How to REALLY Cover Your Tracks after Rigging an Election – Room: House of Pawns 4 – April 15, 2018

THE QUICK AND DIRTY

Play if… you’ve ever thought that our 2016 election had some, um, hidden agendas.

Avoid if… you hide political posts on your Facebook or Twitter feeds.


THE BASICS

Escape Artist DC:

Address: 720 I St SE, Washington, DC 20003(click address for Google Map)

Contact and Website: 301-502-2043
https://www.escapeartistdc.com

The Room

Description (from the company website): Not available on their website at the time of posting.

Difficulty (1-10): N/A

Time Limit: 60 minutes

Cost: $20 (for adults; $16 with Student ID)

Identifier: R4 (Episodes 1 and 2 have been retired)

Party Size: 3-10

Staging Area: Decent sized waiting area with plenty of things to keep you occupied while you wait. FYI, to access the site you’ll have to go up half a flight of stairs. Then, to get to the actual escape rooms, another flight of stairs.

Metro Access/Parking: Eastern Market is a few blocks away. We recommend that or Lyft/Uber unless you want to roll the dice on driving and finding street parking.


OUR EXPERIENCE

This is the video we took before we entered the room:

This is the video we took just after we completed the room:

Note: The ERG were given the opportunity to try out this room for free, with the understanding that we would continue to provide an honest review and follow the same process we’ve used on all of our other ratings.

Logistics:

Description of the room: It is shortly after the election and you are back in now candidate (Senator) O’Conner’s office. The room is essentially the same office you may have seen on previous occasions/episodes.

Understanding of the Mission: You have to search through the room to piece together what happened just prior to the election and what happened on Election Day. Find out who may have rigged the election (by taking money from foreign agents), which States committed voter fraud, and who the REAL President is!

Did We Escape: Yes

Time Remaining: 15:12 – currently 1st on leaderboard (and first team, at this point, to make it out within 45 minutes)

Our Suggested Party Size: We had 6 this time, which was perfect.

Did the room challenge the entire team? Yes

Members of our team (other than the ERG): Steph, Eric, Steph and Heather

Team Disturbed Friends (Steph, Jason, Eric, Mike, Steph, and Heather) took first place on the leaderboard and solved the room within 45 minutes!

Worth the time and money? Yes

Where to Eat/Drink Before/After:


OUR SCORING:

JASON SAYS: MIKE SAYS:
Overall Expectation (Summary)
In all honesty, I was a bit skeptical based on the way Episode 3 went. We racked our brains on that one, and I think it both mentally and physically hurt for us to complete Episode 3. So I was not totally thrilled about doing this one, but we brought in a larger team, six of us total, and expected to have a little easier of a time.

We weren’t expecting to be disappointed by the puzzles or story-line, we just expected it to be hard. I think that expectation hit it right on the money.

So, we found ourselves coming back to Escape Artist DC after Milind (the owner) invited us to come check out his new room, House of Pawns 4, which continues the storyline from House of Pawns 3 and House of Pawns 2 (we did not get to do House of Pawns).

We’ve had both a win and loss here on the previous two episodes, so we knew we were in for a tough room, but we figured that we’d take a few more members this time and see if some additional minds would help us solve the continuing drama of this evolving political thriller.

Story (Rating)
You’ve been absolved of your crimes from the last episode and have now set up a fund for your late friend Kumar (now he can have all the White Castle he wants… oh wait… wrong Kumar).

Additionally, you’re running for President! Of course, there are some issues with campaign funds (nothing new) and you need to figure out what’s been going on with this campaign of yours.

I’m totally not doing this story any justice. It’s my favorite of the 3 we’ve played though (episodes 2-4).

Rating: 8/10

You find yourself back in Senator O’Conner’s office, who was involved in a scandal in Episode 3. After an investigation, the good Senator was absolved of his crimes and set up a foundation for his murdered friend, Dr. Kumar.

Now, Senator O’Conner is back in business and has decided to become presidential candidate O’Conner to run against McDonald Stump.

However, as always, elections aren’t always what they seem…

Rating: 8/10

Mission (Rating)
Multiple objectives! Woohoo!

Someone in your campaign staff has been taking donations from someone they shouldn’t, so finding the corrupt member of your campaign is one objective.

Also, there was voter fraud in 2 states; find which two.

Lastly, find out who was the actual winner of the election.

Rating: 10/10

You have an hour in the Senator’s office to find evidence that was recently uncovered about the election.

