Being in the top 400 board games of all time on Board Game Geek I was excited to try out Escape The Curse of the Temple. Adding in the fact that I love cooperative games and speed games there was a lot going for Escape The Curse of the Temple. When I recently found the game for a couple dollars at a thrift store it was a pretty obvious decision to pick it up. So with all of the hype for the game, did the game live up to my expectations? While it is not perfect, Escape The Curse of the Temple is a chaotically fun cooperative dice adventure.
How to Play Escape The Curse of the Temple
These rules are for the base version of the game. Any expansion you use may change or add additional rules to what is listed below.
Place the starting tile in the middle of the table. Keep the exit tile away from the other tiles and shuffle the rest of the tiles. Take two random tiles from the shuffled tiles and add one to each side of the starting chamber. Take the top four shuffled tiles and mix them with the exit tile. Place these five tiles on the bottom of the stack of tiles.
Place a number of magic gems on the gem deposit based on the number of players:
- 1-2 players: 7 gems
- 3 players: 11 gems
- 4 players: 14 gems
- 5 players: 16 gems
Place two gems next to the gem deposit.
Each player chooses a color and takes the token and figure that match that color. The players keep the token in front of them to indicate their color and they place their figure on the starting chamber. Each player also takes five dice.
Insert the CD into a CD player and select the track that you want to play.
Rolling the Dice
Once the game has begun all of the players can begin rolling their dice. Players can keep rolling their dice and don’t have to take turns rolling them. Players can save or re-roll any of their dice as long as they don’t roll a black mask. Any black mask that is rolled becomes a cursed dice and cannot be rolled until the curse is broken.
In order to break a curse a golden mask has to be rolled. When a player rolls a golden mask they can break the curse on two dice owned by one player. Once the curse is broken the cursed dice can be rolled again. If a player is in a room with another player they can use the golden mask to break the curse on their own dice or they can use it to break the curse on the other player’s dice. The golden mask cannot be used to remove the curse from one dice from two different players.
Outside of the golden and black mask there are three other symbols. The adventurer, key and torch symbols can be used to perform different actions in the game.
In order to perform an action you must “use” symbols that you have rolled. Once a dice is used it must be rolled again the next time a player rolls their dice so the same symbol can’t be used a second time. In Escape The Curse of the Temple there are four different actions that you can use your dice to perform.
Enter A Chamber
In order to move between two chambers there must be an open passage between the two chambers. To move to another chamber a player has to use dice that match the symbols in the red frame on the chamber that they want to enter.
Discover A Chamber
If a player wants to add another chamber to the temple they need to be in a room with passageways that are not connected to another chamber. The player must use two adventurer symbols in order to add the chamber to the temple. The top card from the chamber draw pile is flipped over with the stairway entrance placed next to an open passage on the card that the player is currently on.
Activate Magic Gems
When a player or a group of players enter a room with a magic gem(s) on it they can try to activate the magic gem(s). In order to activate the magic gem the player or group of players must roll the number of symbols indicated next to the gem. If there are multiple players in the room, they can add their rolls together in order to get the needed number of symbols.
If the room features multiple gems, the players can attempt to match any of the three different options. When activating gems in these rooms the players are only able to activate one of the gems and cannot later activate a different gem. For example if the players activate the second gem, they can’t activate the third gem at a later time.
When one or more gems are activated the corresponding number of gems are removed from the gem deposit and added to the card where the gem(s) were activated.
Turn of Fate
If the players have too many cursed dice at a given time they can choose to perform the turn of fate action. The players will take one of the two gems next to the gem deposit and add it to the gem deposit. All of the players can then start rolling all of their cursed dice again.
During the game the CD will play a gong sound. When this sound plays all of the players must race back to the starting tile as quick as possible. If a player successfully gets back to the starting tile before the slamming door sound plays nothing happens. Any player that doesn’t get back to the starting chamber before the slamming door sound plays loses one of their dice for the rest of the game. After the slamming door sound plays, the players return to playing the game as normal.
End of Game
Near the end of the game a third gong sound will be played. This means that the end of the game is near. All of the players need to escape from the temple or everyone will lose the game. When the exit tile is added to the temple, players must head towards it in order to escape. When a player reaches the exit they must roll key symbols in order to escape. The number of keys that players have to roll is dependent on the number of gems left in the gem deposit. In order to escape each player individually has to roll one more key symbol than there are gems in the gem deposit. After a player has escaped they can give one of their dice to another player.
If all of the players successfully escape the temple before the temple collapsing sound is played, all of the players win the game.
If one of more players are unable to escape before the temple collapses though, all of the players lose the game.
