Deckscape: The Mystery of Eldorado (spoiler free review)
- Designers: Martino Chiacchiera and Silvano Sorrentino
- Players: 1-6
- Ages: 12+
- Time: 45-90 minutes
- 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. Likewise, we’ve done our best here to seek out as many of them as we can to try. 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…
Deckscape from dv Giochi is one of the recurring franchises – we have reviewed earlier entries in this series here at the Opinionated Gamers – HERE and HERE . As with those reviews, this review will also be spoiler-free. All pictures here are taken from the dv giochi website, so everything you see here is what they have allowed you to see…
This adventure is titled The Mystery of Eldorado. 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 The Mystery of Eldorado – “The expedition in search of Eldorado was a failure: you have long sought the legendary golden city in the heart of the forest, without finding it. While you are flying back home, the head of a statue crashes against the plane and you have to parachute! You are alone, tired and hungry, lost in an uncharted area of the forest. The danger is lurking, and you own only a few items gathered before jumping off. This could be your end… or the very last chance to unravel the mystery of Eldorado.”
I’ll try to explain the game without any spoilers. Once the scenario is set up with the first few cards, you will then be instructed to record the time to start the game in earnest… 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 get through all the cards in the box 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. The item will probably be used to solve a puzzle later in the game, but you’ll have to figure out where/when to use the item. 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. Essentially, you take the time needed to solve the whole set of puzzles with some time penalties added in for any incorrect solutions.
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 quest to escape the Jungle took about 50 minutes. We had four puzzle solvers in our group, and all of us are quite familiar with the genre. We did get somewhat stuck on one of the puzzles in this box, but it was not an unfair puzzle… we just couldn’t see the answer staring us in the face!
The format was very similar to the other Deckscape episodes, and the folks at dv Giochi have definitely found a system that works well. We felt that the level of difficulty of puzzles was OK – there were a few which seemed quite easy, and as I mentioned above, one that took us a bit longer to work through. We did need to take a single hint on one of those puzzles – there are a few cards full of hints to help you get on your way if you get really stuck! – and the clue did help us get on the right track. I am glad to say that we did not 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 probably personally limit the group to 4 or so. There are also plenty of times where there are multiple active puzzles. If you have a larger group, you could end up missing large parts of the overall puzzle if a different group gets through a number of puzzles while you’re working on something different. I’d also 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!
While you can only play it once, it was a fairly engaging 50 minutes for four gamers in our group and we felt it was well worth the cost for that amount of play (these usually list around $15). 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. The non-destructiveness of this series is one thing which does set it apart from say the EXIT series where you will likely draw or cut up part of the puzzle as you solve it.
I’m still looking forward to further releases in the line of puzzle games. The level of difficulty was good – and while we felt there were a few puzzles that were gimmicky – it provided a very nice discrete puzzle solving activity for one of our game nights and gave us an experience which we enjoyed doing. I would say that this one was my favorite. Of the three that I have played, I would rate them Eldorado > Test Time > Tower of London.
On the whole, I like this series a great deal, and I look forward to seeing further episodes in the future.
Thoughts from other Opinionated Gamers
James Nathan: This is the first of the Deckscape series I have played, and I am impressed. Overall it is a fairly light hearted affair, with puzzles that are a smidge on the easy side, but they were clever, and I thought they involved some interesting thinking -not quite puzzles, not quite riddles, and either way something that felt uniquely not-Exit and not-Unlock. The narrative came through stronger here and it was a better experience for it (that’s not to say that I like it better than E/U, but that this Deckscape game I believe is firmly buttressed by the narrative.) While I don’t think the destructive mechanics or app of E/U have bothered me, there was still something refreshing about the simple deck of cards that we flipped through to play the game. I’m on board for more of these in the future.