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Board Game Review: “Escape: The Curse of the Temple”

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Like Indiana Jones and his many ancestors of the cliffhanger days of pulp cinema, in this game players must escape the temple before it collapses and crushes them all. Unfortunately, the way out has yet to be discovered.

escape Escape: The Curse of the Temple is a board-building game from the German gaming company Queen Games. It was released 2012, the same year as Temple Run: Danger Chase, and the two games share similar themes of the early 20th Century adventuring in forbidden ancient temples riddled with traps. While Temple Run focuses on dice precision and avoiding the pursuit of a demon monkey, Escape takes a very different perspective on the temple-escape motif, making it into a real-time cooperative strategy game.

All players receive five dice and begin with their tokens in a central room, presumably where the adventurers climbed into the temple from the roof. The dice feature an Adventurer, a Key and a Torch for solving riddles and curses, and two Masks. The Black Mask is a curse that freezes the die that has rolled it, crippling the player temporarily. A Gold Mask will free up two Black Masks. If someone rolls all Black Masks, he or she is frozen completely, and another player must come to the rescue with Gold Mask rolls.

Play proceeds by discovering new tiles and adding them to the table. Gradually a map is drawn, and the players eventually come to the exit chamber. There, they must individually roll a number of Keys equal to the number of gems left in the “gem depot.” The depot begins with a stack of seven to sixteen green plastic gems, based on the number of players. It is impossible to roll this number of Keys, so players must eliminate the gems by activating them on tiles throughout the game, adding a new layer to the intensity.

Escape_Backcover

Escape is timed by a CD with ambient temple sounds and music rather than an electronic timer with beating drums. It also comes with a sand timer for those preferring not to use the CD. Players often come to ignore the ambiance or falling sand as they focus on rolling their dice as quickly as possible. The first act ends with a gong warning and a ticking clock, at the end of which every player must have returned to the safety of the entrance or face the permanent loss of a die. This ups the ante for the second act, which ends with a horrific crashing sound. If even one adventurer is still inside the temple by the time of the crash, everyone loses.

The Curse of the Temple starter set comes with two optional modules players may wish to add to their game. “Curses” add powerful stumbling blocks any time a player enters a room with a purple idol head. They may hinder progress with things such as a Trap stopping a player from entering or discovering a room or simply make things more interesting as with the Cursed Hand, where a player must keep a hand on top of his or her head. “Treasures,” conversely, makes things easier with bonuses such as free rolls, free gems, and teleportation.

Escape: The Curse of the Temple is a game for one to five players aged eight and up. Each game lasts only 10 minutes, making it quick and intense with a solid mechanic and great additional features such as gem-activation, Curses, and Treasures to make it more interesting.

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About Jeff Provine

Jeff Provine is a Composition professor, novelist, cartoonist, and traveler of three continents. His latest book is a collection of local ghost legends, Campus Ghosts of Norman, Oklahoma.