CYE Reviews: Escape Room Board Games!

Photo by  Jaciel Melnik  on  Unsplash

We know that escapes rooms can be daunting. They can also be fully booked… or maybe you’re having a hard time convincing friends and family, or finding a time that suits everyone. If you need an escape room fix and can’t book a room with us, or are impatiently waiting for the day of your game here at Can You Escape?,  here are some of the escape room inspired board games you can play in the meantime!

EXIT

EXIT has a good range of games with varying themes and levels of difficulty. There’s quite a lot of choice so you can choose the adventure that calls to you the most. They all have one mechanic which is shared across all adventures: you get a cardboard wheel with a little window which allows you to enter the code you think is correct, which then gives you the number of a card you need to pick up.

If the code is correct, then Huzzah! The card will tell you how to move on, but if the code is incorrect, you will need to keep looking. What is pretty cool with these games is that you usually get a fair amount of themed props, and is often very hands-on (sometimes you will have to fold, cut or tear the materials).

These can be really fun for smaller teams!

Pros:

  • This game is pretty common and can be found in many game or book shops, and is not too pricey (normally around £15)

  • Hands-on approach: you get to directly interact with the props given.

  • Has a companion app which provides the tutorial for each adventure (so you don’t have to read the manual) as well as a timer with some ambience music!

  • Clearly marked puzzle paths which are helpful to organise information.

  • Lots of props with often fun and creative ways to interact with them!

Cons:

  • The games are single use only; not only do you already know the puzzles, bu you can’t trade it or give away after use.

  • There are a lot of “clue” cards that take up space and could have been integrated into the app.

  • Might not be the best for bigger teams as they tend to be quite linear and not everyone will get a chance at cutting, folding the props.

  • The cipher wheel can get a bit repetitive as a mechanic, but it is very well thought out and sometimes implemented in unexpected ways!

Unlock!

Unlock! has many different editions of the game so there are plenty of adventures, although you don’t get to choose them individually like you do with EXIT games. They come in packs of three with 3 levels of difficulty in each pack, so you can buy 1 box and get a taste for the different games that way.

The way these work is quite different to EXIT; they are card games. You get three stacks of cards per game, and when you want to put together two objects (say, a lock and a key) you just add the numbers on the cards and pick another card which has the result number on the back. If it’s right, well done! You will get what you need to carry on your adventure. If it’s not, you will get a time penalty on the companion app. The cards have different types which are colour-coordinated, such as objects, doors/locks, and machines. Although these games don’t have props, the puzzles are fun and original, and great for bigger teams since everyone can have a look at all the cards on the table. Also, some adventures include fun team dynamics (i.e: you can’t talk until you find a specific object). The app is really well integrated and you need to do certain things on your phone to get the machines to work!

Pros:

  • You get three adventures in each box which retails at around £30 (so when you think about it, it’s £10 per game!).

  • Really good app integration, with timer, ambiance music, clue system, and fun solving mechanics for “machines” (so you could say part of the game is virtual)

  • Often nonlinear so very good for larger teams; everyone can think about different puzzles.

  • Features some original dynamics that spice up the game.

  • The games be reused / traded / gifted since you don’t damage the game materials.

  • Cards are separated by type (object, doors, machines) which makes it easier to organise cards and make connections. You also have “room” cards, which show a layout of the room you just entered.

  • You will often find hidden numbers which will tell you to pick up that card, so the classic “hidden objects in the room” is integrated.

Cons:

  • Not as much of a hands-on approach and not as immersive, given you don’t get to directly interact with props.

  • Penalties are counted on the app, which can be a bit discouraging.

  • Some of the games are not as fun for smaller teams because some include mechanics that put in place a barrier in terms of communication, so you can sometimes be working on your own for a while.


Both games are fun and well adapted to a portable, board game format, but we must admit the thrill of physically escaping a room, being mastered by an in-character Game Master and interacting with themed props is very difficult to replicate! It is, however, definitely an experience we believe everyone should experience at least once, but don’t take our word for it, come and see for yourself booking one of our experiences!

Which one will you be trying out?

Escape Team Building