You have to:

  • Find out who in one of the campaigns was taking illegal campaign contributions from a foreign state,
  • Figure out what states committed voter fraud,
  • Who the winner of the election was? Was it McDonald Stump or Senator O’Conner?

The mission briefing you are given is pretty clear, and I liked that we had to find out multiple objectives, and it was pretty cool how, um, art imitates life.

Rating: 9/10

Puzzle Diversity (Rating)
One of the things we always talk about at Escape Artist DC is the lack of actual locks in the rooms. There has always been a safe in this series, and that has returned. But there were no other locks that I can recall in the room. That was one thing that everyone commented on.

Coming up with puzzles that fit the mission objectives must have been a chore, but I think they were ingenious. The one used for counting votes was awesome, if not a little tedious. But hey that’s counting votes.

The clues that led to being able to find who the donations were coming from were pretty cool and kept us on our toes (for me at least; I was running around the room, and it’s a small room).

(Mike: if there’s no locks, should I be rating this higher or lower…? Lol)

I think my favorite puzzle, however, was the combination of wordplay and the map. I will say nothing more however you’ll understand when you play it. Just keep your eyes open for it.

Rating: 10/10

One of the things that I like about Escape Artist DC is that it doesn’t rely on actual locks to be solved to facilitate the flow of the room (more later).

In this room, there was really only one thing that was locked and it was the final part of the room just before you get out.

Other than that, we saw some different takes on some of the puzzles we saw in the previous episodes (not the exact same things, but new puzzles based on the same idea).

I liked the one puzzle a lot, which was a spin on an old board game, and there are some brain teasers that an editor would be really good at working on. If you’re good with directions, you’ll also find something cool to work on as well.

Other than that, there was a pretty cool new puzzle that we saw here (and in the second room we did that day)… well, maybe not a puzzle but a way of delivering the directions on how to solve the puzzle.

Rating: 9/10

Puzzle Complexity (Rating)
Compared to episodes two and three, this one was cake. I don’t know if it was because we had twice as many people as last time or that it was earlier in the day and we were *expecting* multiple rooms (though this was the first of the two we were doing), but everything flowed, everyone clicked, and we had only minor stumbling points, from what I can recall.

We may not have caught on to all of the subtleties and nuances of the puzzles, as there were plenty, so Milind gave us a nudge here and there. Those subtleties were, in several instances, the one thing for specific puzzles that we missed that would have made solving them easier, but we were always on the right track regardless. Nonetheless, we were able to overcome our miss-steps and solve everything.

I wouldn’t call this one of the harder rooms at Escape Artist DC, but it was definitely fun. Puzzles we’re all over the place (in terms of difficulty) and there was some interesting tech this time around (one of which was finicky and he had to come help us out with it, but we solved it correctly).

Rating: 6/10

[For the record, Mike’s last point there about just trying out the combination is false. I did not just “try” a combination; it was simple logic and combinatoric deciphering.]

We failed the last episode, so I think we were expecting the room to be a bit on par with the complexity we saw in the last room (but that could have also been a failure due to it being our third room of the day and that we had two people with injuries, so we weren’t all at the top of our game). We learned last time about trying to do the room with only 3 people, and took 4 others with us this time (so, for you math whizzes… that’s 6 in total, including the Escape Room Guys). The room allows up to 10, which may be too easy if everyone has done rooms before, so we felt that 6 was a good number for our team.

I wouldn’t say that all of the puzzles were really complex (I didn’t even get to see some of them until after we finished the room because a few were solved really quickly). But, this location really does make you think about each and every thing in the room and how it could be used in solving your mission objectives.

I would say that the entire team was engaged (maybe not 100% challenged throughout the whole 45 minutes we were in there), but there was a good range of easy and not-so-easy puzzles to solve, and I do like when puzzles allow more than one person to work on them (so we saw some of those too).

There was one point where we had to stand back for a minute and talk about the solution to a puzzle because there were two potential options and doing too many wrong guesses would have pushed us close to not solving the room. I guess that I was too cautious about wanting to talk it out because my team just ended up trying one of the potential solutions anyway LOL I’m not mad because it allowed us to complete the room within 45 minutes and take the top spot on the leaderboard.

[Counter to Jason’s last comment: I was not involved in doing a lot of that puzzle, and I was only asking how they came up with the solution. The way it was initially described, there could have been 6 potential solutions, which could have locked us out. In actuality, there were only two solutions, which means that it was one or the other. I stand by my comment.]

