Escape the Nightmare Review

For all of us that love the gaming hobby, whether that be board, card, or miniatures games, most of us will be able to credit at least one particular person for introducing us to these games. For me that person is my friend and colleague Paul Smith who rather bravely invited me (and others) to play Axis & Allies one evening, selling it as a chance to drink beer, eat pizza, and generally just have a laugh. Up until this point I was an out and out video gamer using both PC & PS platforms and had never given one second of thought to playing board games. Needless to say, I fell in love with the hobby and in particular A&A, although I’m sure we will talk about that at a later date. One particular genre of gaming that Paul is particularly knowledgeable in is that of card games, and as far as these go he has pretty much played/collected the lot and has an overcrowded loft to prove it. With that in mind, I invited Paul to not only play 3D Total Games’ latest card game, Escape the Nightmare, but to actually write the review as we went along.

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So, without further ado, I give you Paul Smith:

Card games using a deck of 52 coloured cards have been around for over 400 years. As people lofts’ start to bulge with bulky board games, it is possible that card games are the future. Traveling around games shops and the internet, there are a lot of new card games out there. Some are single decks whilst others consist of cards with additional expansions; some are based on collecting and trading, such as Pokémon and Magic: The Gathering. Having owned and reviewed quite a few, it is rare there is anything that is a ‘new’ concept, a lot of the new card games take a tried and tested method and then tweak it to topical subjects. To my knowledge there aren’t many co-operative card games.

Escape the Nightmare doesn’t come in a fancy box; it comes in a durable but sturdy case. The instructions fold neatly into the box too, which is very handy. Lately there seems to be a trend for instructions to be quirky and comical; sometimes this is a bind. I want to know how to play the game with as little time reading as possible. The instructions are good, a quick overview to let you know what you are getting into, then bit by bit setup and game play.

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Upon dealing the cards, everybody commented on the fantastic artwork. They are magical. The cards are duplicated for the purpose of the game, but there are some minor differences, which is great. We had a mixed age group; I understand that a lot of games are classed as ‘adult’ because of their content. We learned in the first ten minutes that, firstly, you need to be able to count backwards as well as communicate and complete actions and restrictions, oh, and if there are only 3 of you, get ready to handle a lot of cards. One of the action cards tasks one player to shuffle their hand. This is a hoot when you have a mate who can’t ‘fan’ cards and has strategically spent all their time sorting them to then shuffle them again.

On a dummy play, I had a few questions. Going back over the rules later, the answers were there just not overtly obvious. The genius of this game is the ability to change the difficulty very quickly; the designers even have a ‘quick turnaround’ rule, which like us meant that once we had won or lost we wanted to try again quickly. The longevity of any game is a key factor. This is not a quick pint in the pub card game, it’s not a comeback from the pub and sit down type of game either, and I think that it would be difficult and frustrating to pick this up as a beginner when others in the group have played together for a while. For us this would be a game that we go back to each time to beat the next ‘warden’, and in doing this you do have to work together to get the job done. Similar to ‘bridge’ and other team card games where some people will have a leadership role and worker-followers can do the groundwork.

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I’ve seen some reviews asking for clarity on some of the actions. There is ambiguity on some of the cards, and that’s understandable as the creators elude to the fact that people might not want to break into song in the middle of a game (take that card out), it’s that simple. Some of the people we played with wanted to know if this was a comedy game or a serious thematic thriller where everybody is gripped with fear that the countdown will end. The creators do sail close to the wind in clarifying what genre this is, and when I first read the instructions I was a bit perplexed at how to ‘sell’ the game to potential players. The creators haven’t sunk here, they have sailed off into the sunset. A great game, longevity, great artwork, and well worth collecting.

Designer: Gregory Carslaw

Publisher: 3D Total Games

Release Date: 2016

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