Jail Break Game Review

The Basics:

  • For ages 7 and up (publisher suggests 12+)
  • For 1 to 4 players
  • About 30 minutes to complete

Geek Skills:

  • Counting
  • Pattern Matching
  • Risk vs. Reward
  • Hand/Resource Management

Learning Curve:

  • Child – Easy
  • Adult – Easy

Theme & Narrative:

  • Being a prisoner is not fun or glamorous – time to break out!

Endorsements:

  • Gamer Geek rejected!
  • Parent Geek approved!
  • Child Geek approved!

Overview

Jail is remarkably boring. All you do is sit around all day, perhaps workout, eat some food, and watch some TV. It’s like that everyday and will be the rest of your life unless you do something about it. The right thing to do is work to become a better person and get out of jail early for good behavior. But that will take forever, because you’ve got a lot to work on. Nope, the fastest way out of your cell is to breakout and make a run for it. Of course, you’ll have to avoid the guards, so digging a tunnel is the best way to go. And your High School guidance counselor said you lacked initiative! HA! Take that public education!

Jail Break, by IcePack Games, is comprised of 6 six-sided white Tool dice, 4 six-sided black Wild dice, and 68 cards. The cards contain 4 Jail Cell cards, 4 Outside cards, 12 Guard cards, 8 Cellmate cards, and 40 Tunnel cards. The cards are printed on good card stock and the artwork on the dice and the cards is cartoony (if that’s even a word). Also included are 4 double-sided quick player reference cards.

Example of the components in the game.

Game Set Up

Note: Prior to playing your first game, you will need to assemble the dice by placing stickers on them. Schedule your time accordingly before thinking of putting this game in front of the players.

To set up the game, give to each player 1 Wild die (the black six-side die), 1 Jail Cell card, 1 Outside card, and 1 quick player reference card. All unused Jail Cell, Outside, and quick player reference cards are removed for the duration of the game.

Next, separate the Tunnel, Guard, and Cellmate cards into three different decks. From the Guard and Cellmate cards, set aside 2 Guard and 2 Cellmate cards per player. Add these cards to the Tunnel deck. All unused Guard and Cellmate cards are removed for the duration of game.

Now shuffle the Tunnel, Guard, and Cellmate cards thoroughly and place in the middle of the playing area. This is the draw deck.

Determine who is the first player and begin.

The Great Escape

On a player’s turn, they will take all 6 white Tool dice and roll them. The results of the roll will determine the player’s next action, followed by the next, and so on until the player either ends their turn or their turn ends based on the dice rolls. The goal of the game is to dig a tunnel out of the prison cell and reach the outside world. This can be achieved by collecting 8 Tunnel cards, but like digging a tunnel, getting these cards is not an easy task.

On the Tool die are 5 different tools and 1 guard. Thematically speaking, the tools will be used to dig a tunnel, but working with the tools could make noise. The noise the tools make have a small chance of attracting a guard. The tools themselves are all equal in their value. Each tool will help the player get outside, but it is how often a tool is rolled that will determine the success of its use and the progress made on the escape tunnel.

The die values (note that the Wild value is only found on the Wild die)

The more matching tools a player rolls, the more cards they can draw from the deck. Each time a player rolls the dice, they must add at least one die to their Escape Plan (the dice set aside for scoring). Once added, these dice cannot be re-rolled. As soon as a player has at least 3 matching tools, they can end their turn and draw cards. That is unless they have rolled a guard. When the player has 2 or more guards rolled (which automatically get added to the Escape Plan), the player cannot stop to collect cards. Instead, they must continue to roll the dice. At this point, the player’s only hope is to add dice to their Escape Plan by matching tools or adding more guards. If they do and use all 6 dice, all the dice are returned to them and they can start over. Essentially, they outran the guards and are now free to work on the tunnel. However, if they ever roll 2 or more guards, they must attempt to get away again by rolling all the dice.

