This will get a little circular, but it’ll make sense in the end. You go to an escape room facility to play an escape room, right? However, you can play board games that aim to bring the thrill of the escape room experience – and, being a board game, you can play it in a great many places. Board game cafes let you play board games that you don’t own. So you could go to a board game cafe, instead of an escape room, to play an escape room in a box rather than to play an escape room! Why would you? Well, the best escape room board games are at least as good as many escape rooms (see Real Escape Artist, The Logic Escapes Me and others…) and the price is very attractive – something like a third the price of a traditional escape room. It also has some appeal through novelty alone.
Ludorati is a board game cafe in Nottingham. It has a small private room called The Cube, for games played quietly away from the rest of the cafe. They offer Escape The Cube as one of the things that can happen there. “Welcome to Ludorati Café’s ‘Escape The Cube’ series of exciting live action team challenges, which takes the traditional Escape Room tasks into a different realm. We currently have over 100 innovative scenarios in design and the first six are now available to play.” Looking at the catalogue, you might recognise some of the games on offer, with slightly different names, as well-known escape room board games. I look forward to seeing what the other “over 100” minus 6 turn out to be in the fullness of time, and quite where they fall on the axis between escape room and escape room board game. Even if there’s nothing added to an escape room board game, the ability to do it in an environment well-suited to placing an emphasis on the hour time limit nature of the game might be particularly appropriate; you might be able to win an escape game board game, but could you do it… in the Cube?
I tend to think that escape room board games and board game cafes are a smart and natural sort of match. There’s always something of an argument about the value proposition of an escape room board game in that (barring exceptions) it can be expected to lose its capacity to surprise once you’ve seen all it has to offer, and thus can only really be played once per group. Accordingly, the chance to get to play such a game without having to buy it would appeal, and that is exactly the sort of game you might want to play at a board game cafe. Conversely, one might imagine that few copies of an escape room board game would get played more than ones situated at just such a cafe. In discussion, the issue of replayability of these games has been raised; several designs are only intended to be played once to the point where you are invited to alter the physical components as part of the play. I’m not quite sure how a board game cafe would cope with that, but it may just be a consequence of selecting the right games to offer. It’s not as if there aren’t many to choose from!
Clever plan, Ludorati. I look forward to seeing where you’re going with this one, and if others follow suit.