DECKSCAPE: TEST TIME is a card game designed by Martino Chiacchiera & Silvano Sorrentino.
It costs around £10.00 and is for 1-6 players aged 12+. dvGiochi are the publishers.
It is, I believe, the first in what will become a series of games under the Pocket Escape Room genre, the idea being that you go on an adventure in the comfort of your own home, either travelling alone or within a group of like-minded indivduals.
You have been invited to Dr Thyme's laboratory to hear about his latest theory but whilst the old-timer is explaining in detail he "accidentally" presses a button which sets off an alarm and locks the building down completely, trapping you in the room. In this cooperative game you have to find your way out before the time expires. You have one hour.
You need to supply a pen and paper to keep score and possibly make some notes, and you need a watch or a timer of some kind that all players have access to. The card showing the laboratory is like one of those hidden picture puzzles and throughout the game you may get the opportunity to explore most of the cupboards, drawers, boxes and other places of interest.
When you open the box for the first time the cards should not be shuffled or have their position in the deck changed. To help you keep them in order they are divided into four decks, Yellow, Green, Red and Blue and numbered 1-60, running consecutively through all the decks. Each card has explanatory text on it and directions on how to use it and what to do next.
The four decks are separated and laid on the table with their lowest number face up. There are two types of cards in each deck, puzzles and items. The puzzles are what you have to solve and the items may, in some case definitely will, help you to solve them.
There are no actual rules except to start at the beginning and follow the directions on the cards. The thing is you cannot simply follow the cards by number apart from in the beginning. Card 6 is the first challenge - Switch on the Lights.There are three switches in a row, Red, Purple and Blue; one of these will turn the light on. To help you in this puzzle there are two coloured circles, one Red and one Blue which overlap to create a small section of Purple (Red & Blue make Purple) so deciding which button to press is very easy.
If/when you get a puzzle wrong - you only get one chance per challenge - you have to mark and X on your piece of paper - these will count against your time at the end of the game, though how the game ends may reduce their effectiveness against you. If/when you correctly solve a puzzle then the game continues but it doesn't cost you any extra time. Remember you only have an hour (actually you can play for as long as it takes but you get the highest points for finishing correctly under 60 minutes (after the Xs have been added into the equation).
Although most of the cards end with "Continue to the Next Card" some of the cards do not have this - these are generally the items that you keep in front of you until you need to use them. It is impossible to solve all the puzzles if you play by the numbers, i.e. start at 1 and continue through numerically to 60, because many of the clues you need are in the other decks and you cannot go past a puzzle you run into until you have solved it, at least you cannot continue through the deck. Thus when you get stuck on a puzzle you have to decide amongst yourselves which deck to turn to. It is highly unlikely that you will get stuck with puzzles on the top of all four decks.
Also if you get stuck there are two cards of hints, typed in mirror-writing, that give you clues, but of course sometimes the clues given are ones you have already thought of yourselves but not been able to put to use, then they are of no use to you and you have to put your heads together and come up with a plausible answer in fairly quick time or just take another X and move on.
This is a really well designed and detailed game and it is fun to play, especially in a group of friends and family. There is one drawback though and that is you can only really play it once. Of course if your score is over the 60 minutes you can try again but then you know the answers to the puzzles and so they are no longer puzzles. There is a game that appeared at Essen in 2015 called Time Stories which is playable only once and DECKSCAPE has the same type of appeal. Unlike Time Stories though (which does now have some expansions) Deckscape is inexpensive (it costs less than a Time Stories expansion) and thus can be happily passed onto other players. Of course it is almost a certainty that dvGiochi will be bringing out expansions (new adventures) in the future but the way this game plays those expansions are more than likely to be stand-alone games and that this deck will not be required to play them.
The puzzles are well presented, the card quality is better than some card games where you do have to shuffle the cards (in DECKSCAPE you never shuffle the cards), and every puzzle is logical in its own way. Sometimes that logic hits you right between the eyes and other times you can stare at it for as long as you want and not get it, then it's fore-head-slapping and self-kicking time as you flip the card over and read the solution.
It's a good game to play solo and it's also a good game to play in teams. Instead of everyone cooperating with each other why not split the party into two (or more) groups and the first group to decipher the answer gains 5 minuntes or loses an X (same difference) ? Each team would need it's own score sheet and teams would have to take it in turns to decide which deck of cards to begin adventuring in after the initial start and all teams would try to solve the same puzzle each round. There are many variations you can think of to play DECKSCAPE but as I said earlier, when you have played it through once etc .......