Escape from Iron Gate by The Escape Game and Pressman takes the thrill of escape room puzzle-solving to the table top. Themed escape rooms have exploded in popularity, rightfully so, as people love to unravel mysteries using clues, especially when the clues themselves must be found. Some at-home legacy escape games make use of large one-time puzzles, which limits replayability since players will have the solution to a riddle once they find it. Escape from Iron Gate boosts its replayability by including literally hundreds of mini-games that makes each escape unique.
Opening the box to Escape from Iron Gate reveals a wealth of components, with over 600 cards as well as dice, tokens, and the board. Thanks to solid organization, though, this is not overwhelming. Each component has clear signs as to where it goes on the board and when it will be used.
Players will want to shuffle the cards thoroughly during their first time since there are numerous different kinds of puzzles and actions to be played. The puzzles can be riddles, codes, visual gags, missing letters, and on and on. Each card comes with the answer color-blurred in red and blue, so there is little fear of running across the answer accidentally without the red-tinted decoder card.
Gameplay is elegant in its simplicity. Each player begins in the first zone of the board, the Cellblock, and receives four gate cards that give combinations of items that will allow them to pass through the Yard to the Cafeteria and then the Warden’s Office to freedom. Players gain the items by completing Puzzle or Action cards. Once they have their matching requirements, they can turn them in and move on, constantly in a race with one another.
Many of the mechanics keep Escape from Iron Gate moving and engaging. Once a player receives a Puzzle card, they have until it is their turn again to solve it, so other players may go on instead of just watching. Ciphers for the codes are hidden in plain sight on the board design, just like in a real-life escape room, giving time to look but, there is also a natural “ticking clock” as turns continue around the table. Action cards involve other players in quick rounds of charades or drawing to guess the word and win bonus items.
Escape from Iron Gate is a board game for three to eight players aged 13 and up. With some of the puzzles being fairly difficult, younger players might get lost in the clues, but all are solvable. It is a moderately long game, lasting about an hour depending on the number of players. There is a healthy mix of luck and skill since one can never know what the next draw will be. Clever code-breakers will need to hone their ability to work with others to draw or act out actions, and vice-versa. With hundreds of puzzles to complete and an ever-changing set of challenges, Escape from Iron Gate will keep players eager for their next turn.