A while back I took a look at the board game Escape: The Curse of the Temple. I really enjoyed the game as it was an interesting combination of a dice rolling game, a cooperative game, and some speed elements thrown in as well. The game was well received and has had a number of expansions and even one spinoff created using the formula. Last year the game received another spinoff that intrigued me. Recently the roll and write genre has become quite popular and I would consider myself a pretty big fan as the genre does a good job adding interesting strategic decisions to a typical dice rolling game. Basically Escape Cooperative Roll & Write takes the gameplay from the original game and swaps out the speed element with a roll and write mechanic. Escape Cooperative Roll & Write does a good job remaining loyal to the original game while adding in its own twists which helps and hurts the game in some areas.
How to Play Escape Cooperative Roll & Write
- Place one adventure sheet in the middle of the table with the blue logo side face up (the other side is used for the variant games).
- The players will choose a difficulty level (easy, normal, hard). Between the number of players and the difficulty level chosen, you will circle a number on the Gem track which indicates how many gems you need to collect in order to win the game.
Number of Players 2 3 4 Easy 14 20 22 Medium 15 23 25 Hard 16 25 28
- Each player takes a temple sheet and places it in front of themselves with the side with orange right side face up. Each player will also take a pen/pencil, and an adventurer piece.
- Randomly choose who will be the start player. The start player will take the eight dice and will place the adventure sheet in front of them. The two remaining dice are returned to the box as they are only used in the variant games.
- Each player chooses a different side of the temple that they will start on. They will place their adventurer on their chosen side to indicate which side they will enter the temple on.
Playing the Game
The game is played over a number of rounds. Each round consists of each of the players having a chance to roll the dice. The number of rounds in the game depends on the number of players:
- 2 players – 8 rounds
- 3 players – 7 rounds
- 4 players – 6 rounds
When the start player takes their turn each round they will mark off the next space on the round tracker to keep track of the current round.
Each player’s turn consists of the following steps:
- Move Cursed Dice
- Roll Dice
- Explore the Temple
- Common Pool
- Treasure Maps
Move Cursed Dice
At the start of each turn, the dice sitting on each black mask spot on the adventure sheet are moved one space to the right. Dice that are moved off the sheet are added to the dice that the current player can roll on their turn.
The active player will roll the dice available to them two at a time. Any black mask symbols that are rolled will be moved to the furthest left black mask space on the adventure sheet.
After each roll the active player must choose which dice they would like to keep and which they will add to the common pool.
The player will keep rolling dice until they have rolled and chosen what to do with each of the dice.
Explore the Temple
The active player will now get to use the dice they kept to explore their temple sheet.
To move between spaces in the temple you must use two of your kept dice that match the symbols on the space that you want to move to. Players can only move to spaces that are connected to their current space (you cannot move diagonally). To begin the game, each player can choose to first move onto any of the spaces on their chosen side of the temple. Players can use bonus actions unlocked throughout the game to move onto spaces in addition to using the dice they kept (see bonus action section).
Players can move to multiple spaces on their turn if they have the appropriate symbols.
After moving onto a space, the player will get to take the associated action. This action is only performed the first time each player enters a space.
Each of these symbols indicate that you will place a circle on the next corresponding space on the adventure sheet. These will give you special actions that you can use to help you when rolling the dice or when moving through the temple.
The Joker symbol allows you to put a circle in the next free box in either the Reroll, Key, Torch, or Golden Mask sections of the adventure sheet.
When you activate a Gem, you will cross off the next available spot of the gem track on the adventure sheet.
Throughout the temple there are four sets of special chambers which are highlighted by having different colored backgrounds. If one player is in each of the two chambers of the same color at the same time, they will unlock the chamber. When you unlock these special chambers you will receive two gems. Two spaces will be crossed off the gem track. All of the players will then cross off the symbol for the corresponding special chamber as each chamber can only be unlocked once per game.
After performing a chamber action, you will cross off the symbol to indicate that you already used the action and can’t use it again.
Once the active player has finished using all of their kept dice, the remaining players take turns taking dice that they want to use from the common pool. Starting with the first player clockwise each player must take at least one dice. The max number of dice any player can take is two.
The players other than the active player will now use the dice they took from the common pool to cross off symbols from the treasure map section of their temple sheet. Players can only cross off symbols from one section of their sheet.
Note: This is based off of the German version of the rules as the English translation did not do a great job explaining the following rules. Once a player has crossed off all of the symbols on the left side of one of the sections, they will unlock the corresponding bonus action. The player can choose to take this action immediately and add a circle to the next open space on the corresponding bonus action track. The player otherwise can continue filling up the right side. Once they complete the right side they will get both the bonus action as well as a gem.
The current active player is the only player that can use the bonus actions. The bonus actions are shared between all of the players though. When a player chooses to use an action, they will cross off one of the circles in the corresponding section. If there are no circles not crossed off left in a section, that action cannot be used.
On each of the bonus action tracks there are highlighted spaces. Once you have unlocked enough of the corresponding actions based on the number of players, you will acquire a gem. You will cross off the next available space on the gem track.
