At the ‘Up the Game’ Conference in Breda Prison I was very lucky to be able to take part in a larger group game, called ‘Brotherhood of the Sea.’ This type of game would be packed up into the trunk of a car and taken to a location of your choice to play with groups from 10-40 people. The game is claimed to aid collaboration between players and build teamwork. This type of game is one of the avenues that Escape Room Owners are taking to make games for larger groups instead of the traditional fixed location.
To respect the secret of escape games this is a spoiler free review, I will not give too much away about the puzzles themselves in case someone has a chance to play this.
So let’s begin, we all met up outside the laboratory room, around 30 of us, all gathered, meeting and greeting for the first time. Not knowing what to expect. In this moment our Games master appeared (making everyone smile) in uniform and would henceforth be known as, ‘Captain.’ We were his crew and he needed our help.
We descended in the laboratory of the Prison which had on display, various ‘authentic‘pirate style boxes, trunks, and barrels. By the look on others entering the room, wonder and confusion fell over the gathering crowd. We were briefed about the game and the knowledge that each team does not have all the information, therefore communication was very important. We chose our team by a pick of coloured bandana and discovered myself to be on team green, ‘smuggler.’ Making my way to ‘our’ table, while imitating a pirate, greeted the rest of the smugglers. We were given a pep talk regarding each of our rolls to play and the end game needed to be achieved, then, it began.
In about the space of 20 minutes
we were truly collaborating.
At first, it started easy with a few well know, classic puzzles that enable each team to have a quick win as most of the ‘first’ on display boxes and props were opened, then it became interesting. At the first instance everything seems to relate to what you needed along with the team on the same table with you. Then you realise this is not working, more investigation is needed. Up turn the props; over go the boxes, more clues, more symbols but nothing to help, we need more.
Suddenly shouts from the room, “ Does anyone know this.....” “Has anyone got something like this..” Some are answered and the coloured bandanas are moving round the room. The puzzles start to build up and the team start to look at patterns. I happen to notice one prop is not needed, it has clues and numbers on that doesn’t seem to work for us. We have tried it, taken the numbers down in many ways but it is not fitting in. Knowing that we could move around and curiosity was getting the better of me about what was happening on the other tables, I took the prop and made my way round the room.
Chaos, would be a good term from an outside perspective. Anyone looking in on this, would see this gathering as mad people talking in riddles and codes. However this was our story we were creating, to us, it was organised chaos, and we were all solving it together in the same boat. There was so much communication, collaboration, answers flying everywhere, some of them wrong, some of them right, it didn’t matter, it was all good investigating. It was loud, it went quiet sometimes, people listened, thought, listened again, re- thought, all trying to make sense of this world we had been put into.
Then there was me, with this coded prop, walking round like Oliver Twist and his bowl, “Does anyone need this...?”
Turns out no one did, so returned to the smuggler’s table to find more props and gadgets that had been discovered. There was lots of variety, weight, smell, measure, counting and logic and I gravitated towards a set of scales. After a lot of teamwork we managed to work out the meaning of this puzzle, this would lead to a measure a distance from somewhere. “But we haven’t got anything to measure,” we said to each other.
At that moment, another part of the crew carrying a rope comes by, “Does anyone need this?” The realisation was electric; we had found our missing piece, although there was more information still needed to complete it. During this time I looked around our smuggler’s table, we had merged with every other team colour, there was reds helping blue, black aiding yellow, white and pink. In about the space of 20 minutes we were truly collaborating now.
“Could I borrow this, we need it now,” a crew member asked as they grabbed the coded propI had been carrying before from our table. “Yes!” I said to myself, (fist pump) -finally.
There was a lot of work over the measuring puzzle although upon the call of “Captain,” we were guided in the correct direction and the answers went into the equation for the final solve. At this moment there was a low in the room of solved puzzles with gave some people the chance to look at what others had achieved. It was a mass of objects, papers, props and gadgets. It was good to step back and see the amount of stuff we had all solved together.
The final lock opened and the game was over, cheers all round, and also a round with the Captain. Good job team.
The game was an excellent example of how to run a larger group event, lots of props, lots of puzzles and lots of teamwork. I thoroughly enjoyed the hour of our nautical adventure. However it wouldn’t be a fair review if I didn’t mention some things that bothered me. I did have to attend this game with two heads on, looking at this as a player and an owner. The first time player in me loved the experience for what it had to offer and as a player I could have, and wanted to step away and look at all the other things that others were doing. I ever had the chance as I was so absorbed into the task at hand, which is a good thing, however I would have liked to have known more of the puzzles in the end.
With my owner head on, this would have been chaos to set up and reset, respect to the ‘Captain’ for his hard work. The flow was nice and the puzzles enabled people to engage if they wanted too, some people would take the lead and some would leave others to it. This would lead to a finish of one person opening a lock and 20 people looking at them. Then finding out the answer was wrong and only two or three looking over the answer while the others are wondering what is going on. I did manage to speak with the ‘Captain’ about this the next day and we discussed the fact, an escape room crew is much different than a corporate first time crew. So maybe this quibble is just that- a quibble about the game I had experienced once but it can be something that can affect game flow and the final outcome of future games.
Overall a very satisfying game and concept, when looking back over the journey taken I realised that I did not open a single lock nor know a code to any of the final locks and you know what.... I didn’t care. I felt that somehow I had aided in the overall completion of the goal and that was the gratifying experience of this team game.