Deckscape Crew vs Crew: The Pirate’s Island
- Designers: Martino Chiacchiera and Silvano Sorrentino
- Publisher: dv Giochi
- Players: 2 to 6 (split into 2 teams)
- Age: 12+
- Time: about 45 minutes
- Played with review copy provided by dv Giochi
Deckscape has been one of the enduring puzzle series out there – this one is I believe the 10th entry into the series. We have played a number of them in the past and have reviewed them here, here, here, here, here, and here.
The Deckscape line from dV Giochi are a series of “puzzle” games and reside in the orbit of “escape room” games. These sorts of things come in many varieties -some require apps and others physically can’t be played again because there are destructive or consumable elements- but what I have liked about the Deckscape series is the relative straightforwardness of the puzzles, a little dabbling in riddles, and the sense of adventure. They insert you into a narrative and the illustrations of the cards carry you along.
Let’s look at how the basic Deckscape series plays.
The Deckscape games do an excellent job of packaging the game to avoid spoilers, and you’ll generally work down the deck of around 60 cards in order. A few cards on top will cover any rules or instructions you need, and it isn’t much.
There is one big difference in this newest entry in the series – and that is The Pirate’s Island is a competitive affair and not fully cooperative like all the previous entries in the series. Before you start play, break up your group into two teams (one Red and one Blue). Ideally, have the teams sit together so that they can work together on puzzles. Like all the other Deckscapes, the puzzles are entirely contained on the cards, but unless you’re sitting close to each other, it’s hard to share a 3.5 x 4.25 inch card!
As with most puzzle/escape games, the player count is somewhat arbitrary, and the rules will be the same regardless of player count. As with physical escape rooms, my personal preference is for lower counts as each person has a chance to more easily be involved in the experience, and that’s even more true with the puzzle/escape games that you’ll play on your table, as the components are smaller than room size! I played this one 4 player (2 teams of 2) and it was the perfect count for me – it was nice having some help on the puzzles, but not so much that we were fighting over things to do.
Part of what is different with these Deckscapes is that you can often rely on a puzzle to be self-contained. The series is also more situational -almost…environmental- in the sense that they require you to be aware of your surroundings -not in the room as you play, but you the adventurer who has become involved in the adventure. The puzzles feel more like real-life detective work or adventure survival and less thematically arbitrary (OK, maybe not “real-life” though.) There probably won’t be any fourth-wall breaking manigances (Google tells me that’s French for “shenanigans”.)
Once you get through the 4 cards of rules and introduction, each team gets their first card. As you will find with all the puzzles in this game, each team will get its own color coded card of information for a puzzle, and then a later card in the deck will give the actual instructions on what to do for said puzzle. Once those instructions are read aloud, the teams then race with each other to solve the puzzle – and the team that thinks they have solved it first shouts out Eureka (or some other interjection), and then flips over the puzzle instruction card to see if they have the right answer. If they do, they take the reward card (which is always the next card on the deck). If they are wrong, the other team takes the reward. On the back side of the reward card, you’ll find a number of coins – these are essentially victory points. The number of coins on the backside of the card tends to equate to the relative difficulty of the puzzle; however you only see the number of coins once the card is awarded. The team which has the most coins at the end of the game will be victorious.
One bit on timing that is not addressed in the rules was a way to fairly present the puzzle to the contestants. I would have preferred that the puzzle instruction came first, and it was read aloud, and then have the reward card next and then the team cards underneath. In the current set up, the teams get their info cards first, and whichever team isn’t reading the puzzle instruction invariably ends up with a head start as they are already looking at the meat of the puzzle while someone else is reading the instructions. After the first few puzzles, we figured it out and had a gentleman’s agreement to not work ahead, but the cards could have been organized better to prevent this from happening.
The puzzles range from easy to questionably hard. On a few occasions, our group had some issues with the way that the puzzles were depicted. One a few of them, we actually argued whether or not the answer shown on the back of the puzzle card was correct.. This is in contrast to most of the previous Deckscape adventures where the answers are non-controversial. In the end, the back of the puzzle card is judge and jury, so just be sure of your answer before you decide to flip over the puzzle card to see if you are right or not.
Though I haven’t counted to be sure, it felt like there were fewer puzzles in this box – but when you figure that nearly every puzzle requires 4 cards for each (one card per team, one for the puzzle itself and one for the reward) – there just isn’t room for as many puzzles here. Also, given the real-time nature of the race, the puzzles generally felt a bit easier (though again, a couple of them were doozies due to the presentation).
While it shares the name with the rest of the Deckscape series, The Pirate’s Island is a fairly different animal. Unlike the other games, there is much more of a time pressure here – because you’re racing against the other team. This certainly seems to mimic the time pressure you get in a regular escape room (where you have to complete the room in a certain amount of time), but generally in an escape room, if you rush through a puzzle and solve it incorrectly, you get to keep trying to work at it until you solve it. Here, if you rush and make a mistake, you simply lose the puzzle and the other team gains the reward. There are no clues offered for the puzzles as the reward is given to one of the teams once an attempt at a solution is made.
For me, I”d prefer the original format where everyone can work together and solve the puzzles. Though I like the time pressure of a physical escape room, it did not translate well for me in this setting. I think that the format has some promise though, and I wonder if my experience would have been more positive if we had felt better about some of the puzzle solutions.
Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers
- I love it!
- I like it.
- Neutral. Dale, John P
- Not for me…