Escape Room 101

What’s an escape room?

Find an escape game near you

Regional Recommendations Guides

15 things to know before playing an escape room

Tips for players

Tips for designers & owners

RECON – The Reality Escape Convention

Our online escape room con for industry professionals & players

RECON 21 phoenix insignia.

RECON gives you:

  • featured talks from industry leaders covering a broad variety of topics
  • the opportunity to play limited-availability games
  • connections with likeminded folks from all over the world

Login from home, admission is pay what you want – that includes free

Learn more at RealityEscapeCon.com

Encrypted Escape Room West Reading – Biker’s Revenge [Review]

Ride to live, live to ride

Location:  West Reading, PA

Date Played: August 14, 2021

Team Size: 2-10; we recommend 3-5

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $29.50 per player

Ticketing: Private

Accessibility Consideration: There are steps leading down to the venue.

Emergency Exit Rating: [A] Push To Exit

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

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).

The bar top and seats in an old dive bar.

Who is this for?

  • Puzzle lovers
  • Scenery snobs
  • Fans of hard rock and dive bars
  • Any experience level
Continue reading “Encrypted Escape Room West Reading – Biker’s Revenge [Review]”

Extreme Censorship in the Tabletop Puzzle Community

I detest reporting on stuff like this, but sometimes things are too egregious to ignore.

TLDR

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.

Close-up of a mouth covered in red tape.

Facts

I’m going to walk you through a series of events that I find dumbfounding.

Inciting Incidents

Yesterday we published two things, a review of PostCurious’ latest Kickstarter, The Light in the Mist (which is fantastic), and an interview with one of the game’s creators on the Reality Escape Pod.

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:

Key Information

There are a few things that are important to understand to pull this whole story together:

Past Drama

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:

Go engage on Puzzle People: Games and Mysteries. It’s one of the kindest groups on Facebook.

My message to Andrew McCabe and Randy Searle:

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.

REPOD S2E7 The Puzzletales of Rita Orlov, creator of The Light in the Mist

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.

Illustration of a woodland landscape at night with a full moon and a gnarled tree. There is a small image of a woman with short brown hair and red lipstick in the corner.

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.

seo orb logo. cartoon man wearing pink sunglasses holding 2 puzzle cubes

SEO ORB

Marketing and SEO optimization created specifically for escape rooms by an enthusiast.

logo for telescape, a tower antenna on a greenish blue and orange square

Telescape by Buzzshot
Virtual escape room game creation and interface software. Bring increased functionality to your virtual escape rooms.

Escape from Mibo Island by Sherlocked
Virtual escape room played on a uniquely immersive web-based platform. First-person point of view avatar using your own webcam video that is ideal for anyone from families to corporate events. Try out Mibo Island for 20% off with the code MARVINRULES.

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 mentions that if you sign up for her mailing list, she will send you free puzzles.
Reality Escape Pod mission patch logo depicts a spaceship puncturing through the walls of reality.

Resources Mentioned in this Episode

Guest Bio

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.

Follow Rita

  • IG @postcurious
  • FB @postcurious
  • Twitter @getpostcurious

Other recommended podcasts

escape this podcast logo, microphone with a puzzle

Escape This Podcast

Escape This Podcast is a show that’s a mix between table top roleplaying and escape room puzzles.

Support REPOD

Thanks for listening!

Support Room Escape Artist’s Mission

There are lots of ways to support Room Escape Artist, like buying from Amazon or Etsy after clicking into the links included in this post or backing us on Patreon.

The money that we make from these helps us to grow the site and continue to add more value to the community that we love so much.

PostCurious – The Light in the Mist [Review]

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.

Enchanting

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

REA Reaction

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 box and full contents, including tarot deck, booklet, and journal.
Image via PostCurious

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.

7 assorted tarot cards with stunning art.
Image via PostCurious

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?

  • Story seekers
  • Puzzle lovers
  • Art aficionados
  • Practitioners of the Tarot
  • Any experience level

Why play?

  • 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.

Story

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?

Tarot box, deck, and 5 beautiful cards fanned out.
Image via PostCurious
Continue reading “PostCurious – The Light in the Mist [Review]”

And now… The RECON 21 Day 2 Featured Talks on YouTube

All of the featured talks from RECON ’21 are now available to view on the Room Escape Artist YouTube channel. The newly available day 2 talks first aired August 23, 2021.

Available RECON ’21 Featured Talks

Title: Playing with Game Structure: the Macro of Mechanics
Speakers: Aaron Hooper & Leanne Yong of Next Level Games

Title: Marketing: Building a Stronger Web Presence
Speaker: Maxime Filion of Immersia Escape Games

Title: Advanced Tech: Using Light & Sound to Build World-Class Experiences
Speakers: Chris Lattner & Malte Eiben of The Room

Title: Crafting an Experience for Your Players Through Gamemastering
Speakers: Jayson Mamaclay of Fuzzy Logic Escape Room, Saskia Arzheimer & Sarah Dillenberger of 66 Minuten Theater Adventures 

Title: Panel Discussion: Tabletop Escape Games
Hosts: Jared Dauenhauer & Zach Baughman of the Puzzling Company Podcast
Panelists: 

  • Nicholas Cravotta & Rebecca Bleau of BlueMatter Games
  • Angela Lawson-Scott of Crack-a-Nut Mysteries
  • Silvano Sorrentino of dV Giochi
  • Anna Lysova & Lisa Levina of Scarlet Envelope
  • Michelle Rundbaken & Yacine Merzouk of Society of Curiosities

Title: Fun Insurance: What Makes a Good Hint System
Speakers: Summer Herrick of Locurio & Rita Orlov of PostCurious

Title: Escape Rooms Taught Me How to Build a Booth That Got Me Kicked Out of Comic-Con
Speaker: Elan Lee of Exploding Kittens

You can also watch all the day 1 talks, plus the RECON ’21 Introduction by Neil Patrick Harris and the after-hours events with Escape this Podcast and The Two Bears.

Subscribe

Please subscribe to the Room Escape Artist YouTube channel to see new videos as soon as they are posted. We’re planning on more video content in the coming months.