Dancing with the Digital Club Drosselmeyer

Note, supplies are limited and they need to be shipped in advance, so if this is something you’re interested in, act now.

Lisa and I are a couple with few annual traditions; we like trying new things and visiting new places.

However, for the past 4 years we’ve made an annual trip to Massachusetts for Club Drosselmeyer. We adore this reimagining of the Nutcracker as a World War II era techno-conspiracy. (Past reviews)

This event blends so many of our favorite things into one giant spectacle… puzzles, immersive theatre, music, swing dancing. When we went to the first one I said, “It felt like someone made this specifically for us.”

Lisa and David dressed up and swing dancing on the Club Drosselmeyer floor.
Yours truly tearing it up on the dance floor.

Well, we can’t travel to Boston this year. There is no real-life Club Drosselmeyer, and the last time we went out dancing was at last year’s Club Drosselmeyer.

The Good News

There is a digital Club Drosselmeyer, the Drosselbox.

I really have no idea what to expect from this. I know that it will be a profoundly different experience, simply because it can’t be a giant puzzle and dance party. I am just happy that any amount of Club Drosselmeyer will be bottled up and sent to warm our home and keep up our annual tradition.

This is a ticketed event, not just a boxed game. There will be one show on December 12 and two shows on December 13.

I can’t wait to see what it’s like.

Club Drosselmeyer 1942 [Review]

Echos

Location:  Cambridge (Boston), Massachusetts

Date Played: December 13, 2019

Team size: we recommend 2-8 depending on the experience you’re looking for

Duration: 2.5 hours

Price: $49-85 per ticket

Ticketing: Public event

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

Club Drosselmeyer 1942 was the finale to a 4-part annual saga that was introduced in 2016 (or 1939).

Each December for the past 4 years we’ve traveled to Boston, put on our fancy clothes, and spent an evening puzzling, roleplaying, and swing dancing among friends and characters in Club Drosselmeyer. Each year we’ve been treated to a different reimagining of The Nutcracker as a World War II techno-conspiracy.

It’s kind of sad to say farewell to a show we’ve watched evolve and grow over the years. (I believe that the plan is to loop back to 1939 next year.) The Club and its characters feel like friends that we only get to see at Christmas.

In-game: Two very good looking and brilliant puzzlers standing beside and actress as they all peer off into the distance.

At this year’s Club Drosselmeyer the band was on fire, the stage was gorgeous, the drinks were flowing, and the puzzles were plentiful.

In-game: The band playing on the Drosselmeyer stage.

The most noteworthy change was the stellar quality of the acting and performances. This has improved with each year, but this most recent show felt leaps and bounds better than the previous year. On the negative side, the line for seeing the main characters had reemerged for the first time since year one.

The puzzling was plentiful, and really enjoyable – if you either knew what you were doing or had someone to guide you into the deep end. Club Drosselmeyer has an impossible amount of content, and part of the experience is acknowledging that you’re going to have your own experience, not an all-encompassing experience.

Our night had a funky, entertaining ending that I truly enjoyed as a conclusion for our night… but I didn’t love it as an end to a 4-year journey. Endings are hard, especially variable endings for immersive experiences.

I love Club Drosselmeyer, and if it loops, I’ll probably go back, even if it’s just to dance. At this point it’s a holiday tradition in our family. Viva la Drosselmeyer.

Who is this for?

  • Puzzle lovers
  • Jazz lovers
  • Swing dancers
  • Immersive theater fans
  • People who are fine with crowds
  • People who don’t need to be part of every interaction
  • Any experience level … for puzzlers or dancers

Why play?

  • Spectacle
  • Dance, acrobatics, and magical performances
  • Music
  • 1940-themed party
  • Larping (optional)
  • Dancing (optional)
  • Puzzle hunt-style puzzles (optional)

Story

It was 1942 and the American war machine was starting to move forward. Resources were limited and everyone was looking for ways to tighten the proverbial belt and pitch in.

In-game: A table with an illuminated "D", a table number and a Club Drosselmeyer comic.

Industrialist and inventor Herr Drosselmeyer had decided to throw another one of his famous parties. His aim was to sell war bonds and raise money for the nation’s armed forces. As always, Drosselmeyer also intended on using the event to unveil his latest creations from Project Nutcracker.

