The Detective Society – Season 2: The Sudden Silence of Timothy Lee (Episode 1) [Review]

Is it cannon?

Location: at home

Date Played: December 7, 2021

Team size: we recommend 2-3

Duration: about 90 minutes

Price: £30.00 per episode or £168.00 from the 6-episode season

REA Reaction

The Detective Society’s The Sudden Silence of Timothy Lee Episode 1 provided solid observation and deduction-based solving, typical of the tabletop mystery genre. This was enhanced by strong and outlandish humor across all the materials, both printed and web-based.

Detective Society season 2, episode one box.

We enjoyed our introduction to The Detective Society’s second 6-episode season, The Sudden Silence of Timothy Lee, but not enough to order the subsequent 5 boxes. It felt like this is a product that plenty of people will love, but it wasn’t made for us. We really liked what they are doing, but wanted more out of the writing.

Nothing about Episode 1 got us invested in any of these characters or their plights. Thus, we found ourselves satisfied by a light puzzle quest, but not craving a resolution to warrant more episodes. In tabletop games that are a longer commitment, I need to feel that connection; otherwise I buy them and they collect dust.

We recommend The Sudden Silence of Timothy Lee to those who enjoy solving mysteries, especially with humor to lighten the inherent sobriety of the genre.

Who is this for?

  • Puzzle lovers
  • Players who like a bit of humor in their puzzling
  • Any experience level

Why play?

  • The humor
  • It’s a light, puzzle-driven serialized detective story

Story

Timothy Lee, a seemingly healthy man, had fallen into a mysterious coma. Suspecting foul play, his doctor had hired us to investigate. We had to retrace his footsteps to learn what had caused his illness.

An assortment of letters and hospital records from The Detective Society.
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Puzzling Pursuits – Blackbrim: 1876 [Review]

Gotta catch’em all

Location:  at home

Date Played: November 17, 2021

Team size: 1 or more; we recommend 1-3

Duration: 90 minutes (longer with a smaller or less experienced group)

Price: $34.95

REA Reaction

Blackbrim: 1876 was a straightforward tabletop puzzle game with elegant black-and-white print design to compliment its paper-based play.

Puzzling Pursuits put together a well-constructed game, with strong on-boarding, and an easy-to-follow 2-act structure, each act culminating in a meta puzzle.

Puzzle portfolios part 1 & 2 with a welcome booklet.

The weakest part of this game was the story, which was bland rather than bad. It was also concise, which kept it from feeling onerous.

Overall, this is a solid product for newer puzzlers. The puzzles were well constructed and the hint system supported the game well. Puzzling Pursuits executed well on Blackbrim: 1876. It didn’t push any boundaries, but it didn’t have to.

Who is this for?

  • Puzzle lovers
  • Any experience level

Why play?

  • A solid, approachable collection of puzzles
  • The two portfolio cases that hold each act were really satisfying to open

Story

It was Victorian England and a criminal mastermind had captured the entire London police force. It fell to us to solve the perpetrator’s clues and find the hostages.

Opening a puzzle portfolio. It looks like a black leather case.
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CU Adventures – Solve Our Shirts: Treasure Trove of Pirates Cove [Review]

I’ll take a laaarrrge shirt, matey.

Location: at home

Date Played: December 25, 2021

Team size: 1-4; we recommend 2

Duration: 60-90 minutes

Price: $45-$50 for a single shirt, $80-$90 for a couples pack

REA Reaction

We were big fans of the first Solve Our Shirts game, Escape from the Maze of the Minotaur… so we had XXL expectations coming into their latest game, Treasure Trove of Pirates Cove.

I can safely report that Solve Our Shirts managed to take what was great about their first game and improve upon it… and they managed to do this without treading the same ground. It’s remarkable how many surprises can be hidden in a damn t-shirt. It feels like magic.

Close up of the Treasure Trove of Pirate Cover t-shirt, depicts a shipwreck beside an island with a skull cave.
Image via Solve Our Shirts

Treasure Trove of Pirates Cove wasn’t a perfect game. The first puzzle was a bit of a steep on-ramp and I really wish that there was one clear puzzle on the front of the shirt that a friend could solve while we’re sitting in a restaurant, so that when they ask about the shirt, you can explain that “it’s a puzzle shirt, and here’s a simple one for you.”