Dash – When you use this action you can immediately move your adventurer into an adjacent space without having to use the corresponding symbols. If the chamber action from the space hasn’t been used yet, the player will take the corresponding action.
Heal – This action allows the player to take all of the dice from one of the black mask spaces on the adventure sheet and roll them along with the other dice.
Reroll – After rolling two dice, you can use this action to reroll the dice you just rolled. This can be used to prevent a black mask from being rolled.
Key – You can use this action to act as if you rolled another key.
Torch – You can use this action to act as if you rolled another torch.
Golden Mask – You can use this action to act as if you rolled another golden mask.
End of Game
The game can end in one of two ways.
If the players have collected enough gems and all of the players have reached the exit chamber (center space), the players have won the game.
The game otherwise ends when all of the rounds have been played. If either the players haven’t collected enough gems or one or more of the players haven’t made it to the exit, all of the players lose.
For the variant games, the adventure and temple sheets will be turned to the side where “Roll and Write” is red. The two extra dice are placed on the corresponding spot on the adventure sheet. Before starting the game the players will choose which of the three variants they will use.
Before rolling the dice like in the normal game, you will roll the two dice on the adventure sheet. After rolling them you will have to place them back onto the space on the sheet.
The active player and the player to their left must find a room on their sheets that match the symbols of the two dice that were rolled (in the correct order). Both of the players must choose one of the doorways for this room. All of the players will block off these doors on their sheets. Players cannot enter the room from the closed doorway for the rest of the game. Players cannot close the doorways that lead to the outside of the temple. If all of the matching doorways have already been closed, the players don’t have to close any doorways this turn.
If one or more of the dice show a black mask, the players don’t have to close doorways this turn. They will have to take one dice for each black mask from the dice that the player was going to roll this turn though and add them to the left most black mask space on the adventure sheet.
Joker Chamber Lottery
Before rolling the normal dice each turn, the two dice from the adventure sheet are rolled. These dice will be placed back onto the adventure sheet.
Whenever a player gets the joker action they will choose one of the two symbols on the dice on the adventure sheet for their bonus action instead of getting to choose like normal.
If they choose a key, torch, or golden mask they will get to put a circle in the next space in the corresponding section.
The green adventurer does not give the player any bonus action.
The black mask allows you to move all of the dice in the black mask section of the adventure sheet one space to the right.
Each time the players unlock one of the special chambers they can choose to either gain two gems, or they can add one of the extra dice from the adventure sheet to the dice pool for the rest of the game.
My Thoughts on Escape Cooperative Roll & Write
When a spinoff is created for a popular board game, there is always the question of how loyal to the original game it should be and how much should be changed to make the game different. Escape Cooperative Roll & Write is interesting as in some ways it is very similar to the original game, and yet it still has its own pretty distinct feel as well.
The basic premise of the game is pretty similar to the original game. Like the original game the players must work together to move around the temple collecting gems This is done through rolling symbols that match the spaces they want to move to. The ultimate goal is to collect a given number of gems and all make it out in time. Anyone who has played the original game should be able to jump into Escape Cooperative Roll & Write pretty quickly. The game utilizes the same symbols and the basic gameplay as the original game.
The main difference in the game comes from replacing the speed element of the original game with roll and write mechanics. Instead of having to roll dice and make decisions quickly, you have time to plan out what you want to do. While it might not seem like a huge difference, it actually changes the feel of the game quite a bit. The original game relied a lot on quick thinking and constantly moving to try and get as much done as you could in a limited amount of time. Escape Cooperative Roll & Write is much more methodical as players can take their time to plan out where they want to go and manage their symbols in order to accomplish their task. While you are mostly doing the same things in both games, this shift in being able to take your time does actual make the game feel like an almost completely different game.
Because of this I am not entirely sure how most people’s thoughts about the original game will translate to the spinoff. While I enjoyed Escape Cooperative Roll & Write and generally enjoy roll and writes as well, I just didn’t enjoy it as much as the original game. If the main reason you enjoy the original game is due to the speed element, you may not like the spinoff as much as you would think. This applies to people who didn’t like elements of the original game as well though. If you thought the concept of the original game was interesting but you didn’t like the speed element, I think you may prefer Escape Cooperative Roll & Write. Ultimately I found it kind of weird that despite keeping much of the same gameplay, one small change actually made the spinoff feel so much different.
With the comparisons to the original game out of the way, how does Escape Cooperative Roll & Write stack up against other roll and write games? I generally enjoyed the game and actually thought it played quite a bit different from the other roll and write games that I have played in the past. It has elements of a roll and move mixed with traditional dice games as well as roll and write games. The game does a good job translating the mechanics of the original game to work with the roll and write formula. I honestly don’t see how the original game could have been translated any better to the roll and write genre. The game feels like you are exploring a temple with the ability to take your time instead of having to rush through it as quickly as possible.
I think the game’s greatest strength is that it finds a great balance between accessibility and strategy. As it shares a lot in common with the original game, those familiar with it should be able to pick it up within a couple minutes. It will take longer for those that have never played the original game, but there isn’t anything about the game that is too difficult to understand. You basically just have to match symbols and try to gather enough gems before the last round. Those that only play simple mainstream games may take a while to adjust to some of the mechanics, but otherwise I don’t see the game being that hard to teach to new players.
