Deckscape – Heist in Venice [Review]

Don’t shuffle in this casino.

Location: at home

Date Played: September 15, 2018

Team size: 1-6; we recommend 2-4

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $10 per box

REA Reaction

Heist in Venice delivered fast-paced gameplay through aha puzzles. In one moment we were trying to figure out what was going on; in the next moment we’d solved that puzzle and moved on to the next one. That frenetic gameplay mixed with a the casino-heist theme and some unexpected plot twists created a fun at-home escape room.

We found Deckscape’s penalty system frustrating. A few puzzles felt either deliberately obtuse or accidentally underdeveloped… which was also how we felt about the previous two installments from Deckscape.

Over all, we recommend Heist in VeniceWe found it slightly less interesting than Deckscape’s Test Time, and a lot better than The Fate of London. We look forward to Deckscape’s next edition.

The box for Deckscape Heist in Venice.

Who is this for?

  • Families
  • Puzzle lovers
  • Tabletop gamers
  • Story seekers
  • Any experience level

Why play?

  • Lots of puzzles
  • Some inventive puzzles
  • Low price

Story

A mysterious stranger had blackmailed our retired heist crew into one final job. We had been summoned to Venice, Italy and forced to break into a casino vault to steal a €1,000,000,000 poker chip.

The start of the game deck, and a piece of paper that reads, "The plan of the heist in Venice, open this only when instructed to."

Setup

Heist in Venice followed Deckscape’s card-based and puzzle-centric gameplay, a structure established with their earlier games. We solved cards sequentially until the game instructed us to split the deck into multiple piles where each pile could be solved concurrently.

Playing Deckscape games doesn’t require players to write on or damage any components.

We detailed the structure in our previous Deckscape review:

Deckscape – Test Time & The Fate of London [Product Review]

Gameplay

Deckscape’s Heist in Venice was a puzzle-centric tabletop escape game with a varied level of difficulty.

Core gameplay revolved around puzzling and making connections.

Mid-game, assorted cards are revealed on the table.

Analysis

+ The mix of puzzles was fairly varied. Heist in Venice included inventive puzzles.

– Like with the previous Deckscape games, we found a couple of puzzles to be unfair.

+ Deckscape games tell a cohesive story. Heist in Venice followed suit.

+ Heist in Venice delivered playful art, story, and gameplay. The gameplay never felt dire; it didn’t take itself too seriously. Even the challenging puzzles felt approachable.

– As with the previous games, the penalty system felt punitive. It diminished the fun of the experience. There were a few gotcha moments that made us roll our eyes. Had we taken them seriously, they would have pissed us off.

+ There was a structured, self-service hint system with 1 hint for each puzzle. This worked for A Heist in Venice because most of the puzzles were aha puzzles. Normally I’d like to see more granularity in a hint system, but the 1-hint system felt fine for this game.

– Heist in Venice presented us with a blind choice; I wasn’t impressed with the pay off. This choice created a clash between the setup of the game and its conclusion.

Two character cards, one for a mentalist codenamed Houdini, the other a burgler codenamed Passepartout.

+/- The character cards added an interesting twist and an unusual way to handle the problem of outside knowledge. Some of these interactions felt great; some seemed more flimsy.

+ The climax was amusing… and completely unexpected.

+ It’s easy to reset Heist in Venice to share it with other players. Nothing gets destroyed while playing. Resetting only requires stacking the cards in numerical order.

Tips for Playing

  • Make sure that your deck is in sequential order and all cards are present before starting (especially if you’re playing with a secondhand copy).
  • Don’t take the penalty system too seriously; you’ll have a more fun.

Purchase your copy of Deckscape’s Heist in Venice, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Deckscape – Test Time & The Fate of London [Product Review]

Flip this card.

Location: at home

Date Played: December 2017

Team size: 1-6; we recommend 2-4

Duration: 60 – 90 minutes

Price: $16 per game

REA Reaction

The two Deckscape games were fun, portable, and repackable. Plus, it’s tough to argue with the price. The two games were also too similar and shouldn’t be played in close proximity to one another. If you’re only going to play one, make it Test Time, if only because it has a more interesting and engaging final puzzle.

