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A Pocket ESCAPE ROOM card game from dvGiochi
This is the fourth DECKSCAPE game by Martino Chiacchiera & Silvano Sorrentino, following on from TEST TIME, The FATE of LONDON and HEIST in VENICE

These are games that you can only play once unless you leave them for 9-12 months before trying again, as then the chances are you won't remember the answers to the puzzles and clues.  Unlike some of these 'play once only' games there are no cards to tear up or burn, nothing to deface, nothing to ruin for the next group to play. There is a card marked as a Score Sheet on which you are supposed to record the Z's and X's you receive during the adventure. Instead of using this card we use a piece of paper, thus preserving the integrity of the game components. 

These games are designed for 1-6 players but from experience they are better played with 2 or 3 players; playing solo is a bit sad and playing with more than 3 is a pain as many of the clues to be resolved are on the cards which means passing the cards around. If you are the 5th or 6th player in line to see the card it is most likely that someone before you will have solved it. Besides, with 2-3 players it is more comfortable to cosy up around the deck with the player in the middle flanked on either side so we can all see the card and whisper suggestions.

The difficulty with reviewing an Escape Room game is where to draw the line as to what to divulge, what to hold back on is, well ... everything!

The MYSTERY of ELDORADO has the players as adventurers in search of the famed city of Eldorado (you may have guessed that) and the long lost gold of the Incas. Will your group find the treasure or will you die trying? You succeed as a group or fail as a group, there is no going on leaving the rotting corpse of your partner/s on the rocky trail. Now set your clock and/or make a note of the time. You are on a time limit so everything you do and every step you take is under the pressure of a ticking clock. Some cards in the game will tell you it takes an hour or more to reach where you are going but that is ingame-time not actual game-time so you need not wind your clock on. 

Having read the opening CAUTION card and then proceeded to the first DECKSCAPE card you are suddenly high up in the air in an aeroplane that doesn't like flying. It is going down and to make matters worse there was an alarm screeching "DEEEN! DEEEN! DEEEN!" Well of course we took no notice of this to begin with because there was no one called Dean, Dene or Deen in our party, but then we read on and realised this was serious because there was a huge stone crocodile's head where the pilot used to sit.

At this point the game offered us the option of grabbing 2 (out of 4) pieces of equipment; no matter whether you are a 1 man group or a 6 person party only TWO pieces of equipment can be taken. You have the choice from An Indispensible Manual, a Pair of New Binoculars, A Sharp Machete or Some Nutritious Food. Whichever you choose you are allowed to flip their cards over to see what you actually have got - remember you are meant to have grabbed these in a rush so there is really not much time to discuss what to take, and the more you discuss this the more time you will use up - you may not stop the clock to discuss the puzzles and problems you encounter.

Each card usually offers up a puzzle of some kind. You get to read and discuss it before making a plan (or answering a question) that you all agree on. Once ready you may flip the card over to see the result you were meant to get. If you get it totally correct there will be a follow-on message or note, if you make any mistakes then you have to mark a Z on your score sheet (piece of paper). You may never have more than 2 x Zs, a third Z earned is turned into an X and the Zs are NOT erased, needless to say Xs are worse than Zs. Throughout the game successes may give you the chance to erase a Z or an X, there are more chances of losing the Zs but you should take every chance to erase them when you can, especially the Xs which add minutes onto your time and those extra minutes can push you out of the best completion time of 75 minutes or less that you are aiming for. We managed 10 minutes under 2 hours from opening the box; 110 minutes which isn't anything to be proud of, however I can say that we never received one X, though we did get close a few times, only managing to lose a Z before the third one arrived.

The cards are beautifully produced and the artwork commutes the feelings of the moment perfectly. The glum look of the adventurer in the trees, the dark eerieness of the Amazon Jungle, the symmetry of the Ancient Inca'n pathways up the mountains, a different emotion with every illustration.

After plowing through the first 10 or so cards you come to the part where the cards are split into three decks, the players now having the option of which path they choose. You have to see each deck through to its completion, or at least to the card that doesn't say "Read the Next Card". Then you can backtrack to one of the other stacks and try your luck (and skills) on another path.

You should always complete the game, your characters cannot die but you will continue to take Zs and Xs when you fail the puzzles and at the end of the game your success is judged by the time you have taken to play from start to end. There are certain symbols that appear throughout the adventure which are a sort of code. Once you have broken this code a lot of answers will come to you quicker and they may also help you take the right treasure from those found, for like the equipment at the beginning you cannot take them all; the correct choice brings Fame & Fortune, the wrong choice ridicules you in the Hall of Adventurers.

The ending of the MYSTERY of ELDORADO isn't as dramatic as that of  The FATE of LONDON but it is still very satisfactory. We finished outside of the suggested best times by 20 minutes (90 minutes would have been good, 75 minutes par excellence) but we all had an enjoyable game. It was the third DECKSCAPE game for Fran and I but the first for Grant. We all agreed to play the next one (actually the previous one as we played them out of order, not that this matters as they do not follow on chronologically) together as soon as possible.

DECKSCAPE games from daGiochi can be found in game stores and online for between £10.00 and £15.00. There is someone on eBay wants £25.00 and another there wants £34.50 for "HEIST in VENICE" but these are ridiculously highly priced. £10.00-£12.00 is a very good price, up to £15.00 is acceptable. Boardgamegeek.com shows the price €8.00-€13.00. If you can get this for €8.00 then you should grab it as fast as you can. Don't forget that although the internet may be your financially viable friend, your local game store is in need of your custom and nobody wants to lose these most interesting of stores.

© Chris Baylis 2011-2015