In-game: David in a suit holding a green glowing object and looking evil.
We wants it; we needs it. Must have the precious.

Setting

We returned for a fourth (and final?) time to Club Drosselmeyer. It was the same night club, the same band, the same bandstands, and many of the characters that we’ve come to know, love, and hate… plus a few new characters.

Club Drosselmeyer was the same decadent party that it has been in past years. Everyone was dressed up and the performative acts were as good or better than ever. The spectacle was in full swing.

In-game: the dance floor is filled with people while the band plays on the Drosselemeyer stage.

Gameplay

Club Drosselmeyer 1942 was immersive game with a high level of difficulty. It required a team effort – with teammates focusing on different types of interactions – to solve the story through to its conclusion.

Core gameplay included solving puzzles, conversing with characters, and watching performances. Individuals could choose to engage in any of these as much or little as they liked.

Club Drosselmeyer goers could also choose to opt out of gameplay, sit back and enjoy the band, or spend an evening on the dance floor.

In-game: A woman sitting at a war bonds stand.

Analysis

➕ Waiting for us at our table, we found a fantastic comic book that got us up to speed on the story. For those jumping in at year 4, this was especially helpful.

Club Drosselmeyer was as beautiful as ever. I don’t think that I’ll ever get tired of that staging. The new additions to the set were lovely.

➕ The performances were noticeably better than in previous years. Back in year one, the acting was cringe-worthy. It has improved each year since. This year the performers were wonderful and entertaining.

In-game: Rhett King shuffling cards at a small table covered in money.
One of our teammates cheated at blackjack against this guy.

➕ The puzzles were varied in approachability. There were some easier game-like puzzles that engaged beginners. There were also challenging solves requiring focused effort from more experienced puzzlers.

➕/➖ Club Drosselmeyer did a lot to onboard first timers and provided some low-skill games, but it was still challenging for true newbies to find their bearings. I don’t think that most of the newbies really understood how hard they had to play if they wanted to complete the main objective.

➖ The puzzles remained paper-based, even in the interactive environment. They leaned heavily into words and logic. There would be opportunity for more dynamic puzzles in Club Drosselmeyer that branched out into more puzzle types and engaged players in the rest of the spectacle as part of the puzzle solving.

➖ The lines for the main characters bottlenecked. Some of these lines were a result of player confusion, rather than something inherent in the game’s script. However, this confusion, combined with Drosselmeyer’s “guard” being a character that players did not trust, resulted in line-management problems, and players focusing their attention on the wrong thing at the wrong time. It was interesting to us how much the character of the “guard” added complexity to this game mechanic.

Club Drosselmeyer has refined its hint system. The waiters were attentive, serving up hints based on the needs of the group and the overall experience.

➖ The cast and players took over the dance floor. It was the easiest place for players to find and approach the characters. This left less room for dancing. Too much of the drama of the show was happening right in the middle of the dance floor.

➕/➖ 1942 was Club Drosselmeyer’s finale. The ending we triggered was fun, but didn’t feel like the conclusion to a 4-year story arc. Because there are multiple ways a performance of Club Drosselmeyer might end, it’s hard to say where the show and characters will be at the end of the final night. That said, when the show wrapped up, we didn’t feel closure to the larger story and these characters.

❓ You can’t see or do everything in Club Drosselmeyer. Your experience is largely what you decide it will be.

In-game: Us with oru friends at in front of the Drosselmeyer stage at the end of the show.

Tips For Visiting

  • Parking: I encourage taking mass transit, taxi, or ride share.
  • Food: There are ample food options in the neighborhood.

If this show returns to Boston next December, or opens in another city, we hope you’ll book your evening at Club Drosselmeyer, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Club Drosselmeyer 1941 [Review]

We can do it!

Location:  Cambridge (Boston), Massachusetts

Date Played: December 16, 2018

Team size: we recommend 2-8 depending on the experience you’re looking for

Duration: 2.5 hours

Price: $49-85 per ticket

Ticketing: Public event

REA Reaction

Club Drosselmeyer was a magnificent mirage. For a few hours, an idyllic night club filled with swing dancers, jazz musicians, histrionic characters, and challenging puzzles appeared out of the cold Boston air to host a distorted World War II rendition of The Nutcracker… and disappeared just as clock struck 11pm. 

