HEIST in VENICE is either the fourth or fifth of DV GIOCHI's 'escape room' genre card games for 1-6 players. I say 4th or 5th because I cannot find a publishing order online and I may have played them in the wrong order as there have been at least 2, probably 3, published in the same year - or so it seems. The thing is it doesn't matter in which order you play them because they do not follow on from each other, use the same characters as each other or are chronologically related in any way; they are all separate entities, timeless tales, exquisite mysteries.
All are 60 card decks, devised and written by Martino Chiacchiera and Silvano Sorrentino with very good different styles of artwork by Alberto Bontempi, and in each adventure what sets the atmosphere is the clock, giving players just 60 minutes to complete a totally successful mission, setting a fast pace and a lot of player interaction. Player interaction is the recipe for success in every DECKSCAPE game.
In HEIST in VENICE you have to include all six characters when you play, you cannot complete without them, at least unless you are happy to not attempt to play the game as it is meant - then why even bother ? Every character has a specific skill that is required to solve at least one clue. Players have to remember what their character/s can do, what skills and abilities they have, and the quicker they do when the puzzle is read out the quicker they can solve it and move onto the next situation. There are parts on each of the character card's flip side that must not be shown to the other players, they have to be described, we find this to be a little against the interaction aspect of the game.
Every DECKSCAPE game follows a fairly similar routine. You open the box and if you have the deck upside down there is a clear warning that you should flip it over and not look at any card on or near the card number 60; you play from card #1 to card #60 every time, but not necessarily in numerical order, in fact if you are playing the game correctly then you certainly won't. That allows you one minute per card (30 seconds a side), though of course many cards only need a few seconds to read both sides while others require a good read through and then some careful thought; both sides of every card are important. The deck remains as it comes out of the box with only the top card being known to the players, never pick the card up unless told to flip it over (you shouldn't see what the next card is until then).
Once you have solved the first few, fairly simple, challenges - things like which wire completes the connection and what is the next (number/letter/symbol) in sequence - the players are requested to split the deck into a number of smaller decks of a few cards each, usually by colour. For example, having followed the instructions on cards 1-4 the 5th card might ask you to split it as follows; cards 6 - 11 will have blue borders, 12 - 18 red borders and 19 - 24 green borders, the remaining deck sits there with its top card also available. Players can all work together or take a deck each, whatever suits, but always sticking to the rules of not looking to the under card.
In one of these decks you might find a lock that needs a key, again an example. If you have not already found a key and kept the card to one side then you know that the key must be in one of the other decks, thus you have to solve their clues to find the key before you can continue through the lock. That isn't entirely true!
If you are gung ho in your approach you can just flip the card and 'score' one or two Xs (mark these on a spare sheet of paper) for not following procedure. You can do that all through the deck/s if you want but then you might just as well turn to the last few cards and not play the game. At the end of the game Xs count 5 minutes for each against the player's success. You should be playing against the clock (as previously noted you have an hour to complete) but even if your hour runs out you continue to play until you have solved the case. By the clock and including any penalties: 0-60 minutes is a complete success, 61-90 minutes complete but with some problems for your character's future, 91 minutes plus complete but not a great result. There are several cards that can be kept for later use, these generally being items or tools like the key or a torch etc; several cross-deck situations arise throughout play.
Each DECKSCAPE game runs to the same basic rules but is not just the same game with occasional changes.
In HEIST in VENICE the players have 6 characters. In the MYSTERY of ELDORADO players have the choice of equipment. In the FATE of LONDON players are given a box of oddments. In BEHIND the CURTAIN the players begin by solving Magic Tricks. TEST TIME is an actual Escape Room mystery, the players are locked in a laboratory by a mad scientist. In all DECKSCAPE games the puzzles are different but with occasional similarities.
I am not sure if HEIST in VENICE is a little easier than the others or we are a little more experienced and have tuned into the ways of the designers. Each game is designed by the same two people and thus the puzzles are created by the same two brains and perhaps they are inadvertently or surreptitiously repeating themselves; similar puzzles different situations.
I really enjoy DECKSCAPE games even though they can only be played once by those who take part in the game. They are not 'iron man' or 'Legacy' games as you do not destroy or write over any cards, but you can give it to another group to play and then pass on again. The other option is to put it in a drawer and forget about it for a year or more and then hope when you start to play again none of it comes back to you. This is reflected in the retail price, around £10.00-£15.00, which in today's entertainment is good value for 60-90 minutes of play.
The next DECKSCAPE adventure is "CURSE of the SPHINX". I can almost hear the players shouting for their MUMMY!
Club Competition Idea:
I believe it is a good idea for boardgame clubs to purchase 3-4 games (from club funds of course), and have a round-robin evening of DECKSCAPE. I suggest four players to a table and 60 minutes a game, each table playing a different DECKSCAPE story. After the hour is up a club determined scoring system put in place before starting is used to score each team. While this is occurring the players can have a short break, tea, coffee, restroom etc and then the team as a whole moves onto the next table and plays a new adventure. At the end of the session, knowing how games clubs work you should be able to play the 3-4 games, and the team with the most 'points' wins the club tournament.