Accessibility Consideration: There are steps leading down to the venue.
Emergency Exit Rating: [A] Push To Exit
Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints
Biker’s Revenge was exactly what I didn’t know I needed from an escape room built to look like a dive bar. Each and every item, from floor to ceiling, was well thought through, and many were used as unexpected puzzle elements.
The amount of tiny details jam-packed in the space kept us on our toes, enhancing the immersion and bringing the room to life. All of these features amplified the narrative, making our team truly feel like we were undercover police investigating the local biker gang. Almost every interaction was thematic, tangible, and just plain fun, with the exception of one input that was overly precise and lacked leeway.
The vast array of games at Encrypted Escape Room West Reading came as a pleasant surprise, with each experience feeling unique in both set and puzzle design. While this was their oldest game at this location, Biker’s Revenge did not feel dated in the slightest, and offered a unique take on this theme.
I’d go back and get a drink at this pub any day (but probably bring my own glass, considering the amount of hands that have touched the ones behind the bar).
I detest reporting on stuff like this, but sometimes things are too egregious to ignore.
The admins of the Mystery Subscription Discussion Group (one of the hubs for tabletop puzzle community discussion) have gone to outrageous extremes to silence discussion of the new Kickstarter The Light in the Mist from PostCurious.
While they have succeeded at silencing this discussion in their group, they have not stopped the success of The Light in the Mist (which funded in less than 2 hours), and I am not letting them censor this story of their conduct out of existence. Sunlight is the best disinfectant.
I’m going to walk you through a series of events that I find dumbfounding.
I decided to take a look at the two active play-at-home puzzle groups, “Puzzle People: Games and Mysteries” as well as “Mystery Subscription Discussion,” to share the review and podcast, as this content is very relevant to both groups.
Before posting, I took a look at the Mystery Subscription Discussion feed to see if there was an active thread… and there wasn’t one. This seemed strange given that two of our community’s most successful independent creators teamed up for a game that looks as amazing as it plays… and the Kickstarter was blowing up.
So, I decided to inform that community about this game with the following post:
Almost immediately, this post was taken down, and this message appeared for me on the Mystery Subscription Discussion page:
Now, I didn’t read this message too closely. I initially didn’t notice that date “October 19, 2021,” but it will become relevant in a moment.
Instead, I looked up the Group’s rules to make sure that I hadn’t violated any of them. The rules were presented as follows:
While these rules are about as clear as they are culturally relevant, I saw no action of mine that was in violation of them.
So, I found the groups moderator (Randy Searle) and admin (Andrew McCabe), and sent them each the following message:
After sending these, I spoke to a few more people who all had the same experience. They posted about The Light in the Mist on the Mystery Subscription Discussion, and their content was moderated away.
I was about to send followup messages to Searle and McCabe when I realized that these folks had archived the entire Mystery Subscription Discussion:
There are a few things that are important to understand to pull this whole story together:
Back in mid 2020, there was an uproar over on the Mystery Subscription Discussion group when then admin, Chris Nevlin, banned The Light in the Mist co-creator Rita Orlov over a political post she had made on her own social media account – not on the Mystery Subscription Discussion page.
The community was understandably outraged at this ban. Moderation is a hard job, but a moderator has no business moderating speech outside of the community.
The backlash resulted in the following things:
A new group, Puzzle People: Games and Mysteries, was established
Chris Nevlin agreed to step down as leader of the Mystery Subscription Discussion group (although more than one person has told me that Andrew McCabe is Chris Nevlin in a weak disguise)
Archival is Not Deletion
Archiving a Facebook group means that no one can post, comment, or like any content on the page. It essentially freezes everything in place.
Groups Admin have the option to delete the group, or unarchive it at any time (Facebook).
WTH is Going On?
From all of the facts, the only reasonable conclusion that I can draw is that the admin is actively censoring the community from talking about The Light in the Mist.
The key to that conclusion was the aforementioned date: October 19, 2021. That date seemed a strange period of time to ban a community member. It wasn’t a week or a month. It was 28 days; I would have been banned until a few hours after The Light in the Mist Kickstarter concluded.
It seems that a lot of us in the community were excited about The Light in the Mist, as the Kickstarter funded in less than 2 hours and crossed 200% funding in less than a day. I imagine that I wasn’t the only person who was eager to post about it in the community, but instead of censoring us one at a time, the Mystery Subscription Discussion leadership decided to go to extremes and archive the entire community to achieve absolute censorship. They posted no notice explaining their actions.
I reached out to Randy Searle and Andrew McCabe for official comment for this piece, but I received no response.
Why Write This?
We don’t normally dive into the muck over on Room Escape Artist; it’s not our beat. We never covered the relentless drama surrounding Chris Nevlin and Randy Searle, but this has crossed into absurdity.
The tabletop puzzle community is so small and is not served by wannabe dictators abusing the community to their own ends.
I’m not about to let them silence the community over a warped vendetta that has nothing to do with anything that actually happened within the community.
My message to the folks who love playing or creating play-at-home puzzles and mysteries:
This is a cowardly way to conduct yourselves and run a community.
When you inevitably unarchive the page after The Light in the Mist Kickstarter concludes, you’ll prove that you have no business leading any portion of our community, and you will have achieved nothing.
The Light in the Mist will still be far more than fully funded.
And this post shows the failure of your self-destructive and community-damaging attempt at shutting down speech.
In Season 2, episode 7, we chat with Rita Orlov, the designer of industry-favorite, indie narrative puzzle games. Rita made a huge splash in the puzzle community with the launch of The Tale of Ord — an epic tabletop game with narrative depth and puzzle density. She followed that with The Emerald Flame and The Light in the Mist, a tarot card puzzletale.
