Now open in Edinburgh: Noughts and Coffees

Noughts and Coffees logoAs had previously been touched upon, there’s an interesting new business called Noughts and Coffees that has just launched in Edinburgh. The plan is for this to be a board game café, where you can go to learn how to play board games or just play ones that you know and like already, also featuring an exit game. The exit game launched on Saturday 12th December and you can already get coffee to take away too; in another month or so, the board game facility should be launched and a second exit game will be made available on the premises.

The exit game has a time limit of one hour and can be played by teams of two to five. The regular price is £66 per team, including VAT, but teams with members who can present a student card can play for just £49 and teams of two are charged only £48. The room is named Area 51, which instantly evokes a theme. “Roswell is a highly debated subject. Imagine something similar on your doorstep… rumour has it that in an Edinburgh there was an incident and hidden away in a basement there is evidence to prove it. No one knows what it contains but you and your friends are about to find out as you have stumbled across it.

Who knows what you might find? This site certainly doesn’t, but knows that there’s only one way to find out. The idea of a board game café with exit games on the premises sounds like the makings of a great day – but with an exit game available there already, why wait to try it out?

Coming soon to Fareham: A Curious Escape

A Curious Escape graphicSome time ago, this site looked at where the biggest gaps in the market remained, with two particularly obvious conurbations standing out: Cardiff and the South Hampshire metropolitan area from Southampton to Portsmouth. More of developments in Cardiff some other day, but South Hampshire is set to get its first game from next Saturday. Is it in Southampton? Is it in Portsmouth? No! As suggested in the title, it’s in Fareham, a market town between the two. The game is available in the heart of the town’s shopping centre and is set to open for a limited run; currently this is expected to be on weekends (and weekdays through the Christmas holidays) until the end of January 2016, but an extension is possible.

Unusually, the game is promoted by the Hampshire Cultural Trust, perhaps making this the first UK exit game to come from the public sector. The trust’s vision is to “be renowned for creating world-class culture in Hampshire“, and hurrah to them for keeping up to date and taking on board that culture can be playable, with exit games among the forefront of playable interactive performance. Perhaps this might be a model for other counterpart organisations to consider.

The site will open with a single 60-minute game for teams of 2-5. Unusually, separate versions are available for teams aged fourteen plus and teams aged seven plus, including at least one adult. “With gambling debts mounting, Nell Trent and her grandfather are facing a life in the workhouse or worse. But is there a secret fortune hidden somewhere within The Old Curiosity Shop? With only an hour to find it before the bailiffs arrive, you will need to be quick witted in order to solve the puzzles and save the family.” The price is attractive: pairs can play for £30, trios £39, foursomes £44 and parties of five £45, all of which have a booking fee of two or three pounds on top.

Curiouser and curiouser!

Now open in London: Sherlock Unlock

Sherlock Unlock logoKen, the great exit game detective, has had his eye on this one for some time but this site opened its doors for real on Tuesday. Sherlock Unlock is a brand new exit game in London; specifically, east London – more specifically still, a short walk from South Quay on the Docklands Light Railway. The site hosts two one-hour exit games for teams of two to six. The site is set to open every day, barring the upcoming Bank Holidays, though some days only one of the two games will be offered. Pairs get to play for £69, teams of three for £89 and adding players from the fourth onwards adds £10 to the price, so a full half-dozen costs £119.

The Chaos game is available already. “You knew something was wrong … Your memory is hazy… Somewhere near the Jurassic you remember a massive collision… Was it an asteroid, a massive T-Rex… Or something even worse? Nobody knows quite where Walter Spiegel has disappeared to… Life on Earth hangs in the balance… It is down to you to solve this knot in the fabric of time, and save life as you know it!” Perhaps finding when Walter Spiegel has disappeared to might be more pressing still.

The Outbreak game is being offered from Monday 21st December. “Governments across the world confirmed this morning that a devastating biological attack of massive proportion could be coming at any moment! Professor Nemrov has created a virus so contagious that a single infected victim could easily start a global pandemic and life as we know it will come to an end. A highly trained team from London has been sent to take down this incredible threat to the whole world. This team of experts, whose identities remain a mystery, are risking exposure to this horrendous disease in a brave bid to save all of mankind!