My Thoughts on Escape The Curse of the Temple
I have already mentioned that I love cooperative and speed games. Escape The Curse of the Temple does a good job combining those two mechanics together along with a dice rolling mechanic in order to create a fun enjoyable game. While I am not a huge fan of dice rolling games, I like the mechanic in Escape The Curse of the Temple because with it being a speed game you can offset some of the luck of rolling the dice by making quick decisions and rolling the dice quick enough that you will eventually roll what you want/need to roll.
On the luck/strategy spectrum Escape The Curse of the Temple leans more towards the luck side. With any game that relies heavily on dice rolling, there is going to be a lot of luck involved. If you have good luck and roll well you should easily be able to win the game. If you roll poorly and roll a lot of black masks you will either end up wasting the other players’ time saving you or you can lose the game for the other players.
I would say there is strategy in Escape The Curse of the Temple but the game relies more on speed and luck. Most of the strategy involves figuring out the best way to move through the temple and figuring out how to work with the other players to maximize your rolls. With really good luck you might be able to win the game without good teamwork but you aren’t going to win most games without strong teamwork. While you might want to go off on your own in order to explore the temple quicker, you are better off moving together. First if all of the players move together it is much easier to activate the gems especially in multi-gem rooms. You also want to move together so players can help each other out when one player rolls a lot of black masks. This cooperative element is the area where I think Escape The Curse of the Temple shines the most.
As far as difficulty is concerned I would say that Escape The Curse of the Temple has a low to moderate difficulty. It only takes minutes to learn how to play the game since there are few rules in the game. Escape The Curse of the Temple can easily be picked up and enjoyed by people who play a lot of board games and people who rarely play board games. Most of the game’s difficulty comes from it taking a while to get a hang of the game. Unless you are lucky I don’t see most players winning the game in their first attempt. Escape The Curse of the Temple takes a couple games to fully understand how to approach the game to move fast enough to escape in time. With each game only being ten minutes long though not much is lost when you do inevitably lose the game.
As you get more familiar with the game you will continue to get better at the game. You will eventually get to the point where you should usually win the game outside of having terrible luck. When you reach this point you are going to need to increase the difficulty or the game might become pretty boring. The good news is that the difficulty is really easy to adjust. If you feel the game is becoming too easy, just add more gems to the gem deposit and the game will become more difficult.
One concern I do have for Escape The Curse of the Temple is replay value. Escape is a really fun game but I wonder how the game will fare when you get to the point where you are consistently winning the game. While I had a lot of fun with the game, after the third or fourth game, it became slightly repetitive as each game you are basically doing the same thing. This is the main reason why I see Escape The Curse of the Temple as more of a filler game to play for 20-30 minutes and then put away to play another day.
While the game may get repetitive after some time, Escape The Curse of the Temple has several expansions that add additional mechanics to the game which should extend its’ replay value. While I haven’t played any of the expansions yet, the ones I have looked at appear to add some unique new mechanics to the game which should add to the experience. If you are interested in the expansions I would probably recommend looking at picking up Escape The Curse of the Temple Big Box which includes most if not all of the expansions.
While there are a lot of things that I like about Escape The Curse of the Temple I can easily say that Escape The Curse of the Temple is not going to be for everyone. Escape The Curse of the Temple is a chaotic game. Players will be constantly rolling dice and having to keep track of several different things as they try to explore the temple and escape in time. You need to make really quick decisions since the game doesn’t give you a lot of leeway. With all of the chaos in the game I know that Escape The Curse of the Temple will not appeal to people who don’t like speed games where you have to make quick decisions.
Escape The Curse of the Temple is actually very tense/stressful depending on how you look at the game. The races to the exit and starting tile in particularly are exciting or stressful depending on your opinion of being rushed. This is actually one of the game’s greatest strengths or weaknesses depending on your opinion of speed games. If you like speed games you will love this part of Escape The Curse of the Temple but if you hate speed games you will dread this part of the game.
Escape The Curse of the Temple has some very nice components. The CD might feel like a gimmick at first but the CD adds atmosphere to the game. While the CD is not needed since you could just use the included timer, I personally would recommend using it since it makes the game more immersive. The other game components are really nice. The game’s artwork is really good and the cardboard tiles are made of thick durable cardboard. I really don’t have any complaints with Escape The Curse of the Temple’s components.
Should You Buy Escape The Curse of the Temple?
Escape The Curse of the Temple is a good game. While it relies quite a bit on luck, the game does a good job blending the speed, cooperative, and dice rolling mechanics to create a fun exciting experience. Escape is the type of game where the players really need to work well together in order to succeed. While I loved the tense/chaotic pace of the game, I acknowledge that it will be a turnoff for some players. The biggest issue I had with the game is that it gets a little repetitive at times where it is probably best to play two or three games and then put it away for another day.
If you hate speed games that get chaotic and don’t give you time to plan out your moves, Escape The Curse of the Temple is not going to be for you. People who like speed, cooperative, and dice games will probably get a lot of enjoyment out of the game though and should consider picking it up.