I’ll also add that I think that the aesthetics of this Solve Our Shirts’ shirt are greatly improved… and while I probably won’t wear it out… because I’m a New Yorker at heart and sea green is waaaayyyyy too far from black for my comfort… I’m flirting with the idea of wearing this one, just to see what it feels like to wear this color. Your mileage may vary.

Overall, Treasure Trove of Pirates Cove is a stellar tabletop escape game product. CU Adventures comfortably ranks among the top creators in the field. If you’re even passingly interested in play-at-home puzzle games, this is one to buy.

I cannot wait to see what they think of next.

Series Overview

This review only covers details specific to this individual game from Solve Our Shirts.

For a detailed explanation of the concept and mechanics, and a general analysis of the entire product line, check out our Solve Our Shirts Overview.

Treasure Trove of Pirates Cove differs from the overview in three key ways:

  • There are no women’s cut shirts.
  • This product doesn’t have the easy mode pamphlet.
  • There isn’t a deluxe option.
A woman in a brown leather coat opening it up and revealing the Pirate Cove t-shirt.
Image via Solve Our Shirts
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The Detective Society – The Professor’s Missing Potion [Review]

Kids on the Case

Location:  at home

Date Played: November 18, 2021

Team size: We recommend 1-3 kids plus an adult

Duration: 45-60 minutes

Price: £8.99

REA Reaction

Within the genre of puzzling games for kids, The Professor’s Missing Potion stands out as a well designed, satisfying experience that did many things well for its audience. It offered an introduction to some common puzzle types within a cartoonishly immersive plot and environment. It used smart design choices to make the gameplay manageable for kids while still engaging them in delightful and authentic ways. Its fantastical plot, variety of interactions, and subtle humor connected well with my kids’ imaginations, effectively convincing them that they might actually be doing something real.

A man in a white lab coat with goggles, and a green background.

My main critique regards some minor quality control issues that detracted from the experience. First, no orientation materials were included in the downloaded files. This undermined my ability to set expectations and to make sure we were referring to the print materials as intended. This unease dissipated as the game progressed, but the scarcity of information between purchasing and beginning the game was a gap in the customer journey that could easily be bridged to give players (or their adult sidekick) more confidence. Also, the final puzzle seemed to have an error that forced us to guess rather than solve, resulting in anticlimactic feelings about the conclusion.

Ultimately, though, The Professor’s Missing Potion was a solidly entertaining kids’ activity that literally evoked childlike wonder. We’re glad we played and hope The Detective Society makes more games for this audience.

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Unexpected Games – The Initiative [Review]

A riddle wrapped in a mystery inside a board game.

Location:  at home

Date Played: October-November 2021

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

Duration: 15-60 minutes per mission

Price: $59.95

REA Reaction

The Initiative is a unique campaign-based cooperative strategy game with delightful escape-at-home overtones. Unlike most board games, there’s an overarching narrative that ties in with the gameplay mechanics, as well as plenty of secrets—some of which I only found while writing up this review.

Unexpected Games’ description of The Initiative as a “cooperative game of strategy, story, and codebreaking” explains it succinctly. We enjoyed all three of these elements on their own, and they were especially impressive in combination. From story to gameplay to graphic design, it’s clear how much care and creativity went into the design of this game.

The Initiative game box, mission console with an unrevealed code, resource deck, and game pieces set up on the board.

The Initiative is meant to be played over 14 missions with one to four adults or puzzle-minded youngsters, who can drop in and out of the campaign as they please. The strategy board game element is fortified with story in the form of a comic book describing a group of kids playing a very similar board game. There are also secrets hidden throughout the game materials, and even more missions are available to play separately after the main campaign. After spending a dozen or more hours with The Initiative, we still hadn’t exhausted all of its mysteries.

It’s not exactly an escape game, but between the cooperative gameplay, ciphers, secrets, and aha moments, The Initiative seems especially appropriate for escape room enthusiasts. If you like the idea of playing an intricately designed, puzzle-filled board game over multiple sittings, it’s well worth the retail price.

Who is this for?

  • Fans of legacy/ campaign board games
  • Story seekers
  • Cipher aficionados

Why play?

  • Cooperative strategizing
  • Story-gameplay integration
  • Secrets aplenty

Story

Four teens find a spy-themed board game called The Key at a yard sale and decide to play it together. When mysterious events start occurring in real life, they resolve to uncover the truth behind the game’s origins.

The story unfolds through comic pages which are meant to be read at certain points throughout the campaign.

A series of comic panels depicting some kids at a yard sale, where one boy purchases a board game called The Key.
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