Clue Carré – The Bookie [Reaction]

Rebookied

Location:  Metairie, Louisiana

Date Played: July 11, 2019

Team size: up to 10; we recommend 3-5

Duration: 45 minutes

Price: $23 per player

Ticketing: Private

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

RISE Escape Rooms is no more, but their games live on. 13th Gate picked up their more celebrated games Hijacked and Golden Lock-In Award winner Spellbound. Clue Carré took on The Bookie, which I felt was a deeply underappreciated game.

While it was far less bombastic than Hijacked, for my money, I think that The Bookie was a tighter, more complete package with superior gameplay and puzzles.

In-game: A bar beside a blackjack table in a back room casino.
Image via Clue Carré

Almost 2 years after we first played it, we visited Clue Carré’s new Surge Trampoline Park location and sort of played/ sort of watched our friends play the new, streamlined version of The Bookie.

What’s Different?

Clue Carré slimmed down The Bookie, cutting the game clock to 45 minutes and simplifying some of the puzzle play.

Additionally, Clue Carré added a big board to guide players towards the puzzle stations that hadn’t been solved.

In-game: A back room casion with blackjack, roulette, a craps tables.
Image via Clue Carré

It still looked and felt like the same game that we knew and loved… it just played a bit quicker and smoother. All of the set pieces remained, as did the most memorable puzzles and moments.

To put it succinctly, the leaner version was a better game. It eliminated a lot of the things that were convoluted in the original. I wasn’t expecting to love this game 2 years later, but here we are.

In-game: An old maintenance closet.
Image via Clue Carré

The only loss was to the difficulty level. Frankly, the number of players who will truly miss a little extra difficulty is greatly outweighed by the majority who will enjoy the faster pace.

Between Alien Encounter and The Bookie, Clue Carré’s Surge Trampoline Park location should be high on your playlist for New Orleans.

Tips For Visiting

  • This game is located at Clue Carré’s Kenner location inside Surge Trampoline Park
  • There is a parking lot.

Book your hour with Clue Carré’s The Bookie, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Clue Carré comped our tickets for this game.

Broken Ghost Immersives – The Rogues Gallery [Review]

Ain’t no party like a villain party

Location:  New York, New York

Date Played: July 23, 2019

Group size: variable

Duration: approximately 2 hours

Price: $65 per player

Ticketing: Public

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

We loved The Rogues Gallery… and also felt like it needed a lot more refinement.

Broken Ghost Immersives hosted this latest creation in the Wildrence. The space was retooled as a giant hybrid of tabletop gaming and roleplaying. We were villains attempting to take over the world after the death of the world’s greatest superhero.

In-game: a gathering of rogues

We were each given a character and let loose in a world filled with other villains – most of them other players. A few fantastic actors also played hilarious and compelling NPCs.

The beauty in The Rogues Gallery was that you could kind of play it however you wanted.

As the Green Emerald, I did what I do in games (and real life): I optimized our resources to conquer the world. And David… David did what he does: he got lost in role-playing as the nefarious Pyramid Scream, the benevolent scourge of stay-at-home mothers!

In-game: the character card for "Pyramid Scream." It's subtitled, "A multi-level massacre."
“You seem like a smart person who recognizes a great business opportunity when you see one.” -David

This sandbox, however, was a little too full. Interestingly, we never felt like there were too many players. Rather it seemed like there were far too many villainous teams, and Broken Ghost Immersives needed more efficient systems to move players through the mechanics.

If given the opportunity, we’d happily conquer this world again. It felt like a party with game mechanics. We hope that Broken Ghost Immersives brings back The Rogues Gallery with some refinements. If they do bring it back, may we suggest a name:

The Rogues Gallery II: The Inevitable Dark Second Chapter

Who is this for?

  • Story seekers
  • Villains
  • Best for players who are willing to let go and embrace their character (a little D&D experience doesn’t hurt)
  • Any experience level

Why play?

  • It’s funny
  • The NPCs were fantastic
  • It was engaging and amusing

Story

Good news, everyone! The world’s greatest superhero was just murdered.

