Do you enjoy a good escape room but don’t necessarily want to go through the exhaustion of traveling hours to the only one you haven’t already solved? Exit: The Game (to give it its full name) is a card game that might resolve your problem-solving and puzzling cravings.
The best thing about Exit escape room games is that they’re self-contained. You don’t need your phone to look anything up or have an app running simultaneously. There’s an app that provides a timer and atmospheric music, but it’s by no means needed.
In this guide to Exit escape room games, I’ll briefly explain how to play and let you know some tips I’ve picked up along the way.
Let’s get into it.
Bottom Line Up Front
The aim of an Exit card game is to solve a series of puzzles and ‘escape’. Each puzzle unlocks further clues and riddles and allows the players to progress through the story.
Every game starts with the same premise: you and your friends are locked in an imaginary room and have to solve puzzles to be able to escape. Various difficulties are shown on the box, varying from 1 to 5. Stay at 3 or below if it’s your first ever go.
Each box is a unique escape room-type game with a narrative to play either individually or as a team. I recommend a small group of around four. You’ll play them from your kitchen table or other similar location at a fraction of the cost of the in-person thing.
What’s in the Box?
While each Exit story is different and comes with a few extra game materials, some key components don’t change.
Every Exit box has an instruction manual, a decoder ring, and something to set the scene. There are also three sets of cards:
- Help cards (green backs)
- Answer cards (blue backs)
- Riddle cards (red backs)
You might also find some extra game materials, as mentioned. These vary depending on the specific Exit situation you’ve purchased.
Playing an Exit Game
Setting the Table Up
Keeping hold of everything in the box is essential, as some non-linear puzzles require previous elements.
I should also note that you will probably want the following when you play:
- A pen
- Some scissors when you play
You need these because you will have to fold, cut, and draw on some things to be able to solve certain clues.
You should also note when you start or use a stopwatch to see how long it takes. A ranking system uses the time taken to tell you how well you have done.
To set up the game, take the book and the decoder disc out and place them on the table. Then, sort the cards according to what’s written on the back (these are usually sorted already). Be sure to not look at the front sides while you do so!
As you look through the scene-setting book, you will likely spot one or two riddle cards with a red back and a letter. These cards will be your first clue; you then solve the relevant puzzle.
You may only look at the red cards you’re told you have. Do not look at the answer cards or the help cards (yet); leave the deck in order face down.
Entering a Code Using the Decoder Wheel
Each puzzle should lead you to a three-digit code. This is almost always three numbers.
The numbers in the code could come from anywhere. They might be associated with colors in an earlier puzzle, written out as whole words, or even roman numerals.
With each of these codes, no knowledge is assumed, so you may have to find a ‘key’ to a puzzle to be able to solve it. For example, you won’t need to know morse code – there will likely be a clue card that will help you translate any ‘morse code’ found.
You must enter your three-digit code on the decoder wheel under the matching puzzle symbol when you find it.
For example, turn the decoder disc so the star is on the outside if you are solving a puzzle associated with the star symbol. Next, turn the inside discs, so your three-digit code is directly underneath the star on the disc.
For example, say you were entering ‘1-2-3’ under the + puzzle. Hold the outside wheel at the ‘+’. Turn the next disc so that ‘1’ lines up underneath the ‘+’.
Turn the next circle so that the ‘2’ sits underneath the one, and then spin the central disc so that the ‘3’ is directly below the ‘2’. Now, read the corresponding answer card number (usually shown in blue) in the middle.
Using the Answer Cards
After doing this, a number will be revealed. Turn up the answer card of the same value from the answer cards deck. This is where the second check comes in.
If the code is correct, you should see a card with all the boxes that can be opened. If it’s wrong, there will be a card with an ‘X’ saying the code is incorrect.
If you get the card with the boxes on it, turn to the answer card next to the case you’re trying to open. This should reveal a story progression if you have got the code right.
If you’re wrong, you can always try again. Sometimes, it’s a case of reorganizing the numbers or checking to see if you have missed something. For instance, we usually miss something if the clue requires counting specific items.
Using the Help Cards
Help cards are there to be used – don’t let your pride get in the way of your enjoyment.
You might be able to solve a game using no cards at all, but like most puzzles, it takes a couple of goes to get your thinking lined up with the creator. Ever tried a crossword for the first time? The style is different for each writer. It’s the same with Exit games.
You can look up the corresponding clue card if you’re ever stuck on a puzzle. These have those same shapes on the back to show which puzzle they link to.
There are three for each puzzle, clearly marked on the back. The first card ensures you have everything you need for this particular one. The second has a hint to nudge you in the right direction. The third card has the solution, so if you are ever completely stuck, you can have a look.
