#830 – EXIT: Kidnapped in Fortune City [Spoiler-Free]

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

Full disclosure: A review copy of EXIT: Kidnapped in Fortune City was provided by KOSMOS.

It’s kind of funny; just as I was saying, “you know, it’s been a while since I’ve played an EXIT game”, suddenly, two effectively dropped in my lap. The first was EXIT: The Cursed Labyrinth, previously reviewed, and tonight I’m writing about EXIT: Kidnapped in Fortune City. I’m kind of intrigued that this is the first time we’ve come to a Western-themed EXIT, given the theme’s popularity in board games and other media, but it looks like we’re returning to another EXIT mystery, similar to Dead Man on the Orient Express and Theft on the Mississippi. These are some of my favorites, though I’m surprised they’re not their own imprint. They’re still EXIT games, there’s just a more forceful “loss case” where you don’t solve the mystery. Oh well. let’s see what’s up in this one!

In EXIT: Kidnapped in Fortune City, there’s been a kidnapping! As you’d infer from the title. Surprisingly, it’s not you, which is rare (ish) in EXIT titles. Fortunately, the town’s sheriff assumed that he would eventually be kidnapped, so he hid clues all over town in various places to help you figure out who was most likely. Why he didn’t stop his kidnapper if he had a pretty good idea of who it was is anyone’s guess, but you can ask him once you find him. Will you be able to restore order to this lawless town, considering the deputy isn’t really doing much?

Contents

Setup

Same as usual. You’re going to find a box with some components inside. Don’t open any of the buildings or the notebook until instructed, but you should take out the disk:

Split the Riddle, Answer, and Help Cards into their respective stacks and you should be ready to go! Your first challenge is to unlock the notebook so you can figure out what’s inside.

Gameplay

Like most EXIT games, Kidnapped in Fortune City challenges players to solve riddles and puzzles in pursuit of some goal. This particular EXIT, however, aligns itself more with Dead Man on the Orient Express and Theft on the Mississippi, in that you’re being challenged with solving puzzles and riddles along the path of a bigger mystery. This time, the Sheriff has been kidnapped, and you’re the only one who can rescue him before the bad guy catches the next train out of town! As you might surmise, that would be bad.

Each puzzle will give you some components, pieces, or cards to solve it with, and you’ll eventually end up with a three-digit code of some kind. Entering that code on the included disk will point to an Answer Card, which will give you further instructions. Correct answers will unlock additional cards and other components for you to use in subsequent puzzles. These puzzles are also difficult to brute-force, so it may not be worth it, in that regard.

This particular EXIT game’s highlight is that as you are going around town for clues, you must visit a variety of different buildings to collect alibis and information about the many men who could have kidnapped the Sheriff, filling in a map of where they live and a mental map of when they could have done the crime. These locations can be visited in any order, but you’ll want to have visited all of them before you come to a final decision on who did the crime! Figure out who kidnapped the Sheriff and where they’ve got him and you win!

If you find yourself stuck on a particular puzzle, the EXIT series offers three tiers of Help Cards to assist you. The first card gives you setup instructions. What components do you need? What should you be looking at? Do you have everything you need to solve this puzzle? The second card gives you a full hint to solving the puzzle. The third is a solution! Use the cards at your leisure, and you don’t have to use the cards in order. Technically, any card that gives you information you didn’t already have counts, and ones that tell you things you already know do not.

Once you’ve solved the crime, stop time, and use the rulebook to figure out how many stars you got! We got 8, I believe, when we played. Good luck!

Player Count Differences

Ironically, despite this game being extremely non-linear, it doesn’t really help to have any more than two players, I’ve found. Everything can really be done solo, but having an extra person (maybe two) to collate and track information may help you solve the mystery more quickly and more efficiently. In terms of actual puzzle solving, since you’re limited to one location at a time, more people will just potentially add additional noise to your problem-solving strategy. If that works for you, then great! I wouldn’t say that extra hands helps with any of the more tactile puzzles, either. If there were a bit more non-linearity to the puzzles instead of just the narrative, then I think more players would be helpful, but I’m not seeing that from this game. I think you could push to three players if one player were consistently tracking the high-level mystery while the other two were working on the puzzles, but I still wouldn’t necessarily recommend taking this on with four. I just haven’t played a lot of EXIT games that I think benefit from having that many players.

Strategy

  • As you eliminate suspects from contention, cross them off actively. Don’t wait until the end. This is a mistake that we made. We essentially were like, oh, there are so many clues, we can just sort them out later when we need to come to a final decision. We ended up wasting a lot of time recompiling a lot of information that we already had. That probably put us over the 60 minute mark, frankly, which was a tiny bit of a bummer.
  • Be very sure that you’re right before you accuse someone of kidnapping the sheriff. This is, generally, a thing you don’t want to get wrong. It generally is embarrassing, and, I mean, you fail the mystery part. Make sure you’ve double-checked! It might get a bit tricky towards the end.
  • If you’re not sure what to do, check the Sheriff’s notebook! There’s a lot of information in there that may not seem immediately relevant, but it’ll come back around! If you’ve exhausted all of your available information, check the notebook to see if there’s some additional context that can help! We definitely missed something on our first pass that ended up being relevant much later.
  • When in doubt, use Help Cards! This is an ongoing piece of advice that I give for every EXIT game. If you’re looking to make sure you have all the right pieces, check the first Help Card. If you need advice on how to move forward, check the second. And if you’re just ready to move on, the Solution is also there. Not much else to it!

