#350 – EXIT: Dead Man on the Orient Express [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: Dead Man on the Orient Express was provided by KOSMOS.

Well, this is the last batch of EXIT games for a while, which is kind of bittersweet. I mean, it’s great to have gotten 10 reviews in, and I really love the series, but now there’s nothing to look forward to unless they make some more (which seems … pretty likely?). Either way, let’s dive into what we have; it’ll take all of February, so, get excited! It’s going to be fun.

Alright, so, here’s the drill. Currently, a famous detective is investigating the murder that just happened on the train you’re currently riding on. Unfortunately, nobody’s really seen that detective in a while, and are hoping he has also not been murdered. Now, while the train speeds along, you need to do a few things:

  1. Find that detective!
  2. Solve a murder!
  3. Capture the killer!

Naturally, the detective’s notebook is a mess of riddles, but you’re pretty sure you can figure out the culprit if you can crack the codes and interview the suspects. But on this train, that could be anyone.

Will you be able to crack the case?

Contents

Setup

You probably have a good idea of the drill, by now. Pull out the disc:

Disc

Separate the cards into Answers, Hints, and Riddles. You’ll find other stuff in there; don’t worry about it, for now. You’ll be able to deal with it in pretty gratuitous detail once the game starts.

You may also want a pair of scissors, a stopwatch, and a pad of paper / pen. You’d need that for every EXIT game, though.

Once you’ve got that, rev up the timer and get to puzzlin’.

Gameplay

Well, it’s another EXIT game, in that it plays very similarly to the others.

Over the course of the game, you’ll collect Riddle Cards and try to generate 3-digit combinations to enter into that disc, which will indicate an Answer Card. If you’re correct, you’ll unlock more Riddles! All the while, you’ll come closer and closer to figuring out which passenger committed this horrible murder and hopefully bring them to justice!

If you get stuck, you’ll need to either keep trucking along with the puzzle, or you can use a Hint Card. The Hints are organized by the puzzle’s symbol; if you don’t know which symbol corresponds to your puzzle, you’re probably not solving it the right way (or you’re not ready to solve that puzzle). These hints count against your end-of-game score, but only if they provide you with new information.

Solve the puzzles, find the murderer, and win!

Player Count Differences

I enjoyed this one at four. We may have had a few people just messing around while we played, but honestly, that’s half the fun, sometimes. It meant they could pop in for puzzles if they wanted, pop out if they didn’t; no big deal either way. It’s a bit fun to imagine four bumbling detectives, so I feel like the more, the merrier with this one, but there was also enough for everyone to do that I didn’t feel like people were being left out. No real preference on player count.

Strategy

  • Find all the clues. You’re not just trying to escape; you also need to figure out who did this horrible murder! If you don’t have all the clues, you might send up the wrong person, which kind of looks bad. Make sure you consider all the evidence carefully, is all.
  • The other usual advice points apply. Don’t wait too long before looking at Hint Cards, and with one exception, try potential solutions even if you don’t think they’re right. The exception will become obvious once you have the chance to check your solution, so, no spoilers on that front.

Pros, Mehs, and Cons

Pros

  • Probably, in my opinion, the most inventive of the set that’s been released so far. So with a lot of games, when you’ve released 10 or so editions, you tend to either get stuck in a rut of doing the same thing over and over (to be fair, Monopoly knows their audience, so, good for them) or you try to put spins on the formula that make the game seem fresh but it’s still digestible to a new audience (Monopoly also did this, so, really, they’re just playing both sides). A good example of this is Dominion: Empires, which as an expansion is aggressively novel and can change a lot of games on its head. This version of the EXIT series tasks you with solving a mystery, so beyond just solving the puzzles you also have to gather evidence and come to a conclusion, making it feel much more like a T.I.M.E. Stories hybrid game (which I really loved). I’d love to see a whole spin-off genre that was just EXIT Mysteries, where you still have the puzzle part but there’s more of a crime-solving component to it, and I’m hoping that the success of this one will drive some movement in that direction. I thought it was a lot of fun and a nice potential pivot for the series, if they’re looking to spin off.
  • I really like deduction in games. I think it’s a slightly different skill than puzzle-solving, but they’re adjacent, and I was really excited that I got to do both of them in this one. The actual deduction is pretty nontrivial, as well, so make sure you don’t jump to a rash conclusion.
  • Love the theme. I mean, Murder on the Orient Express is a classic, but also solving a murder on a train is a great theme, so, you know, that’s all perfectly well and good.

Mehs

  • Didn’t love one of the puzzles. That happens, obviously, but it’s worth mentioning between gushing that while I thought this set was exceptional, there were a few things that I wasn’t particularly high on.
  • The component quality was only fair. There were a few new components that I was worried about tearing, especially because you have to handle them decently aggressively. Thankfully, they stood up to it, but they still felt kind of flimsy. I assume that’s how they keep costs down, though, so, trade-offs are definitely a real thing.

Cons

  • It’s probably not the best “first” puzzle. I’d still give The Pharaoh’s Tomb that recommendation, even though I like this one slightly more — I think it’s good to have a solid sense of the system and know how to navigate it before you start playing with it. It’s like playing a board game a few times before you add in the expansion; this is a significant enough deviation from the formula that it might be worth learning the formula first before getting too far off the beaten path. This is a very weak con, though, because I’m pretty sure this is also the one I enjoyed most of the bunch.

Overall: 9.5 / 10

Alright, this is it. It’s my favorite one. I’m pretty sure. I loved the theme, I loved the ambitious twist on the classic formula, and I genuinely think it landed it. This was a delight to play, a delight to show my friends, and I’m glad we played it at four people because I think I made two more EXIT fans that day. Don’t get me wrong; the whole series is GREAT and you basically can’t go wrong with any of them (except maybe The Sinister Mansion, but it was still fine), but I really liked the direction they went with this one. I mentioned it elsewhere in the review, but I really hope this is the direction they’re taking the EXIT series in the future (or at least one of multiple directions); the narrative elements and the mystery solving was reminiscent of old video games I played growing up, and the nostalgia was really rewarding, for me. Sure, it didn’t feel as escape room-y, which might be a drawback for some people, but we instead got something that was a lot more experiential, which I think is a step up. Like I said, I’d really love if they split the series and made EXIT games and, like, EXIT Mysteries, but at the very least I’m very satisfied with the experience I got from Dead Man on the Orient Express. It’s not the one I’d recommend starting with, but it was definitely the one that I think I’ve enjoyed the most. If you’re looking for an EXIT game that’s a bit different than the rest, I’d definitely recommend checking this one out!


If you enjoyed this review and would like to support What’s Eric Playing? in the future, please check out my Patreon. Thanks for reading!

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