If you can create order from Chaos or can break out from Outbreak, perhaps Sherlock Unlock will be the site for you!

Could GCHQ crack Pablo’s Armchair Treasure Hunt?

Pablo's Armchair Treasure Hunt 2015 posterPossibly you have heard that GCHQ have issued a Christmas card with a puzzle. Solving the first puzzle leads to a series of further puzzles (word puzzles, maths puzzles and code-breaking) unless the extremely high interest means that the web server still can’t cope with the demand. This site heard about the hunt from Intervirals, though it was also widely covered in news programmes, not least a Sky News segment featuring‘s Dr. Gareth Moore. Excellent way to get tough puzzles back in the public eye.

However, if this isn’t challenge enough for you, then in a week’s time, the 2015 edition of Pablo’s Armchair Treasure Hunt will begin. You can see a low-fi version of the hunt’s poster above; the official version is rather clearer and contains a number of clues and references which will portray some of the themes of this year’s event. The hunt itself will begin in a week’s time and will likely feature several dozen cryptic questions to solve, pictures to identify, connections to make, covert messages to discover and decrypt and doubtless much more, culminating in a physically hidden box in the south of England. The first team to discover the box wins a trophy; the team that best answers and explains all the references and hidden subtleties that have been put in place, within the month-and-a-bit time limit, also win a trophy. To get an appreciation for the form and conventions of the hunt, read through the thirty-year history of the hunt; the past hunts are available online along with their explanations, and make spectacular reading.

An incredible labour of love!

Now open in Bognor Regis: TimeCraft

TimeCraft logoBrighton is quickly proving a fertile market for exit games in East Sussex; why should West Sussex miss out on all the fun? On Saturday, Bognor Regis saw its first exit game launch there when TimeCraft opened its doors. It currently offers a single room with a one-hour time limit for teams of three to six. It’s open every evening and all day at weekends.

The game uses a time travel story as the reason for a steampunk themed room. “Lose yourself in the Victorian era: For an hour you are time travellers who crashlanded your TimeCraft during the time of the second British Empire. With limited resources, you need to salvage your environment to open a wormhole and activate your TimeCraft again, or get stuck in the past forever. Reveal the secrets of the industrial revolution era: crack codes, use physics to solve puzzles, decipher secret writings, find hidden compartments with enigmatic messages and open the time portal before it is too late to escape!

The game is priced at £60 for teams of three plus £15 per additional player, so £105 for the full complement of six; from context, it looks like multiple smaller teams might be merged together up to the limit of six players. That said, the INTRO50 discount code offers half-price bookings for the month of December; beyond that, the site also offers a handsome 25% discount to holders of the Escape Game Card. Looking at item 32 in the Escape Game Card’s terms and conditions: no, the offers don’t stack with each other!


Periscape logoRosie Mawer of the University of Lincoln has got in touch to say:

We will be broadcasting a live room escape game through the app Periscope. It is completely in the hands of the viewers, you decide the moves of the person who is trapped and hopefully get them out! As I mentioned, it’s live, so anything could happen. There will be a series of levels in the week of 07/12/15, all in different rooms. If you don’t have the app already then download it and keep an eye out for the broadcast named ‘Periscope room escape’.

An original and exciting exciting development, and one that reminds this site more of Knightmare than of anything else; you provide the brains in order to help someone trapped to crack a series of puzzles. If you ever wanted to play the show but never got the chance, then this might just be your opportunity; similarly, if you read about the first-person shooter on ChatRoulette and wanted to take part, this is definitely something to look out for… and, very probably, rather more reliably and easily found. There’s a Facebook group which suggests that play will start at 9am on Monday 7th December; it also suggests that the app requires you to select a Periscope stream geographically to follow, so you’ll need to look for one in the Lincoln area.

Finally, what a great name!