To celebrate, all of the world’s rogues, A-list, B-list, C-list… and even the D-list (they knew who they were) were invited to a party of villainy and world domination.

In-game: An unusual device with buttons, dials, switches, and screens.

Setting

We entered the world of Wildrence, an immersive stage that has been home to many different productions.

The set itself was largely unchanged. I’m not going to spoil it. If you’ve never been, it’s best experienced in person. If you’ve been to Wildrence, you know the score.

In-game: a couple 12 packs of beer.
The answer to the question: “What do villains drink?”

Gameplay

Broken Ghost Immersives’ The Rogues Gallery was an immersive game that pulled heavily from role-playing, tabletop gaming, and video gaming.

Core gameplay revolved around meeting characters, finding missions, making moves on a giant projected tabletop game, role-playing (as shallow or as deep as desired), and completing a wide variety of quests/ challenges.

In-game: a handful of multicolored gems.

Completing challenges earned us colored gems that could be used to make moves on the giant world-conquering tabletop game. The team that took over the majority of the world won the game. It was like Risk, but with a finite clock, and turtling in Australia wasn’t a viable strategy.

There was a lot going on and it was impossible for any one player to experience everything. It would be impossible to truly experience all that The Rogues Gallery had to offer, even on repeat visits.

Analysis

➕ The characters of Rogues Gallery were phenomenal. We loved the names that we received. These were great jumping off points for us as players to turn ourselves into characters. It was such fun to put on these supervillain identities.

➕ A selection of NPCs facilitated The Rogues Gallery. Each character had a unique identity, brought to life by an actor. The characters worked so well in the world and the actors were as great as they were hilarious.

➕/ ➖ The best moments came at a price. One amazing segment removed players from the rest of the goings-on for long enough that they lost their grip on the larger game. This journey was David’s favorite part of Rogues Gallery because it gave him a chance to truly be his character. However, this came at a price of being essentially knocked out of the larger game. By the time he reemerged from his adventure, too much of the core game had moved on without him.

➖ Our visit to Rogues Gallery had too many teams. It didn’t feel like too many people. Rather, the players needed to be distributed into half as many factions. Too many teams were iced out of the larger game too early and forced into subservient roles. This wasn’t catastrophic, but it felt bad for those folks, and simultaneously disrupted the teams with winning strategies. Fewer teams would also work better for teammates going on long character journeys that removed them from the larger game.

Rogues Gallery encountered both line management and resource management problems. The mechanics of using resources wasn’t clear from the start and we had to wait so long that it was prudent to have one player constantly in the gameplay line. By the end of the game, we had far more resources accumulated than time to use them, given the waiting issue.

➕ The mini games were mostly fun. Some felt a bit too much like homework, but we recognized that they worked well in the environment and for a wide variety of player types. There were activities for those who wanted to role-play and games for those who preferred more challenge-oriented interactions.

➕/➖ The powers were nifty, but unbalanced. As supervillians, the powers worked in the world. We loved the concept. Some powers felt a bit too powerful, however, and others seemed impossible to use.

➕ The end sequence was exciting and surprising. It brought the entire group together. The finale was guided by the NPCs, but shaped by the players. We loved the story we told.

❓ At The Rogues Gallery, each player dictated how much they would enjoy the experience. You could play as a LARPer, gamer, puzzler, or something in between. Your fun will be dictated by your personality and what you want to get out of the experience.

Tips For Visiting

Book your hour with Broken Ghost Immersives’ Rogues Gallery, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Rogues Gallery is not currently running.

Disclosure: Broken Ghost Immersives comped our tickets for this game.

60out – Miss Jezebel [Review]

A tea party to die for.

Location:  Los Angeles, CA

Date Played: July 27, 2019

Team size: 2-5; we recommend 3-4

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $45 per player (minimum $135)

Ticketing: Private

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

Miss Jezebel was a one-of-a-kind, actor-driven game that combined immersive theater and escape-room-esque gameplay with delightful results.

