Looking forward to the 2017 Mind Sports Olympiad, including a Sudoku and Kenken contest

Mind Sports Olympiad medalsOK, I do a post like this one every year, but it’s better than there not being an event to post about. (This year, I’ll even remember to put the tags back in.) If it’s the week before the August Bank Holiday, it’s time for the annual Mind Sports Olympiad. This will be the twenty-first installment of the annual mental-games-and-skills-themed multi-sports festival. This year’s event started on Sunday 21th August and will be running until Monday 28th August and is held at JW3, the London Jewish cultural centre. (Accordingly, there is no play on the evening of Friday 25th or at all on Saturday 26th, being the Sabbath.) This is the first time that the traditionally vagabond festival has stayed in the same location for four years running.

Some people prefer to focus their efforts on a single mind sport at the highest level they can attain, others take a much broader view that it’s more fun to compete at many different games, and the Mind Sports Olympiad is a great place for those who take the second viewpoint. This web site has a lot of sympathy with the principle. By analogy, some people like only exit games, others only logic puzzle contests, others only cryptic crosswords or mechanical puzzles or geocaching or one of maybe a dozen other things; this site tends to believe that if you like one but haven’t been exposed to the others then it may well be that you turn out to enjoy the others as well.

The most immediately relevant event to readers of this site is the contest in sudoku and kenken (also known as calcudoku – think killer sudoku, but with other mathematical operations as well as addition) on the morning of Sunday 27th August, which this year has £140 of prize money provided by sponsors. However, there are contests in scores of other mind sports as well, plus an open play room with a well-stocked games library open each day. You might well recognise some of the attendees.

Neil Zussman has won the contest for the last two years and Mark Goodliffe won the contest for each of the last two years before that, so expect competition to be fierce – but if the event sounds interesting at all, you can read Mark’s write-up to get a better feel of what it’s like in practice.

Changing the subject a little, but only a little, I touched upon the Mind Sports Olympiad and the topic of getting puzzle events at wider mind sports festivals a few months back in a “How would we get puzzles at the Olympic Games?” post, touching upon hypothetical possible membership of the World Puzzle Federation within the International Mind Sports Association. With this in mind, I note that the IMSA recently put a new set of statues in place. Section 7.2 has a clear checklist of criteria to meet:

  • History – the IF shall be fully operating for a minimum of six years;
  • Universality – the IF must have at least 40 national federations on at least 4 continents and be not dependent on any specific language;
  • Practicing skilled competitions only – there may be no luck factor in determining the competition outcome;
  • Regularly held national, regional, and international competitions;
  • Well-established rules governing the practice of each sport and mechanism to ensure the application of the rules;
  • Clear and consistent criteria of the eligibility for competitions;
  • Compliance with the General Principle of the Olympic Charter and with the IOC Code of Ethics;
  • Compliance with the World Anti-Doping Agency anti-doping code;
  • Adoption of the principle of the arbitration of the Court of Arbitration of Sport (CAS).

There’s also a section 10 about potential “Associate Member” status, and I reckon that the WPF could take Associate Membership up almost straight away if it wanted to, not being too far from ticking all the boxes above. It’s fun to think about other mind sports which might or might not choose to apply; Scrabble is arguably the most obvious omission from the IMSA, possibly requiring some duplicate format to get around the “no luck factor” stipulation, but the “universality” criterion could be argued to have been directly aimed at the World English Language Scrabble® Players Association and its counterparts.

Section 10.4 of the IMSA statues reads An associate member shall contribute to the IMSA finance by payment of its annual dues and other charges as deemed necessary by the Executive Committee, and that perhaps might be the most convincing reason for the WPF not to join…!

Doctor Jones! Jones? Calling Doctor Jones: a DASH 9 recap

Mötley Clüe team photo at DASH 9This blog posts in fits and starts; DASH always inspires a series of posts, and they’re always great fun to write. If you couldn’t attend this year, here’s what you missed; maybe it might make you interested in taking part in a future year. If you played DASH elsewhere and were keen to know how your location’s interpretation of the puzzles differed from that of London, you can get a sense of it here too.