Meetings of minds near and far

"Up The Game" adApril 2016 is set to be an extremely interesting month. The banner above is an advert for Up The Game, a conference focused not just on exit games but also other real-life games, which will take place in Amsterdam, in the Netherlands, on Saturday 18th April 2016. “ As one of the fastest growing entertainment trends since the rise of cinema, real life gaming has taken the world by storm. ((…)) Where traditional games are a bit of a niche, real life gaming attracts a wide range of customers and people who exit a great escape room do so with shining eyes and a budding addiction- ‘where can I play more?’ But it doesn’t stop here, new games keep adding even more crazy ideas, more technology and more compelling interaction to the experience. We love to see all those new ideas as the better our games are, the more people will become excited about real life gaming.

That’s not April’s only attraction, though. Back in June, this site proposed that the UK industry meet up at the forthcoming The Crystal Maze live attraction. We have a date – Tuesday, 26th April 2016 – and an afternoon timeslot. (We don’t have a location, other than King’s Cross, London; this site’s uninformed guess is “somewhere within the Granary Square complex”.) There’s no guarantee who’ll turn up, but tickets have been bought by representatives of Escape Hour, Enigma Quests, Escape Quest, Archimedes Inspiration, Agent November, the The Escape Room chain, Breakout Manchester/Liverpool, Escape Live (both Birmingham and the forthcoming Southend branch) and the Escape chain, as well as by five fans with no business connection. 31 tickets have been paid for in total with a 32nd still available, plus potential resales from people who can’t make the event in the end. That 32nd ticket is available at cost price – £32.50 – which is rather cheaper than the £50 or £60, plus booking fee, you’ll pay for a ticket today. If the company appeals, as well as the price, then please get in touch by e-mail. ((ETA:)) Someone has called dibs on the 32nd ticket but if you’re still interested in going, I’m operating a waiting list in case there are resales.

Why wait until April, though? On Wednesday, 13th January 2016, there will be an exit game unconference in Leeds at a central venue to be announced. This has been discussed previously and the discussion of the counterpart unconference in Canada sounds intriguing. Be sure to grab yourself a ticket today.

Why wait as many as five and a half weeks, though? This Tuesday is Puzzled Pint day, and the December theme is Mad Men – though, as ever, no knowledge of the subject is required. The location puzzle has been posted; solve it to find out where the event will take place. My partner and I will be helping to run the London East location; being December, we’ve had to guarantee a high minimum spend so that they don’t pass us over for another Christmas party, so we really hope to see you there on Tuesday night!

The League Table: end of November 2015

Bar chart showing improving performance over time

This is the twentieth instalment of a (just about) monthly feature which acts as a status report on the exit games in the UK and Ireland, hopefully acting as part of the basis of a survey of growth over time. It reflects a snapshot of the market as it was, to the best of this site’s knowledge, at the end of 30th November 2015.

The Census

Category Number in the UK Number in Ireland
Exit game locations known to have opened 101 7
Exit game locations known to be open 92 4
Exit game locations in various states of temporary closure 2 2
Exit game locations known to have closed permanently 7 1
Exit game locations showing convincing evidence of being under construction 7 0
Exit game locations showing unconvincing evidence of being under construction 11 0
Exit game projects abandoned before opening 2 0

The term opened should be understood to include “sold tickets”, even when it is unclear whether any of those tickets may have been redeemed for played games; the definition of location should be understood to include outdoor locations, pop-up/mobile locations with open-ended time limits and component parts of larger attractions that are played in the same way as conventional exit games. Pop-ups with deliberately very short runs (e.g. Hallowe’en specials, or games run at conventions or festivals) are not counted in this list; games with deliberately finite but longer runs (e.g. Panic!, which awarded a prize to its champion at the end of its sixteen week run) are counted.

A rather more orderly month than October; the UK has seen six additions and only House of Enigma has moved to “temporarily closed” pending further investigations. Four of those additions were definitely sites that opened in November, two of them were a shade older but only just made it to our radar. It’s surprising how low-key a new exit game can be these days.

