At Second Telling Missions, we’ve observed a lot of escape room games since we opened. We’ve had everything from first time players to those who’ve played more than 50 games, and players from six months old (perhaps participant is a better word?) to perhaps 80 years. We think we’ve seen players try just about everything (though as soon as we think that, the next team will surprise us somehow). With this experience, we thought we might share some of our impressions on what helps a team play well. So here are our top ten tips for playing escape rooms, separated into sub-sections.
1. Look. Carefully. Take a good look around the room you’re in. You’ll sometimes be surprised to find puzzle components, clues, or locks in places you didn’t see from a cursory look at the room. It’s possible to take this too far, of course – that mark on the edge of the carpet may look like a letter, if you tilt your head at an angle and squint, but it isn’t. Probably.)
2. Speak. Often one member of a team will find something, or figure something out, without telling the other members of the team, and when this happens it can hamper progress.
3. Listen. Occasionally, players won’t listen to the solution ideas of their team mates, when those team mates are on the right track. This tip is two for the price of one: it also pays to listen carefully to a gamemaster when the gamemaster is giving hints.
Getting More Organised
4. Decide what’s out. In most escape room games, the general rule is that if you have used something once, you won’t use it again, and you can set it aside. Even when there might be things you’ll use again, you’ll usually have a good sense that something won’t be used again. When you’re confident something is out of the game, it might be a good idea to put it in a ‘used’ pile.
5. Remember what’s in. Players will sometimes set aside things that they haven’t yet used, and forget about them. When a little stuck, it’s a good idea to take stock of what hasn’t yet been used.
6. Think backwards. It can be useful, sometimes, to look at the things you are trying to open, and the deciding what the answer to a puzzle will look like. Are there four numbers on a combination lock? Where will you find four numbers? Are there some dials which allow the selection of colours? Where might those colours come from?
7. Split up. When playing a non-linear escape room game (where there are multiple puzzles to solve at once), your team can sometimes split up and do two things at once, saving some precious time.
8. Think laterally. Puzzles sometimes require a little bit of lateral thinking to arrive at a logic that might help solve them. Give any idea an airing for a few seconds, at least, but…
9. Get out of the rut. Players will sometimes develop a theory that they think might lead to an answer, and then get stuck in that rut when it doesn’t work out, trying ever-more-complex interpretations of the theory. At some point it is time to forget the theory and move onto another, or ask someone else on the team to have a go. Usually.
10. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Sometimes, despite the tips above, you’ll simply be stuck, and the best thing will be to ask for a hint. Don’t be afraid to – even the most experienced players know sometimes they’ll need a bit of help. (One caveat – some escape room games allow only a limited number of hints, or a penalize players for each hint they receive, perhaps taking some time off the clock. That might change the calculus of asking!)
Some teams will incorporate a range of these tips into a kind of system when playing escape rooms. For instance, they might all spend some time at the start, before trying to solve anything, taking a good look around the room, identifying locks and puzzle pieces. Throughout the game, they will be asking themselves what they haven’t used, and putting aside what they have. Such systems can be effective, but players should always remember tip zero: have fun!
Remember you can book our games here.