Hopefully, if you need this card, it’ll make you say “Ohhhhh” rather than “What?!” If your response is the latter, blame the puzzle for being too complex.
Just remember, you’re playing for your own fun and satisfaction. There’s no shame in taking a clue card – just do what we do, and blame the poor wording of the puzzle!
Ending the Game and Scoring
You’ll gain more and more red riddle cards until you’ve unlocked everything and escaped.
As you progress through this puzzle game, more clues will be unlocked. You can typically tell when you’re close to the end if you have used most items (or everything) in the box. There will be one final answer card that tells you that you have escaped.
Now stop your stopwatch (if you’re timing it). We generally do this as soon as we turn over the card that shows we’ve escaped. Every second counts (if you’re competitive)!
Compare your time to the star system in the back of the booklet and write it down to ensure you have full bragging rights compared to your friends. You will score higher if you use fewer help cards, but don’t worry about that for your first one.
Available Exit Games
You’ll find the following puzzle games currently available from the Exit series.
You’ll find all the titles on the Thames and Kosmos website. You can generally save a couple of dollars on sites like Amazon.
Remember, there’s usually no point buying preowned. Once an Exit game has been played, it can’t be played again. Well, not unless someone’s been extremely careful.
The Abandoned Cabin
In The Abandoned Cabin, you take shelter in an old building after your car breaks down. But then you’re locked in! I’d recommend it for first-time Exit players.
The Secret Lab
The Secret Lab brings a storyline where you, a lab technician, are knocked out. After coming to, somebody has left puzzles to allow you to escape.
The Enchanted Forest
Think walking through the woods is a simple affair? Think again. The Enchanted Forest is a simple Exit game involving magical creatures. It’s great for kids and first-timers.
The Pharaoh’s Tomb
Who doesn’t like a Pharaoh’s tomb? This one is probably one of my favorite Exit games of them all.
The Forbidden Castle
Getting stuck in a medieval castle is either your dream or your nightmare. Either way, you’ll have to escape.
Dead Man on the Orient Express
Dead Man on the Orient Express combines an Exit storyline with a murder mystery. I promise you, it’s great. My friends and I all agree that it’s the best we’ve ever played. I highly recommend it!
The Sunken Treasure
In this Exit game, you get stuck in a shipwreck. I feel claustrophobic just thinking about it!
The Mysterious Museum
The Mysterious Museum follows on from The Sunken Treasure. You’ll get stuck in the museum displaying said treasure from the previous game. I recommend playing through that one first.
The Sinister Mansion
You and a series of other guests are invited to a house, where you’re all locked in. Solve the puzzles to escape from ‘the sinister mansion’.
The Polar Station
A mysterious black substance attaches to humans and alters their personality (or something). Complete the logic tests to prove you’re still human and escape before ‘the polar station’ is blown to smithereens.
The Forgotten Island
You survive a shipwreck and wash up on a ‘forgotten’ island. You’ll need to solve a series of puzzles to get home!
The House of Riddles
You, along with other detectives, are summoned to a house. You find yourself locked in an escape room-style area. How convenient!
The Haunted Rollercoaster
Somehow, by solving puzzles and riddles, you’ll escape from this scary theme park and haunted roller coaster.
The Stormy Flight
As the plane crew, you must keep the aircraft from crash landing by solving puzzles in The Stormy Flight.
Theft on the Mississippi
Who stole those documents? That’s what you’re looking to find out in this cleverly detailed Exit game, Theft on the Mississippi.
The Catacombs of Horror
In The Catacombs of Horror, your friend disappears in the mysterious tunnels beneath Paris. This is arguably the most challenging Exit game there is, and comes in two sections.
The Deserted Lighthouse
You seek shelter from a coastal storm in an old lighthouse. But there’s more than meets the eye. The Deserted Lighthouse comes with four puzzles that you’ll solve along the way.
The Sacred Temple
The Sacred Temple comes with a jigsaw puzzle. This one’s more complex, with layers of puzzles and riddles, as you try to save the professor and stop the treasure hunters!
The Cemetery of the Knight
Break into the ‘cemetery’ after the groundskeeper heads off to the pub. Rumor has it, there’s some kind of priceless artifact hidden somewhere within…
The Gate Between Worlds
The Gate Between Worlds continues the story of The Cemetery of the Knight. You’ll actually find the gate for which you found a map at the end of the other game.
Tips to Know in Advance
Here are a few tips I’ve learned over the many Exit games I’ve played.
- The biggest tip I can give you without giving too much away is to think about why clues are worded the way they are. If there are bits in italics, bold, or capitalized, there’s probably a reason.
- Use everything in the box – most of the time, you will need all the resources you have to hand. Keep the box close. You’ll sometimes find unexpected bits hidden in it or on it.