Part interactive performance, part sneaking around and solving puzzles, Miss Jezebel felt quite a bit like being inside a point-and-click adventure game like Maniac Mansion, only bawdier.

The actor playing Miss Jezebel took command of the game flow while making us feel like the experience was uniquely ours. Because of the improvisational aspects of the show, Miss Jezebel may even have replay value for those who want to experience the performance elements again.

Miss Jezebel poses in glitzy tea party attire.

If you just want to be left alone to solve puzzles with your friends, Miss Jezebel may not be your cup of tea. But for groups who know each other well and are comfortable with a raunchier style of humor and more intense interactions than the average escape room, Miss Jezebel is a must-visit.

60out is planning more immersive theater experiences in the future. We can’t wait to see what they come up with next.

Who is this for?

  • Adults 18+ who are comfortable with suggestive humor
  • Fans of immersive theater
  • Players who enjoy interacting with actors
  • Any experience level

Why play?

  • Unusual interactions
  • Humorous, playful vibe
  • The thrill of deception

Story

We were detectives tasked with investigating an eccentric character named Miss Jezebel who was suspected of murdering a series of husbands. While attending one of her famous tea parties, we needed to surreptitiously search her home and uncover evidence of her crimes.

A table lamp next to a doorway with a beaded curtain featuring an open eye.

Setting

Miss Jezebel took place at the titular character’s home, in her dimly lit sitting room. At first glance, the decor seemed eclectic yet cozy, but closer inspection revealed an edgier side.

The scenery was fairly basic, but it supported the story and the gameplay effectively.

A sideboard filled with haphazardly stacked dishes.

Gameplay

Miss Jezebel offered a combination of immersive theater and escape room, with periods of actor interaction interspersed with bursts of searching and solving. The gameplay included a few classic escape room puzzles, but largely revolved around searching, stealth, and creative problem solving.

Our mission was to find evidence that would bring down Miss Jezebel without her catching on that we were investigating her. Therefore, we had to follow Miss Jezebel’s instructions and not get caught breaking her rules. Disobeying her could result in one of several “punishments” that were both undignified and time-consuming.

Because of the interactive format, much of the experience was improvised by the actor and the participants. Rather than following a strict puzzle flow like a typical escape room, the hour felt like it was broken into stages, with some variability in the interactions that could get us to the end of each sequence.

A lace-covered table lamp illuminates a dim room, including a framed monkey head.

Analysis

➕ Miss Jezebel bills itself as a “thriller/comedy,” and it did not disappoint. The pressure to achieve our goal was intense, but the scenario was so zany that we couldn’t help but laugh—a lot.

➕ The actor playing Miss Jezebel excelled at inhabiting a demanding role while also keeping track of our progress and subtly nudging us toward our goal. Miss Jezebel was a dangerous killer…but she was a fun dangerous killer. She somehow made us feel unsettled, entertained, and perfectly safe all at the same time. By the end, we were almost rooting for her to win.

➕ Due to the improvisational nature of our interactions with Miss Jezebel, it sometimes felt as if we were pushing the game forward by creating our own solutions. We enjoyed having the freedom to improvise our way out of each problem—or at least feel as though we were improvising. This variation also personalized our playthrough, making it feel like each group’s experience would be slightly different. It would be fascinating to see how other groups approached the same obstacles.

➕ We incurred a couple of penalties for getting caught breaking the rules, but they were so amusing that we didn’t realize they functioned as time penalties. These “punishments” were more fun than frustrating and provided some of the most memorable moments of the evening.

Miss Jezebel’s off-the-wall interactions were captivating and memorable. Despite the bizarre nature of the puzzles, we felt completely immersed in our adventure.

Miss Jezebel is 18+ primarily because it relies heavily on adult humor—approximately the level of debauchery you might expect at a bachelorette party. Miss Jezebel also included a handful of potentially awkward interactions along the same lines. Some players might find these elements embarrassing; others will find them hilarious.

➕ At times the gameplay felt remarkably like a video game brought to life. We loved the situational puzzles that forced us to improvise in order to cajole or distract Miss Jezebel. Of the more traditional escape room puzzles, one aha puzzle had a particularly creative solution reminiscent of an old-school point-and-click adventure game.

