Act fast! Lord Fear’s Midnight Hunt

Knightmare helmetReaders of a certain age will recognise the picture at once as the iconic Helmet of Justice from the legendary UK puzzle show Knightmare, a staple of ITV during the late 1980s and early 1990s. The show overtly featured riddles and transportation puzzles; even navigating the real human player around the computer graphical dungeons could be a puzzle in itself. Changes in TV channel demographics meant there wasn’t a place for the show from the mid-’90s, but it remains fondly remembered, with probably the hub of the fandom, and repeats still stand the test of time better than many other shows celebrating their silver anniversary, even if partly as a period piece.

The show has come back into the public consciousness over the last year or two, most notably with a Knightmare Live theatre game show that proved popular at the Edinburgh Comedy Festival in 2013 and has been touring successfully ever since. There was also a one-off revival as part of YouTube’s Geek Week, and a convention, set to take place in Norwich, where the show was originally filmed, on Friday 9th May to Sunday 11th May. Saturday and Sunday night sees a convention expected to attract some of the original actors and offering teams a chance to play a single room of the dungeon. The Friday night will feature the Knightmare Live stage show, and I can imagine no better company in which to see the show.

This is exciting enough to merit discussion in the context of a beloved puzzle show alone, but even more exciting still is mention of Lord Fear’s Midnight Hunt running from 11:30pm on the Saturday night until 3am (!!) on Sunday morning.

Come join us for an exclusive opportunity to be chased around the the streets of Norwich by Mark Knight, a.k.a Lord Fear himself! You will be joining a team of ten others as you all search through Norwich City Centre for clues to save both yourself and your team from Lord Fear as he attempts to hunt you down. […] The hunt will last for at least a couple of hours – please note that there will be a lot of movement on foot (walking, running etc) involved.

I’m not sure to what extent the hunt will attempt to recapture and celebrate the puzzle content of the show, but it sounds like a spectacular, possibly unique, opportunity all the same – and with only one team of ten players getting to play, you might well think it worth taking a chance on a £20 ticket for the hunt; con tickets are not too dear either. Sadly I won’t be able to attend the weekend, but I’d love to hear reports from the convention, and possibly even its hunt, from any attendees.

Can You Escape?

"Can You Escape?" logoEdinburgh is a very rich city and an obvious gap in the market for exit games, so I’m delighted but not at all surprised to see this Indiegogo project for Can You Escape?, a proposed exit game for the city. The video is tastefully done and the social media campaign backing the Indiegogo project got off to a vibrant start, all of which are excellent signs. The figures in the business plan section look reasonably convincing and it does look like there has been a great deal of thought put into the project, though the numbers make it very clear that this is an industry where nobody gets rich. (Edinburgh’s definitely got about as good a chance as any, though.)

It’s a “flexible funding” project, so if you make a pledge, you will be charged whether the project reaches the goal or not and the money (minus moderately hefty Indiegogo fees) will reach the people behind the project – and there’s always the possibility that the project won’t make it all the way. (The QuestRoom Indiegogo didn’t get too far, but I hope that they find their way to London before long.) The prices look reasonably comparable to those of exit games around the country, though, so this is really just pre-ordering a ticket. The people responsible are very clear about who they are, so you can get in touch and make your own investigations in order to decide whether to pre-order or not. If you really back their vision, their VIP pass for one play in each new room they design might prove a great investment. Best of luck to Alastair and Lauren and hopefully there will be more to report from them soon.

In other exit game news, I’ve long enjoyed a podcast called The Cultures; it’s not a games podcast as such, but the people behind it have worked (together and separately) on games projects, on and off, for years. The most recent episode (download episode 41) has a lovely ten-minute piece on exit games at the end, comparing experiences at HintHunt in London with those at Claustrophilia in Budapest, and discussing the genre’s UK predecessors. Co-host Andrea Phillips also appears on the most recent episode of the wonderful Snoutcast podcast, discussing her ARG and other transmedia work alongside much of her other involvement with games.

What’s next in the UK after DASH 6?

calendar iconSo you had a fantastic time at DASH 6, are suffering a bad comedown and are wondering what’s next, knowing that you don’t want to have to wait a whole year until the next one. (OK, I wrote “you” when I’m really referring to myself, but I don’t think I’m the only one.) So what’s happening before then?

Nothing’s quite like DASH, but there are interesting things going on. Nothing has quite the full package, but there are things that can scratch some of the itches.

