Escape the Room: Mystery at the Stargazer’s Manor is a game by Nicholas Cravotta and Rebecca Bleau, published by ThinkFun. It is for 3-8 players. In this game, players take on the role of guests inside the Stargazer’s Manor. They will have to work together to piece together clues and solve puzzles in order to solve the mystery and save the astronomer before it’s too late. If they can accomplish this task before time runs out, they will be declared the winners.
To begin, the host should make sure to have a certain array of supplies on hand, including a timer or clock and some paper and pencils. Of course most people have timers on their phone so this should work well. Once these have been set up on the table and all the players are ready, the 5 envelopes should be taken out of the box and spread out in the middle of the table. The Solution Wheel should also be placed within reach. The host should read the section in the rule book explaining what Escape the Room games are all about. The timer should then be set to the appropriate time limit determined by the number of players. The backstory should then be read aloud by the host. I find that explaining the objective helps as well. The host then reads Scene Card 1 and play begins.
Unfortunately, there’s not a whole lot that I can go over in the summary here to explain how the game plays without giving away much if not all of the story. So what I’ll do is explain how certain aspects work. Hopefully that will give you enough of a feel for the game without ruining it for you.
Each envelope has several different items inside it. These items might be used in the current room, or it could not be needed until later. You never know until you know. You know? The cover illustrations on the envelope are always in play, however the contents of the envelope aren’t revealed by opening it until that particular envelope’s puzzle has been solved. Puzzles are marked with a white symbol and four brightly colored squares. This let’s you know that there are hidden things that can be or need to be revealed. Once the players think they have the answer for a particular puzzle, the Solution Wheel is used to determine if they’re correct or not. The host will line up the colored rings on the wheel to the symbols that correspond with the players chosen solution. If they are correct, the symbol that matches the one on the outer white ring of the wheel will appear in 2 windows. If they’re incorrect, either there will be no symbols or the symbols won’t match. The players are then able to open the envelope and dump out the contents for the next puzzle. If the players are able to solve the puzzles and escape from the room, they will win. However there’s a bit more story to the game if the players are willing to do a little more work in unraveling the variety of puzzles included inside.
As with the overview, there’s not a whole lot that can be said here. What I’ll tell you is there are lots of different pieces included in the game. Each envelope is full color and really interesting to look at. Each one has lots of various parts and pieces inside. There are papers and cardboard pieces of different types. As you explore each envelope, you’ll see some really cool things. I’m fairly impressed with the variety of items. I think you will be too. The puzzles are quite interesting. The solution wheel is made of thin cardboard and is very brightly colored. There are lots of different symbols and such on the rings of the wheel. For me, it intrigued me just looking at it. It kind of reminded me of the old decoder rings from way back when. You’d use the ring to decode the secret messages on the back of a box of cereal or some such. That nostalgic feel was rather fun. The game is quite thematic and the pieces lend itself to work well with the theme. I can say that I enjoy looking at the pieces and puzzling them out. Impressive.
8 out of 10
Much like my overview earlier, the rulebook for this one is very vague on the actual game. It gives set up instructions and how to plan an event with the game. There’s sections on the backstory as well as how to use the solution wheel. Other than that, there’s not much there, but you wouldn’t want a lot there. It would ruin a lot of the surprises of playing the game. I will say that the designers included a website for some online hints when you get stumped and just don’t know what to do. I find that to be a nice little addition. The book doesn’t really have any pictures apart from the cover and a couple examples of how to use the solution wheel. I’m not complaining though, as it’s not really needed. Basically you get what you need with this book. That’s just fine with me.
8 out of 10
I’m not going to go into too much detail here, but I’ll say that the game is very thematic. You will feel like each puzzle you unravel lends itself to the story even more so. There will be certain times that you will be tempted to use the online hints. I never went that route, choosing instead to just keep at it until a solution revealed itself. Let me also recommend that you keep the envelopes closed until you finish the previous puzzle. Don’t go opening all the envelopes or you’ll really mess yourself over and ruin a lot of the surprises in store for you and your group. Another thing not to do is don’t just start spinning the solution wheel rings looking for a quick answer to the problems. This too will ruin the fun of the game. If you have to, use the online hints. However I find that if you just keep at it, you will figure it out. For me, the game reminds me of those old Murder Mystery Dinner Theaters that they used to have back years ago. I do find this to be much more enjoying then that though. Fans of those Dinner Theaters or games of deduction like Clue, might enjoy this game. I will say that once you’ve run through the game once, unless you wait several months to play it again, you’re going to remember the solutions and not enjoy yourself to much. That means that replayability is pretty much null and void. That is unless you enjoy hosting parties and watching your guests try to figure out the puzzles. If that’s something you enjoy, then you might find more than 1 play through inside the box. For this reason there are repacking instructions online to help you get everything back inside the right envelopes. In any event, it’s pretty cool even for a 1 play game.
8 out of 10
Escape the Room: Mystery at the Stargazer’s Manor is a puzzling game of exploration and deduction. The game is set to last anywhere from an hour and a half to 2 hours, depending on the number of players. I didn’t see where this would take quite that long unless you just really have problems solving some of the puzzles. If that’s the case, I’d suggest the online hints. The artwork is pretty interesting and the pieces are quite fun. I really enjoy playing it. Some of the puzzles are a little rough but with some really creative thinking you’ll be able to figure it out. The game is more or less a 1 play through game, unless you enjoy hosting for new players and watching them figure stuff out. The only replay option I’d say would be to give yourself plenty of time between plays, as in months. Even then though, I’d think there’d be some residual information still floating around inside your head so that the puzzles would be pretty easy to figure out again. My recommendation is that if you go into it realizing that you’re only gonna get one really good play through in, it’s pretty rewarding as you’ll put everything into maximizing your fun from it. Other than that, I’m not sure that I’d recommend it. However if you’re willing to throw on some period specific attire, light some candles and prepare the mood with some classical music or something of that nature. You will find that the game is worth the price of admission. It’s great fun.
8 out of 10
For more information about this and other games, please check out ThinkFun at their site.