Rita not only designs her games, she also self-produces, funding all of them via Kickstarter. She talks to us about some of the difficulties of being an indie game creator and her inspiration behind The Light in the Mist. Rita was also one of the featured speakers at RECON ‘21, talking about her granular hint systems for tabletop games.
My biggest takeaway from chatting with Rita was the depth of her vision. There is a grandeur to her games which leaves you fully immersed in a realistic narrative. Rita is a masterful artist, skillfully weaving all the different threads of the puzzles, themes, and the storyline together into a gorgeous and lush tapestry, a “puzzletale” if you will. We hope this episode inspires you.
Thank You to Our Sponsors
We are immensely grateful to our sponsors this season. We truly appreciate your support of our mission to promote and improve the immersive gaming community.
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Topics Discussed in this Episode
David talks about how Rita was the gamemaster at his very first escape room in 2014 at Escape the Room in New York. [1:21]
Rita tells us about how that game took place in an actual office, and how they transformed it into an escape room on weekends. [2:45]
Rita talks about shipping and manufacturing delays with The Emerald Flame, including staff shortages and supply chain issues. [4:18]
Peih-Gee talks about her how quarantine has affecting shipping at her jewelry company. [5:49]
We talk about The Emerald Flame, Rita’s narrative puzzle game that raised almost $300,000 on Kickstarter. [7:19]
Rita talks about some of the difficulties with manufacturing overseas and being an indie game designer. [8:03]
Rita talks about her collaborator, Jack Fallows of Cryptogram Puzzle Post. Together, they created The Light in the Mist, her new game. [12:13]
Rita says the collaboration came about because Jack wanted to create a tarot deck, but didn’t know how to differentiate it from other decks, and Rita said the answer was to make it a puzzle game. [13:28]
David and Peih-Gee talk about how well integrated the puzzles are with the deck and the narrative. [13:55]
David mentions that he thinks The Light in the Mist is “unopinionated,” meaning it doesn’t try to dictate the type of experience players should have. [15:16]
Rita talks about how she was inspired by the constraints of working with the limited resources of a tarot deck, as opposed to the blank canvas of her other games. [16:52]
Rita talks about how her design style has changed since she first created The Tale of Ord. [22:28]
Rita tells us that her desire to tell a substantial story is why she tends to create games with six-plus hours of gameplay. [23:46]
Rita talks about the resale value of The Tale of Ord. [26:52]
Rita gave a talk at RECON ‘21 last month about hinting systems for puzzle games. [28:37]
Rita talks about her approach to hinting and says that because so many of her puzzles are multi-step, she also likes to provide hints that are minute and incremental. [29:31]
David asks Rita about her “precision puzzles,” puzzles that require very precise placement of things. [34:42]
Rita talks about The Dome in the Netherlands. [37:23]
Rita started playing chess at the age of 3. She and David chat about competitive table gaming including chess and Magic the Gathering. [38:44]
Peih-Gee tells a story about how her dad tricked her in poker. [41:00]
Rita talks about her love of sport climbing and bouldering, and how it has influenced her puzzle design. [43:05]
Peih-Gee and Rita talk a bit about how climbing as a sport has some commonalities with the escape room scene, such as cooperative play and having to figure out a solution to a puzzle. [45:29]
Rita teases us about her upcoming projects, including a limited-run holiday game, and the new game she’s working on which may include building physical components. [48:09]
Rita Orlov is a designer, maker, puzzlesmith, and the creator of PostCurious. With a background in escape rooms, art, and object design, Rita lives for the “aha” moments and the journey of discovery that can be created through gamified storytelling. She strives to create unique experiences that will challenge, surprise, and engage the player. You can find her thoughts on puzzles, crafting, and game design on the PostCurious blog.
Other recommended podcasts
Escape This Podcast
Escape This Podcast is a show that’s a mix between table top roleplaying and escape room puzzles.
If you enjoy The Light in the Mist, we hope you’ll check out our interview with creator Rita Orlov on The Reality Escape Pod.
Location: at home
Date Played: September 2021
Team size: 1-4; we recommend 2
Duration: 5-10 hours (easily spread out over as many sittings as you like)
Price: about $32 + shipping for the standard edition
I think you’re going to want to back The Light in the Mist on Kickstarter.
Rita Orlov of PostCurious teamed up with masterful illustrator Jack Fallows of Cryptogram Puzzle Post to create a custom, bepuzzled tarot deck packed with gorgeous art, all wrapped in a heartfelt story. The collaboration played to the strengths of these two creators.
The Light in the Mist displayed both creators at their absolute best and showed a maturity of design, while making use of the tarot deck as a medium for both puzzle design and storytelling.
Beyond the incredible aesthetics and stellar puzzles, The Light in the Mist was a remarkably unopinionated product. It can be just a puzzle game, or just a story, or just a tarot deck – which was a nifty trick of design.
When we complete tabletop puzzle games, even the ones we love, we usually find ourselves feeling a certain sense of relief. When we finished The Light in the Mist, we found ourselves missing it… wishing it were a little longer. Honestly, this was the perfect length. It’s better to return from a vacation wishing it were a couple of days longer than ultimately wishing that the trip had ended sooner; the same is true for puzzle games.
We loved The Light in the Mist. Although we’ve already played, we will back it on Kickstarter because we want to own a production copy. You’re going to want one too.
Who is this for?
Practitioners of the Tarot
Any experience level
The tarot deck looks gorgeous. It’s the kind of thing you’ll want to own.
The puzzles are stellar and varied, with an incredible hint system to make this game as easy you want it to be. Play at your own level.
There’s a beautiful, intimate, and well-crafted story running throughout the experience.
Our dear friend had disappeared under unusual and mystical circumstances leaving behind a tarot deck. Could we brave the deck’s mysteries and occult power to help our missing companion?