If you’re in London and want a murder mystery game that will lead teams around London looking for clues and meeting characters, you don’t have long to wait at all: a door in a wall‘s The Diplomatic Corpse will run every evening and some afternoons from 2nd May to 15th June. If you’re in Wrexham rather than London, there’s Silent State, “a roaming theatre game […] a mixture of puzzles, music, intrigue and theatrical happenings“, happening three times on 10th May.

If you want a full in-person hunt, there will be a Treasure Hunt at the Manorcon board games convention in Leicester on 20th July, and also a One Day Cryptic Treasure Hunt in Essex on 3rd August. The latter event sounds really exciting, though it comes from a different tradition of Armchair Treasure Hunts rather than DASH-style puzzle hunts; if the principle sounds good, you’ll likely really enjoy this write-up of an event by the same team in 2011 that illustrates what the puzzles may be like. If that sounds good, line your team up and sign up soon!

That’s not your only option, though; if you’re interested in playing an online puzzle hunt as well as an in-person one, the Melbourne University Mathematics and Statistics Society’s annual puzzle hunt runs from 5th to 9th May. This traditionally features puzzles of a variety of difficulties from a moderate team difficulty to a very high ceiling indeed, but is one of the world’s great hunts with a ten-year tradition behind it.

If you want logic puzzles, more like puzzle 3 from this DASH than anything else, there are plenty of options. The World Puzzle Federation’s Puzzle GP tournaments happen once every four weeks; in fact, there’s one in progress right now, so clear a 90-minute schedule to finish before 11pm on Monday night. A longer challenge is the 2½-hour US Puzzle Championship on 17th May.

If you want to see (at least some of!) the people who turned up at DASH, many of them play at, or run, Puzzled Pint in London on the second Tuesday of every month. The style of the puzzles bears some similarities to that of DASH, though it’s an evening’s challenge rather than a whole-day event.

All of these events, and more, are listed in the event calendar at this site; when we learn about more events to add, we’ll write about them in our blog, which discusses puzzle events and much more, not least exit games, also known as escape games, locked room games and so on. There are currently eight exit game sites open in the UK and one in Ireland, with one more in the UK currently closed for refurbishment. New sites are opening on a roughly monthly basis at the moment.

So it may be another year until DASH, but there are loads of fun things going on. Keep visiting this site and we’ll share exciting news as we get it!

DASH 6 was amazing

Our DASH 6 London teamDASH 6 was a considerable triumph, both in terms of the global hunt and the London leg specifically. No spoilers about the puzzles, not least because the event will be recast in Minneapolis at the very least, but the puzzles varied from entertaining to spectacular, the production values were very high and most of the puzzles required as much teamwork as you would hope for. London had a total of 21 teams over the two senior tracks, up from last year’s eight. The weather broadly held with only the fewest spots of rain, contrary to predictions of persistent showers all day at the least. Our GC team did a great job too. Indications are that the Magpie team won the London leg again, as expected; many congratulations to them! ClueKeeper was also a big winner on the day; a couple of teams reportedly had obvious glitches with no impact on gameplay but the system lived up to its potential.

If you care, our team had an excellent day and I think we performed competitively. We were very slow between locations (at the risk of TMI, I must have visited the little solver’s room ten times today in all the excitement, quite possibly fifteen) and so were left with a real rush against the eight hour deadline for the metapuzzle at the end, but we took hints with about six minutes to go and cracked it with maybe 31 seconds left on the clock!

Thanks to our GC, to the global co-ordinators, to all the puzzle authors and to all the lovely people I met (and solved with!) today. The post-DASH comedown is painful, but at least we know that a DASH 7 global co-ordinator has been named, so back to looking out for information again…

What’s happening this weekend

Puzzlebomb logoA few quick news stories while I’m passing:

I have been extremely slack in never linking to Puzzlebomb other than in the blogroll. This is a monthly assortment of hand-crafted puzzles, and it’s admirable for its breadth of focus. The people who write it have a puzzle hunt tradition, with rather a considerable degree of success, and it shows. You do get logic puzzles and maths puzzles sometimes, but there are very usually word puzzles as well, and at their best the whole package can be tremendously original. I particularly enjoyed the current April edition (.pdf file) with an ambitious arithmetic wordsearch. Solve it now before the solution is posted at the start of May, then enjoy the previous 2+ years of puzzles in the archive.

Puzzlair of Bristol have an amusing promotion right now; book by May 4th, to play before June 4th, using the coupon code FORCE and get 15% off.

Looking further ahead, the dates have been announced for this year’s US Sudoku Qualifier and US Puzzle Championship. They’re on May 3rd and May 17th respectively, which I reckon feel rather earlier in the year than usual, and both contests start at 6pm BST. For the longest time, the US Puzzle Championship was the only contest of its type open to the public at large, so it has long been extremely popular and remains a highlight on the calendar.

