Welcome to The Game Shelf!

After getting into the board game hobby at the end of 2014, we've decided to share our thoughts on the games we're collecting on our shelves. The collection has certainly expanded over the last few years and we've been making up for lost time!

Sometimes our opinions differ, so Amy will be posting reviews every Tuesday and Fi will post on Thursdays. We hope you enjoy reading some of our opinions on board games - especially those for two players.

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Wednesday 7 April 2021

The Game Shelf Reviews:- Escape Tales: Children of Wyrmwoods

Game: Escape Tales: Children of Wyrmwoods

Publisher: Board&Dice

Designer: Jakub Caban, Bartosz Idzikowski

Year: 2021

Escape Tales: Children of Wyrmwoods is the third in the Escape Tales series from publisher Board&Dice. These narrative driven escape room experiences are the most in depth tabletop escape room games we have found and their themes definitely speak more to an older gaming audience than a family one. Children of Wyrmwoods is best played over two sittings since its a long game, especially if you go out of your way to explore each and every puzzle

Children of Wyrmwoods takes inspiration from vintage fantasy for it's theme, presenting you with a rather underwhelming character to start with. Naturally things aren't going quite as well as he would like in his small rural community and he soon finds himself out in the wild with no understanding of his surroundings or how to survive. With a bit of ingenuity you can guide Gilbert from commoner to hero... or at least to the end of his journey, hero might not be on the cards!


Children of Wyrmwoods plays much like the other Escape Tales games, with a combination of cards, story books and app-driven content. In general you will have a set number of action tokens with which to explore a location. You use these by placing them on a map which tells you which paragraph of the story book to read. These paragraphs typically grant you a card in return which is usually part of a puzzle, but you do have to pay attention to your surroundings as plenty of locations are a waste of precious actions. Should you run out of action tokens you can choose to either rest or focus. These will both have different impacts on your stats, and may indeed have an effect on the story.

Once you have some puzzle cards you can use the app to help you. The app lets you look up puzzles by their associated symbols and presents you with an space to type your answer. Additionally you are free to click the buttons which let you know how many puzzle cards are needed (useful to confirm whether you are ready to solve the puzzle yet) or a series of hints up to and including the full answer. There's no getting stuck in this escape room, and no being judged on time taken or hints needed.

That's not to say that how you play doesn't matter. Gilbert's actions will change his stats as the game goes on, which in turn can change how the story evolves, on top of that there are many occasions where you as a player are given choices. How you behave, which routes you take and which puzzles you solve will all be accounted for selecting one of the games many endings.

Amy’s Final Thoughts
Children of Wyrmwoods reminded me why I love the Escape Tales games so much, the star of this game is the theme which is both immersive and helps tie together what might otherwise be a series of senseless puzzles. Of course this is an escape room, which means you can't enter a room without finding at least 3 different brain teasers, but this ties in well with the traditional fantasy tropes. All in all this presents an experience reminiscent of classic point and click games, especially with the new mechanic of combining two cards together to use them on each other. You can even combine them with Gilbert to find out what he thinks, though in our experience he rarely thinks much of use, I feel like this was a missed opportunity to add more hints to the game.
The story works great to provide a driving force behind your actions, particularly near the end of the game as your hero's journey comes to a close. The game is set up in three chapters, though the third chapter is an epilogue which is shorter and designed to be played just after chapter two. While this works well we did feel that the second play session, though full of great puzzles, was getting a little long. This resulted in us rushing the ending a little which may have resulted in us getting a slightly bad ending. We knew there was more we could have done, and having done so would likely have improved our ending somewhat, but even so the ending made sense and worked to tie things up in a bow.
The puzzles were generally of good quality and thanks to the apps system telling you which cards you need it was very rare we felt stuck. They require a good amount of problem solving in many disciplines, but as usual in an escape room you often end up with only 1 puzzle to solve, which can result in downtime as not everyone can view the cards at once in the detail needed. There were a couple of puzzles we encountered that didn't work quite as well, but considering the size of the game that made for an extremely good hit rate. Overall I think this is a return to form for the Escape Tales series, with the few minor issues being made up for by the consistently good puzzles, the great system and the wonderful story tying it all together. If you are a fan of escape rooms and have the stomach for a longer experience, or simply a fan of the old Kings Quest games you'll find something to love here.

Fi’s Final Thoughts
Escape Tales games are really the granddaddy of tabletop escape room experiences and the third in the series did not disappoint. You get so much content in each of these games, and, since it's non-destructive, you can even pass it onto a friend when you're done. The game is jam-packed with loads of puzzles of all different types and difficulties, and thankfully a bigger game with more adult themes doesn't always mean that the difficulty has been set really high - there's lots of puzzles that make me feel smart and very few that make me feel stupid. If you do struggle with the puzzles, the excellent app is also really good at guiding you through with a step-by-step hint system and tips that tell you how many cards you should be using to solve every puzzle. At the same time, you'll also need to pay attention to the story in order to do your very best in the game.
Narrative in board gaming is really not my thing, and this is one of the areas where Escape Tales does stand out from other escape room experiences - it's just a shame that it doesn't shine for me in that area. Amy tells me which cards to look for while she reads out story and I vaguely listen. The starts of chapters in particular had huge amounts of story and perhaps I should've listened, since it did seem to matter somewhat in the epilogue of the game! With that said, the theme here did make for a good game, even though a few passages of the story felt a bit lacking at times.

Besides all of the fantastic aspects that really stand out to me about the whole Escape tales series, the standout aspect of Children of Wyrmwoods was definitely the second chapter. Unlike most puzzles in this series and others, the whole chapter was one huge puzzle where you kept referring back to the same material to try and piece together aspects of different puzzles. It felt like a real escape room, rather than a series of discreet puzzles and we could've spent a lot more time with it.
That brings me to my final point, that this is a very, very long escape room. The rulebook recommends doing the introduction and Chapter 1 in a single sitting, followed by Chapter 2 and the Epilogue. I think we spent 2 hours on our first sitting and I felt like we explored most of the content there. After 2 hours in Chapter 2, there was obviously far more to explore, but at the same time we had achieved the criteria to move onto the Epilogue. Much like if you found the key to the exit in a physical escape room, you might just go ahead and use it, that's pretty much what we did, even though it seemed like we might get a pretty low scoring ending as a result. We did get what felt like a bad ending, but I don't have huge regrets because the ending was so obscure that I almost don't know if it was good or bad!

You Might Like...
  • Chapter Two of the story in particular is really immersive and perhaps the most escape room like a tabletop experience has ever felt to us.
  • The app is really user friendly.
  • There are some new mechanisms in the third game in the series and they integrate really well into the system.
You Might Not Like...
  • It's a little strange that you can be 'done' but you actually need to play for a lot longer to do well in terms of the game's outcome.
  • With so many puzzles, there were definitely a couple of duds for us - times where we completely understood the puzzle, but had to look up the answer anyway.

The Verdict
7/10 Escape Tales: Children of Wyrmwoods is our second favourite in the Escape Tales series, with The Awakening being at number one primarily because of how much it surprised us. The series weaves together narrative and escape room puzzles in a slick way like no other tabletop escape room series, so if story is your thing, this is the series for you. If puzzles are your thing, then Children of Wyrmwoods in particular also seems to blend the best ideas from Unlock, Exit and other series and serves you up countless puzzles - so many more than you might expect from other similar games. 

Escape Tales: Children of Wyrmwoods was a review copy kindly provided to us by Board&Dice.

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