Blackbrim 1876 – Escape Room Game (spoiler free)

Blackbrim 1876 – Escape Room Game (spoiler free)

  • Publisher: Puzzling Pursuits
  • Players: 1-6 (we had 2 solvers)
  • Time: no time limit – we took 43 minutes to solve part 1, 73 minutes to solve part 2
  • website: https://puzzlingpursuits.com/

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The Opinionated Gamers have long been a fan of escape room games and puzzle pastimes.  We have done plenty of physical escape rooms, online puzzle hunts, and lots and lots of escape room games, from well known franchises (Exit, Unlock, Escape The Room, Werewolf) to one-off challenges and even a few puzzle books.

We were recently contacted by a company new to us, Puzzling Pursuits.  They are based in California, and they now have 4 different game boxes (2 each in two different story lines).  We were sent a care package of two games to try out, and we have now had the chance to play both of them.

Per their own introduction: “We create immersive puzzle adventures, games with rich storylines you actively participate in. Solve puzzles, crack codes, and problem solve your way to an objective that changes with every game.

We are inspired by escape rooms, puzzle hunts, and immersive experiences. We love unique adventures that contain camaraderie, problem solving, satisfying “AHA” moments, and compelling story-telling. We thought about what it would be like to bring the best of these experiences into the home.

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So, we set out to create an at-home game that is incredibly enjoyable, great in value, and easy to play—whenever, with no time limits. We strive to make the best immersive puzzle adventures for anyone who loves escape rooms, puzzles, riddles, or mysteries. Since launching in 2020, thousands of avid puzzlers from all 50 states have loved playing our games. Whether you’re looking for an awesome new way to bring your family or friends together, a unique date-night experience, or are looking to dive into a storyline yourself, we’d encourage you to give one of our games a try!”

The first one we opened was La Famiglia, and you can read our review here.  We also received the starting episode of another series, Blackbrim 1876.  The story here per the publisher: “Set during the Victorian era in the English town of Blackbrim, you are a private detective who has received a package containing mysterious clues from a police commissioner shortly before he was kidnapped. He and the entire police force are being held hostage. To save them, you must solve the cryptic puzzles the perpetrator left behind… Are you up to the challenge?”

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This second game was saved for an afternoon set aside for escape room games.  We ended up playing four different games over the course of this day.  When you open up the Blackbrim box, the two acts of the game are split up into two large envelopes. We found the first one, and following the instructions – we opened it up to get started on our quest.

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The contents of the first envelope provided you with all of the needed information for all of the puzzles in the first set.  There were some instructions/flavor text in the introductory folder and the letter written to “Detective”, but otherwise you’re on your own to figure out what to do.

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We’ve had lots of experience with puzzle hunts/escape room games, so we quickly got to work.  You will need to have a phone or a laptop nearby, as well as access to the Internet.  You must access a webpage actively during your game in order to play.

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But, don’t fear – if you’ve not done this sort of thing before, the online help offers some basic hints on how to approach the genre.  If that’s not enough, there are also plenty of directed clues – for each specific component to help you along.  There are as many as 9 different clues for the puzzles, and if those aren’t enough, then you can always just get the answer.

We ended up needing two clues during our time solving Blackbrim, and we found that the clues were well written.  They are nicely tiered to give you just the nudge that you need if you are stuck.  The first level clues almost seem unnecessary, though it’s good that they are there because if someone is totally stuck with a puzzle, they’d likely benefit from the most basic of clues, and anyways, at the worst, we had to click our phone screen an extra time to get to the next clue…

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You will also use this same interface to check if you have come up with the right answer for each of the puzzles.  Simply type in what you think is the answer, and it’ll tell you if you are right or not!

In this game, each of the packets has a number of puzzles (5 and 6 respectively) and then a meta puzzle which uses the solutions of the initial set of puzzles in that packet.  The puzzles were average to above average in difficulty, and there is a nice distribution of puzzle types – some visual, some wordplay, a fun map to work with, and lots of different pencil play styles, etc.  Two of the puzzles (out of 13) felt a little unsatisfying in the solution or process of getting to the solution, but that’s a pretty good ratio for this sort of thing.  

The quality of the material should again be commented upon.  Overall, the quality of the bits was quite high, and this adds a lot to the thematic feel of the game.  There is newsprint (for newspaper), glossy cardstock for some art reproductions, and some photos.  

As we are still not quite through the COVID era, I would note that this could probably be played remotely.  While it would be easiest to have each remote site have their own set of materials (i.e. purchase their own box); most of the things in the kit are in a size amenable to scanning/taking pictures of.   In the end, you’ll likely all be discussing the puzzles and how to solve them, and you’ll end up working together anyways.

As I mentioned at the top, we did this with just two people, and we had no problems sharing all of the material.  As there are 5-6 puzzles in each envelope (plus the metapuzzle) – there is plenty of stuff to be passed around and examined.  All of the non-metapuzzles can be worked on simultaneously – there is no specific order in which you need to solve them.

As with most games in the genre, this game can only be played once.  Once you know the solutions to the puzzles, it’s not likely that you will forget how to solve them – especially the clever/memorable puzzles!  This is also a game that you probably will not be able to pass on to another group as some of the material must be written upon or altered, and this would reduce the experience for people who tried to play it next with the same box.

I liked the fact that there is no time limit here, you can work on the puzzles at your own pace.  While we split up the game into the two natural sections based on the envelopes (having a nice lunch break in between); this is also something you could just spread out on your desk, working on puzzles as you had time, and then check your answers whenever you felt that you had finished a puzzle.

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There is pretty good value here compared to other escape rooms as you essentially get two “experiences” in each box – I would think most groups will take 60-90 minutes for each envelope; so that’s a fair bit of entertainment for $35, and the high quality of the components is a nice added plus.  And, if you buy multiple games, Puzzling Pursuits does offer a discount of 20%.

Our first experience with the games from Puzzling Pursuits was defintiely positive, and the second was similar, though we did feel that a few of the puzzles could have been a bit more elegant in construction.  (Or the designers of the puzzles love anagramming way more than most people as opposed to designing the puzzle to naturally lead you to the desired word.)  That notwithstanding, the overall quality of the puzzles is very good as is the quality of the physical components themselves.  

If you’re interested in seeing what they have to offer, check out their webpage at: https://puzzlingpursuits.com/

Rating from the Opinionated Gamers: I like it.

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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