#302 – EXIT: The Forbidden Castle [Spoiler-Free]

Box

Base price: $15.
1 – 4 players.
Play time: 1 – 2 hours.
BGG Link

Buy on Amazon (via What’s Eric Playing?)
Logged plays: 1! 

Full disclosure: A review copy of EXIT: The Forbidden Castle was provided by KOSMOS.

Also, for my 300th review published I’m doing a giveaway! You can win one of two copies of the standalone expansion to ICECOOLICECOOL2! Check out the giveaway here.

I think November might just be the month of EXIT games. I’ve got four and four weeks, so … why not? Well, probably because I decided to do five reviews this week. Oh well. To that end, let’s take a look at EXIT: The Forbidden Castle, another in the venerable (and SdJ-winning) series.

In The Forbidden Castle, honestly, it’s becoming a bit ridiculous. It’s clear that someone is trying to lock you in places, given your almost unprecedented bad luck, but they’re also probably picking the wrong people because you’ve already gotten out of at least 6? Like, pick an easier mark, you know? Either way, you’ve wandered off into a mysterious castle, unsurprisingly everything’s locked, and strangely only riddles can set you free. This is essentially your wheelhouse, now; it’s like if they made a sixth Taken movie. Can you live up to your reputation? Or will this, somehow, finally be the one trap that you can’t escape?

Contents

Setup

As usual, take out your Answer, Riddle, and Hint Cards, setting them within reach. I find it’s easiest to set out the Hint Cards in stacks of 3 (except for that one, which is a stack of 5; isn’t that weird) by symbol.

Once you’ve done that, set out the Disk:

Disk

This one is really nice-looking. Great work, everyone. Get a pen / paper (or a whiteboard, honestly; that’s what we usually use) and some scissors, and you’re basically ready to roll!

Gameplay

As you might have guessed, you’re sealed in a castle. It’s generally pretty cool, but if you don’t get out you will eventually die, which is a bummer. You still will even if you do get out, but that’s a more existential dread than a clear and present danger.

Over the course of the game, you’ll acquire Riddle Cards that are challenges that need solving. These Riddle Cards will specify key pieces (or numbers that correspond to pieces of a key) that you will enter into your decoder disk. Once you do, you’ll get a blue number corresponding to one of the Answer Cards. If you’re correct, you’ll unlock a door / barrel / uncomfortable chair and get access to more Riddles. If not, well, you’ll have to keep going!

If you get stuck or need clarification, you can look at the Hint Card for the puzzle you’re on (usually denoted by a symbol; if you don’t know what the symbol is for the puzzle you’re solving, you might not be ready to make progress on that puzzle). It only counts against your end game score if the Hint Card provides you with new information (or whatever; I’m a board game review, not a cop).

If you can solve all of the puzzles and reveal their solutions, you can escape! Otherwise, well, you’ll be there a while.

Player Count Differences

This might actually be a good one to play at a higher player count, if you want — we found there was enough independent work (a few of the puzzles are modular…ish) that players could pretty evenly split it up to four players, which was nice. I haven’t seen that as much in the other EXIT games I’ve played, so my general rec for those has been about two players. I’ll be interested to see how that holds up with the remaining EXIT games that I haven’t played, yet.

Strategy

As always, don’t wait too long to use a Hint. Your pride will get you nowhere, in these games.

Pros, Mehs, and Cons

Again, The Secret Lab has some good general notes, but these will be specific to The Forbidden Castle.

Pros

  • Fun theme. It’s a mysterious castle with a lot of Arthurian references! Love that sort of stuff. It’s like when I got super excited because Adventure Time made a protracted Gawain and the Green Knight reference.
  • Some novelty to the puzzles. I particularly like the way that they handled the potential problem that comes with destructible games. There’s some really smart design going into these games, even if the puzzles aren’t always my absolute favorites to solve.
  • Lots of independent paths for progression. We had three puzzles going at once, I think. This was one of the few that I felt actually had enough to do for four players; thankfully, due to dumb luck, we ended up with four people for this particular iteration.
  • The disk looks really good. Give your art person a raise; they crushed it. Also the idea of finding pieces of keys and having to assemble them into a key that can fit a lock is actually really neat? It’s probably one of my favorite thematic conceits (and the one that feels the most escape-roomy) that I’ve seen out of any of the EXIT games so far.

Mehs

  • The key icons on the disk could have been bigger; they were occasionally fairly subtle. They’re not the biggest icons. Don’t get me wrong; I love the theme for this one, but the nice thing about the other icon-heavy ones was that they were extremely distinct. This was not the case for a lot of the key icons on the disk, which caused us some consternation.
  • This one weirdly implies that there’s a recommended ordering to these EXIT games? That’s not the impression I was operating under, but apparently you’re supposed to play this one before The Sinister Mansion, if you’re playing them in order. I assume that’s not a hard requirement, but, for maximum technicality, that’s how it’s supposed to go.

Cons

  • I found a few of the puzzles to be kind of obtuse. There were a couple where we got like, the gist of it, but were having trouble with the actual doing of the solve, so we ended up having to use a Hint Card just to get the answer. We figured it out, just couldn’t quite convert.

Overall: 7.5 / 10

Overall, EXIT: The Forbidden Castle is pretty good! It’s obviously not my favorite of the EXIT games, due to a couple puzzles that were just … frustrating, but it’s got one of the cooler themes / art schemes / aesthetics of all the EXIT games, so it’s worth trying just for that, in my opinion. Fans of the series will note that there are a few new tricks up their sleeves, but not enough to totally stump newcomers (I still think The Sunken Treasure might be one of the best ones to start with, though). Either way, as usual, the EXIT series doesn’t fail to impress, and I think The Forbidden Castle is a solid entry in the series! If you’re looking for a fun way to spend an hour or so, it’s definitely not a bad option in the slightest.


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