Please Take Note: This is a review of the final game, but it might change slightly based on the success of the Kickstarter campaign. The game is being reviewed on the components and the rules provided with the understanding that “what you see is not what you might get” when the game is published. If you like what you read and want to learn more, we encourage you to visit the Kickstarter campaign. Now that we have all that disclaimer junk out of the way, on with the review.
- For ages 10 and up (publisher suggests 13+)
- For 2 to 8 players
- Approximately 60 minutes to complete
- Active Listening & Communication
- Counting & Math
- Logical & Critical Decision Making
- Pattern/Color Matching
- Strategy & Tactics
- Risk vs. Reward
- Visuospatial Skills
- Hand/Resource Management
- Child – Easy
- Adult – Easy
Theme & Narrative:
- GET OFF THE STATION! HURRY! GAH! YIKES!
- Gamer Geek mixed!
- Parent Geek approved!
- Child Geek approved!
The Titan space station was considered a modern marvel. A place for brave men and women to live in safety as they traveled through the darkness of space. Sadly, budget restraints required some “creative thinking” when it came to building the station. Corners were cut, loopholes were found, and some safety inspections were ignored. Now the inhabitants of the station are running for their lives, looking for a way off before they crash into the planet or explode. Did I mention only one player will survive? Yeah, they could only afford one escape pod…
No Escape, designed by Jonathan Thwaites and to be published by OOMM Board Games, will reportedly be comprised of 1 Start board (double-sided), 42 Action tiles, 90 Maze tiles, 12 New Path tiles, 8 Player pieces, 24 Energy tokens, and 2 six-sided dice with the numbers 1-3. As this is a prepublished game, I cannot comment on the game component quality. I will state, however, that our prepublished demo copy was excellent. Thick boards and clean cuts. I can only imagine that the final product will be of higher quality, which will be outstanding.
Welcome to Titan Station! The Future is Now!
Note: No Escape is a game that grows and takes up more and more table space. Based on our observations and multiple game play, it’s suggested you keep the tiles in large bowls or bags so players can draw them blindly and easily move them to accommodate the expanding game board.
To set up the game, first place the Start board in the middle of the playing area. The Start board is double-sided. The side to be used is dependent on the number of players in the game.
Second, place the half Maze New Path tiles in a pile off to one side of the game playing area.
Third, shuffle the Maze and Action tiles together and place them into face-down and roughly equal stacks. These are the draw stacks for the duration of the game. Deal three tiles to each player, face-down. This is the player’s starting hand of tiles. Players should look at their tiles, but keep them hidden from opponents until played.
Fourth, give each player three Energy tokens. Players should place these in a row in front of them with the green side face-up.
Fifth, have each player select a Player piece in the color of their choice and place it on the starting spot indicated by a red circle located in the middle on the Start board.
That’s it for game set up. Determine who will go first and begin.
HOLY CRAP! GET OFF THE STATION! IT’S JUNK!
No Escape is played in turns with no set number of turns per game. A player’s turn is summarized here.
Step One (Optional): Play One Action Tile
Action tiles can only be placed one per turn, although there are a few Action tiles that can only be played on an opponent’s turn. Once played, the effect on the tile is resolved if the condition applies. Some Action tiles will impact the player while others will target the player’s opponents.
Step Two: Play One Maze Tile
The player must now play one Maze tile from their hand. No Escape is a game where the board the players move on continually changes. It will expand and contract, shift, and slant. In other words, it’s exceedingly unstable, which further reinforces the game’s narrative. There is order to this chaos, however, as the players need to follow just a few rules when placing tiles. It should also be noted that a player can place a Maze tile anywhere they like as long as it’s legal. In this way, the player has a choice to make. They can either build the Maze in front of them in hopes of finding an exit or extend the twists and turns of the Maze in front of their opponents.
- Tiles must be placed on the edges of the current pieces in place, matching exit to exit on the tiles
- No tile can be placed that blocks the exit of another exit
- If a tile is to be removed, all remaining tiles must be able to connect back to the center Start board
- If a tile is to be replaced, the tile is taken from play and added to the player’s hand first and then a new tile is added to the now empty space
- If a tile cannot be legally played, the player discards their entire hand of tiles and then flips one tile over at a time from the draw stack until a revealed tile can be played
The “half” Maze tile is placed when a player lands on a white Control Center, if they decide to take that action. Half Maze tiles allow the player to change a previously placed Maze tile, creating new possible paths to freedom.
Step Three (Optional): Use Energy
The Energy tokens provide special movement through the station. Unfortunately for the player, Energy is not limitless. When used, the player flips their Energy token over. Once used, the player gains the following benefit on their turn:
- Gain +1 movement
- Jump over opponent’s Player piece
Players must decide if they want to use their Energy or not before taking the next step on their turn. If they do not have any Energy tokens with their green side face-up, they cannot take this step even if they wanted to.
Step Four: Move
The player now takes the two six-sided dice and rolls them. The resulting value is the number of spaces the Playing piece can move, with any additional bonuses provided by Energy tokens being spent.