Pros, Mehs, and Cons

Pros

  • A lot of good puzzles in this one! At least one of them was one of my favorite puzzles that I’ve done in an EXIT game. It was super cool. I’ve mentioned in other reviews that I was kind of worried that eventually these games might run out of steam since there are so many already and more being released each year (I think this year had 5 EXIT games?), but that seems to not be a problem in the slightest. So that’s great to see. I also appreciate these because some of the puzzles I see here are similar to ones that I find in the various actual escape rooms that I do, so doing EXITs during the pandemic has hopefully prepped me for returning to my escape room hobby once things are a bit safer.
  • Some particularly interesting tactile puzzles too. They had some that played with light, perspective, and a few others that I thought were pretty great. One in particular involves the gems that come in the box, so look forward to that. It’s one of the better puzzles I’ve seen in an EXIT game. They’re clearly branching out, and the game’s better for it.
  • I think Western-themed games are fun. Apparently neither of my housemates like Western-themed games, which is surprising to me, but I think they’re fun. I particularly like that the puzzles are in-theme as well. Prospecting, guns, horseback riding, poker; the game is a hodge-podge of goofy Western tropes that are charming in their campiness.
  • The game’s very nonlinear, and that kind of rules? It’s been a while since I’ve gotten to try a good, non-linear EXIT. It actually reminds me a bit of an escape room I did a while ago. You’re able to visit six different buildings looking for clues, and you can visit them in essentially whatever order you’d like (once you unlock the ability to do so). Allowing players to explore as they gather clues to solve the mystery feels more fun than a strictly-linear narrative.
  • Decently challenging, as well! This is pushing towards the harder end of the EXIT puzzles (3.5 / 5?) and it shows. Some good challenge, but nothing our group couldn’t get through in about 75 minutes or so. We took a break in the middle to listen to more Wild Wild West so we lost track of some of the time.
  • I do tend to like the EXIT games where you have to solve a mystery of some kind. I think the mystery-themed EXITs are some of the game’s strongest offerings. They have a cohesive narrative to tie all the puzzles together, usually some level of non-linearity to the challenges, and there’s a correct or incorrect answer, to cap off the game with a kind of grand finale. I t am routinely surprised that these aren’t just their own imprint, especially because they seem to be generally well-received and I’d love to know ahead of opening the box if this is an EXIT mystery or not.
  • The logic puzzle of figuring out who kidnapped the sheriff is fun, as well. It’s just a good mystery. You’ve got the what and the why, and the when, but the who and the where are pretty important! The game doesn’t make it easy, as there are a variety of different ways that you have to figure out who had the means and opportunity to kidnap the sheriff. But it’s a fun puzzle, so I’m glad it’s in there.

Mehs

  • I was (not seriously) disappointed by the fact that the “About the Designers” photo didn’t feature the Brands in Western-themed hats. You gonna turn down a golden opportunity to wear cowboy hats for professional reasons? Such a shame.
  • I struggle with directions a bit (East / West / etc), so there were parts of this that were a bit challenging. I just get turned around easily. A more explicit compass rose would have probably saved me some time, but there’s no guarantee I would have noticed it even if it were explicit.
  • I particularly struggled with one puzzle where you had to cut something; I was worried I would cut too much and be unable to restore it. Bit nerve-wracking for an EXIT game. This is a one-time deal and it’s not as bad as I thought it was, hence the Meh. The game makes it pretty clear where and how you’re supposed to cut it; just don’t overthink the cut like I was doing. Still, generally the games have been a bit more “you explicitly must cut this thing in this way”, rather than leaving it to our judgment. I think I prefer that, all things being equal, but it wasn’t terrible here. Just a temporary additional stressor.

Cons

  • It would be nice if the game had you gradually collect and check information on the suspects as they’re eliminated from consideration, otherwise you can just kind of leave all the clues until the end of the game and then kinda dump everything. They do, in that you can gradually cross people off as you see them, but the nonlinear nature of the game doesn’t really force checkpoints or anything to make sure you’re not doing what we did, which was just wait until we had all of the information and then do one massive logic puzzle to figure out who was available, who lived where, and whose alibi didn’t check out. It felt like we were kind of jumping over one of the cooler parts of the game, this slow aggregation of details, but it felt more convenient for us as players to just hold off on that and deal with the puzzles at hand until we had enough information. I think it likely did the best that it could, for its format, but a bit more scaffolding around that big puzzle could have helped.

Overall: 9.25 / 10

Overall, I think EXIT: Kidnapped in Fortune City is another one of the greater EXIT titles we’ve played! It was a bit of a doozy, sometimes, but that’s partially on us for being sloppy with keeping track of the information we got about the various suspects. I did appreciate how invested the EXIT game was in its own theme. Tons of Western-themed puzzles, shootouts, card games, and the like all made for a rich experience that comes off to me as classically Western probably because I only have a passing familiarity with the genre, but that’s what I’m here for. I think that I generally like the EXIT mystery titles (the loose title I’ve been giving them) because I enjoy the clarity of “here is what you’re trying to do; do it” that they give. In Dead Man on the Orient Express, you’re trying to find a murderer. Theft on the Mississippi, trying to find a thief. Kidnapped in Fortune City? Trying to find a kidnapper. Once you do that, you’re pretty much covered, and it gives the narrative a nice flow and pace that the other EXITs don’t necessarily have. That’s not the worst thing (my favorite EXIT isn’t an EXIT mystery, though it’s pretty close to one, effectively), at all, but it is something that I tend to find myself leaning towards when I think of which EXITs I prefer. This, like the other EXIT mysteries, is not a title I’d recommend starting on for new EXIT fans, but I’m a big fan of it for players who are familiar with the format or who have done escape rooms in the past, for sure. If that’s you, or you enjoy a mystery, or you just really want more excuses to wear a cowboy hat, you’ll likely enjoy EXIT: Kidnapped in Fortune City! I certainly had a great time with it.


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