The Report Card

Site name Number of rooms The reviews
Site name Total number Different games Find reviews
Adventure Rooms 2 2 TripAdvisor
Agent November 3 3 TripAdvisor
Bath Escape 2 2 TripAdvisor
Breakout Games Aberdeen 4 3 TripAdvisor
Breakout Games Inverness 3 2 TripAdvisor
Breakout Liverpool 5 6 TripAdvisor
Breakout Manchester 5 5 TripAdvisor
Can You Escape 1 1 TripAdvisor
Cipher 0 0 TripAdvisor
Clue Finders 2 1 TripAdvisor
Clue HQ Blackpool 4 3 TripAdvisor
Clue HQ Brentwood 2 2 TripAdvisor
Clue HQ Sunderland 1 1 TripAdvisor
Clue HQ Warrington 5 5 TripAdvisor
clueQuest 7 2 TripAdvisor
Code to Exit 2 2 TripAdvisor
Crack The Code Sheffield 1 1 TripAdvisor
Cryptic Escape 1 1 TripAdvisor
Cryptology 2 2 TripAdvisor
Cryptopia 0 0 TripAdvisor
Cyantist 2 2 TripAdvisor
Dr. Knox’s Enigma 2 1 TripAdvisor
Enigma Escape 1 1 TripAdvisor
Enigma Quests 1 1 TripAdvisor
ESCAP3D Belfast 1 1 TripAdvisor
ESCAP3D Dublin 0 0 TripAdvisor
Escape Clonakilty 0 0 TripAdvisor
Escape Dublin 2 2 TripAdvisor
Escape Edinburgh 3 3 TripAdvisor
Escape Entertainment 8 2 TripAdvisor
Escape Game Brighton 1 1 TripAdvisor
Escape Glasgow 3 2 TripAdvisor
Escape Hour 3 2 TripAdvisor
Escape Hunt 0 0 TripAdvisor
Escape Land 0 0 TripAdvisor
Escape Live 2 2 TripAdvisor
Escape Newcastle 2 1 TripAdvisor
Escape Plan 1 1 TripAdvisor
Escape Plan Live 4 4 TripAdvisor
Escape Quest 3 3 TripAdvisor
Escape Rooms 2 2 TripAdvisor
Escape Rooms Durham 1 1 TripAdvisor
Escape Rooms Plymouth 2 2 TripAdvisor
Escape Rooms Scotland 3 3 TripAdvisor
Escapism 1 1 TripAdvisor
Escapologic 3 3 TripAdvisor
escExit 1 1 (TripAdvisor)
EVAC 1 1 TripAdvisor
Ex(c)iting Game 2 2 TripAdvisor
Exit Newcastle 2 2 TripAdvisor
Exit Strategy 1 1 TripAdvisor
Extremescape 1 1 TripAdvisor
Fathom Escape 1 1 TripAdvisor
gamEscape 2 2 TripAdvisor
GR8escape York 2 2 TripAdvisor
Guess House 0 0 (TripAdvisor)
Hell in a Cell 1 1 TripAdvisor
Hidden Rooms London 2 2 TripAdvisor
HintHunt 5 2 TripAdvisor
House of Enigma 0 0 (TripAdvisor)
iLocked 0 0 TripAdvisor
Instinctive Escape Games 1 1 TripAdvisor
Jailbreak! 1 1 (TripAdvisor)
Keyhunter 3 3 TripAdvisor
Lady Chastity’s Reserve Brighton 1 1 TripAdvisor
Lady Chastity’s Reserve London 1 1 TripAdvisor
Lock’d 2 2 TripAdvisor
Lockdown-Inverness 2 2 TripAdvisor
Lock Down Zone 1 1 TripAdvisor
Locked In A Room 4 1 TripAdvisor
Locked In Edinburgh 1 1 TripAdvisor
Locked In Games 2 2 TripAdvisor
LockIn Escape 3 3 TripAdvisor
Logiclock 1 1 TripAdvisor
Lost & Escape 2 2 TripAdvisor
Make A Break 0 0 TripAdvisor
Mission Escape 2 2 TripAdvisor
Mystery Cube 1 1 TripAdvisor
Mystery Squad 2 2 (TripAdvisor)
Namco Funscape Escape Room 1 1 (TripAdvisor)
Panic! 0 0 (TripAdvisor)
Puzzlair 4 4 TripAdvisor
Puzzle Room 1 1 (TripAdvisor)
QuestRoom 1 1 TripAdvisor
Quests Factory 0 0 TripAdvisor
Red House Mysteries 1 1 TripAdvisor
Room Escape Adventures 1 1 TripAdvisor
Salisbury Escape Room 1 1 TripAdvisor
Secret Studio 1 1 TripAdvisor
The Bristol Maze 2 2 (TripAdvisor)
The Escape Network 1 1 TripAdvisor
The Escape Room Manchester 5 5 TripAdvisor
The Escape Room Preston 5 5 TripAdvisor
The Gr8 Escape 4 4 TripAdvisor
The Great Escape Game 4 4 TripAdvisor
The Live Escape 1 1 TripAdvisor
The Room 5 5 TripAdvisor
Tick Tock Unlock Glasgow 2 1 TripAdvisor
Tick Tock Unlock Leeds 3 2 TripAdvisor
Tick Tock Unlock Liverpool 2 1 TripAdvisor
Tick Tock Unlock Manchester 1 1 TripAdvisor
Time Run 2 1 TripAdvisor
Trapped In 2 2 TripAdvisor
Trapped Up North 3 3 TripAdvisor
We Escape 1 1 TripAdvisor
XIT 4 4 TripAdvisor
Zombie in a Room 1 1 (TripAdvisor)

