Dale Yu: Review of Deckscape: Test Time (Spoiler Free)

 

Deckscape: Test Time

  • Designers: Martino Chiacchiera and Silvano Sorrentino
  • Publisher: dv Giochi
  • Players: 1-6
  • Ages: 12+
  • Time: ~1 hour
  • Times played: 1, with review copy provided by dv Giochi

The puzzle game genre has been rapidly growing over the last few years – there have been many entries in this field over that time period.  Many of the initial forays into the puzzle area have been big-box affairs, some with electronic solving devices – allowing for multiple expansions that use the same hardware.  The catch with most of these games are that they can really only be played once – because once you know the solution to the puzzle, you can’t really experience the solving of the same puzzle again…

The new movement in the genre looks to be in making the puzzle solving experiences more portable. There are at least two different series of games coming out that attempt to give you the same experience in a single deck of cards.  Deckscape from dv Giochi is the first such game to hit my table (the other is the Unlock! series coming soon from Asmodee).

In this cooperative game, everything is contained in a single card box – think the old traditional Amigo sized card game boxes.  Contained within is a single 60 card deck.  These cards are double-sized – that is each is 3.2 x 4.4 inches in size – like two traditional playing cards that have not been cut apart.  The larger size of the cards helps accommodate all the graphics and text needed for the game.

As I mentioned earlier, the game is played cooperatively – all the gamers are on the same team trying to solve the puzzles presented in the box.  When you open the box, there is nothing but a sealed deck of cards – with careful instructions on both sides telling you how to open the cards and which side to hold face up.  Once you get started, the rules to the game are explained on the first few cards.

The story for this game goes as follows: In Deckscape –Test Time, you have been selected from Doctor Thyme’s most brilliant students for a special project. He’ll test your skills, and if you succeed, you’ll get a unique chance to help him on his newest and greatest invention. While he his explaining his project, he distractedly pushes a button: an alarm cries loudly and heavy gratings shut all the windows and the exit door. The laboratory is locked! Doc Thyme falls through a trapdoor below his feet and the lights turn off. Will you be able to pass Doctor Thyme’s exam and exit his Laboratory? Using just 60 cards, you will take part in a hectic adventure for 1 to 6 players, without leaving home.

I’ll try to explain the game without any spoilers.  Once the scenario is set up, you will then be instructed to record the time when you start… The goal of the game is to solve puzzles, understand the plot of the story, and make intelligent use of the items provided in order to exit from the room as quickly as possible.

All of the information needed to solve the puzzles are found on the cards themselves, though you might want to have some pen and paper handy to make notes, etc.  The solution process is fairly simple – when you think you have solved a puzzle, and all of the teammates agree on the possible solution, you flip over the card with that particular puzzle on it to see the solution.  If you have solved it correctly, you simply keep reading the directions on the card and move on.  Sometimes, the game will just have you go to the next card.  Sometimes, the puzzle will provide you with an item which remains in your possession for the rest of the game.  If you are wrong, you still get to progress to the next challenge, but you must make note of your failed solution on the scoring sheet.  You’re on your honor to decide whether you’ve solved the puzzle correctly or not.  When you make it through the deck of cards, there is a scoring rubric that you can use to determine how well you did.

Some of the puzzles are stand-alone affairs while other require you to have solved previous puzzles first.  But, of course, the game doesn’t tell you when you need this extra information, so you have to be constantly on your toes looking for information to help you on your way.

Our trip through the deck took just under 50 minutes, and we felt that the level of difficulty of puzzles was decent.  The variety of puzzle types was nice, and we managed to get through the whole game without resorting to taking any hints (there are a few cards full of hints to help you get on your way if you get really stuck!).  There weren’t any puzzles that seemed inherently unfair nor did we encounter any typos on the cards themselves.  The artwork was well done on the whole.

If there was any issue with the game – it’s that it might be hard to play this with higher player counts. The reason for this is simply that though the cards are oversized, they are still not that big, and it’s hard to get so many heads around the card at one time.  I’d be careful picking up the cards to study them – because if you do, you risk possibly exposing the answer to the puzzle (on the reverse side) to anyone on the other side of the table.  We definitely tried to make sure that we kept unsolved puzzles on the table to prevent accidental solving!

As it stands now, the list price for this will be around 12 Euro.  While you can only play it once, it was a fairly engaging hour for four gamers in our group and we felt it was well worth the cost for that amount of play.  As I mentioned earlier, you really cannot play the game more than once, but you could then pass this on to a friend when you were done with it.

I’m looking forward to further releases in the line of puzzle games.  The level of difficulty was good – challenging but not overly so – and it provided a very nice discrete puzzle solving activity for one of our game nights.

Thoughts from other Opinionated Gamers

 

Craig V: Despite the large number of recent “escape room in a box” releases, I am not yet tired of them nor do I feel that the genre has become oversaturated or repetitious. There is still plenty of room for innovation and I am excited about what’s still to come. Deckscape is interesting because it delivers the experience with a minimal set of components – a single deck of cards. While it may not provide a great depth of theme, it still delivers an interesting puzzle-solving experience in an inexpensive format. This isn’t a bad thing since this type of game can really only be played once before being sold, traded, or given away. The puzzles within Deckscape are clever and unique, and the path through the game was not a single linear one as is the case with other similar games such as the Escape the Room series by ThinkFun. That’s not to say those are those other games aren’t good, it’s just that the overall game is more fun and engaging when several players are able to work on different puzzles simultaneously. This also introduces more tension and the need for players to interact as they work separately – but still together overall – to solve the puzzle and complete the game successfully. Deckscape did that pretty well in the midgame and then become more single-threaded for the end, as expected. Overall, I really liked Deckscape and look forward to future releases in the series.

Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers

  • I love it! Dale Y
  • I like it. Craig V
  • Neutral.
  • Not for me…

For spoiler free reviews from Opinionated Gamers of other escape room games, please see:

 

 

 

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About Dale Yu

Dale Yu is the Editor of the Opinionated Gamers. He can occasionally be found working as a volunteer administrator for BoardGameGeek, and he previously wrote for BoardGame News.
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4 Responses to Dale Yu: Review of Deckscape: Test Time (Spoiler Free)

  1. gschloesser says:

    I’ve never experienced an “Escape Room”, mainly since I’m not particularly adept at puzzle solving and I feel I would be a drain on my teammates. So, I was not overly enthused about playing Deckscape. However, I was pleasantly surprised as the game was challenging and fun. The puzzles were challenging, but not overly difficult. We played with six and everyone made valuable contributions. I can easily see more installments coming soon.

  2. Nick Stables says:

    I’d be interested to see how the experience compares with the Exit: the Game brand of escape rooms.

    • Dale Yu says:

      Gimme about two weeks. Just finished playing the trio from Kosmos. Will start writing up reviews on them as soon as work slows down.

  3. Nick Stables says:

    No time pressure Dale :-)

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