Spoiler warning: now that DASH 9 is over, it’s time to enter spoiler territory. Every previous DASH has had its puzzles posted online reasonably soon afterwards. If you didn’t play DASH, it would still be a lot of fun to get a group of your friends together and try the puzzles for yourself once they’re made available. This post is going to be fairly generic, avoiding the Aha! moments for each puzzle, but the comments may be more specific, and there’s a deliberately spoiler-y picture as well, so if you want to avoid spoilers, I’d recommend skipping this post. Everybody else, dig in using the “Continue Reading” button below. Continue reading

The annual DASH participation statistics post, after DASH 9

Bar chart showing improving performance over timeIf it’s a few days after DASH, it’s time for the annual participation statistics post! Please find below an updated version of a table which details the number of teams on the scoreboard for each city in each edition of the DASH puzzle hunt to date.

Location DASH 1 DASH 2 DASH 3 DASH 4 DASH 5 DASH 6 DASH 7 DASH 8 DASH 9
Albuquerque, NM 6 6+1 3+2+0 4+0+0
Atlanta, GA 5+7 8+5
Austin, TX 2 11 12 13+4 10+4+0 17+6+0 20+4 18+4
Bay Area, CA Y(SF)
Y(PA)
7(SR)
59(LA)
16(SR)
74(SM)
73(SF) 34+7(SF)
32+3(HMB)
53+17+0(SF)
39+5+0(C)
46+15+0(SF)
37+7+0(SJ)
48+10(SF)
43+12(PA)
42+14(SF)
39+9(F)
Boston, MA Y 18 26 29 27+2 30+7+1 30+6+0 38+13 33+10
Chicago, IL 17 14 10+1 15+9+0 16+24+0 16+16 20+19
Davis, CA 16 15 16 13+7 8+7+1 13+7+0 12+8 15+5
Denver, CO 3+12+0 6+7
Enschede, NL 9+2
Houston, TX Y
London, UK 6+2 8+13+0 14+9+0 14+8 18+6
Los Angeles, CA Y 7 22 21 15+4 15+2+0
(Pasadena)
12+7+0
(Sta Monica)
19+17 16+6
Minneapolis, MN 8+7 7+4+0
(recast)
9+7+0 7+9 6+17
New York, NY 12 24 25 30+7 26+15+2 29+15+0 24+15 37+13
Portland, OR Y 6 17 19 19+2 11+7+0 10+10+0 12+5
Provo, UT 1+1
San Diego, CA 7
Seattle, WA Y 32 47 49 49+2 58+4+2 60+9+2 63+6 46+3
South Bend, IN 1
St. Louis, MO 2 2+3 7+8+1 8+10 7+11
Washington, DC Y 14 22 33 31+1 27+5+0 26+9+0 28+12 27+13
Number of locations 8 10 12 13 15 14 16 16 16

Here are some initial interpretations:

1) Errors and omissions excepted, with apologies in advance. The Minneapolis DASH 6 recast figures came from the organisers by private e-mail.

2) The numbers are drawn from the scoreboards and may not reflect teams that participate but do not make the scoreboard for whatever reason, or other infelicities. (On the other hand, it does include teams which do make the scoreboard even despite being listed as “not started”.) DASH 1 does not have a public scoreboard on the web site and thus “Y” represents the hunt having happened there with an unknown number of participants. When there are pluses, the number before the first plus reflects the number of teams on the experienced track, the number after the first plus reflects the number of teams on the “new players”/”novice” track (DASH 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9), and the number after the second plus reflects the number of teams on the junior track (DASH 6 and 7 only).

3) Interpret “Bay Area, CA” using the following key: SF = San Francisco (1, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9), PA = Palo Alto (1 and 8), SR = Santa Rosa (2,3), LA = Los Altos (2), SM = San Mateo (3), HMB = Half Moon Bay (5), C = Cupertino (6), SJ = San Jose (7), F = Fremont (9).