There is no event in the puzzle or immersive theatre world that I eagerly anticipate more than this annual confluence of puzzles, swing dancing, music, and theatrics. It’s all of the entertainment that I love wrapped up for Christmas and tied with a bow.

Club Drosselmeyer banner and microphone.

Each year it has been a little different and a bit improved, but still Club Drosselmeyer. This time around, it was noticeably harder to earn our win (there will be less one puzzle for the rest of the run). Old villains turned into allies and new foes emerged. Above all, they’d streamlined the flow of the experience.

Club Drosselmeyer was glorious because there were so many ways to savor it. For those of us who wished to devour everything it had to offer, the one drawback was the bittersweetness of realizing that just wasn’t possible. There’s something real and immersive about that as well.

As our time at Club Drosselmeyer concluded once again, one of our teammates (an avid escape room player) who was attending for the first time remarked, “I feel high…” That’s certainly how I felt.

Tickets for Club Drosselmeyer are nearly soldout. If you can get your hands on one for this Wednesday or Thursday night, I’d strongly urge you to do so immediately… otherwise you’ll have to wait until 1942. 

Who is this for?

  • Story seekers
  • Puzzle lovers
  • Scenery snobs
  • Jazz fans
  • Swing dancers
  • Immersive theater fans
  • People who are fine with crowds
  • People who don’t need to be part of every interaction
  • Any experience level … for puzzlers or dancers

Why play?

  • Puzzle hunt-style puzzles
  • Spectacle
  • Dance, acrobatic, and magical performances
  • An amazing jazz band
  • Roleplaying
  • 1941-themed party

Story

It was Christmas in 1941. We’d been attending Herr Drosselmeyer’s annual Christmas since 1939. With each passing year the threat of war loomed larger. With the sudden attack on Pearl Harbor, the war had finally found us. It was time for all Americans to put aside their differences and fight the good fight. 

As in the previous years, we’d heard that Drosselmeyer Industries would reveal the latest work from Project Nutcracker: version Delta. We had a feeling that Herr Drosselmeyer was going to find himself in another pickle and need our help. 

This year we were hunting for a mole. 

Club Drosselmeyer band

Setting

We returned to the glamorous 1941 night club of Club Drosselmeyer. The bandstands were back along with their musicians. The dancers tore up the floor and the singers belted tunes. Everything felt the same, with a couple of improvements:

First, Herr Drosselmeyer had moved from his second floor perch overlooking the festivities to a large table at stage right. This remedied one of the bottlenecks of past years. 

Second, the massive Army and Navy banners looked great. I found them catching my eye multiple times throughout the evening… which is saying something because there was a lot to see. 

Our team puzzling hard.
(Left to right) Lisa’s parents Alan & Eva, Lisa, Theresa

Gameplay

Each year Club Drosselmeyer’s creators put a new spin on their gameplay. 

The core of the event remains the same: participants could puzzle, swing dance, drink, socialize, interact, or simply watch everything play out. 

The shift in 1941 came from the overall structure of the puzzle game. This year there were three distinct paths to follow and an assortment of side quests. This shift maintained the overall feel of Club Drosselmeyer, while streamlining the flow of the gameplay. 

Analysis

➕ The singing, dancing, music, and vibe of Club Drosselmeyer was as wonderful as it had ever been. 

➕ The puzzles played well, resolved cleanly, and presented a challenging puzzle hunt-style game that made us earn whatever intel we received. 

❓ This year’s puzzle game was considerably more challenging than those of previous years. The upcoming performances run will drop one of the more difficult puzzles to make the game more competitive. This is the right call, in my opinion. 

➕ Club Drosselmeyer’s unique and wide-open “take in the experience however you wish” approach is a beautiful thing. There’s something for just about anyone.

➕/➖ The acting was greatly improved from the previous years. There were still moments that didn’t land quite right, but the hit/miss ratio was shifted significantly since last year. 

➕ The new structure simplified the story and gameflow, and shrunk wait times for interactions to a more than acceptable minimum. 

➕/➖ For your own good, I’m blurting out a vague spoiler here for anyone who has played in past years: Just as the structure was different, so was the alignment of one major character who I had no desire to work with due to his past behavior. I didn’t fully appreciate how significantly his character had changed until the end of the experience. Someone deserves a second third chance. I disliked the guy so much in past years that I couldn’t see his character development happening until hindsight had kicked in. 

