deckscape (2017) review
Designer: Silvano Sorrentino, Martino Chiacchiera
Artist: Alberto Bontempi
Publisher: dV Giochi, ABACUSSPIELE
ages 12 and up
Written by Barry
Some good things do come in small packages. Baby's for one. Individually wrapped sweets for another. Board games?
In the palm of your hand, this game will take you out of the realms of reality and into a head scratching gameshow. Escape rooms are all the rage at the moment and there are more and more popping up on your local high street. Taking the place of old retail units and giving a group of punters a run for their money. It's the new fashion, replacing the murder mystery weekends with a 1 to 2 hour, group solving, puzzle adventure. And there are many of these turning up in board game fashion as well.
Deckscape is probably the smallest and cheapest version of this experience that you can buy and play in your own living room. It's literally a deck of cards that are stacked numerically and you have to work your way through them in the quickest time possible. No instructions needed, as as soon as you open the box, the first card tells you “not to look through this deck or shuffle it.” Like a choose Your Own Adventure, your start reading through the cards one by one. Within a matter of minutes you will understand what you have to do and how to play, which is a blessing for a game. And if you've played one of these before you won't even have to bother reading this guide.
The short rules are followed by a very light story, that is introduced by a cartoon character drawn on a card. In regards to Time Test, you are the guinea pig of a professor and his time machine. And The Fate of London puts you in a Sherlock Holmes mystery, where you will have to stop a bomb from destroying Big Ben. You need to grab a scrap of paper and a pencil and some form of item that works as a stopwatch. And away you go...
The first thing that you need is someone to read out the text on these quite large and very clear cards. Especially if you are playing with many players. This is one of the advantages of a game like this, and that is, technically any number of players can join in the fun of this game and even drop out. The illustrations are beautiful, basic and easy to interpret. And that's a bonus for young players, who can quickly get to grips at what you're looking at. This also helps, as most of the puzzles are visual, while there are a splattering of logical puzzles mixed in. Some puzzles are very simple, like the matchstick types and you may have seen them before on a smartphone game. Even while playing, you may see patterns in the types of puzzles that are presented and therefore you will start walking down a logical path that the designer has laid out. Occasionally a puzzle will send you asque, and you'll have this horrifying moment of admitting you are stuck. But don't worry too much as the puzzles start very simple and then they branch out. When I say “branch out”, I mean that the deck gets divided into 3 or 4 decks, so you will have three or four puzzles that you can solve at the same time. Some of these puzzles are interlinking and can't be completed until another one from another deck is done.
But help is on hand for those times when you hit a brick wall. There is a reference card with some cryptic clues, written backwards, to help you get through every puzzle. Which is kind of cheating, but at the same time there is nothing worse than having an unfinished crossword. These clues will help you crawl out from those corners that you get pushed into, so no one can see your stupidity. Playing with larger groups means that you have more minds at work giving you a better chance of not even needing this reference card. Playing alone or with a handful of children, these our god saves. One default of playing with a large group is that, players may wish to inspect a card more closely. Picking up a card from a deck reveals the next puzzle, which can be seen as cheating. On top of that, if the card is lifted to high, other players can see the results.
Emotions can run high while playing. The exhilaration of the stopwatch will have your heart pounding, as you try to do these puzzles as quick as you can and get through all of the cards. The sensation of solving a problem before any other player at the table is so fantastic that you will almost jump and fist pump the air. The team building feeling when one player suggests the answer is “a”, while you suggest it “b”, then another says “a + b = c”, and they are correct. It’s wonderful. They will be patting on the backs for everyone. And occasionally there is an argument to be found while playing. This game is one super thrilling roller coaster ride. And when it's over there, the sigh of relief is a wonderful tension releasing sensation. But like chewing gum, once you taken it out your mouth it's never the same when you put it back in.
If this all sounds very vague, and you’re dishearten that I have shown many images, that is because, once a puzzle is solved...It’s solved (there are spoilers). The one drawbacks is that it has a very short life span. That’s typical of games that are a deck of cards for instance. Or with a small collection of tokens and boards. They, of course, can be fun, but only for a period of time. Some examples you'd like? Timeline. For Sale. Star Realms. The Resistance. I could go on, but these are games that you play, have a good time and then pack away and play in a months time. Where as Deckscape, you play once, you put it away and you hope that you forget how to play it. The older you are, the easier this is to do. In fact, I believe in a year's time I will be able to play these games again without remembering their solutions fully. But do I really want to keep a game that I have to stop myself from playing it due to this fact? I think I’d rather own games that I can’t wait to play again...Maybe next week.
Technical score 9/10
Great substitute for a real escape game. Good size study cards and well presented puzzles. Clear and concise text that leads to smooth gameplay. Small and portable. Great for any game night or party.
My BGG score 5/10
(mediocre- take it or leave it)
Disposable games are not something that I wish to own, although I may have a great time playing (and I love Sudoku) I will not deliberately go out and look for a game of this style. In the world of board games, I want something that I can play again and again and have the same experience again and again. I don’t think board games can pull this off.
Combined score 7/10
And now it’s over to you...