4) I’ve been thinking for a while about knocking single-entry cities (Houston in DASH 1, San Diego in DASH 3 and South Bend in DASH 4) out of their own individual rows of the table and into a single combined row, a bit like the Bay Area, CA row. This might make the table easier to deal with. Fingers very firmly crossed that Provo, UT and Enschede don’t prove similar one-offs.

5) The line-up of 16 locations participating in DASH 9 was not too different from that for DASH 8; we lost Denver and previously ever-present Portland, each hopefully for only a year, and instead gained Enschede in the Netherlands and Provo in Utah. Fingers crossed for the return of Albuquerque at some point, too, so I can know where to turn left. (See also this comment from DASH about there having been some interest, that didn’t come to fruition, from Manchester, Mexico City and Vienna.)

6) It’s not a competition to see whose DASH can be the largest; all DASH organiser teams are glorious, generous paragons of virtue, whether their event had one team or 70+, and the community at large thanks them all for the time and effort that they put in. The two-track solution proved its worth again, with each location seeing at least one team on each track.

7) Numbers do appear to be slightly down in several of the larger locations. It’s tempting to wonder to what extent this is a result of demand being down and to what extent this is a result of a lack of availability of supply. Could some of the locations, if they had wanted to, have held bigger events if they had had more GC available? Could some of the locations, if they had wanted to, have held bigger events if they had larger sites for their individual puzzles? Were there many teams who wanted to get the chance to play but didn’t get to play in practice? (As ever, there’s no reason why bigger necessarily has to be better and there’s no sense in deliberately trying to emphasise quantity over quality.)

8) I’m about to do something quite unfair, for the barriers to entry are so vastly different, but here’s a table comparing the growth of DASH with the growth of Puzzled Pint over the last few years, courtesy in part of data from Puzzled Pint’s Matt Cleinman:

Year DASH
locations
DASH
teams
Month Puzzled Pint
locations
Puzzled Pint
players/GCs
2012 13 300 April 2012 1 50
2013 15 295 + 53 April 2013 2 (N/A)
2014 14 307 + 101 April 2014 5 255
2015 16 333 + 151 April 2015 17 922
2016 16 363 + 159 April 2016 32 1461
2017 16 342 + 138 April 2017 39 1956

Did DASH 9 leave you wanting more?

whatsnext

The sidebar says it all; Ex Exit Games is a web site about Puzzle hunts, puzzle games, escape rooms and more, and it works out to be roughly in that order. It’s all pretty seasonal; many of the hunts take place once a year at similar times, and so do many of the puzzle competitions, so that’s when the posts most naturally tend to happen. Happily these days there are many excellent blogs that will tell you all the latest news and reviews about escape rooms, so I don’t feel bad about downplaying that aspect of things.

Perhaps you’re coming here for your first time, or one of your first times, as a result of DASH, or perhaps you couldn’t go but thought it sounded great; you don’t have to wait another year for DASH 10 to get your fill of puzzle fun, for there are plenty of exciting-looking things coming up:

  • The most distinctive and unusual sort of game coming up is probably Defenders of the Triforce put on by SCRAP’s Real Escape Game brand in mid-July. “This is not an escape room, it is more than that. Solve puzzles together with other teams, in a huge area, all within a set time limit. Interact with classic items and characters seen in The Legend of Zelda series like the Goron, Zora and Kokiri tribes.” I get the impression that it’ll be somewhere between a puzzle hunt and a night at Puzzled Pint. The game is on a tour of North America and Europe, and North American reviews suggest this is as good a SCRAP game as there ahs yet been, though that’s not quite as ringing an endorsement as it might sound. My post on the game has links to these reviews. 
     
  • A Door In A Wall have just started their latest public murder mystery game, Horses for Corpses, on Friday and it will be running for (at least) just over a month. Turn up at your assigned time at a location in Camden Market, with at least one smartphone per team; you then “have 2 hours and 40 minutes to explore the area and gather evidence: solving puzzles, interacting with characters and collecting clues“, before returning to make your accusation as to who the killer was. In some ways, this is as close to another DASH as you’ll get, dialing the story strongly up and the puzzles slightly down, and it may be closer to the canonical puzzle hunt experience than DASH actually can be. Ken from The Logic Escapes Me swears by them, and sometimes at them. 
     