➖ The audio hints sometimes overlapped with the actor’s attempts to point us in the right direction. They were also occasionally more direct than we would have liked. Subtler hinting would have allowed us to feel we made the discoveries on our own.

➕ Miss Jezebel asked a lot more from us than the typical escape room, but we always felt safe and comfortable with what the game required. Our group of two seasoned improvisers and one timid puzzle enthusiast handled the game just fine. The 18+ rating and the “expose the killer” theme may sound intimidating, but we always felt like we were having fun.

➕ 60out threw in a few amusing Easter eggs, including a reference to another of their games.

Tips For Visiting

  • Free parking is available in the rear of the building.
  • This experience has live actors. Review our tips for playing with actors.
  • Miss Jezebel isn’t scary, but it is socially challenging. Bring at least one or two people who are outgoing, hard to embarrass, or just willing to take one for the team.

Book your hour with 60out’s Miss Jezebel, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: 60out comped our tickets for this game.

Escape My Room – Escape Extinction: Sharks [Review]

The Magic Schoolbus

Location:  New Orleans, Louisiana

Date Played: July 14, 2019

Team size: up to 10; we recommend 5-7

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $19.95 per aquarium member player or $23.95 per non-member player

Ticketing: Public

Emergency Exit Rating: [A] Push To Exit

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

Escape My Room built a game inside of the New Orleans Audubon Aquarium; it was something special.

Port De La Porte, and the SS Audubon submarine in the middle of the Aquarium.

Escape Extinction: Sharks blended 5 Wits-style, high-throughput, amusement gameplay with strong, puzzley escape room challenges. All of this was topped off with an amazing set and kid-friendly story that would feel right at home in a quality cartoon. The resulting game offered something to players of all ages, attention spans, and skill levels.

We’ve seen other museums (big and small) host escape games, but none of them have come close to the scope, scale, and quality of the collaboration between Escape My Room and the Audubon Aquarium.

There are tons of amazing escape rooms in and around New Orleans. Add this one to the list of must-plays.

In-game: lisa, chris, and drew inside of a shark.

Who is this for?

  • Adventure seekers
  • Story seekers
  • Puzzle lovers
  • Scenery snobs
  • Any experience level
  • Players who don’t need to be a part of every puzzle

Why play?

  • Fantastic set design
  • Tons of fun puzzles and tangible interactions
  • Strong, yet adorable storytelling
  • The greatest magnet maze ever built

Story

As members of Human Animal Rescue Team (H.A.R.T.), we boarded the SS Audubon with one mission: save sharks from extinction.

In-game: a group of kids watching a briefing from a commanding officer.
Image via the Audubon Institute

Setting

We approached the SS Audubon, a large submarine docked in the Aquarium. Once aboard the boat, we met some delightful characters and followed our captain on an adventure to save sharks from extinction.

In-game: a group solving inside of the submarine.
Image via the Audubon Institute

The experience took us through the submarine and then to some unexpected locations as we saved massive, misunderstood fish.

In-game: the submarine's engine.

Gameplay

Escape My Room’s Escape Extinction: Sharks was an unusual escape adventure with a variable level of difficulty.

In-game: players solving a beautiful, multi-colored logic puzzle.
Image via the Audubon Institute

It was built in a railroad style. Teams moved through the rooms at timed intervals, whether or not they had solved all the puzzles. It would be challenging to solve all the puzzles in the time allowed, but teams don’t need to solve them all to complete the game.

Core gameplay revolved around searching, observing, making connections, and puzzling.

In-game: multiple players pushing colored buttons on a panel.
Image via the Audubon Institute

Analysis

➕ We loved the theme of Escape Extinction: Sharks and the characters we encountered aboard this submarine. The captain was especially adorable. The kid-friendly villains were comical. The whole cast set the right tone for a playful game with a serious message.

