Tabletop Review- No Escape
Architectural design is an under-appreciated industry. Without proper design tenants lose valuable square footage to odd corners, closets and bathrooms are secondary considerations are too small for their proper purposes. Details the average Joe would miss become eye sores. But it’s even more important in space. Perhaps the architect forgot to properly add in enough escape pods leaving the crew No Escape.
No Escape is a competitive tile placement game where two to eight players race to get their astronaut off a destructing ship. However, each escape pod can only hold a single astronaut and there’s only one pod remaining. In this game. if you’re not first, you’re last.
The objective is to prevent your opponents from escaping the ship by placing new map tiles in their path making their route as long and winding as possible. With each new turn, the path will get harder and more treacherous.
Setup is quick and easy. No Escape includes two different starting tiles to be used depending on the player count. There are eight different character cards to choose from, each with its own color coded astronaut meeple to represent the position on the board. After player’s select their color, they are placed in the center of the starting tile. Lastly, each player is dealt three tiles that they will keep in their hand to be played on their turn.
Each round, players take their full turns in a clockwise order around the table. Turns have three parts to them. The first two involve playing tiles from player’s hands, and the third is movement.
Action tiles, if applicable, are played first and can only on can be played once per turn. They match the map tiles in size and tile back art so they can be held secretly. Each of these action tiles is designed to give the player a chance to turn the tide by rearranging the board. For example, Hallway Collapse lets players discard a tile from the board and replace it with a new one from their hand. If another player is ahead, why not replace their next tile with a dead end?
Should you be fortunate enough to have an abort tile, you can play that during any other player’s turn to interrupt an opposing player’s best laid plans. Using a card like Abort & Replace allows you to interrupt a player’s turn and immediately replace the path tile they just played with something else from your hand.
Once players have properly annoyed their opponents, they can play a map tile from their hand. These are the tiles that extend the escape routes of their opponents, only further annoying them. Each of theses tiles are the same size, but the paths on the tiles can be more segmented than others, requiring more movement to get passed. Some tiles will only add a single move to them while others will of the same size will delays players by another three or four spaces.
Lastly, players roll the two die on the table to determine how many of those spaces they will be moving forward along the path that’s been created for them.
The very structure of No Escape is a cruel take-that approach. It’s very easy for players to gang up on one another. But there are a few resources and special rooms that will give players advantages over the competition to help mitigate some of the mess.
Movement in No Escape is a bit different than one might expect. For a game that tasks players with out running one another, I was surprised to learn that players aren’t allowed to pass each other or occupy the same space. The only way to overtake another player is to spend one of three energy token that are provided to players during game setup. Spending an energy token powers up the player’s jetpack adding +1 to their movement roll, and allows them to fly over a player that would otherwise restrict their path. However, players must choose to spend their energy token before their movement roll. Depending on how far players are from one another, it’s quite possible that the player’s roll will be too low for it to have any effect and as energy tokens are a limited resource, conservative use is recommended.
But should you be unlucky enough to have consumed all of your energy tokens without escaping, hope is not lost. There’s a small selection of special rooms that can provide additional boosts to lucky players: Control Centers and Teleports. Both the Teleport rooms and Control center rooms come in yellow and white symbols which do slightly different things. When a player enters a room with a yellow Control Center icon on it, they can restore all of their consumed energy tokens. But if they are lucky enough to find a white Control Center, they can also place a new tile after restoring energy.
Teleport tiles allow players to jump from one to the other, an exceptionally useful tool when trying to jump from one path to another. Players can use white Teleport tiles to immediately move to any yellow Teleport tile on the board. In my experience, this is the best tool for subverting any dead ends opponents place in your way.
As much as I enjoyed the game, I have a lot of mixed feelings about the quality of the components themselves. My favorite pieces are the die which have a slightly marbled quality, an effect that the game creators admitted was a manufacturing error that ended up working in their favor. Otherwise, I have a lot of complaints.
Whether or not this was a common problem or it was just the copy I received, the punch board quality was a bit sub-par and I ran into an unpleasant amount of instances where the artwork on the tile backs tore. As a result, it became very easy to start identifying what tiles players had in their hands.
The ideas behind the design were solid, but execution is lacking. The meeples above are designed to be little astronauts with jetpacks, but the angles are all wrong. Leg widths are inconsistent and it looks like the meeples face forward, but their jetpacks are on the side? Also, the heads are oddly flat. I like that they OOMM Board Games was going for something different, but the final result just didn’t come together.
While my complaints about No Escape‘s appearance are numerous, I’m pleasantly surprised by the rest of the game. I personally despise take-that games as they can often devolve into kingmaking, social disagreements, or kingmaking based on social disagreements, but No Escape feels different. Rather than strategically targeting players and undoing their progress or forcing them to skip turns, the competition boils down to moving each other’s goals just a little bit farther away. Thanks to the amount of tools like energy tokens, action tiles, and teleportation, there are a lot of ways for player’s to mitigate what would otherwise have crushing impacts on their chances of success.
The expansion, No Escape Salvation, introduces two new gameplay modes and two optional expansions that can be added to the game to change the ruleset depending on how you want to play. There’s the addition of alien meeples to avoid, a cooperative mode, and androids. Each module greatly changes the overall experience and while I haven’t had the chance to enjoy them enough to properly review each of the modules, I wanted to briefly cover the new options it provides.
No Escape Salvation adds both Cooperative Mode and Rescue Mode which completely change the game objectives.
In Cooperative Mode, players work together to uncover portions of the code that will stop the ship’s self destruct process by collecting Mission Tokens, saving the entire team. Any time that a Control Center tile is drawn, it’s immediately placed on the board and a Mission Token on top of it. The team wins if they can successfully stop the self destruct sequence by collecting eight pieces of code (Mission Tokens) before the tile draw pile runs out.
In contrast, Rescue Mode is a unique competitive mode that puts players in the role of the pilot of a rescue shuttle. The ship you’ve docked at is loaded with survivors on a valuable research ship that need your help to escape. But it will be up to you whether you save the people, or the research. Each token you collect awards points and the pilot with the most points when the tile stack runs out is the winner.
No Escape Salvation also includes the Android and Alien expansions that can be added to the normal, Cooperative, or Rescue gameplay modes. In the Alien expansion, the first Teleport tile that appears will spawn an alien meeple on the ship that will chase after players and attempt to abduct them, temporarily removing them from the board and resetting their progress. Players can escape from the alien and return to the center Teleport space on the next turn, but they’ll have a long way to go to make up for lost ground.
Lastly, there’s the Android expansion which introduces Android Maze tiles. These are winding tiles at contain an android icon on them somewhere, but is not necessarily accessible from the other spaces on that tile. If you’re able to find your way to the android space, you can collect an Android token that can be spent at any time for extra boosts like refilling energy tokens, cancelling an abort action, or to change the direction that your meeple is going.
No Escape is without a doubt a simple party game, but it’s one that brings enough variation and just enough of a twist on a common idea that it brings something new to the literal table. It’s easy to learn, quick to play, and has a high player count making it a great game for a light evening of play. But it may be good to remind yourself of the old adage not to judge a book by its cover before looking too closely at the components.
2 to 8 players.
Very quick and easy to learn.
Very mixed bag. The best components were the result of an error.
No Escape feels like it’s best suited to be a social party game or a gateway game for people who are new to board games. It will be a while before I’m bored with the game, but I don’t anticipate playing it often.