The Book of Rituals
- Creators: Jakub Caban, Bartosz Idzikowski
- Publisher: Board&Dice, Lockme
- Players: 1
- Time: ~20 hours (though spread out over a month, I didn’t keep good records)
- Age: well I’m late 40s, but I think anyone in high school or older can tackle this
- Played with review copy provided by Board&Dice
Board&Dice have carved out a bit of a niche in the past few years making escape room games, with their Escape Tales series. We have reviewed two of these games in the past: The Awakening and Children of Wyrmwoods. Both of these games provide immersive stories and challenging puzzles, and they both use a very nice web-based app to check answers and provide hints.
The Book of Rituals is set in the same universe, and while it supposedly has some easter eggs in it which are related to the other Escape Tales games (or perhaps highlights easter eggs in those games!) – this is a fully standalone adventure. It is a book, filled with puzzles, that can be enjoyed as a solo pursuit or perhaps with some friends. There are plenty of puzzles in the book, and it will definitely take you awhile to finish it all.
I put the book on a side table in my sitting room, and I would work on it whenever I felt the urge. Sometimes, the soccer match on the TV was slow, and I’d work on the current puzzle. Othertimes, I’d sit and intently solve two or three puzzles in a sitting. The book was also a nice companion on two road trips, and it helped me while away the time while charging the car.
The story says the publisher:
You are a young adept of alchemy. You just found a powerful Book of Rituals. To perform any of them, first, you need to obtain knowledge about elements and alchemical ingredients.
The Book of Rituals contains 3 chapters. In each of them, you need to solve puzzles to find the magical secrets of ancient powers. During your game, you will notice a storyline and you will find some of your old friends. But beware – some of them may turn out to be your enemies.
The Book of Rituals plot happens in the Escape Tales universe – but you don’t need to know anything about it to solve the whole book. Everyone who plays our other games will find many easter eggs and followups to some of the events from The Awakening or Children of Wyrmwoods.
Is this a game? Well, that’s unclear. It’s really more of an activity. There isn’t a scoring system (nor even penalties for not solving a puzzle or taking hints). Yet, there is a BGG page for it: https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/348425/book-rituals so maybe it is a game? In the end, it doesn’t matter – it’s an intriguing set of puzzles that you can try to work your way through.
Without spoiling the book too much – you start by discovering the five basic alchemical elements (by solving the puzzles related to each), and then as you gain more knowledge; you learn how to craft ingredients. As you solve puzzles, you’ll also discover the alchemical name and value of the ingredients. There is a chart in the back of the book for you to record this information.
Then, once you have enough ingredients in your armamentarium, you are able to perform rites. The puzzles are of varying types and difficulties, and the nice thing about the book is that there isn’t a direct path in any of the three chapters. Some rites have prerequisites (i.e. elements or ingredients), but these are listed on the page. You can work your way through the book at your own speed and mostly in your own order. Some of the puzzles have hints or help you solve other puzzles, so going straight from cover to cover probably isn’t the best anyways.
The puzzles are meant to be pen-and-paper puzzles, and it’s recommended that you write directly in the book. If you do, I’d definitely recommend an erasable instrument, as there weren’t many puzzles I got right on the first try! I wanted to keep my book looking nice, so I used dry erase pens and clear overlays on the pages, but in retrospect, it might have been better just to write in the dang book.
As I mentioned earlier, the puzzles are of varying difficulty, and I got about a third immediately, a third within a hour or so, and then a third I needed to take hints on. All of the hints are found on the web-app, which can be loaded once on your phone or iPad, and then it does not need to be online anymore.
In the end, there were maybe 3 or 4 puzzles that I really struggled with, not even necessarily feeling like I got the logic behind them even after seeing the solution – but the rest of them were fair and/or challenging. The frustrating part for me was that you only get the solution, not how the solution was done – so in those 3-4 cases, I couldn’t reverse engineer the puzzle from knowing the solution, and that frustrates me as a puzzle solver, and it makes me feel like that particular puzzle was unfair.
Note that there were a few puzzles that had instructions only found on the web-app, so I’d caution you to look at the webpage before starting each puzzle. I wish there had been an icon or notification somewhere on those puzzles just to tell you to go to the website to get the instructions.
The hints come in tiers, and there are usually at least 4 hints to each puzzle before it just offers you the solution. You should feel free to take hints whenever you need them – there is no scoring system. This is a book to immerse yourself in and enjoy the journey. I’d caution you to not take hints too soon though; there were plenty of puzzles that I eventually solved after getting a burst of inspiration from letting my brain stew on it for a while. One puzzle I remember that I got stuck on, and then about a week later, everything clicked while I was at work, and I had to send myself an email to remind me of my proposed solution so I could try it in the book when I got home!
As I mentioned at the top, this probably occupied me for about 20 hours or so, which is a great value for the investment. The book can be had usually for under $20, and that’s a lot of entertainment for the cost. If you’re a fan of solving puzzles and/or a fan of the Escape Tales series of games, this will likely be a hit for you.
Until your next appointment,
The Gaming Doctor