In-game: someone watching security cameras.
Image via the Audubon Institute

➕ Set design was on point. To quote our ex-navy teammate – and one of the most experienced escape room players in the world – Drew Nelson: “the sub read like naval architecture.” Additionally, each set felt profoundly different from the previous one, while maintaining a feeling of cohesion between the locations.

➕/ ➖ The first room onboarded players by priming them to collaborate. We especially enjoyed the opening puzzle. That said, the first scene was packed with some of the most challenging puzzles in the experience, which seemed like a steep on-ramp.

❓ Because there are more puzzles than most teams can complete in the time allotted for each room, playthroughs could feel unfinished. As puzzlers we wanted to be completionists, but that wasn’t how the game was meant to be played.

In-game: someone on a bicycle powering a device.
Image via the Audubon Institute

➕ The puzzles encompassed interesting and varied interactions.

➖ One segment asked the entire team to collaborate to steer the game forward. While the challenge was conceptually great, the interaction felt like it could have used more refinement.

➖ There was a recurring locking mechanism that seemed to work against the solvers, forcing frustrating backtracking.

In-game: a player inputting a code into a locker keypad.
Image via the Audubon Institute

➖ The sound system could be turned up a bit.

➕ We stepped off our sub into one entirely unexpected scene. The set expanded and contracted to bring this scene to life. This was one of my favorite scenes that I’ve ever encountered in my escape game career. Nearly any other company wouldn’t have bothered to add the level of detail that Escape My Room did with this relatively small moment.

Tips For Visiting

  • This game is located at the Audubon Aquarium of the Americas in New Orleans.
  • You do not need to purchase admission to the Aquarium to play Escape Extinction: Sharks.
  • To locate the game, follow signs to the lobby of the “Entergy Giant Screen Theater.”

Book your hour with Escape My Room’s Escape Extinction: Sharks, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Escape My Room comped our tickets for this game.

Take the 2019 Escape Room Enthusiast Survey

It’s that time again…

Errol and the gang over on the Escape Room Slack have assembled another Escape Room Enthusiast survey to measure player preferences.

Stylized image of a surveyer working in a parking lot.

Survey Details

The survey takes 10 to 20 minutes to fill out. The data is helpful in identifying trends in the preferences of experienced escape room players.

This year the team behind the survey translated the thing into 13 languages… which is insane. Cool… but insane.

If you have the time to reward their hard work by filling it out, lots of us will appreciate the data.

Take the Survey

Clue Carré – Alien Encounter [Review]

Probing for puzzles

Location:  Metairie, Louisiana

Date Played: July 11, 2019

Team size: up to 10; we recommend 3-4

Duration: 45 minutes

Price: $23 per player

Ticketing: Private

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

Clue Carré revved up their cool factor by quite a few notches with Alien Encounter. This low-difficulty, fast-paced escape room looked fantastic and played smoothly from start to finish.

In-game: A large hexogonal door at the end of a corridore filled with tubs and connectors and other technology.
Image via Clue Carré

Set within the Surge Trampoline Park (which looks like a fun attraction in its own right), Alien Encounter had been adapted for a less puzzley audience… but didn’t diminish the fun. We breezed through Alien Encounter and had a blast the whole time.

Between French Quarter House of Curiosities, The Bookie (reaction coming soon), and Alien Encounter, Clue Carré has established that it’s able to produce games that can stand out in an intensely competitive market like New Orleans. If you’re in NOLA, this should make your play list.

Who is this for?

  • Adventure seekers
  • Scenery snobs
  • Sci-fi fans
  • Families
  • Any experience level

Why play?

  • The set was cool
  • The puzzles were approachable, tactile, and family friendly

Story

The year was 2060 and humanity was being pushed towards extinction by an alien species known as the Voldran. Our team had to break into one of their spacecrafts and attempt to find a weakness or way of fighting back.

In-game: a maze of green lazers inside of a sleek, blue spaceship.
Image via Clue Carré

Setting

We boarded an alien spacecraft that was loaded with wonderful details. This set represented a giant leap forward for Clue Carré. Aesthetically this game felt at home in New Orleans. For those who know what games tend to look like in that part of the country, this really means something.