When a player moves, the facing of their Player piece matters as it determines the direction the piece is moving through the station. Only when a Player piece hits a wall or end of a Maze tile without an exit does it do an about-face, allowing the player to move their Player piece in a different direction. When a player reaches an intersection, they decide in which direction their Player piece will now face, as long as it’s not in the direction the piece just moved.
Bumping into an opponent’s Player pieces pushes that piece and forces it to change its facing in the same direction the player’s Player piece is currently moving. This could cause a chain of Player pieces to be moved. When an intersection is reached, each player (in the order in which the Player pieces hit the intersection) decide in which direction their Player piece will face.
If the player used an Energy before moving, they pass through opponent pieces (jumping over them), but cannot end their movement on top of another piece.
Step Five: Draw Tiles
If the player has fewer than three tiles in their hand, they must now draw from the stacks until their hand is no more than three tiles. This completes the player’s turn. The next player in turn order sequence now goes starting with step one noted above.
Phew! Made it! (or, “BOOM!”)
No Escape can end one of two different ways.
The first way the game could end is if the draw stacks are depleted. If this happens the station explodes and all the players lose. Better luck next time, folks.
The second and far more satisfying way to win is to be the first player to find the escape pod via a Maze tile exit and eject to safety. As the player jettisons into the void, their opponents watch helplessly from the station that subsequently explodes seconds later. The only player to have survived is the winner.
To learn more about No Escape, visit the Kickstarter campaign.
The Child Geeks had a good time with No Escape. They enjoy tile placement games and pretty much any game that has an element of exploration. But that’s not all they saw. According to one Child Geek, “This game is also a race, except the road you are running on keeps changing. I still felt like I was racing, though.” Very true. The players are in a desperate last-ditch attempt to save their hapless space explorer from a violent ending. This makes the game play fast and each move feel very important. As one Child Geek put it, “I hate it when I get lost in the Maze and half to backtrack, but I love it when I force the other players to do it, too.” All the Child Geeks voted to approve No Escape, finding it to be a game they were eager to jump back into after they left the gaming table.
The Parent Geeks also had a good time, finding it to be a pleasant challenge to navigate the shifting landscape and being given plenty of opportunities to skunk their friends and family. According to one Parent Geek, “Games like this are fun to play with groups. You can easily visit with others and I enjoy watching other player’s turns as much as I like taking mine.” No Escape, while fairly focused on ending the game as quickly as possible, doesn’t rush the players to do so. Players can take their time, socialize, and still have a competitive game. This was not lost on the Parent Geeks and they very much enjoyed it. As one Parent Geek put it, “Any game that lets me come to the table, be challenged, have fun, and laugh with friends is a game I want in my collection.” All the Parent Geeks voted to approve No Escape.
The Gamer Geeks liked what the game was about and how it played, but felt it got old pretty fast. According to one Gamer Geek, “The Action tiles mix things up a bit, but I found the placement of Maze tiles over and over again to feel repetitive after about half the game was over. I was glad when one of us won as it ended the game.” But this was not a feeling shared by everyone. According to one Gamer Geek who thoroughly enjoyed No Escape, “I like the challenge of having to navigate the Maze, thinking through my moves, out-thinking my opponents, and plotting my next actions. This game was a lot of fun.” When all the votes were in, the Gamer Geeks were split. Half thought the game was OK, but not great, while the other half found the game to be a really good time. This resulted in a mixed endorsement from our gaming elitists.
No Escape plays fast, but it can also quickly get annoying. Not in a bad way, but in the general sense where you start to feel you are not making progress at a fast enough pace. Games could last as short as 30 minutes or last for about 90 minutes. Most games fall around 60 minutes with the winner not being totally clear until the very end. All players reported about half way through the longer games that they started to feel frustrated. Never enough to ditch the game, but enough to warrant them mentioning it multiple times. Their frustration seemed to ease up whenever it was their turn and grew when random tiles were placed in front of them. It makes total sense why they were frustrated: their plans kept being messed up.
Our games ended with the winner being the player who had just enough Energy to get the needed step forward to put them across the finish line. Close finishes like that feel great. No player is ever “stuck” on their side of the game board, which usually resulted in players swarming certain sections of the game board when an exit looked possible. Use those Teleporters, folks. They are a lifesaver. Dice rolls add an element of luck and randomness, but smart Energy usage is a must if you want to win. This was a fun addition to the game rules, making the players consider how much to conserve and how much to burn.
No Escape is a fun and light maze racing game. All our games felt different and each attempt to win felt like a new opportunity to have fun. The game did get a bit old when it became apparent players were spending most of their focus making their opponent’s live’s difficult, but there was always an exit to be found. None of our games ever ended because we ran out of tiles, but it came pretty close a few times making us a bit sweaty. Do try No Escape and see if the game helps you escape with friends and family on a fun survival adventure.
This is a paid for review of the game’s final prototype. Although our time and focus was financially compensated, our words are our own. We’d need at least 10 million dollars before we started saying what other people wanted. Such is the statuesque and legendary integrity of Father Geek which cannot be bought except by those who own their own private islands and small countries.