Escape: The Curse of the Temple Review

Escape The Curse of the Temple board game in play

One of my biggest surprises in gaming recently has been Escape: The Curse of the Temple.

In Escape (I will probably be too lazy to add "The Curse of the Temple" throughout this post), you are a treasure seeker that is in a doomed temple.  The temple is collapsing, or exploding, or something like that, and you have to take magic gems and roll fancy combinations of dice in order to place the magic gems onto various enhanced tiles.  Or something.  I don't always pay attention to theme.  (Does it show?)  So, what this means in gameplay terms is that you and your friends win if you escape the temple.  In order to escape the temple, you have to find the exit and then roll a number of "keys" on your dice greater than the number of remaining gems.  To start the game, you have five dice and lots of gems - oh, and the exit also isn't exposed.  So, you will need to find the exit and also get rid of gems.  How do you do this?  By rolling dice.  Escape is real time (there is a soundtrack that plays while you are playing the game), and so you frantically roll dice and use them for different things.  To go to another room, you need a combination of dice; to explore, you need a combination of dice.  Certain rooms allow you to get rid of gems if you roll a certain combination of dice.  (And any time that you use a die for one of these things, it must be re-rolled before it can be used again.)  During the course of the game, there will be two times that you will have to return to your start spot within 30 seconds (indicated by a gong and a slamming door), or you will lose one of your dice.  If you successfully find the exit and every player escapes before time runs out, then you all win the game!  If time runs out and anyone is still in the temple, then you all lose.  (Cue sad music.)

So.  That sounds easy, right?  After all, I can roll the dice as many times as I want - where's the challenge?  My first pro is that one of the die faces is evil.  I don't know the term for it - but it is definitely evil.  Because, if you roll it, then your die is "locked" and cannot be rerolled.  Fortunately, there is another face of the die that allows you to unlock two "locked" dice.  And, if you are in the same room as another explorer, then you can unlock two of their dice.  So, a lot of the challenge of this game is ensuring that you roll the correct combination without locking yourself out.  (There is also an option to add a gem to the pile in order to unlock everyone's dice - this prevents you from losing because everyone just happened to roll poorly.  You can only do this twice per game, though.)

Escape: The Curse of the Temple board game meeples
Unlocking magic gems and heading for the door!
Now you may be asking, "but Josh - you like strategy games!  Where is the strategy??"  Well, though Escape is definitely on the lighter side of strategy, there are some crucial decisions that you have to make that will affect your outcome.  You have to decide how you are going to explore - are you going to explore as many rooms as you can as quickly as you can?  This will help find the exit, but it will make it very difficult to get back to the start tile when the gong sounds.  Also, when you explore, are you going to stay with other players?  Splitting up helps you cover ground, but staying together increases the total number of dice you can use when you reach a room that can absorb a magic gem.  Also, when you roll a lot of unlock faces, should you keep any of them?  Keeping them provides a nice "safety net" where you know that you won't get too many dice locked - but it is at the cost of using one less die (which functionally is very similar to that die being locked).  Whereas none of these are hard decisions, having to make them instantaneously adds to the challenge.

Finally, for pros, I will say this about Escape - it is a lot of fun!  Between throwing the dice frantically, yelling at each other to get help unlocking dice (only to realize that you're not in the same room and they can't unlock your dice anyway), desperately trying to get back to the start tile before the door slams, and hunting down the die that inevitably rolls off the table, Escape is incredibly engaging.  (It's also exhausting.)  You may leave a game of Escape deciding that the game isn't for you, and that you don't ever need to play it again - but I'd be impressed if while playing you weren't completely engrossed in attempting to make your way out of the temple before meeting your doom.

Escape Curse of the Temple curse tiles
Beware the curses from the included expansion
For my last two "final" pros, I will just say this - I also like the fact that I can teach Escape to just about anybody, and I am glad that there is an expansion that comes with the game (thus adding more replayability (also known as "difficulty")).

Though I really enjoy Escape, there is one major con that I have found with the game - it is very hard for my undiscerning ears to hear the different audio cues in the soundtrack.  The soundtrack provides a lot of ambient noise in order for you to really feel like you're trying to escape from a temple.  (Well, at least as much as you can feel that way while you have dice in your hands.)  Unfortunately, all of this ambient noise blends too well with the actual cues that you're supposed to hear.  I've had at least one time where I've just taught the game and, midway through playing, someone asked, "is that the gong?"  To which I had to reply, "I have no idea - but I think we all just lost a die."  Fortunately, there is a "quiet" soundtrack that only has the audio cues that you need to listen for.  Unfortunately, it is not included in the game itself (though you can find it here - I believe it is Soundtrack 3).  I have been told that if you use the quiet soundtrack often enough, then you will learn to pick up the cues and can switch back to the original soundtracks.  I have not bothered to try the originals again yet, but I may do so at some point.

Overall, I give Escape: The Curse of the Temple a 9.0/10.  I think that it is a really enjoyable game.  I don't know that I will play it all the time, but I think that it is a great addition to my collection that I will be able to bring out and play with a wide variety of friends.

If Escape sounds interesting, you might also check out Space Alert, Jab: Real Time Boxing, and Liar's Dice.


  1. This is a great game. I think you could burn out on it if you played it over and over, but, at the same time, it takes so much out of you that I don't think that's going to happen for most people. When I play this game, I get stressed (in a good way). It's gripping and I love it.

  2. The words you're looking for are "Black Masks" and "Golden Masks." The black masks are the dice you can't re-roll, the Gold masks are the dice you can use to re-roll Black Masks.