In-game: An alien in a tube in the middle of a spacehip.
Image via Clue Carré

Gameplay

Clue Carré’s Alien Encounter was a standard escape room with a low level of difficulty.

Core gameplay revolved around observing, making connections, and puzzling.

Analysis

Alien Encounter flowed well.

➕ It was thematically beautiful and well constructed.

➖ Some of the set could have benefited from a little extra sandpaper love. We didn’t encounter anything pointy or sharp, but parts of the ship were a little too rough to the touch for a sleek, futuristic spaceship.

➕ The tangible interactions felt great.

➖ Additional spot lighting on the more visual puzzles would have made some of the gameplay more comfortable.

➕ We love interesting, thematic doors… and this game delivered on that.

➖ The final sequence of puzzles solved well and worked fine… but it wasn’t as engaging or tactile as the earlier sequences. Additionally, it felt like there was room for a stronger narrative climax.

➕ A family-friendly approach was a great decision for the setting within the Surge Trampoline Park. (The whole place seemed like tons of fun… if you’re the kind of human who enjoys bouncing around and climbing on things. They have a giant Rubik’s Cube climbing tower!)

Tips For Visiting

  • This game is located at Clue Carré’s Kenner location inside Surge Trampoline Park
  • There is a parking lot.

Book your hour with Clue Carré’s Alien Encounter, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Clue Carré comped our tickets for this game.

Denver Escape Room Meetup – September 8

We will be in Denver briefly in early September playing tons of escape rooms. If you’re in the area, we’d love to meet you!

Two smiley face stick figures carrying the final two pieces of a jigsaw puzzle into place.

When & Where

Who

We welcome all players, owners, bloggers, gamemasters, podcaster, actors, fans, fabricators… and anyone else involved or interested in escape rooms and other immersive entertainment.

Whether you’re just dabbling or you dove into the deep end, all are welcome.

What

This is a casual meetup. We’ll be taking a break from playing escape rooms just to hangout.

We won’t give a talk. We’re just hoping for interesting conversations.

RSVP

Please contact us to RSVP. This will help us have a sense of how many people to expect.

If you’re anywhere near Denver, please stop by and say hello!

Everything Immersive Livestream – First Episode!

Last night we kicked off the first Everything Immersive livestream with our friends at No Proscenium.

YouTube's red play button logo.

Everything Immersive

In early 2017 we quietly created the Everything Immersive Facebook group with NoPro and Ricky Brigante (founder of Inside The Magic).

This collaboration has created a thriving group dedicated to the various branches of immersive entertainment.

The Livestream

Last night’s discussion spanned a variety of experiences and ideas with 3 people that we adore (Noah, Kathyrn, & Anthony).

Given that this was our maiden voyage, there were some technical issues… but it did work. Early on there were some echoes, in the middle Anthony got into a fight with Skype, and near the end we had some audio drop.

If you make it to the end… you might hear some details about our next tour. You’ll see the full announcement publish here in the not too distant future.

Ghost Ship Murder Mysteries – Space Smugglers [Review]

Mighty good shindig.

Location:  at home

Date Played: June 29, 2019

Team size: requires exactly 8

Duration: about 90 minutes

Price: $40 per player

Ticketing: Private

REA Reaction

Ghost Ship docked in our home once again and put on an incredible murder mystery for us and 6 of our friends.

A group photo.

We deceived and deduced our way through a shockingly expansive game world that merged elements of popular science fiction including Firefly, Battlestar Galactica, Blade Runner, and Star Wars. It was a ton of fun to interact with one another as these characters.

It’s my opinion that Ghost Ship Murder Mysteries are among the most under-appreciated immersive experiences in New York City. Some of this reputation is that they aren’t broadly known. Among folks who have heard of them, however, I believe there is an underlying assumption that murder mystery games are generally junk. While most are, this was the exception.

I have zero interest in doing another boxed murder mystery; they are awful. However, I can’t get enough of Ghost Ship. I am incredibly eager to play their Murder In The West Wing soon.