❓ In actor-driven games, we frequently feel conflicted between paying attention to a performer and solving puzzles. That struggle was more present this year because we had more to solve. As much as I love the challenge of Club Drosselmeyer, there’s a part of me that wishes that I could spend a little more time dancing and taking in the show while playing competitively. 

➕ The expansion of side quests added an additional lower-stakes, lower-difficulty series of challenges. 

➖ I couldn’t tell the difference between side quests and main quests until I was deep in the game. 

➕ The introduction of the Boston Police Commissioner as a character was fantastic. He opened up a whole new gameplay thread for less-puzzley players who wanted to focus on actor interactions. 

➕ I really enjoyed the concluding sequence. It felt right for the story and was well acted. 

Tips For Visiting

  • Parking: I encourage taking mass transit, taxi, or ride sharing.
  • Food: There are ample food options in the neighborhood.

Grab one of the few remaining tickets to this week’s Club Drosselmeyer 1941, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Club Drosselmeyer 1940 [Event Review]

The cat’s meow.

Location: Cambridge, MA

Date Played: December 17, 2017

Team size: we recommend 2-6 depending on the experience you’re looking for

Duration: about 2.5 hours

Price: $49-85 per ticket

REA Reaction

Club Drosselmeyer brought together swing dancing, a fantastic band, magic, acrobatics, puzzles, intrigue, a beautiful setting, and lots of interaction. The 2017 show fixed or dramatically improved the gameplay issues that I discussed last year.

If you didn’t get to attend the limited run in December 2017, and if they run a sequel, find a way to get to Boston for this in December 2018. Hopefully they’ll run a 1941 event.

The red and gold Club Drosselmeyer stage with a 7 piece jazz band playing.

Who is this for?

  • Puzzle lovers
  • Jazz lovers
  • Swing dancers
  • Immersive theater fans
  • People who are fine with crowds
  • People who don’t need to be part of every interaction
  • Any experience level … for puzzlers or dancers

Why play?

  • Spectacle
  • Dance, acrobatic, and magical performances
  • Music
  • 1940-themed party
  • LARPing
  • Puzzle hunt-style puzzles

Story

One year after Club Drosselmeyer 1939, we again found ourselves in our dancing shoes stopping another Nazi techo-conspiracy in a reimagining of The Nutcracker.

Last year, when we learned that Drosselmeyer Industries was creating fighting robots to support the war effort, we prevented the plans for these bots from falling into German hands.

This year we found ourselves in between two factions: Drosselmeyer Industries and King Technologies. Both fighting robot manufacturers wanted to earn a military contract with the US Government.

To determine who would win the contract, a robot from each maker would battle at the end of the night. It was up to us, the attendees, to help the companies upgrade their bots for battle.

Lisa and David dressed up and swing dancing on the Club Drosselmeyer floor.
Yours truly tearing it up on the dance floor.

Setting

Club Drosselmeyer 1940’s setting was identical to last year’s production, near as I could tell. The only additions were upgrade boxes for each robot, and an intimate back-stage set for winning teams to encounter.

We returned to the OBERON Theater in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where the stage was decked out with signage and bandstands to remind you that this was Club Drosselmeyer. The staging was decadent and beautiful.

The actors were decked out like it was a Christmas party in the 40s. As attendees, we dressed the part as well. (Those who didn’t dress for the occasion did it wrong.)

The evening included intermittent stage performances ranging from magic by Herr Drosselmeyer himself, to Lindy hop and waltz, and even an aerial silk act.

Gameplay

In keeping with last year, we had our pick of swing dancing, puzzling, interacting with characters, drinking, and watching the show unfold. Any attendee could do any combination of these activities.

Dancing was always an option, unless the performers were on stage.

The puzzles were delivered puzzle-hunt style, as mostly paper-based challenges. There were 5 different missions, each consisting of a series of puzzles. The missions culminated in a single meta-puzzle. Each mission was assigned by a specific character in the show who provided both the challenge and the context for it.

Upon completing a mission, we were given punch cards for different robot features. We could drop them into one of two boxes to upgrade the robot of our choosing. This was essentially a voting feature. As players solved puzzles, they gained the opportunity to support either the good or the evil robot.