  • Fire Hazard‘s stock in trade is High-Energy Immersive Games; top of their list is the five games they are running in July of their new design, Evasion, which asks “Can you search a room without leaving a trace? Can you defuse an explosive situation? Can you impersonate an enemy agent without blowing your cover? ((…)) You’ll race against the clock completing special missions, cracking cryptic messages, and keeping your cool while the enemy is in hot pursuit” and promises “added escape-room style puzzle-solving tasks“. Take a look at this interview for further details. Other than that, they still offer the high-speed City Dash in various locations around London (and, this Saturday, in Odense), and the low-speed Raiders of the Lost Archive that walks all around the Victoria and Albert Museum. There’s also a pop-up second Raiders game, Raiders: the Sunken Tea Set, that takes place on other levels of the museum – so if you enjoyed the original then a rare second helping may be on offer! 
     
  • I don’t thiiiink our friends at Treasure Hunts In London have anything lined up, but checking the meetup groups, there’s plenty going on elsewhere. The Cultural Treasure Hunt Meetup group are hosting a hunt around the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge on May 20th, and another one around the National Maritime Museum and Historic Greenwich on July 29th. The latter of these might seem a little ironic considering that’s where we were for DASH, but I get the impression that there may be less crossover between the two than you might expect. 
     
  • ((Edited to add:)) Rich Bragg from ClueKeeper points out that there are self-guided hunts available using the ClueKeeper platform, and some of these are based in London! Treasure Hunts in London have hunts in Chingford, in Brixton and around Spitalfields, and Urban Hunts have hunts around the City of London and in the Museum of London. Perhaps the puzzles will be easier than DASH, but this is by far the most authentic way to get some of the DASH experience whenever you want some. 
     
  • Further North, all are welcome at The Armchair Treasure Hunt Club‘s Spring one-day hunt in Hebden Bridge, also on May 20th, and the Manchester Puzzle Hunts Meetup have a report from their first event, with the implication that there should be a second event in about a month’s time; follow the Meetup group to see more details of when it’s going to happen. 
     
  • Slightly more speculatively, the Cambridge University Computing and Technology Society have organised a 24-hour in-person puzzle hunt in Cambridge for each of the last five years, and while nothing appears to have been announced yet, I would bet small money that the next one will happen on Friday 16th June running into Saturday 17th June – i.e., the last day of Full Term – and that the site’s Facebook page would be the best place to look for an announcement. 
     
  • The Manorcon board games convention takes place at one of the halls of the University of Leicester, and for each of the last sixteen years, there has been a puzzly Treasure Hunt on each of the Sunday afternoons. 
     
  • Before all those, there’s dear old Puzzled Pint in London – and now also in Manchester! – on the second Tuesday of each month, also known as “tomorrow”. The puzzles here come from a rather more DASH-like background, but are deliberately accessible to all and designed to provide an hour or two’s fun for a team enjoying food, drink and good company. 
     
  • It’s not clear when the next big online puzzle hunt is going to be, for the Melbourne University Maths and Statistics Society‘s event that normally takes place around this time of year isn’t happening in 2017, and the Puzzle Hunt Calendar doesn’t really have much either. On the other hand, if you like logic puzzle contests then the calendar looks busy. The World Puzzle Federation’s Grand Prix season’s contests take place every four weeks, with the next starting on Friday 19th May. The next contest is set by the US authors, who ran an event with a loose escape room theme last year. That’s not all from US authors, though; the US Puzzle Championship will be on Saturday 17th June. Look out (perhaps at @ukpuzzles on Twitter?) for news of the UK Puzzle Championship as well, with the last two having been in late June; if DASH is my in-person highlight of the year, the UKPC is my online contest highlight, so I’m really looking forward to it!

The DASH data, after DASH 9

D.A.S.H. logoThere’s no editorial here, and definitely no intent to suggest there is such a thing as an optimal set of values, but this might still be of interest to set some context for comparison purposes. The times refer to puzzles offered in the most popular (i.e. expert/experienced) track from DASH 5 onwards.

