#362 – EXIT: The Polar Station [Spoiler-Free]

 

box

Base price: $15.
1 – 4 players.
Play time: 1 – 2 hours.
BGG | Board Game Atlas

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

Full disclosure: A review copy of EXIT: The Polar Station was provided by KOSMOS.

Alright, friends; it’s time for another review of an EXIT game, which I’m kind of getting like, down to a science? Got a stack-ranking system, got a bunch of reviews of mine to cross-reference, and got a whole month carved out for posting them. Naturally, let’s finsh out the month with a look at The Polar Station, a perfect match for February, a typically cold month if you don’t live in Northern California.

In The Polar Station, you and your friends / coworkers / acquaintances / whatever are researchers working on a variety of isolated projects in the … North Pole? South Pole? I really need to read more of the lore before a write a review. Whatever; not starting today. Anyways, your station goes into lockdown and you manage to get to the adjacent station, only to find that it’s been abandoned and locked tight. They’re set to destroy the station once the last helicopter leaves, so you better be on it. Will you be able to get out before it’s too late?

Contents

Setup

I mean, it doesn’t really change. Leave everything but the cards and the disc in the box:

Disc

Why are there snowflakes on this one? Well that’s probably a mystery. Have fun with that. Get some scissors, a pad of paper (or something to take notes on), and a stopwatch. Once you’re ready, get started!

Gameplay

This time, as I mentioned, you’ve been locked inside the research station you work at at one of the poles. It’s very cold. You manage to get into your coworkers’ lab, but they’ve already fled and you have to as well before your employer blows up the station to prevent whatever they were working on getting out. As one does; I assume there’s something in their insurance about it.

To get out, as usual, you’ll need to take Riddle Cards and use them to generate three-digit codes that correspond to a symbol for a particular puzzle. Line those codes up under that symbol on the decoder disk and you’ll get a number corresponding to an Answer Card. This Answer Card might tell you that you’re wrong, but it also might not. If you’ve solved the riddle, it’ll give you some new Riddle Cards to keep you going.

Sometimes you’ll get stuck, and that happens — that’s what the Hint Cards are for! Generally speaking, the Hint Cards can be looked at at any time, though looking at one that gives you new information (as opposed to one that tells you something you already know) does give you an end-of-game penalty. The penalty is fewer stars, which … doesn’t really matter, unless you’re aggressively keeping score.

Once you’ve solved all the puzzles, you can escape! You just need to make sure you do so in time…

Player Count Differences

I played this one at four and didn’t note any particular bottlenecks, so, I assume that if it’s fine at four it’ll be equally fine at two or three. I personally wouldn’t play these solo, but that’s just because I think these kinds of puzzles are more fun to solve in groups (rather than having a specific problem with the game itself). Thankfully, the game is (as I’ll mention) pretty nonlinear, so having four players try to tackle the puzzles all simultaneously generally works pretty well. To that end, no real preference on player count, for this one.

Strategy

  • As always, use the Hint Cards if you need them; don’t wait. Weirdly enough, this was one of the only EXIT games that I’ve played where we didn’t use any Hint Cards, I think. That’s kind of impressive. But again, if you’re stuck, the best thing to do is check a Hint Card to make sure you’re on the right track.
  • Don’t rush yourself. You can make life pretty hard for yourself if you do some things before you’re explicitly told to do so. Not unfixably so, but hard enough that I’d recommend making sure you’re doing the right thing before you do anything that will be hard to undo.

Pros, Mehs, and Cons

Pros

  • Solid set of puzzles. I still find one of them rather frustrating, but, that’s just sort of an “on me” thing rather than a “this is a real mechanical problem I have with the game”. Generally it feels like a good cross-section of the various puzzles in the EXIT franchise; lots of creative ones, a few that can be a bit tricky, and a couple that are just going to slap you in the face because you didn’t see the obvious forest for the trees.
  • I like the color scheme. It’s all a very nice range of blues from dark to light and I’m definitely into it; would recommend on color alone. Naturally that’s not super important, but it’s a thing appreciated.
  • Another good entry-level EXIT game. The one nice thing about it having a bit of an out-there narrative is that you don’t need to have played any others to start with this one. I think that some of the other entry-level ones are a bit more fun, personally, but this is a rock-solid one to give to new players, as well, so really no big issues there.
  • Fairly nonlinear. We had different groups working on different subsets of the puzzles all simultaneously, which I appreciated; I think we got through this one in 47 minutes, so, that’s also our best time? Felt very much like you could divide and conquer this one.

Mehs

  • One of the puzzles is unintentionally hilarious. To solve it, you basically have to get the code to put in the disk (as you do with basically all of the puzzles, so, no spoiler there), but the code is kind of ambiguous. Humorously, more than one of the potential combinations is valid. I actually messed up the puzzle and solved it, and my coworker noticed that I didn’t do the puzzle correctly and pointed it out, but ended up with the same result? I mean, it’s not really a good thing; it’s just unintentionally humorous.

Cons

  • The narrative here is just weird. Part of the inherent weirdness of playing these games not in the order they were released is that you don’t get to see a lot of the narrative payoffs, if there are any (there are a few that are narratively connected). This one … I just don’t get where it’s supposed to fit in? I mean, it’s probably not, but it seems weird to have one that’s so powerfully off-the-rails compared to your normal “I got locked in a place because well, that’s what I do, professionally speaking”. To be fair, one could say the same about Dead Man on the Orient Express, sure, but I think the narrative there was nice and self-contained, so I actually liked it? This one I was just kind of like “oh, okay, those were all things that happened”.

Overall: 8 / 10

Overall, I very much liked The Polar Station! I generally gravitate towards things with a snow / ice / water theme, anyways (for some reason), so that gives it a slight bias in my already-favorable opinion of the EXIT series. I don’t really have any complaints about the puzzles, but also none of them were like, blowing me away, either. But that’s fine! It’s a consistently solid entry in a consistently solid series, and I, as always, look forward to playing the next one. If you’re looking for a solid entry point into the series (but don’t want, say, The Pharaoh’s Tomb, my personal favorite starting point, for some reason), I’d definitely recommend The Polar Station! It’s a cool little puzzle game.


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