At anytime the player does not have 2 or more guards and has 3 or more matching tools in their Escape Plan, they can end their turn and collect cards. The number of cards given to the player is based on how many tool matches they have in their Escape Plan. However, if the player should ever chose to roll the dice and cannot add at least one of their die to their Escape Plan, their turn ends and no cards are collected.

When the player’s turn is over, they pass the 6 white Tool dice to the next player.

Guards, Cellmates, and the Wild Die

The Guard card, drawn from the deck, is played immediately on an opponent’s Tunnel cards once drawn. Only one Guard card can be in a player’s tunnel at a time. If all the tunnels have a Guard card, any drawn Guard cards are discarded. When a Guard card occupies a tunnel, the owner of that tunnel must either roll 4 or more of the same tools in their Escape Plan to continue building their tunnel or remove the Guard by discarding their Wild die.

The Cellmate card, drawn from the deck, is the only friend the player has in the game. This card will let the player, at the beginning of their turn, either discard a Cellmate and Guard card in the player’s tunnels or discard the Cellmate to reclaim a discarded Wild die (maximum of 1 per player). Cellmate cards are the only cards a player can keep for later use.

The Wild die is held by their owning player and can be used to help themselves out of a jam or possibly cause problems for another player. On a player’s turn, they can choose to discard their Wild die to remove a Guard from their tunnel. Or, if the player is feeling particularly nasty, they can give their Wild die to an opponent before their opponent rolls. Only 1 Wild die can be rolled by a player, and once rolled, is discarded after the player ends their turn.

Freedom!

The game ends as soon as a player collects 8 Tunnel cards. This player places their Outside card on top of their tunnel to signify they have made it out, winning the game.

Game Variants

There are three game variants available that change the way the game is played, including a variant to play the game solo.

  • Variable Game Length: for a shorter game, only use 1 Guard card per player; for a longer game use more than 2.
  • Variable Game Difficulty: for a harder game, play without any or only 1 Cellmate card per player.
  • Solo Play: The object of the solo game is to collect 8 Tunnel cards before collecting 12 Guard cards. Dice rolling is the same, but game set up is slightly different.

To learn more about Jail Break and read the full rules, see the game’s web page.

Prediction

My little geeks like playing the press your luck dice games like Martian Dice and Zombie Dice. Actually, I think what they like most is the dice. And who can blame them? Dice are fun to hold, roll, and occasionally curse when they seemingly scheme against you. Well, not occasionally. “Often” would be more accurate.

Jail Break uses game mechanisms familiar with our test groups. I do not anticipate much in the way of confusion or long discussions on how the game plays. What I’m most looking forward to is the cards. These not only show the other players how close you are to winning (keeping track of the player’s score), but also allow for a level of player interaction not yet seen in the simple risk vs. reward dice games we have played.

After spending about 5 minutes going over the rules, demonstrating dice matches, and how the cards work, my 7-year-old was ready to play the game. He was not all that enthusiastic about the game itself, but he did like the fact he could mess with his dad’s cards. As I shuffled the deck, I asked him his thoughts on the game so far.

“I like how you can play cards on other players and mess them up! Other than that, nothing new here.” ~ Liam (age 7)

Let’s roll the dice and see if this game delivers or is a forgettable experience.

Final Word

The game was a great success for my little geek. The simple dice rolling and the cards kept him busy. His only negative comment was when we played the game with four players. He didn’t like the downtime and found he was rather wrestles while waiting. When it was his turn, however, he was all in. He made some silly mistakes up front, but very quickly got a good grasp of the game and made the other plays work hard to keep up. He ended up winning several games and was most pleased with himself.

The Parent Geeks also enjoyed the game. In fact, much more so than the other simpler dice rolling games we have played with them in the past. They were slightly confused about the use of the Wild die and a few thought the scoring of the dice for the cards was a bit cumbersome making the quick player reference cards not only necessary but almost mandatory. What they liked most was the ability to slow down their opponents. Non-gamers also enjoyed the game and had no problem understanding what was needed to play.