Rating: 7/10

Flow/Cohesiveness/Uniqueness (Rating)
One of the greatest things about the House of Pawns series at Escape Artist DC is the way the room and it’s puzzles/story all combine to make an experience. Nothing can be solved on it’s own after the first one or two puzzles. Everything follows plot lines and progresses the story of the room. While there are multiple objectives, and multiple paths, everything converges the way an escape room should for the final payoff in the end. That’s my favorite thing about this series.

Everything is well thought out, from the names of the people (in this episode at least) to the way the puzzles combine different elements of previous puzzles within the room. That may not make any sense right now as you read this, however if you were to go do the room, and I recommend you do, you’ll understand almost immediately.

Rating: 9/10

This location really does work hard at making the entire experience very cohesive… everything fitting to the theme/story or the mission, and that’s not just for this one experience. This room continues a storyline from three other rooms, and that’s pretty hard to do to keep things unique and fresh.

Now, as I mentioned before, they do borrow some puzzle types from the previous rooms, but obviously the ways to solve them are very different.

Also with this location, they don’t depend on opening combo lock after combo lock to give your brain a bit of adrenaline (a reward system). Everything you need to do can be found in the room itself so it’s up to you to find out what objects in the room are related to the puzzles and then how they are related to each other. Examining one item at the start of the experience may seem like it doesn’t fit in, but once you find something else, then possibly those two things are related after all. The room is very well designed and makes you keep guessing as to what goes with what and what you actually need to find.

Finally, we saw some unique things here… one as a delivery method for delivering the puzzle itself, so that was kinda cool to see (not so much as unique when we saw it in the next room we did).

I also like that the decor and design of the room does allow people to work all around the room, so you’re not all bunched up around one puzzle. This isn’t a linear room, until a point where you have to use the solutions from the mission points to actually get out. There was one point, however, were the solution could have had two potential solutions (and a penalty for too many wrong guesses), so I would say that a really clean flow would have given us the indication as to what order to do these.

Finally, we did see a very slight inconsistency with one of the puzzles, so we pointed it out to Milind to be adjusted. But, again, that’s why you play-test.

Rating: 8.5/10

Fun/Amusement (Summary)
As I said earlier, this was the most fun I had of the three episodes of House of Pawns that we escaped. There was a lot of back and forth, plenty of room searching, and several things that were both hidden and hidden in plain sight. All in all, a great experience, and a great way to (probably?) cap off the series. I don’t actually know if there is going to be in Episode 5.

Did I mention that we were the first team to escape in under 45 minutes? I say that because this room was originally rated as 45 minutes and nobody escaped. After moving it to 60 minutes, he had several successful attempts yet we were, as of the date of our escape, the only team to escape in under 45 minutes (and therefore #1 on the leaderboards).

I think this was my favorite episode of the House of Pawns series to date. It was a lot of fun and gave us some cool new experiences. It may not have been the most complex, but I think that’s also why I enjoyed this one more… too many complexities in a row does take away from the fun factor. I did go in expecting more of a mind-mixer, but it was a good mix for the experience.
Game Master (Summary)
Milind was our game master once again, and continued using the tablet on the wall for all aspects of the game. However, the app has been updated since our last Escape in his location and it has a smoother escapee experience.

I’m still not sure I’m a hundred percent happy with using a tablet for everything, but it’s definitely better than some of the other experiences with Game-master interaction that we have had.

 

Milind has an app that runs on a tablet that delivers hints/clues, your countdown, and your way of communicating with him.

It’s unique, but still has some clunkiness to it, but he’s right there in case anything goes wrong. I would say that using a phone would fit the theme better.

We really didn’t need to use it in this room.

How Helpful Were Any Clues Given, if any (Summary)
I don’t recall actually asking for a solid clue however we definitely asked for some clarifications as well as received several nudges from him throughout the hour. No actual hints, but we did have to ask him for clarification since two of the puzzles needed to be adjusted since the tech was being a bit bitchy.
RAGE Meter ERG (pronounced URG, as in “we should have known better”) Score
Nothing to report on this front. Again, my favorite of the three episodes.

Rating: 0/5

Nope… didn’t feel stupid here, so this is a big fat ZERO.

Rating: — FacePalms – 0/5

ESCAPE ROOM GUYS’ OVERALL SCORING: 8.45/10

This was a great way to continue the House of Pawns storyline. The overall experience was a lot of fun, and had some “true to life” examples of the current political climate in DC. We both believe that this was our favorite episode of the series so far, and look forward to a possible(?) episode 5.

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