Modern board and card games encompass all kinds of things, from directly confrontational head to head games, to abstract puzzles and party games that can accommodate four or more players. Through this creative diversity, we also have access to an increasing number of cooperative adventure games, including a series that is subject to today’s review, Deckscape.
More specifically, I’ve been sent copies of Deckscape: The Mystery of Eldorado and Deckscape: Heist in Venice, which are two of the most popular games in the series. Each Deckscape game is an independent experience featuring about sixty cards, with a unique setting, art style and gameplay twist.
In The Mystery of Eldorado, the players act together as a single unit, none of whom have specific individual talents. In Heist in Venice, the players must choose the character that they wish to portray during the game, and in doing so they assume that character’s persona and their unique talents to boot.
Of course, the problem with reviewing games like those in the Deckscape series is the fact that in doing so, I run the risk of revealing spoilers, so I should say something about that. The pictures that I’ve used in this review, and what I’m going to write, will spoil only what you’ll see in the first five minutes or so of each game. I will talk about how I found each game by the end, but there won’t be any specific mention of the possible outcome(s).
Let’s start with The Mystery of Eldorado, which was the first of these two games that I played, and completed, with my children. I mention the inclusion of my kids because I think it’s important to know that whilst youngsters will struggle with almost all of the puzzles in Deckscape games, in my case, the kids really enjoyed working through the narrative with me and helping to make decisions.
The game gets off to a flying start, with the player literally leaving the Amazon jungle via aeroplane, only to find themselves having to bail out with barely a few meagre items to aid in their survival. The Deckscape is then explained — cards will almost always contain a bit of text, often pointing the players towards another card, or providing instructions on a puzzle before then asking the player to flip the card.
A scorecard is provided early in the game, and the intention here is that the players will time their run through the game, whilst also marking any “errors” they make with Z’s, which will penalise them at the end of the game. Whilst the first sample puzzle is incredibly easy, challenges in The Mystery of Eldorado ramp up quickly, with even the very next puzzle offering a much stiffer challenge.
Heist in Venice, I’d argue, is even harder, and whilst The Mystery of Eldorado has a somewhat child-friendly, Indiana Jones-style theme, Heist is a more adult-focussed take on Ocean’s Eleven. There’s no adult content as such, but the story is about a multi-faceted robbery, making it both more thematically complex and seemingly tougher at a gameplayer level. For starters, you’ll need to manage the multiple characters (and their abilities) to best effect if you want to win.
Despite consisting of only about sixty cards and lasting in the region of an hour or less each, both Deckscape games do feature multiple possible endings and a fair bit of replay value. If you want to focus solely on speed, for example, then your second or third run might skip entire sections of the game that you know to be “periphery” whilst completionists who miss some areas will enjoy exploring the parts of the game that they previously skipped past.
Given the cost versus quality, the fact that each box is just a little bigger than a traditional 52 card deck, and because there’s a lot of fun to be had in each adventure, I’ve little hesitation in recommending Deckscape. At the very least, based on The Mystery of Eldorado and Heist in Venice, I would say that players looking for a light escape room style adventure in their living room could do worse than dive into this series.
The Deckscape games are available in a variety of different shapes and forms for sub £13 a go, for instance, El Dorado is available over on Amazon.