Gamer Geeks were not impressed with the game. They stated the game as way too dependent on luck to be competitive, too long, and the scoring was cumbersome. The quick player reference cards made little difference in their eyes, seeing the card’s necessity as a weakness in the game’s design.

My little geek drops the hammer of authority on the game with smart plays and a club

Gamer Geeks, from the feedback we received, this game is not for you. As mentioned, it is highly dependent on luck and is very random. There are no bad cards you can draw on your turn, but the number of cards you can draw are dependent on the roll of the dice. For our Gamer Geeks who wanted more control and the ability to use strategy and tactics to play, this game fell well short of being endorsed. This came a great shock to me as the same group endorsed Martian Dice. As such, I pressed for more details. According to this group, the Wild die and the player interaction actually work against the game. This made the game longer, which  gave the Gamer Geeks more time to consider other games they’d rather be playing. Just a bit too long to be a filler and not nearly heavy enough to justify the time it takes to complete.

Parent Geeks, this was unanimously agreed upon as a wonderful game to play with family and friends. Easy rules make for a quick game to learn how to play and the different levels of scoring cards made it obvious why you would want to risk more. The players thought that each roll was important and worth their time. What they didn’t like was some of the player interaction that made some rounds of the game feel longer than needed and much more frustrating. They specifically didn’t like it when they rolled poorly when a Wild die was given to them. But hey, that’s the game.

Child Geeks, our little geeks enjoyed the game a great deal and were very excited when they were able to build their escape tunnel. This visual aspect of the game helps the player feel like they are making progress. Depending on the people you are playing with, you might be hit by some undesirable cards and the dreaded Wild die. Don’t worry about these, however, as they will do nothing more than slow you down temporarily. You can always recover and a quick jump to the lead is only a die roll away. Luck plays a huge part in this game, which means you can play at the table with much older geeks without being at a serious disadvantage due to geek skill level or lack of gaming experience.

While I agree with much of the Gamer Geeks who helped us test this game, I am not of the same opinion that this is bad game. I rather liked it and found it to be a welcomed breeze of freshness for a dice game. Most of the time, I’m just rolling dice, completing rudimentary risk vs. reward analysis, and then passing the dice to the next player. While good for short games, playing the game a lot (based on my little geeks’ requests) gets real old real fast. Jail Break allowed me to take the simple dice game to a slightly higher level. I must stress the “slight” in the elevation of difficulty, as the player cards only provide limited player interaction. This was just enough, however, to make the game different and enjoyable. Risk vs. reward analysis was also more in-depth, as the number of cards drawn was directly related to my success with the die. Do well, and you draw a lot of cards. Mess up and you don’t draw any. It didn’t take any player longer than a couple of rolls to appreciate the fact that risking it all was seldom a good tactic, but risk itself could result in a huge payoff and victory.

Overall, I am pleased with the game. For my family and friends who are not from the Gamer Geek crowd, I think this game will do well. Do take a look at Jail Break if you are a fan of simple risk vs. reward dice rolling games and wanting a bit more complexity that will put pressure on the players.

This game was given to Father Geek as a review copy. Father Geek was not paid, bribed, wined, dined, or threatened in vain hopes of influencing this review. Such is the statuesque and legendary integrity of Father Geek.

About Cyrus

Editor in Chief, Owner/Operator, Board Game Fanatic, Father of Three, and Nice Guy, Cyrus has always enjoyed board, card, miniature, role playing, and video games, but didn't get back into the hobby seriously until early 2000. Once he did, however, he was hooked. He now plays board games with anyone and everyone he can, but enjoys playing with his children and wife the most. Video games continue to be of real interest, but not as much as dice and little miniatures. As he carefully navigates the ins and outs of parenting, he does his very best to bestow what wisdom he has and help nurture his children's young minds. It is his hope and ambition to raise three strong, honorable men who will one day go on to do great things and buy their Mom and Dad a lobster dinner Cyrus goes by the handle fathergeek on Board Game Geek. You can also check him out on CyrusKirby.com. Yes, he has a URL that is his name. His ego knows no bounds, apparently....
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