Review: EXIT: The Game – The Pharaoh’s Tomb
Designer: Inka Brand, Markus Brand
Artists: Silvia Christoph, Franz Vohwinkel
Category: Deduction, Puzzle, Real-Time
Price: $14.95 Amazon
EXIT: The Game – The Pharaoh’s Tomb is the third in the EXIT: The Game series, currently one out of three published EXIT games in English. KOSMOS is currently at work on seven additional titles in the series with three more publishing in the next wave. These are currently published in German, and could be printed in English at the end of 2017.
EXIT: The Game – The Pharaoh’s Tomb simulates an escape room, trading the physical presence of an environment for a tidy bundle of cards and various escape-themed paraphernalia. We’ve reviewed The Abandoned Cabin here, and The Secret Lab here.
Thames and Kosmos is a science kit and board games publisher, with KOSMOS being the branch specifically for board gaming. KOSMOS has long published many games, including Reiner Knizia’s Through the Desert, Ken Follet’s The Pillars of the Earth, and the original printing of The Settlers of Catan. More recently KOSMOS has published a number of children’s and puzzle games, including Harry Hopper, Dimension, Kerala, Ubongo, and many more. In addition, KOSMOS publishes a number of hobby/strategy titles, including Imhotep, Legends of Andor, Tumult Royale, Kahuna, Lost Cities, and the upcoming A Column of Fire.
Author’s Note: EXIT: The Game – The Pharaoh’s Tomb, along with all the other games from the series are rife with spoilers. These reviews will not reveal in-game content, aside from what you learn as soon as you open the box. I’ll still keep a few details from within secret, but I want readers to at least get a tiny taste of what they’ll find upon unboxing, and just a little more info on how the mechanisms work together as they puzzle solve. Read on.
No issues here. The players are trapped in an old tomb, but there isn’t any questionable or even spooky content in game.
Ancient Egypt is a fascinating and underused setting in pop culture. One might point to The Mummy film franchise as an example to destroy my enthusiasm, but I’ll point to some excellent examples in tabletop and video gaming.
Gobi’s Valley from Banjo Kazooie is absolutely memorable by music, escaping the mummy maze, or the incessant, thirsty grunts of Gobi the camel himself. Perhaps you might think of Donkey Kong 64’s Angry Aztecs level, or Heroes of the Storm’s Sky Temple. What about the sand worlds of Mario fame, facing off against tornadoes and cacti in Super Mario 64, or busting deep into the pyramid labyrinth, holding a precious star at the top of the obstacle course? What about Escape: The Curse of the Temple, dice rolling to safety in real-time? Or rolling sets of dice to gain prestige and renown from royalty in Bezier Games’ Favor of the Pharaoh?
The third installation of KOSMOS’ EXIT series utilizes the venerable mystique of hoary Egypt.
Simple tourists in a far land, players find themselves separated and lost in an unexplored section of a great pyramid. Using wit and outside-the-box thinking will be the only way to escape a potentially unfortunate fate.
My previous two plays of the EXIT titles were solely with my wife, so this marked the first game we would play with more than two. We played with another couple somewhat familiar with gaming, but one that keeps cautiously safe enough distance from my hobby so as not to get drawn into my weekly game night invitations. I’ve played a few games with them, and a few deeper titles with Brian. They had only heard people talk about escape rooms, so this was our opportunity to warm them to the idea through this tabletop rendition.
We broke open the box and explained the rules, allowing myself to be the card checker, as it just made more sense for myself to handle this part of the game, rather than explain the nitty details to the others.
The nature of these games breeds mystery, so I’ll again resort to vague descriptions of how we felt emotionally during our escape from the tomb.
We returned carefully to the EXIT series after our miserable experience with The Secret Lab. Unlike Lab, Tomb brought us back to the roots of The Abandoned Cabin. The game is full of sort of obvious clues to resolving riddles, subtly hidden in scenery and in the very text of the riddles themselves. Players will need to frequently switch brain functions between critical thinking and common sense. The advantage of more friends at the table means you have multiple perspectives thinking about the puzzle from different angles. The other option is to step away from the table and think about the riddles for a few moments, then return: fresh.
Pharaoh’s Tomb needs only a bit of knowledge on Egyptian history, but never relies on a history buff to be present at the table. Like Cabin, some experiences with Tomb might feel a tad familiar, but each puzzle piece puts a new spin on how you imagined you’d go about solving it.
We found ourselves in need of hints more frequently in this game. Upon reading the hint and learning what we missed, we were immediately hit with how foolishly and lazily we’d overlooked the very obvious solution before our eyes.
To one of my previous points, having more friends at the table increases the fun and perspectives, but the glaring problem with any escape room becomes clear here as well: It’s hard to have multiple people working on the same puzzle. In a regular escape room, it’s enough of an issue because the room might be dark and crowding all around one lock makes it worse. In any of the EXIT titles, sharing the riddle cards is a challenge because you want everyone to equally participate and have a chance to solve puzzles, but you either crowd around the card or wait your turn to see it. You’ll probably tilt the card a bit because a light might be glaring too much from where you are sitting.
What’s even worse—and, I’ll admit, unless you print cards in tarot size and have multiple booklets, I don’t know a way around this—the card art is so small, it’s difficult for everyone to get a good visual on what’s being solved. Furthermore, the booklet full of artwork and riddles can’t be easily shared, and there are times you need multiple pages at once. You’re faced with the choice to possibly rip out pages to help solve puzzles, but you never know what’s hiding beneath the mental underworks of the EXIT series, so maybe ripping the page is an awful idea. I really think the solution here is to print larger cards and maybe an additional booklet. I’m naïve and don’t know how that changes the affordability.
Overall, The Pharaoh’s Tomb was fun. My nitpicks are more on escape rooms and the size of the game. I didn’t feel horribly overwhelmed by the puzzles, and though we were stumped, it was our own doing.
Pharaoh’s Tomb firmly stamps me into the believer camp. I’m loving these escape rooms in a box, and it won’t be hard to convince me to convince others to drop $15 on Amazon to get started in the series. Well done, KOSMOS!
A review copy of EXIT: The Game – The Pharaoh’s Tomb was provided by KOSMOS for a review.
The Bottom Line
EXIT: The Game - The Pharaoh’s Tomb is absurdly good. I’ve some trivial gripes with card and art size, but Tomb is affordable, full of surprises, and overall: and excellent escape room in a box. You’d be a fool to pass this one up.