Escape Cooperative Roll & Write is not the most strategic game, but in many ways I think it actually contains more strategy than the original game. Ultimately to be successful in the game the players need to work together in order to move through the temple collecting as many gems as possible. While you could play the game without a plan, I would highly recommend against it. Players needs to have a plan to create an efficient path through the temple as well as making sure players end up on the special chambers at the same time. While you need to be willing to adjust due to what you roll, you generally want to have an overall goal of where you want to go during your next turn and likely the one after that so you don’t waste dice rolls moving to a location that doesn’t get you closer to winning the game. A good strategy doesn’t guarantee that you will win, but a bad strategy or no strategy at all will likely significantly decrease your odds of success.
This mixture creates a game that gives players a sense of accomplishment when a plan comes to fruition while also not forcing players to overthink each move. I enjoyed Escape Cooperative Roll & Write and think it should appeal to fans of roll and write games that want an interesting take on the genre. I also thought it was really interesting to have a genuine cooperative roll and write game. The genre is generally pretty solitary as each player plays on their own board and then players compare their scores at the end. I thought it was quite refreshing the amount of player interaction in the game as you need to work together if you want any chance of winning.
Mostly I had two issues with the game that I believe are the main reasons why I didn’t think Escape Cooperative Roll & Write was as good as the original game.
The biggest issue is just the fact that the game relies on a lot of luck. While it has more strategy than the original game, I think the game also relies on more luck as well. In the original game you could re-roll dice as many times as you wanted if you couldn’t roll the symbols you wanted. This is not the case in Escape Cooperative Roll & Write as you are stuck with what you roll. If you roll well you will do really well in the game. If you roll poorly you have little chance of winning. You could have a good plan in place and even alternative options, but if you don’t roll the right symbols there is nothing that you can do. There is even a chance that you will have no dice to roll on your turn if they are all stuck on the black mask section of the adventure sheet. If luck is not on your side you could have turns where you can do literally nothing which will make it very hard to succeed. Outside of giving players more ways of manipulating their rolls, there really isn’t anything the game could have done to reduce the luck.
With the game’s pretty heavy reliance on luck I am kind of surprised that I also thought the game was too easy. I will preface this by saying that I only played with two players and we had a decent amount of luck on our side. That said, it wasn’t all that difficult to win the game. If we had worse luck it would have been harder, but we ended up gathering enough gems on just our first game to win on hard mode and it wasn’t all that close. I am guessing some of this had to deal with luck as we didn’t have to divert from our main plan all that often. Playing with two players probably helped as well since I think the game will be harder to beat with more players as you have more gems to collect and not as many options to obtain gems as the secret chambers can only be claimed once per game.
I still found the game to be on the easy side where if you are only playing with two players you will likely need to tweak the rules to make it more difficult. The good news is that the game has a number of ways to tweak the difficulty. First you could just require players to collect more gems in order to win. Finding the right balance might be a little hard, but it is an easy way to add more challenge to the game. Otherwise I would look into playing with the variant rules as they should add more challenge to the game as you will have more that you will have to deal with in order to win. The game is still fun even if it is pretty easy. To get the most out of the game though, I would probably recommend trying to find ways to make it a little more challenging.
Finally I want to quickly discuss the game’s components. For the most part they are pretty good. The dice are well made with engraved unique symbols. The game sheets are well designed and the game’s art style is good like the original game. The game comes with plenty of sheets as well so you should be able to play a lot of games before running out. The biggest complaint with the sheets is that I wish there was a little more variety as outside of the variant side being different than the main game, all of the sheets are exactly the same. A little variety in the designs of the temple would have added replayability to the game. The rulebook has a few areas where it could have been more clear as well. Otherwise the game comes in a small box that doesn’t waste a lot of space.
Should You Buy Escape Cooperative Roll & Write?
Ultimately I found Escape Cooperative Roll & Write to be pretty interesting. While the game shares a lot of elements with the original Escape, it actually plays quite a bit differently. The small change of swapping out the speed element for a roll and write mechanic actually had a bigger impact on the game than I thought. Instead of the game relying heavily on rolling and acting quickly, Escape Cooperative Roll & Write relies considerably more on creating a well thought out plan of how to move through the temple. This makes strategy actually play a pretty big role in the game. This combined with the game being pretty easy to play makes for a game that is pretty fun that the whole family can enjoy. The game does rely on a lot of luck though, so if luck is not on your side you won’t win. I also found the game to be pretty easy to win unless you have terrible luck. Especially with two players you may have to tweak the rules some to make it more challenging.
My recommendation for Escape Cooperative Roll & Write depends on a couple of factors as your opinion of the original game may not translate to the spinoff. If you generally don’t care for roll and write games or didn’t care for the original game’s premise (outside of the speed element), I don’t think Escape Cooperative Roll & Write will be for you. Those who enjoyed the original game and want a twist on the formula or fans of roll and write games that want something different, will likely enjoy Escape Cooperative Roll & Write and should consider picking it up.