From Friday 25th April (or, er, today) until Monday 28th April, the fourth leg of the World Puzzle Federation’s Puzzle Grand Prix series is taking place. This leg is set by solvers from the Czech Republic, who have been an extremely strong presence since the world championships started over twenty years ago. The instruction booklet suggests there will be 16 puzzles to solve in the usual 90 minutes, and they look likely to be good ones to me.

I’ll probably be solving the Puzzle GP on Sunday or Monday, because of a certain little something happening tomorrow called DASH 6, which I believe I may have mentioned once or twice…

Croco-Puzzle walkthrough: daily puzzles

Croco-Puzzle logoNot a whole lot of time for posting from London, so here’s a little something I prepared earlier. Again, the whole thing is too long and too image-heavy for feed readers, so forgive me for making you click through.

Yesterday, we talked about how to register for Croco-Puzzle and how to play prize puzzles. Today, in the third part of the walkthrough, learn how to play daily puzzles. These are the absolute heart of the site.

There are many great sites which let you play logic puzzles online; there’s lots of top-level competitors at Nikoli, you can spend hours at Seth Weiss’s site and the sheer breadth of can’t be beaten. (Or can it?) If those aren’t enough, there’s Puzzlemix, Puzzle Picnic, happily Puzzle Fountain has resumed its competitions and a whole blogroll of others.

Nevertheless, Croco-Puzzle is the one that has had me coming back time and again, and this is because of its rating system that offers a captivating level of metagame that the others don’t. (Or do they?) Solve daily puzzles from Croco-Puzzle’s 40 different puzzle applets (and, if that’s not enough variety, the .pdf format puzzles can offer all manner of variants – anything, really) and, given enough time, your rating on the site will improve and you can earn kyu and even dan gradings. Sufficiently many of the very best logic puzzle solvers in the world solve, or have solved, that Croco-Puzzle can really bite its teeth into you in a way that others cannot.

Croco-Puzzle walkthrough: registration and prize puzzles

"Croco-Puzzle marathon" logoI’m off to London, for reasons that you may well be able to guess, and I very much hope that you can play a part in them. I hope you can understand a lull in posting while I’m away.

My favourite online language-neutral culture-free puzzle site is Croco-Puzzle. However, it’s all in the German langauge. Accordingly, I’ve prepared a walkthrough. We’ll come back to what this site has to offer in the future; it’s an exciting place to solve puzzles.

The walkthrough is rather long, so forgive me for making you click through to it. (If you read this through a feed reader, you’ll be glad I did!) You can read how to register for Croco-Puzzle and how to play prize puzzles. Once you’ve got that, you can go through the prize puzzle archives to play with the 40 different puzzle applets on the web site.

Keeping this timely, that prize puzzles walkthrough also refers to the Croco-Marathon competition that’s an Easter treat. It will only be scored until 12:00 on Monday 28th April, so if you want to register a score, carve yourself a few hours (or a few hours within a 24-hour period) between now and then and have a ball!

Checking in on work in progress

"Under construction" road signAfter yesterday’s post about Tick Tock Unlock, a quick round-up on other projects under construction.

A search suggests that Birmingham is set to become the third city after London and Bristol to get a second exit game, courtesy of a project called Escape Live. The web site doesn’t yet have anything other than a very fancy splash screen, but there’s a little more information available on Facebook and on Twitter. An opening date of June 2014 is expected; a behind-the-scenes construction photo posted suggests that the site may well be in an intriguing, semi-cylindrical location. (Underneath an arch or in a tunnel, perhaps?) The use of social media is strong and suggests that this site, too, may well be able to hit the ground running.

Looking a little further, the Twitter bio of John Dalziel claims he is a director of Escape Live UK; he is also involved with the Free Radio radio stations of the West Midlands. Keyhunter, the longer-standing Birmingham exit game, has long advertised the visit of Free Radio breakfast DJs Jo and Sparky on its web site. I’m looking forward to reading more about Escape Live; more news about the site as I get it.

In other Birmingham news, the upcoming UK Games Expo convention (May 30th to June 1st), will feature an “Alien Laser Tag” live event. “Alien Laser Tag sets the players in an interactive Live event where they must escape from a stricken space ship crawling with lethal alien life forms. Using lighting, fog effects, sound track and live alien monsters this living event requires players to solve problems, work as a team and generally kick ass if they want to get out alive.” Sounds sort of like a pop-up exit game, distinctive for additional shooting and dodging of laser guns, and hopefully a good dose of problem-solving along the way.

