Escape: The Curse of the Temple (game review)

Jon Seagull reviews a board game in which players must team up in a race against time to escape a cursed temple, grabbing as much treasure as they can along the way.

Escape: The Curse of the Temple takes the same hectic dice-rolling at the core of Tenzi (review), but builds a raucous co-operative adventure game around it that plays in just a few minutes more. Players take on the role of a group of explorers looting an ancient temple, Indiana Jones-style. You begin in the inner sanctum, with no idea where the treasures or the exit are, and exactly 10 minutes until the roof caves in (there's a soundtrack that serves as both game timer and atmosphere). Players have to escape as a group -- if anyone gets left behind when the roof caves in, everyone at the table loses.

Each player has five six-sided dice with symbols instead of numbers, and you “spend” various combinations of the symbols you roll to take certain actions -- key symbols let you unlock doors and add new room tiles to the temple from the draw pile, running symbols let you move your pawn around, etc. There are no turns; everyone rolls and re-rolls their dice, takes their actions, and shouts their plans at each other as quickly as they can.

The heart of the game that makes it feel truly co-operative and heroic is that one side of each die has a Curse symbol, and a cursed die can't be re-rolled until either you or a fellow player in the same room unlocks it using a die showing an otherwise-useless Blessing symbol. Furthermore, the biggest treasures require more symbols than any one player can provide, and you need to have a certain number of gems to unlock the exit door once you find it. This means you're all relying on each other in ways that force you to communicate, coordinate, and adapt your plans on the fly; with multiple conflicting priorities and very little time to think.

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This leads to tense, time-pressured decision making - “Do I keep pressing on alone with 2 or 3 curses, or rejoin the group to heal?” frantic squabbles -- “Get back here and help me pick up the big treasure !” “No way, we have to find the exit NOW!” and heroic, nick-of-time rescues -- “Help! I'm in the south idol room and all my dice are locked up!”

Escape: The Curse of the Temple: $48

Published 4:00 am Wed, May 21, 2014

About the Author

Jon Seagull is an illustrator based in Philadelphia who plays rather a lot of games.

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