Edition Par time Fast* time Usual* time Teams Structure
2 5:00 1:51 4:32 173 8+M
3 6:00 2:57 6:42 298 8+M
4 6:00 1:53 4:48 300 8+M
5 4:30 2:14 5:32 295+N IB+7+M
6 5:50 2:33 5:10 307+N IB+8+M
7 5:45 3:38 6:55 333+N IB+8+M
8 6:40 2:33 4:35 363+N IB+7+M
9 6:05 1:55 3:54 341+N 9
* median,
top-11
* median,
middle-8/9
N = normal track M = metapuzzle,
IB = icebreaker

Data remains available for DASH 2, DASH 3, DASH 4, DASH 5, DASH 6, DASH 7, DASH 8 and DASH 9. Note that the usual time was calculated from the median time quoted for either the middle-scoring 8 or 9 teams, depending on whether the overall number of teams was even or odd, and may not represent every puzzle being solved without a hint or even every puzzle being solved at all. The times quoted do not include the par or solving times for the unscored co-operative icebreaker puzzle from DASH 5, 6, 7 and 8.

Tomorrow is DASH 9 day

DASH 9 logoTonight is DASHmas Eve! It’s the night of the year where a good night’s sleep is most valuable and yet simultaneously most unlikely, for tomorrow sees the DASH 9 puzzle hunt take place in London, in the Netherlands and across the United States.

I very much hope to see you there – and, if you are there, do say “Hi”! My team is the same as the one in the photo last year; I’m the guy with spectacles at back right, indicating that somebody’s hit a six. Every year, I threaten to announce my arrival at the start location with a rebel yell and a round of high-fives as if I were a pro basketballer arriving on court, and every year so far sense and good taste have prevailed. We’ll see if this is the year.

Tomorrow’s weather forecast is for a dry, cloudy day. For at least three of the last four years, the forecast on DASH day has been for a risk of rain which has manifested as the lightest of sprinklings at the very worst, so a dry forecast really has me worried. In comparison with the trends I drew from previous installments of DASH, the feeling I get in my water is for there to be an icebreaker, eight scored puzzles (mostly on the shortish side) and a metapuzzle, with a combined par time of six hours, a median solving time of five hours, a worldwide total of 385 teams on the expert track and 165 teams on the novice track.

I’ll predict that London will be narrowly overrepresented in the top third of the Expert standings, though that wasn’t actually true last year. Misremembered Apple and The Magpie have been showing their chops in puzzle hunts through the year, both being world class teams on their day, and I understand that Moore and Lesk have at least one strong addition this year. The joy of this is that there could well be an amazing team that comes from nowhere and storms the event, much like Misremembered Apple did. (There are some usual suspects here, who I’d love to see in a team some day.) I’m on a team that’s plenty strong, too, though my contribution will be the enthusiasm, the comic relief and maybe, just maybe, having seen something before years ago that the other team members haven’t.

Lastly, set your expectations for a come-down at the end of the day, once the final meta is over and you have to end your day-trip to Planet Puzzle. That said, why not stay around for a drink and a chat with your fellow solvers at the end, if you can? (Especially you brilliantly quick front-running teams, though I know you’re busy people who might not be able to hang around to let us catch up!)

Many thanks to all the people who have put together the hunt: the global co-ordinators, all those who helped playtest and test-solve and the London volunteers on the day. Really looking forward to what’s very likely to be a fantastic event!

Coming to London in July: Defenders of the Triforce

Real Escape Game's Defenders of the TriforceIt’s a cute coincidence that this is the second consecutive post about a fantasy-themed live action team puzzle game, but no more than coincidence; I only found out about this earlier today, with a tip of the hat to Thomas from London Escapists.