An anecdote: I was eavesdropping on a team debating which robot to support. One guy persuaded his friends to upgrade the evil bot arguing (and I’m paraphrasing), “It isn’t really clear if he is bad. He just seems like a stronger, more fierce bot.”  Many folks upgraded the Nazi-bot that evening. To me it was abundantly clear that this was a battle of obvious good and evil. It was interesting to observe. 

Standouts

Everything that was great about last year’s Club Drosselmeyer still applied to the sequel, without exception. I’m not going to rehash them. There were also some critical improvements this time around:

The evening’s introduction clarified our role, as attendees, in the evening’s festivities. It gave direction as to whom to approach and how to start playing.

Lisa's father in a fedora and suite sitting at a small table looking at puzzles with Lisa.
Lisa and her father looking mighty mysterious.

The characters were able and eager to provide direction if we were confused. Additionally, there were extra Club staff floating around who would help out for a flirt or a bribe. (Fake money was casually dropped and hidden throughout the Club.)

The devastatingly long lines that we contended with last year were virtually gone. The longest that I waited to meet with any character was about 3 minutes. Because the lines were eliminated, there weren’t the same crowding problems that we had previously encountered.

The acting was a whole lot better. It also put greater emphasis on dancing and farce, which played much better to the strengths of the cast.

The teams that completed the main game got some nifty bonus interactions. The first team to complete the game (which was us, at the first performance) also made a decision that impacted the finale.

Shortcomings

Even with the gameplay improvements, it was still difficult to figure out how to approach gameplay. Were we teammates with our table mates? (Only if we wanted to be.) Could we team up with others? (Yup.) Did you need a team? (No, but you wouldn’t finish the game on your own.)

We uncovered a lot of fake money, but we weren’t clear how to use it. It also lacked value because it was overly abundant.

Much of the stage acting, while improved, was still a little forced.

While the finale played to the strengths of the performers, it got a little bonkers. This was amplified because some characters and plot threads were serious and others were farcical. It was a bit challenging to keep up with the tonal leaps.

Tips for Visiting

If they run it again next year:

  • Dress up. Even if you don’t go full 1940s period accurate, put on a suit or a dress or something. You’re going to feel silly if you show up in jeans.
  • They don’t open the doors early. Bring warm layers. They have a coat check.
  • Be open to all that Club Drosselmeyer has to offer.

Club Drosselmeyer took place in December 2017 and is not currently running.

 

Time Run, RED, & Club Dross… Experience These Games While You Can

These three experiences will be around for only a limited time. You should play them if you can.

In-game image of a the ornate Club Drosselmeyer stage witha swing band and a floor full of people dancing.

Club Drosselmeyer 1940 (Cambridge, Massachusetts)

Last year’s Club Drosselmeyer was set in 1939 (review). This massive spectacle merged puzzles, swing dancing, performance, and actor engagement into one giant extravaganza.

This year’s sequel is set a year later in 1940 and features all new content.

The dates are December 17, 20, & 21, 2017. We will be attending Sunday the 17th.

Come team up with us… or puzzle against us.

Also, wear a costume.

RED - Eve

RED (New York, New York)

RED is not an escape room and it’s not immersive theater; it’s an immersive game.

Staged on a large set and filled with actors, you and your friends can enter an apocalyptic West World-esque scenario. There are characters to meet, an environment to explore, mysteries to sort out, and a journey of self examination to uncover. When we played, we became ourselves in crisis mode… and it was so cool.

The first time we played, we didn’t survive and we had a fantastic time.

When we returned for a second time, we did so with a plan. While we may not have stopped the apocalypse, we all survived. We had just as much fun as the first go around.

The final showing of RED is on December 5th. The company behind it, First Person Xperience, will create something new, but it certainly won’t be this. This is one of a kind.

We loved this game so much that we featured it on our Tour of NYC. If you like actor-driven experiences and gameplay, RED is a must.

press shot 1 landscape

Time Run (London, United Kingdom)

Time Run has grown into one of London’s most renowned escape room companies. Their games, The Lance of Longinus (review) and The Celestial Chain (review), are insanely detailed and interconnected. They are a joy to play.

Time Run will be closing sometime in the near future because their building will be leveled and the site turned into housing. They will be open through the end of 2017 and maybe into 2018… It all depends on a fluid construction calendar. I know that they have plans to create new games, but those plans do not involve their original two experiences.

Please go play them if you can.