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Deckscape Series Review

Quick Look:

Designer:  Martino Chiacchiera, Silvano Sorrentino
Artist: Alberto Bontempi
Publisher: dV Giochi
Year(s) Published: 2017-2019
No. of Players: 1-6
Ages: 12+
Playing Time: 30-90 min.

Find more info on BoardGameGeek.com

About a year ago, I reviewed an escape game and game up with a rubric in which to grade them on certain areas that compared to their physical escape room counterparts. I’m brushing it off and applying it to the Deckscape games.

Note: I was sent several of the Deckscape titles and this review is based more on generalities of the series rather than any specific title in the series.

Here is a quick refresher on how I grade the tabletop iterations of escape games:

A natural narrative progression - Why are we wherever we are and what is the purpose of us being there?

Puzzles that are the right kind of challenging - Is it a challenge to complete, and if it is, is it challenging in a way that follows a reasonable logic?

A theme that is integrated in the narrative and puzzles  - Do the puzzles follow the thematic elements of the story?

So how did the various Deckscape titles hold-up?

I wont spoil the games, but I will offer this spoiler of this review: I like the Deckscape series as a tabletop version of escape rooms.

They are a little simple at times, but if I have to choose between an escape game title that has challenging puzzles throughout but at some point during play drives me to the point of wanting to throw it into a fire, or a title that has simple puzzles at times but comes without the frustration, I'll take the less frustrating of the two.

A natural narrative progression: (A+) The decks follow a story and does a good job of explain where we are, why we're there, and why we are suddenly trapped. Each story has an ending that makes sense with the initial explanation and the narrative progression throughout the deck.  

Puzzles that are the right kind of challenging: (B-) As far as escape games go, I think that Deckscapes fall into the easier side of the spectrum. (That being said, I have done a lot of escape room board games, and actual escape rooms, so I may be more conditioned to look at puzzles differently. Easy is subjective, so take it with a grain of salt.)

There were a few puzzles that were legitimately challenging, and I am glad to say that they were challenging within the scope of the story. The puzzles made sense and even in the ones that I missed, I could easily follow the logic and how I should have arrived at the answer.

I should note that some of the more challenging puzzles required some sort of visual distinction. Even though I would have liked for a few of the puzzles to be a little less straightforward, the ease allowed the game to be played quickly and, more importantly, without the frustration of getting stuck in the loop of guessing, getting it wrong, guessing, getting it wrong, refusing to look at a clue, guessing, getting it wrong…

A theme that is integrated in the narrative and puzzles: (A+) At no point did I ever wonder why a particular puzzle was in the game. They follow the story better than any other escape room I have played. This helped with immersion into the narrative aspect of the game. 


Rules and Setup:
It’s not much of an exaggeration to say that setup and rules are simply open the box and read the top card.

The biggest thing to remember is that you should not shuffle the cards or look at any card other than the top instruction card. The first few cards give instructions on how each scenario is played and these few cards take about three minutes to complete if its your first time through.

Don't shuffle or look through the cards.
Theme and Mechanics:
Each title has a different theme (Egyptian, time travel, heists, searching the jungle, etc.), so players can choose the one that best fits their preferences.

There is a theme for everyone.
Each title is a cooperative game inspired by escape rooms.

Staring with card #1, players will start a time and continue through the deck, following the instructions on the cards. Whether the players guess the puzzle correctly or not, the story progresses forward. In the event that a guess is wrong, the players take a time penalty to be tacked on to their final time.

Any variation in the different versions are outlined on cards within the specific decks (e.g. selecting characters, dividing the cards into piles, etc.).

Artwork and Components:
Cards will stand up to multiple plays, which is good, because these can be passed on after play.

As for the artwork, it was fine. I will say that some puzzles may rely on a player's ability to distinguish visual clues (e.g. colors, shapes, pictures, etc.), so players with visual impairments may want to look on BGG at the specific title they are considering to see if someone remarked on any challenges they faced with certain puzzles. I checked and there are spoiler-free or spoiler-hidden comments that address this with some of the titles.

