What is it? A simple nostalgia filled game of escaping a castle.
How many people? 1-4
How long does it take? 20-30 minutes
Who is it for? A simple game for people that loved that 80s or are looking for a nice filler for their board game night
Buy it: Support independent developers and get it here
Why we recommend it
Nostalgia is hot right now, Stranger Things, Ready Player One and cheaper Freddos are all very front of mind. Escape the Dark Castle joins this gang, but not in as brazen away. It doesn’t lean on tropes or cheap tricks that are the hallmark of a lazy tug at your memories of the 80s and 90s. You know what I mean, probably best represented by this paragraph from Ready Player One.
It’s as if just by listing things we have fond memories of that must mean you can create new fond memories of this content. Escape the Dark Castle though is more like a game that could have come out in the 80s. Like a long lost brother to Hero Quest (but as a card game) or a choose your own adventure book.
It’s a simple game, not full of fancy gimmicks of “innovative” TM mechanics. You and your friends have been imprisoned deep in this strange castles depths and you need to get out, but there are at least 8 rooms between you and the outside world.
Each turn you reveal a room and read it aloud. You might find weird cult rituals, skeletons holding loot or maybe just an eery silent corridor of nothing. Each turn is a surprise and with so many cards in the deck you’re not going to see the same room twice quickly.
You are sometimes given choices like those old choose your own adventure. Do you fight the cannibals or try to sneak by without them chomping you. Fighting means you have the chance to earn loot, some sort of weapon or potion but sneaking past means you live to fight another day.
Or at least until you get to the last room when one of the games bosses appears and you have your epic battle. Combat is mostly rolling dice and matching symbols, with cute twists of monsters that resurrect themselves or fighting you individually.
The game is dripping with atmosphere from the black and white scratched art to the chunky dice. It really does feel like a game lost from an older era, I can imagine it being advertised in between an episode of Knightmare and the Crystal Maze (yes ok they weren’t on the same channel so that’s not possible shhh)
Look it’s not the most in-depth game and you’re probably only going to get 5-10 plays before it feels a little samey, but for me its a great pallet cleanser. A quick game to kick off a board game evening or fit between something heavier. At times I wish it had more variety in the cards, after a while you notice the templates most of the cards fit into. I wanted more off the wall moments like we saw with Ravine, messing with your expectations and taking your unawares.
If you’re looking for something quick, well made that’s a breeze to teach and play we very much recommend you give Escape the Dark Castle a go.
You can support independent creators and order it directly from them here.