I adore the Escape Game phenomenon, and was excited to try out this board game attempt to capture the same type of feeling and fun. Here’s a SPOILER FREE look at ThinkFun’s home version.
There is a brief instruction manual that introduces the concept of the game and sets the stage, but really everything the players need to know is explained on the various pieces that will be part of the game. At the beginning the players are presented with five sealed envelopes depicting various areas of the Manor and the first Scene Card. The card sets up the story context for the game and walks the players through how the solution wheel works in a nice little intro. It then points players to the first envelope to begin the game proper.
The solution wheel is particularly well done. Solutions to each puzzle / envelope are indicated by paired colors and symbols, and if correctly entered into the wheel a symbol matching the current puzzle will be shown in two places on the wheel, indicating that envelope should then be opened.
Stargazer’s Manor is well designed and produced, and reasonably thematic. The puzzles make sense and are pretty well held together with the story framing. The quality of components is high, particularly at the price point. A good job was done overall evoking a location and providing some hands on puzzling without getting crazy in the cost department, but there is of course a visceral feeling to the exploration of an Escape Room that can’t be captured in a primarily 2d game.
The box says it accommodates 3-8 players, and given this type of game can only be played with a given group once we went with the maximum to get as many people involved as possible.
It may have been because all but one of us have previously played an actual Escape Room and were experienced puzzlers, but we didn’t need nearly that many people and it was tough keeping everyone involved since it’s mostly a “one puzzle at a time” experience. Four of us would have been plenty, and that’s the number my intuition recommends trying this with.
We found the puzzles on the easy side, but still had fun and again it might have been because of our experience level. The game tends to point you rather directly at the next thing to solve, which is a bit of unnecessary handholding given how few things there are to choose between.
Outside of possible tape damage to some paper pieces if you aren’t careful when opening things, none of the components are permanently marked while playing. Combined with instructions on the website on how to put everything back in the proper envelopes when finished, the game can be packed back up afterwards and given to a new group to try. Nice touch by ThinkFun.
So in conclusion while Escape the Room: Mystery at The Stargazer’s Manor is not quite equal to its inspirational namesake and tends to the easy side, it’s still a fun experience well worth trying out. ThinkFun has another out already (Secret of Dr. Gravely’s Retreat) which I’ll definitely try sometime.