Review: EXIT: The Game – The Abandoned Cabin

Designer: Inka Brand, Markus Brand
Artists: Silvia Christoph, Franz Vohwinkel
Publisher: KOSMOS
Category: Deduction, Puzzle, Real-Time
Players: 1-6
Price: $14.95 Amazon 
EXIT: The Game – The Abandoned Cabin is the first in the EXIT: The Game series, currently one out of three published EXIT games. KOSMOS is currently at work on seven additional titles in the series with three more publishing in the next wave. EXIT: The Game is also nominated for the 2017 Kennerspiel des Jahres.
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 Abandoned Cabin, 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.

 

Content Guide

No issues here, though being trapped in a cabin by a strange menace might be a tad unsettling for younger kids, though I’m not sure they would be a target audience for this series anyway.

Review

The mysterious code dial.

Imagine: A world where you can get a group of friends together in an escape room for less than $30 a person.
Imagine no longer. You can do it for $15 with KOSMOS release of EXIT: The Game – The Abandoned Cabin.
This is the first in the series, existing for the thrill of puzzle-solving and deduction. Players are handheld only for a brief moment. One player reads the quick background of the characters in-game, enjoying an evening together before being locked in a dark building with only one door available to escape to the outside world.
In The Abandoned Cabin, players are given a few thick stacks of cards. These decks are sorted carefully, alphabetically, and precisely according to the rules.
The box contents are as follows:
  • Riddle Deck
  • Answers Deck
  • Help Deck
  • Three devices used to solve puzzle(s)
  • Game manual
  • Code Dial
  • Mysterious Book
One will find quickly they might also need the following items:
  • Paper
  • Pencils
  • Scissors
Learning the game is done through a quick read of the manual, which upon finishing, starts a timer. One might expect a countdown, but in reality players will attempt to finish the cabin’s riddles as quickly as possible. The party will receive a number of stars, determined by how long they took to escape the cabin, alongside how many hints they used along the way.

Riddles galore. Each card brings more questions to resolve.

The puzzle deck reveals its contents over time, and players will use the code dial in tandem with the answers deck to determine which riddle cards you will draw. Each riddle card has a new clue, which requires deciphering, and is intended to be used with the mysterious book.
When a player believes they’ve deciphered the solution to a riddle, they will input their guess into the appropriate spaces on the code dial. The code dial (which is brilliant, by the way) depicts each riddle symbol, and requires three digit/color inputs to reveal a specific number. In some mysterious streak of dark, mathematical magic far beyond the understanding of my dull mind, players will consult the answer deck with the number revealed from the code dial.
Players will sometimes be asked to compare their answer card result with an additional printed answer card. Either way, if they’ve solved the riddle, the answer card directs them to one or more new riddle cards to reveal, now presenting the party with a new slew of riddles, revealing more of the cabin, and brings the group one step closer to exiting the predicament.
Yes, as an escapee of two “real life” escape rooms, I know the experience can be extraordinary, and not easily replicated on the tabletop. But why would you play an escape room board game when you can only play it once, and when you could go to a real escape room? One can say this of most anything, however.

I wish I could show you more, but I’m being intentionally vague here.

“Oh, I’d love to actually be a viking and summon an ogre, slaughtering all the enemies around me in Yggsdrasil using rage and the power of Loki!”
“You know Blood Rage can’t be reality, right?”
“Oh…”
To decry a tabletop escape room game is to decry any board game of any theme. Sure, EXIT is a one-off title. People aren’t used to buying a game to only play it once. However, this is totally akin to any real-life escape room. These real-life counterparts might physically place you into a puzzle room, but KOSMOS does it far cheaper. Instead of paying for a large group, now you pay an extremely low premium for the entire party.
The draw to EXIT isn’t just the thrill of a cheap escape room on the tabletop, it’s also the camaraderie between your friends, or in my case, my wife and me. We’ve recalled The Abandoned Cabin on two separate occasions since we’ve played it. We remember the joy and cheering from resolving the difficult puzzles. One time we spent 15-20 minutes attempting, only resolving mere seconds before giving up and drawing a hint card. Just before I drew it, Katie jumped, screeching, “WAIT! I’VE GOT IT!”
Now, I know I’ve made us sound brilliant, solving riddles with the last few seconds of our wits dripping from our minds, but we were forced to consult the help deck for assistance a few times. Of course, if you’re totally stumped, the third clue in the series will reveal the solution entirely. We never needed to do this, but it’s an option.

Three series of clues for each riddle, each reveals a bit more, until you give up and draw the solution.

I’m reviewing the next two games in the series, so I’m looking forward to comparing the games both in theme, difficulty level, and style of riddles.
In terms of what we dealt with, I’d say the game was reasonably challenging. We were completely stumped once, but I think having more people at the table will resolve that. Having different perspectives should make the game more palatable and less frustrating. The artwork is interesting and definitely matters. The cards are nice to hold. The code dial is excellent. The puzzles are exciting. The feeling of solving a puzzle and revealing the correct answer is absolutely exhilarating. The sigh of relief as you resolve an issue, then the despair and simultaneously masochistic drive of punishing your mind into yet another riddle. It’s a complete package and feels worth every dollar.
Honestly, to be picky, aside from my aforementioned issue with the help deck, my only real complaint about the EXIT series is the one-and-done nature of the games. That said, it’s to be expected from a physical escape room, so it feels like a natural extension on the tabletop as well.
I wish I could gift the game to a friend, who would then pass it forward when they finish, and so on. Apparently some have posted in forums that it’s quite possible to make the game re-playable by photocopying, or having one player be the “artist” who quickly jots and sketches whatever clues are printed on cards and books, so you can cut up those drawings instead of the actual game components. This could be worthwhile, but it’s sort of strange because I can’t imagine being taken out of the atmosphere the game creates. If you really want a friend to play the game, just go spend $15 on them.
EXIT: The Game – The Abandoned Cabin is an excellent, extremely thematic first entry into the series. It’s challenging enough, but not full of despair. It’s also really accessible, both from an understanding perspective and a cost-value viewpoint.
Big ups for this one.

The Bottom Line

EXIT: The Game - The Abandoned Cabin is an amazing value, providing a variety of riddles to solve, and an evening of intrigue for a group of friends. If you have interest in trying out the “escape room in a box” genre, the Cabin is an exceptional place to start.

 

9.2