Escape The Dark Castle



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Review: Escape The Dark Castle (Review for upcoming Periodic Tabletop Zine)

May 24, 2018 by robsaunders

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Escape the Dark Castle is a cooperative fantasy adventure game for 1 to 4 players from first time publishers Themeborne where players take on roles of prisoners of the titular castle battling their way through evil denizens and cunning traps in an attempt to, well, escape.

The player’s fate is determined by a deck of 17 cards starting with the appropriately named Start Card followed by 15 cards selected at random from the 45 Chapter Cards provided and ending with a random Boss Card.  Each card features story text that a player should read to the others (silly Christopher Lee voice optional) and a task which the players must complete to move on to the next card in the deck.

These tasks can be anything from fighting monsters, navigating traps or negotiating with other sinister residents of the Dark Castle.  Completing tasks is described on the card and usually involves rolling the custom Character and Chapter Dice where as fights are resolved using a set of combat rules that consists of rolling the Character Dice and matching the symbols on the Chapter Card and rolled on the Chapter Dice.  The longer it takes to match all the symbols the more Hit Points the players will lose.  If a player is reduced to zero Hit Points at any point everyone loses the game. Tasks and combat can be made easier by using different items and weapons you pick up throughout your adventure and are drawn randomly from special deck of 35 Item Cards.   If the players make it through all the Chapter Cards and defeat the final Boss Card then they win the game.

Escape the Dark Castle is an extremely easy game to lean to play.  Within seconds of your first combat you will have the rules down.  This does mean that there isn’t very much strategy involved in playing the game but strategy isn’t what Escape the Dark Castle is about.  This is a game all about storytelling and theme and it delivers all these in spades (you can even but a soundtrack on cassette tape to add to the 80’s vibe of the game).  Everything in Escape the Dark Castle is designed perfectly to put you and your fellow players in its creepy dungeon delving world.  The art work on card is fantastically evocative and will tickle the nostalgic fancy of fans of the Fighting Fantasy Choose Your Own Adventure books (which is obviously a huge influence on the game) and the old-school style of the early Dungeons & Dragons roleplaying games.

The random nature of each game gives it huge replay value and means that it is indefinitely expandable.  There is already one expansion available for the game called Cult of the Death Knight - which adds 3 new characters, 15 new chapter cards, 1 new Boss Card , 5 new Item Cards and rules for evil cultists in the game – as well as 2 new expansions on the way via Kickstarter.

Escape the Dark Castle is the perfect game for new gamers looking for something easy to learn that can be played in a short amount of time (most games last around 30mins if you don’t die quickly...and you will die quickly) as well as fans of the old-school 80’s style of Fighting Fantasy and Dungeons & Dragons looking to play a dungeon crawl played simple with some cards and some dice.

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