- Don’t overthink it – sometimes, we’ve done a puzzle and overcomplicated it ourselves. You might think a solution is too simple, but it’s worth a shot. Put it in the decoder anyway. This could save you lots of time and means you aren’t going around in circles. On more than one occasion, we spent 20 minutes finding out that our original ‘too-simple’ answer was correct. This leaves you frustrated rather than satisfied that you finally solved it.
- Feel free to cut up/fold/draw on the pieces! I absolutely understand the resistance you might feel to that, but it’s a game made to be played once. If unsure, you can always use the photocopier or your phone’s editing software to see if certain marks/cuts work, then try on the actual item.
- Keep in mind you usually are looking for a three-digit code. If you end up with four numbers or a double-digit figure (instead of a single digit), you need to double-check your work or take a completely new approach. I’ve found that three-digit codes tend to show themselves, becoming more evident the more Exit games you play.
Alternatives: Other Escape Room Board Games
You might also like the following escape room-style mysteries, available as board games or online.
Sacramento Escape Room (Enchambered) Online Puzzles
Escape Room Puzzles Online | Sacramento Escape Room
If you’ve never done an escape room before, this website has a few you can either do online with a friend or print off to solve at home for a relatively low cost.
This way, you don’t have the sometimes extortionate price of organizing a group and going to a physical one, only to be locked in a room and decide that you really don’t like it.
Echoes – Audio Mystery
echoes – The Audio Mystery Game (ravensburger.us)
These are stories split into audio fragments. The aim is to sort the cards into the correct order to determine what is happening with the story.
Unlock! follows a similar structure to Exit games, but they’re heavily dependent on the companion app.
Deckscape scenarios are basically simple, linear escape games, much like some of the more straightforward Exit stories. You may find them too simple to be overly engaging.
Exit: The Curse of Ophir
This Exit game is a downloadable app. While researching haunted houses, a writer has disappeared from Hotel Ophir, and you must find him.
Host Your Own Murder Mystery Game
We’ve recently started hosting our own murder mystery games (for special occasions – not every week or anything). Although we’ve been the planners, creating the stories rather than those taking part, we’ve found the whole experience really enjoyable. If you like escape rooms, murder mysteries aren’t too much of a jump.
Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective
Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective is a variable mystery-solving game. It’s intriguing, but I not as enjoyable as an Exit game. The main benefit is its replayability.
Box One (by Neil Patrick Harris)
Box One should be available from most retailers. Like the Sherlock Holmes game, it’s constantly evolving – every time you play, you’ll face different scenarios. If you’re into puzzle-solving, it’s well worth considering!
Pandemic is a cooperative board game (and expansions and standalone titles) where you’ll be responsible for preventing worldwide disease outbreaks! (How appropriate.)
The Forbidden franchise is a cooperative board game in which you’ll try to escape from various situations. We played Forbidden Desert first and loved it. It’s less about puzzles but more about cohesive, strategic thinking and risk management as a group.
Frequently Asked Questions
Question: Can you play an Exit game again?
Answer: Each game is designed to be played once and often involves cutting, tearing, folding, and drawing.
You could be really careful with each of the bits and do some photocopying shenanigans (like we’ve done). Still, either way, you’ll know the answers, so you can’t play again.
If you’ve saved all the pieces and cards, I recommend watching other friends and family play it instead. This can be even more enjoyable!
Question: What Exit Game is Recommended for Beginners?
Answer: If this is your first time playing an Exit game, I recommend Exit: The Abandoned Cabin. It’s simple to start with, with a difficulty rating of 3. It brings a bit of a challenge but feels balanced and fair. No aspects of it felt like they completely blindsided us.
Here’s the scene: you are traveling and stop in this cabin at night to rest. When morning comes, you find you have been locked in with no way to leave but to solve the puzzles presented. Although the theming could be better, and it’s a very basic scenario, it’s a perfect start to see if you enjoy this game style.
The level of challenge in this game is just right. The puzzles are challenging, but there’s a certain satisfaction when the solution is found.
Consider a more linear mystery if you are playing with a younger group. That is, one where you know you’re done with elements when a puzzle is solved, rather than keeping the cards/booklet to one side in case anything crops up again. Check out Exit: The Enchanted Forest.
Question: Is it boring doing an Exit escape room at home?
Answer: No! We really enjoy in-person escape rooms, but this is a comfortable, relaxed way to spend a rainy afternoon for a fraction of the cost. You don’t often get to escape from a Pharaoh’s tomb with a cup of tea in hand. What more could anyone wish for?
Exit games can be excellent team games. However, you may find yourself frustrated and lost on the first one you try, so feel free to use the help cards. Look at a different game if you don’t enjoy puzzles or riddles.
Getting through an Exit escape room game is designed to be a challenge. We feel great satisfaction after completing one – I hope you do too!
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