). Instructions are provided to reset the game so you can pass it along to other players.

Booking: purchase and play at your leisure

Description

You are investigating the disappearance of a priceless artifact aboard the RMS Aquitania in 1923. To do this, you sort through a large amount of physical evidence from the ship to evaluate the alibis of various passengers and track down the stolen object. Each phase of the game focuses on three suspects, and each suspect produces a single digit. Once you have collected all three digits, you can unlock a physical combination lock to open a pouch of new suspects and proceed to the next phase of the game.

Assorted items from Stolen at Sea

Andrew Reynolds’ Reaction

My initial look inside Stolen at Sea was promising – the first thing you see is a sticker on the top panel for tracking who has played and how long they took. That said great things for its replayability, and that is indeed the case. This was the most straightforward reset of a boxed game that I have played. Given the price tag ($50 – a titanic price for a boxed escape game), replayability is basically a must.

We spent the most time solving the first set of puzzles. We didn’t quite understand what to do with our solutions, and it took a bit of playing around to see how we used them. Once the first lock was open and we had developed a better understanding of the rules, the remaining locks took about as much time to open combined as the first one did alone.

I feel this game suffers a bit from wanting to be very narrative-driven (the rules task you with confirming alibis and following suspects) but that narrative is not borne out naturally in the puzzles, and you are never asked about whose alibis check out. I was anticipating some level of ending metapuzzle to reflect on the story and to make an accusation, but instead the game ended in a surprisingly abrupt victory.

Sarah Mendez’s Reaction

I was absolutely giddy when I opened this box and excavated a seemingly unending stream of thematic papers and props that promised an authentic investigation into the 1923 disappearance of a priceless artifact on an ocean liner. The loving construction and hand-written markings of some pieces made it evident that the creators invested heart and soul into this project. I also greatly appreciated the lengths to which the game facilitates reuse. Laminated note sheets, an included dry erase marker, and a scoreboard for recording playthroughs from different teams are all unusual elements in a genre that often feels uncomfortably disposable. For dazzling and thoughtful materials, this game gets an A+, setting high expectations for the rest of the experience.

Alas, for all the effort that went into ambiance, the puzzles themselves were mostly basic codes, ciphers, and other simple exercises in pattern matching. As a result, we were never forced to think too deeply about what we were doing related to the story, and we whizzed through the mountain of game pieces in less than half an hour. The superficiality of the puzzles felt like a missed opportunity to leverage all of the beautiful game materials for more immersive purposes.

At $50, this game is at the high end of the tabletop price range, so despite its lovely pieces, I fear it is overpriced for its game experience. I usually have a soft spot for games like this that bill themselves as a “host your own escape room” opportunity, but the setting of this game (several rooms throughout an early 20th century ocean liner) sounds hard to emulate, and the abnormally large number of pieces would take skill to meaningfully organize, present, and/or hide without a setup guide. This game might be worth it if you plan to share it with several groups of novice puzzlers, but for experienced players it’s hard to recommend at this price.

Cindi S’ Reaction

Stolen at Sea is a play-at-home box game chock full of cool props: canvas bags, metal locks, and other high-quality, realistic items. The packaging was great – you can tell they put a lot of attention to detail in this part of the game, and unboxing the items generated a sense of excited anticipation. From the introduction and materials, I expected a detective-style game where you use logic and evidence to eliminate suspects in a crime at sea. However, the game turned out to be a series of light puzzles that yielded codes to unlock the next section. Information on the suspects was just handed to us, requiring little effort or deduction on our part. We even skipped a puzzle without realizing it, with no impact on the game. Disappointingly, even the final solution to the mystery was provided, eliminating what could have been a fun finale. Important to note, although the price point is high, you can completely reset the game and pass it on to others. While Stolen at Sea initially held a lot of promise, the experience left me wanting more.

Disclosure: Escape Notice Games provided the Hivemind reviewers with a complimentary play.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.