The very first post I ever made to dear old Exit Games UK touched briefly on the history of the genre, pointing to Japanese Wikipedia’s suggestion that the first known game, as a commercial enterprise, was run by a company known as SCRAP in Kyoto in July 2007. (Happily, a tenth anniversary celebration is planned.) SCRAP use the English-language brand name “Real Escape Game” for the games they have run, and licensed to be run, around the world, with games notably played in the US, in France and in Spain. They run Real Escape Rooms, which the rest of the world have followed somewhat closely in their format, but they also run Real Escape Games, where many teams participate at once, in a larger location, in parallel. Today the world discovered that one such game is coming to London for three days in July.

Real Escape Game are bringing their latest such game, Defenders of the Triforce, to London on July 14th, 15th and 16th! “This is not an escape room, it is more than that. Solve puzzles together with other teams, in a huge area, all within a set time limit. Interact with classic items and characters seen in The Legend of Zelda series like the Goron, Zora and Kokiri tribes.

Another page on the site says more: “There will be multiple teams during each game, all trying to escape. Players are encouraged to communicate frequently and divide tasks efficiently in order to solve all the puzzles before time runs out. If you are a person who likes answering riddles, solving complex puzzles, or are just looking for a good mental challenge, this event is for you! This is NOT a maze or traditional escape room! It is a fully hosted, story-based escape event designed for puzzle fans and fans of the Zelda franchise.

The game has been running in North America already, and it is suggested that the game does not particularly vary from location to location, so without wishing to prejudge the game, the reviews seem reasonably likely to be representative. You can find non-specialist perspectives from teams who played from many sources including Engadget and The Verge, or you may prefer more specialist perspectives from Room Escape Artist or Escape Room Tips. SCRAP’s games have tended to really split the audience, critically, but this is about as well-received as I can remember any of them being.

If you’re a fan of Zelda, all indications are for a recommendation to book without delay. If you’re not, don’t be put off, but set your expectations to something that’s somewhere between a room escape game and Puzzled Pint; take a look at the reviews and see whether it’s worth the money to you. Either way, many thanks to SCRAP for taking a chance on the UK and I dearly hope that there are many more events like this in the country in the months and years to come.

A big week coming up

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All sorts of things going on this week (and a bit). Narrowly on the US side of the border with Canada at Niagara Falls, Transworld’s Room Escape Conference and Tour runs from today until Wednesday, with the Room Escape Divas starting things off with a live recording of their podcast that starts very shortly after this post goes live. In Europe, we have to wait a whole week and a day for a counterpart conference of our own at Up The Game in the Netherlands. Both events have sensational-looking lineups of speakers; fingers firmly crossed that people share whatever parts of the content from each one that they can before too long.

If that’s too long to wait, there’s a recording of a webinar from Thursday held by luminary Professor Scott Nicholson, Gábor Papp from clueQuest and Bob Melkus from Fox In A Box. They discuss possible futures for the escape room industry using a scenario-building tool; this is a smart approach for dealing with unknown futures that I’ve seen used elsewhere, such as the UK National Grid’s Future Energy Scenarios. (The escape room webinar models a matrix with axes fad/ongoing and luxury/everyday; the National Grid models a matrix with axes of strong/weak economic development and strong/weak priority placed on a low-carbon future.)

On Saturday, the DASH 9 puzzle hunt takes place in London, as well as in the Netherlands and across the United States. Going to the DASH 9 web site, it’s interesting to compare the descriptions of the event from location to location. London players should arrive before 10:45am in preparation for an event starting at 11am, which is a blessed relief in comparison to other locations starting at 9am or 10am. Different locations set slightly different expectations as to how long teams will take to complete the day; some locations say “We expect that most teams will solve all puzzles in ~6 hours”, others quoted “6-7 hours” and London says “~7 hours”, though the London route appears to cover slightly more ground than most. (The London route also includes a DLR ride; I understand that 23 teams are booked for DASH here and predict that 22 will show on the day, of which 21 will want to sit in the front seats and “drive” the train when they get on the DLR.)

