Ipswich, Dec 2017
After a chilly first game at Suffolk Food Hall, we were pleased to discover their other game had a portable fan heater in the corner – although the size of the space meant we still ended up taking intermittent breaks to go over and warm our hands over it.
I wouldn’t have been able to tell you what a bothy is before coming across this game, but it’s a term for a basic shelter such as that which might be provided to the gamekeeper of an estate. The game has a Victorian setting where you are poachers who’ve been caught and locked in, hurrying to escape before justice arrives. The space used for the game is first-rate for authenticity – you are in a genuine old wooden barn full of appropriate farming implements. It’s best avoided in the colder season, but it’s a great space and an original theme for a game.
The puzzles sadly don’t live up to their setting. With an array of interesting paraphernalia to draw on, the content instead makes heavy use of laminated paper clues with puzzles that could as easily have been placed on an office desk. Two of the puzzles were time-sinks, and one of those was also a classic pen-and-paper puzzle type common from puzzle magazines. It also shares with its sister room the design where a set of different puzzle solutions are combined for a final step – except here the auto-lockout for that final step was even less forgiving.
This is also one of the most search-intensive rooms I’ve encountered. The host warned us up-front we’d need to search carefully, and so, mindful that we tend to not search thoroughly enough, we made efforts to go through everything with paranoid thoroughness – which turned out to be woefully inadequate. It was clear up-front how many items of each type we needed to find (which is good!), and we pretty much ended up giving up and pleading with the GM to feed us enough information so that we had a chance of finding the last three or four items.
I wouldn’t call the search requirements unfair – it’s not as if it was unexpected, and none of the items were impossible to find or in totally unreasonable places. Still, there were enough items hidden, in sufficiently difficult locations, in a large space with a great many corners, that for most teams the biggest challenge of the game will be finding everything.
As with the other game at this venue, the style will best suit large inexperienced groups, and those who particularly like search tasks. Most enthusiast teams will likely find it less to their tastes – which is a shame, since the space has the potential for a really memorable game.