The Strengths:
There’s no Plan(et) B – One of my biggest gripes about other escape games is that the required manipulation of the components (e.g. cutting cards, tearing boxes, etc.) makes the game a one-and-done title. You can’t pass it on, you can’t play it again, and ultimately it finds its way to the garbage. That is not the case with the Deckscapes I played. Upon your completion of the game, you can simply put the cards back in numerical order and into the box, and pass it on for someone else to enjoy. Best of all, the lack of manipulation doesn’t detract from game play. Reduce, reuse, recycle, repeat.

Make it to the end, put the cards back in numerical order, and pass them on.
Quarterback sack – Another thing that Deckscapes does differently than other escape games is that they do they best to limit the potential of one player quarterbacking and telling everyone else what to do. One of the titles include player roles that have secret information, ultimately making it where only one of the players would have the required information necessary to complete a puzzle. I think the inclusion of some asymmetrical powers is a great inclusion in the genre and increases the likelihood that it is enjoyed equally by all participants. Another version includes different stacks of cards that each player can work to solve as items become available.

No quicksand – I have played several escape room games where you get stuck on a puzzle but refuse to look at the clues. So, you sit, ponder, guess, start over, ad infinitum until you look at the clock and realize that you’ve spent 30 minutes on one puzzle and you’re no closer to solving it than you were when you started. You’re stuck and the more time that passes, the less interested the players become. Instead of being excited to complete it, you have more of a feeling of just wanting it to be over. With Deckscapes, every guess propels the story forward--guess right, awesome, you move on. Guess wrong, that’s ok, take a time penalty and still move on. You won’t get stuck in a loop of guessing wrong, trying again, guessing wrong, trying again, guessing wrong…

Doesn’t out-clever itself – As stated above, the puzzles, while not as challenging as some of its contemporaries, are all important in driving the narrative forward. They make sense and add to the story. It seems to me that the narrative was created, then the puzzles, rather than the other way around.

The games have a thematic element that progresses throughout the experience.

The Other:
The biggest critique I have about the game is that they didn’t seem to be as challenging as I would have liked. That being said, at no point was I ever 100% correct across the board on the puzzles, but for the most part, they seemed much easier than other escape room games that I have played. But in some ways, this is the trade-off that you make to enjoy the strengths. You don’t get to cut up cards, but it makes it replayable. Players may have secret knowledge or looking at specific stacks created during play that makes solving the problems easier, but you don’t have a quarterback issue.

Final Thoughts:
Ultimately, I really enjoyed the Deckscape games and if you like that kind of tabletop escape room experience, you might too.

If you have made your way thought the entirety of the EXIT and Unlock series, you should check out one of the Deckscape titles and see if it is right for you.

If you found the EXIT or Unlock series too difficult or too frustrating, give the Deckscape games a go.

While the puzzles in Deckscape are simpler than their contemporaries, it allows the Deckscape games to be played quicker with less frustration, more inviting. That is a trade-off in most cases I am willing to make.

A travel friendly, reusable escape game. Sushi Go! and a deck of cards included to show size of Deckscape.
If you dislike the one-and-done nature of some escape games that require destroying components, look for the Deckscape games. You can play them and pass them on for others to enjoy.

I feel that Deckscape did enough little things differently, and in the right way, to differentiate them from other titles in the escape room genre. I would recommend them.

Players Who Like: Exit, Unlock, and other tabletop escape room games.

Check out Deckscape on:

https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgamefamily/48410/deckscape   https://www.dvgiochi.com/Index.cfm?   https://www.facebook.com/dvgiochi/   https://twitter.com/dvgiochi  https://www.instagram.com/dv.giochi/?ref=badge   https://www.youtube.com/user/dVGiochi   https://www.amazon.com/stores/node/20053650011?_encoding=UTF8&field-lbr_brands_browse-bin=dV%20Giochi&ref_=bl_dp_s_web_20053650011

Nick Shipley - Reviewer

Nick is a compliance consultant by day, a board gamer at night, and a husband and father always. When he is not bringing a game to the table, he is running (most often to or from his kids) or watching the New York Yankees. Nick lives in Oklahoma.

See Nick's reviews HERE.
Deckscape Series Review Deckscape Series Review Reviewed by Nick Shipley on December 31, 2019 Rating: 5

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