One interesting thing to note – and I don’t know whether I’m reading too much into things here – is that the Boston location says that there “DASH 9 will start at 10 AM on May 6th, and last until 6 PM.” DASH events have a reasonable time limit, including travel time as well as solving time, for practicality’s sake for the organisers putting the event on. Last year’s limit was ten hours, and our dawdly team used 9½ of them. (We weren’t outliers in this; out of the 13 other London teams on the tougher tier last year, six of them took even longer than us. It was a long route, and we’re all pretty leisurely.) I wonder whether the Boston location comment suggests that the overall time limit has been cut from ten hours last year to eight this year? If so, then we’ll all need to get our skates on…

Weather forecasts for London for Saturday are quite benign at this point. That’s the really worrying part!

People to meet, places to be

Meetup logoAs the previous post was about an exciting Meetup group in Manchester, it doesn’t take the greatest leap of imagination to try to find out what other exciting Meetup groups there might be out there. There are a couple of other interesting links at the end as well.

I mentioned the Escape Rooms and Puzzle Rooms in and around London meetup in a post about a year and a half ago, but it doesn’t seem to have been the most active group, having organised two escapes in the middle of last year and one in February. There’s more activity in the Escape Roomers London meetup group, whose members went to The Crystal Maze earlier in the month and have two escape rooms planned for May. London’s Secrets Society meetup takes a slightly wider purview, including escape rooms but also treasure hunts, “theme parks, pop-ups and the occasional unusual bar“.

We’ve covered the activities of the Treasure Hunts in London group quite a few times and probably the best way to keep up with them is to join their Meetup group; as well as the titular treasure hunts, they have a plan to play The Million Pound Heist at Enigma Quests on Saturday. However, they aren’t the only treasure hunt group in London; the Cultural Treasure Hunt Meetup of London has events every two or three months. The group has an impressive 800+ members so the hunts may well be popular. They’re free to play, though donations to the museums in which they take place are welcome. The group begat a sister group based around Cambridge.

Indeed, there’s no reason why London should have all the fun. As well as the Manchester group mentioned last time, Bristol is in on it; it has its own local escape room addicts group, which does not yet seem to have attracted a critical mass despite the efforts of the organiser, and also an exciting-sounding Rare Duck Club whose focus is more generally on live games – often of considerable, impressive scope.

A couple of other links unrelated to the Meetup site: Dean from Escape Review mentions Secret London Runs in passing; they have a variety of running tours, many of which involve several legs of running to interesting locations punctuated by encounters that go together to create a puzzle to solve. Many of their events are centred around 10 km runs, including breaks, so you’ll know whether that’s a surmountable barrier to entry or not. Lastly, Play Exit Games is currently running a giveaway competition with the prize being free tickets to Modern Fables.

Coming soon to, once more, London: Now Play This

"Now Play This" logoAll the exciting things seem to be happening in London – or, at least, I’m rather less aware of the exciting things happening outside London.

Now Play This describes itself as “a festival of experimental game design, showcasing some of the most interesting games and playful work being made around the UK and the world“. This was briefly touched on in a previous post, and a post back in 2015 discussed the first installment of the three to date.

So why cover it again? First, I loved the 2015 event; second, details have been announced of the games in the exhibition and the three days of special events. Lots of exciting possibilities and you’ll surely pick your own favourites, but I was drawn to “Of Plagues, Deceptions and Other Things”, being run on Sunday.

An international enemy plans to release a specimen of the Bubonic Plague in London and destroy the only antidote. While it is too late to retrieve the specimen, there is a unique opportunity to steal the antidote and save the thousands of lives currently at risk. You and your closest friends have been chosen to complete this dangerous, but heroic, quest. Success won’t be easy. There’s information to uncover, codes to find, places to be and people to trick. To make matters worse, the evil enemy have slyly sent four moles into the mix. Can you successfully retrieve the antidote, avoid detection and reveal the enemies hidden among you?

This game is put on by Block Stop, who have a variety of exciting-looking public and private games, but this seems to be one of their puzzliest. Tickets for Now Play This are now on sale; daily tickets are £8, or £6½ for concessions, and a three-day ticket carries a slight discount. Sadly I’ll be away busy on shift work and missing the event, as in 2016, but it’s likely to be packed to the brim with exciting ideas!