This site refers to “one of the highlights of the year” reasonably frequently. We are lucky to live in a time when there are lots of highlights on the calendar. If I had to pick the two very highest of the highlights, they would be the online UK Puzzle Championships and the in-person DASH puzzle hunt. This site has written about DASH extensively in the past, but here’s the short version.
The ninth DASH puzzle hunt will happen in London from 10am on Saturday 6th May. DASH stands for “Different Areas, Same Hunt”; part of the attraction is that the same event will also be run in cities across the United States and Europe on the same day, so competition is somewhat global. This year’s line-up features 14 locations in the US and three in Europe (London, Enschede in the Netherlands and Vienna in Austria) and other locations might yet be added later; Denver and Portland are notable omissions to date.
In DASH, teams of typically 3-5 players solve maybe 8-9 puzzles as quickly as possible over the course of, perhaps, 5-8 hours. You walk (or take the tube) from puzzle location to location, enjoying the journey and hopefully the weather. The travel is not timed, so you can take whatever comfort breaks, meals and other pauses you like between puzzles, though there’s an overall time limit for practicality. The cost in London is, this year, £36 per team. Each team is required to bring a smartphone running iOS or a recent version of Android; much of the administration will be performed by an app called ClueKeeper. Bring your own pencils, scissors, tape, clipboards, lemonade, magic wands, marked decks of cards and so on.
DASH has historically tended to concentrate on word and picture puzzles, rather than logic puzzles, with a focus on pattern recognition and some codebreaking here and there along the way. Bet money on there being a metapuzzle to tie everything together at the end. The DASH style is to have an overarching story running through the event, though there aren’t many clues as to this year’s theme yet. Take a look at past years’ puzzles from DASHes 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2 and 1 to get a feel for the form and difficulty level.
DASH tries very hard to be accessible and family-friendly:
- It’s possible to register for the more difficult Expert Puzzles at the very start of the hunt, though clear guidance is given as to which level of difficulty will suit you best;
- It’s always possible to take hints on each puzzle if they’re required (indeed, the software keeps rolling hints along on a timed schedule even if you don’t ask for them) and there’s never a worse punishment than a missed scoring opportunity for not solving a puzzle;
- The puzzles are often designed so that everybody in the team should be able to contribute to each puzzle, because feeling “we solved this together between us” is fun;
- In practice, there really is an ethos of offering as many hints as are required in order to get people through as many puzzles as possible and making sure people are having fun at all times.
This year’s registration process has… rather crept up on me. Late on March 3rd, there was a note that registration would open in several cities on May 4th. Registration did indeed open at noon (Eastern US time, I think) on March 4th. About a dozen hours later, there appear to be 3 (three) slots remaining in London. Whooooaaaa. I’m not sure if this was just an initial wave of tickets with more to be released, or reflective of the capacity of the event, or something else. Suffice to say that if the hunt sounds exciting at all, you really need to get moving straight away in order to book your place.
More information will be posted at the London Twitter feed, or send questions to the London organisers. (If you’re less interested in playing and more interested in helping out, or if all the teams’ places have been filled, you can also volunteer to help, and maybe even playtest the puzzles if you’re really quick – so if the 6th May date doesn’t work for you, this might be your chance.)