Another site I’ve been following from time to time, though it has not yet launched, is Puzzlescape in Manchester; their web site has recently been removed. I don’t know whether it will be shortly replaced by something reflecting more process, or whether the project will turn out not to make it. In any case, Make A Break has beaten them to being the first site to open in Manchester and has been attracting a string of excellent reviews on TripAdvisor.

The longest-running in-progress mystery of them all is the Live Escape Game site “coming soon” in Brighton. Still no information, and even enquiring with the person listed in the site’s WHOIS listing has not yet borne fruit. (To be fair, they may be linked with the hosting company used by the web site, rather than with the exit game physical site itself.) Brighton could well be an extremely strong market; perhaps Puzzlescape might well end up not being the only long in-progress site beaten to the market by another local competitor.

More news on this, and every in-progress site, as it becomes available. If you want to help your information along, please e-mail it through!

Coming soon to Leeds: Tick Tock Unlock

"Tick Tock Unlock" logoThis site has been focusing more on puzzle hunts than on exit games recently, but that’s where the excitement has been. At least, until now! Exit games are coming ever closer to this neck of the woods (the north-east of England!) with a long-awaited first site to open in Yorkshire. Tick Tock Unlock (and I love the name!) have annouced a location very near the central library in Leeds.

The proprietors have not yet announced an official opening date, though the “Book Now” button points to bookings being available from Monday 28th April. I wouldn’t necessarily take that as definitive, though; the site has set up Facebook and Twitter feeds, which they very wisely seem to be keen to use, so I would expect formal announcement of an opening date there before too long. (I commend them for their heavy use of social media before the site opens; getting as much of a buzz going in advance as they have done should help them to hit the ground running – as well as meaning that we know about the site before it opens.)

So what is known? Not much yet; even the theme is being kept covert. “Tick Tock Unlock is a simple and exciting real life escape game designed for small groups of 3-5 people. You only have one goal: escape from the room in 60 minutes by solving a series of puzzles, unravelling clues, and working together as a team to reveal the darkest secrets that have never been shared.” We do know that promotional ticket pricing will see £48 charged for a team of three, £60 for a team of four or £70 for a team of five; no word, yet, as to how long the promotional prices will last or what prices afterwards will be. The booking engine points to there only being a single room, at least to start with.

This should be popular, I reckon. I get a good feeling from the professionalism of the web site and from the initial use of social media. Additionally, Yorkshire is too big a region not to have an exit game for too long. This looks promising to me; I look forward to following the site’s progress, and to not having too far to go in order to do so!

The DASH 6 preview continues: links and predictions

DASH "sugar lump"I make no apology for the number of posts about the upcoming DASH 6 puzzle hunt in London next Saturday, which should be one of the highlights of the puzzling year. It’s very close and I’m very excited. If you’re excited too, you may well enjoy Clavis Cryptica‘s preparation tips document from last year; good advice like that never goes out of style.

Let’s next talk about the organisers. The DASH Facebook group has been running a series of “Better Know A City GC” (Game Control) mini-interviews with the teams in charge around the world, with the London organisers being interviewed about a week ago. In order of publication, you can see what Jordan, Lisa and Ronald had to say. Additionally, if that’s not enough, the London Street Games blog has a longer interview with Jordan.

Finally, let’s make some predictions:

  1. The prediction most likely to be accurate of all is the one made with the assistance of science; we’re within medium-range weather forecast territory. The BBC make this prediction (showery with sunny intervals), MetCheck make this prediction (showery in morning, rainier later) and make this prediction (showery).
  2. I’m going to predict that this event will be relatively long, and relatively construction-heavy (which is slightly different from saying relatively difficult). I’m going to base this on the individual locations’ posted predictions that this will likely be a long-ish hunt and the mail from London GC.
  3. Some previous DASHes have had nationwide clues, often with interaction between teams on Twitter. Some years even had the motif that all the teams would start at the same time – so around 9am Pacific on the West coast, or around midday Eastern on the East coast. (Or, perhaps, 5pm UK time, leading to the hunt running through the night!) As most locations are starting around 10am local time, I don’t anticipate that the same thing will be happening this year – at least in that way. Perhaps the DASH organisers have something more cunning up their sleeve!
  4. I’ll also predict that the code sheet will contain something unusual this year, and the unusual content will be used. Looking at past years’ code sheets, I would consider morse, semaphore, braille, binary and phonetic alphabet codes to be usual, maybe also hexadecimal. If anything else crops up, I’d consider it suspicious and proactively look for opportunities to use it!