Who is this for?

  • Families
  • Puzzle lovers
  • Tabletop gamers
  • Any experience level

Why play?

  • Lots of puzzles
  • Multiple paths for parallel puzzling
  • Test Time’s incredibly inventive final puzzle
  • Low price

Story

Deckscape is currently available in two flavors:

Deckscape Test Time & The Fate of London boxes.

Test Time

In Test Time we assisted a delightfully mad scientist in regaining control of a time machine.

The Fate of London 

In The Fate of London we tracked down bombs that had been planted in the Palace of Westminster in London.

Setup

Deckscape’s structure was straightforward. We opened the box, found a deck of slightly oversized cards, and puzzled through them sequentially until the game instructed us to split the deck into multiple piles.

4 colored curtains each representing a parallel track for puzzling.

Once the decks split, we could parallel puzzle through the different decks, as long as we maintained the card sequence within each individual pile.

Gameplay

Deckscape delivered puzzles. Given the presentation through cards, they were heavily visual.

Deckscape Caution! introduction card explaining that cards should not be flipped unless they say so, and they should not be reorded.

Some cards were puzzles; others were puzzle components to set aside and use in conjunction with other cards.

A color mixture introduction puzzle.
Relax, this is the super simple demo puzzle.

To solve a puzzle card, we’d announce our answer and flip over the card. We kept a tally of incorrect answers. At the end of the game, incorrect answers factored into a score that dictated which ending we received. (There were a few endings for each game.)

The Deckscape score sheet with time remaining and penalties.

The hint system consisted of two cards with hints printed backwards on them. Each puzzle and component card was numbered. We could simply look up the puzzle number and then read the backwards hint.

The backside of the clue cards for Deckscape.

Standouts

The low price.

It was easy to pick up the game and start playing. The first few cards in the deck walked through the basic rules and got us puzzling. Deckscape didn’t involve any prep work or software.

Deckscape The Test Time Laboratory card, and an introduction from the Doctor.

The card art was cohesive and fun. The oversizing of the cards added some heft… They just felt good.

The hint system was simple and straightforward.

Many of the puzzles were engaging and entertaining.

While the gameplay felt linear, Deckscape split the puzzles into multiple paths. This was easy to follow and kept everyone engaged.

While it was not replayable, the game could be easily reset for other people to enjoy.

The final puzzle of Test Time was fantastic and innovative.

Shortcomings

Deckscape relied too heavy on a few types of puzzles. This repetition – both within a game and between the two – grew old quickly. We played the two games in the same week and this repetition really wore on us during the second game.

Each game contained a few puzzles that were seriously obtuse. Even when we solved them, we found ourselves rolling our eyes. It almost seemed as if the game designers knew that these puzzles were cheap because they accounted for it with a late-game mechanic. If you want to know more, read the spoiler section.

Minor Game Scoring Spoiler

At the end of each Deckscape game, we tallied up the number of incorrect answers submitted, which factored into a final score that determined which ending we’d receive. In both games, the score calculation process allowed us to disregard a certain number of incorrect answers, effectively cancelling them from the score. The allowed cancellation numbers were different between the two games. In our opinion, the number that we canceled directly correlated to the number of cheap puzzles contained within each box. These puzzles should have been improved, rather than negated in a late-game twist.

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The final puzzle in The Fate of London fizzled hard. Only one person could work on it at a time. This design was both frustrating and anticlimactic.

The Deckscape tagline oversells the game: “In a Deck of cards, all of the thrills of a real Escape Room!” We found it fun, especially for the price, but temper your expectations to increase your enjoyment.

Tips for Visiting

  • If you only buy one Deckscape, make it Test Time.
  • If you buy both, I’d recommend letting some time pass before playing the second one. I think this is good advice for any of the boxed escape room series.
  • You can easily repack these games and share them with friends.

Buy your copies of Deckscape’s Test Time & The Fate of London.

(If you purchase via our Amazon links, you will help support Room Escape Artist as we will receive a very small percentage of the sale.)