Corrections would be most welcome.

This site supports all the exit games that exist and will not make claims that any particular one is superior to any other particular one. You’ve probably noticed that this table has removed the review summaries; this site has pages with the review summaries for every site in the United Kingdom and, separately, for every site in Ireland.

This site takes the view that if you’re interested in review summaries, you probably care (at least to some extent) about the question of which site probably has the best popular reviews. Accordingly, you might be interested in the TripAdvisor’s “Fun and Games” rankings lists in (picking only cities with multiple exit games listed) Belfast, Birmingham, Brighton, Bristol, Dublin, Edinburgh, Exeter, Glasgow, Inverness, Leeds, Liverpool, London, Manchester, Newcastle, Nottingham or Sheffield.

Additionally, TripAdvisor now has pages entitled Top Escape Games in United Kingdom and Top Escape Games in Ireland. Interestingly, the ranking algorithm on this page seems to have changed somewhat; the site is happy to list (for instance) the #2 game in London ahead of the #1 game in other cities; #1s rub up against #3s, #4s and even a #6. That said, the #1s haven’t changed very much from their previous order, which suggests that the changes have not been wholesale. Credit to the same site that has been top of the national list for a third consecutive month.

You might also be interested in listings at Play Exit Games, a few of which contain ratings and from which rankings might be derived, or ranking lists from other bloggers. Looking at London sites, The Logic Escapes Me have provided recommendations and detailed comparisons; see also this piece at Bravofly and thinking bob‘s comparisons. In the North-West, there are rhe QMSM room comparisons and Geek Girl Up North site comparions as well. If you have your own UK ranking list, please speak up and it shall be included in future months. The next step could be some sort of exit game Metacritic, comparing the reviews and opinions of those who have played a great number of such games; hopefully, this would corroborate the popular reviews, or perhaps point out some inconsistencies.

It’s more laborious than difficult to estimate the number of people who play an exit game over the course of a month, though there are limits as to how accurate it can be. This site uses data available to the public from sites’ booking systems, the number of rooms at each site, any data supplied by the site (either to the public or in private correspondence), and bears in mind trends in the numbers of Facebook likes, TripAdvisor reviews, photos posted and team sizes per site according to team photos. This site won’t necessarily take owners’ claims at face value, but there’s nothing to be gained from turning business away and saying you’re sold out when in fact you aren’t. As you might expect from the weather – and November was broadly a windy month – indoor businesses like exit games do particularly well at this time of year, and at least five different sites have pushed on considerably from levels that might be considered “ticking on respectably” to levels that might be considered “ticking on well”. Excellent news!

With all this in mind, this site makes its best estimate that the number of people who have played at least one exit game in the UK or Ireland, at any point in time up to the end of November 2015, is 440,000. (This estimate is quoted to the nearest 10,000, but the site would not like to claim more confidence than “between 180,000 and 1,100,000”.) As ever, if someone plays more than one game at the same site, this figure still only counts them once, and this number is only really meaningful in the context of this site’s previous estimates. The other usual caveat is that this figure may exclude data from locations about which this site is ignorant – and, as ever, this site keeps discovering new locations that perhaps it might have found out about earlier!