If you have a group of friends who aren’t too cool to do a little roleplaying, I highly recommend bringing Ghost Ship Murder Mysteries into your home.

Lindsay posing with a strange item, David photobombs in a Jayne hat and holding a wooden cooking spoon.

Who is this for?

  • Story seekers
  • Sci-fi fans
  • Aspiring detectives
  • Any experience level

Why play?

  • Ghost Ship does nearly all of the work of setting up and facilitating a high quality murder mystery
  • A story with depth that enables players to explore their characters and the world
  • Masterful facilitation that doesn’t step on toes and doesn’t let people fall out of the game

Story

In a galaxy torn by war between the dominant Regime and the rebellious Coalition, Captain Jay’s crew didn’t have a side; they were just trying to get by. To make some money, they took a few passengers aboard. Deep in space, a member of the crew had gone missing… and so our mystery began.

Mike Anderson dressed as a jedi, in a heated conversation with Therea and someone off camera.
“At me you will come, bro.”

Setting

Ghost Ship co-founder Dylan Zwickel surveyed us about our guests and cast each of them into 1 of 8 different roles based on how we answered. Some roles were more involved for more eager players; some roles weren’t demanding at all.

We each received a secret email with a little backstory about our character. We chose the extent to which we wanted to costume for the experience.

Dylan came to our home an hour before the game, hid items, and set everything up. We told her which rooms, closets, cabinets, and drawers were out of bounds, and she marked them appropriately.

Once our guests arrived, she introduced the story and things rolled on from there.

9 character envelopes, each with a different name on it.
I was Ezra. I had a whole lot of fun playing Ezra.

Gameplay

Ghost Ship Murder Mysteries’ Space Smugglers was a murder mystery game with a variable level of difficulty. Your group could commit as much or as little as desired. Last time we invited a group of people with mixed levels of interest and it worked very well. This time, we only invited people who we knew would commit and it took on a life of its own.

Core gameplay revolved around role-playing, searching, deception, and deduction.

Lisa and Theresa looking dubious in a conversation.

Analysis

➕ Ghost Ship Murder Mysteries created a robust world for us to explore and treated us like adults. We were able to dive deep or wade in the shallow waters as we each desired.

➕ The story mixed overt elements of Firefly, Battlestar Galactica, Blade Runner, and Star Wars. No knowledge of any of these was required, but those who got the references weren’t disappointed.

➖ There were more factions than we were expecting. It was difficult for us to connect with any of these because we didn’t really know their politics and motives. A little more world-building would have rounded this out.

➕ Dylan was a master of light-touch facilitation. She played a role on the ship that made it easy for her to converse with any other character and used that to spice things up or help a player who needed a nudge in the right direction.

Theresa's cyborg arm
Some of us got more serious about our costumes than others.

➖ The role distribution of 5 crew and 3 passengers was imbalanced. This stilted the politics of the game a little too much.

➕ Ghost Ship Murder Mysteries worked some clever game mechanics into the experience. These were generally low key and continued to put the focus on the interpersonal interactions of the experience.

➖ There were some mechanics that we never really had a grasp of.

➕ In our game, the killer got away with the crime. We chose wrong. It truly didn’t diminish the experience because we had so much fun on the journey. (That said, the killer was quite proud.)

➕/➖ We loved the ending of the story… and we felt that there was a little room to improve the delivery of said ending.

➕ The Space Smugglers never dragged for us. Not once.

➖ We would have appreciated some costume suggestions or ideas (both easy and complex).

Space Smugglers was a ton of fun, reasonably priced, and vastly superior to any boxed play-at-home murder mystery. We’re eager to play again.

Tips For Visiting

  • This can be played in a small space. A larger space is better but not necessary.
  • It’s a good idea to tidy up your home before hosting.
  • A little bit of alcohol goes a long way in terms of loosening people up.
  • It’s fine to invite people who aren’t outgoing, but don’t invite people who are too cool to play.

Book your session with Ghost Ship Murder Mysteries’ Space Smugglers, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Ghost Ship Murder Mysteries provided media discounted tickets for this game.