Room 25 and Season 2 Board Game Reviews:
I love paranoia movies and one of my favourites in this genre has to be The Cube. I watched The Cube one Sunday afternoon with a friend. The sheer paranoia and claustrophobia of the film were so intense the movie has stuck in my head ever since. When I got the chance to play Room-25 I was more than surprised I experienced the same feeling that Sunday afternoon year’s earlier.
Room 25 is a programming game by designer François Rouzé where you compete as a prisoner in a futuristic institution that pits the inhabitants against life-threatening challenges for the opportunity to win their freedom. The base game plays 1-6 with the expansion Season 2 increasing the player count to 8. Room 25 has multiple modes of play including Suspicion Mode, Team Mode, Cooperation Mode, Competition Mode, and Solo Mode each with their own rules and victory conditions. With such variety the game provides a great deal of incentive to keep bringing it back to the table.
Set-Up and Game Play
Setting the game up is quite easy. Each player is provided with a figurine for moving through the complex. Movements and actions for your character will be programmed using four small tiles. Two actions are selected at the start of each turn and then all players take turns activating their first action. This means that the board state can completely change and ruin plans before your second action is provided with the chance to resolve. To manage this effectively you will need to consider what every person on the board is trying to achieve and consider their needs before finalising plans.
To help track turns order and actions there is a clever turn board. Each player puts a token for their character along the board. After each round, the first player token is placed at the end of the cue and a new first player is indicated. The full effect of the turn player board is same as if players just took turns anti-clockwise around the table. However, this board provides a great heuristic advantage. It clearly marks which characters you need to consider when programming your actions and allows you to think turns ahead. It also gives meaningful information that helps players determine how far into the game they have gone and how many turns are left. Because of this visual representation, it makes strategic decisions better.
The board is a series of tiles that represent different rooms in the complex. The Control room is where all the players start. It goes at the centre of a 5x5 square of room tiles. The tiles are colour coded to indicate their threat level; green is non-threatening, yellow has some risk or difficulty associated with it, red is extreme with one or two able to outright kill your character. The booklets provide a verity of set up scenarios that are ultimately randomised from turn 1. This means that even if you play the same scenario multiple times each play will be unique. All tiles except the Control Room start face down and are only turn up when you use the look action or enter the room. When you enter a room any room effects are immediately applied. This means that half of the game is discovering the layout of the complex. This hidden information not only means having to think through your movement more carefully but it can result in having to take some intense risks.
When I first opened the base game I will admit that I was not wowed by the components. My main concern was that manipulating the tiles would be problematic. Despite a few fiddly moments, this proved less of a concern than I initially thought.
The base game offers vanilla characters with their styles and looks completely irrelevant. Each character has the same movements and the same abilities. Once again I considered that this would be a drawback, but again I was pleasantly surprised that I was so engrossed in the game and this proved to part of the challenge. That said, Season 2 does an amazing job of making each component eye-popping and adds some very clever theme and flavour to each character. Along with updated tiles and player pieces, each character has their own ability. This was great in its own right, but for me didn’t leave me thinking I would never go back to the original game. I would be quite happy playing both.
Being a cooperative game there would normally be concern over alpha gamers. The game avoids this with each person being expected to programme their actions secretively. However, this does not eliminate problems. Programming can lead to games that feel random and out of control. As you build some synergy you can also get those, “great minds think alike” moments. Alternatively, you can house rule some options for discussing choices, or just go full co-op and discuss everything openly. It’s your gaming experience, make it what you want. The semi-cop is another beast. There is the potential to play scenarios where one or two players defect or become guards. But this is part of the appeal of the game, that you get to craft the experience you want. The game has plenty of variety and flexibility to accommodate any level of gamer. For me, this meant falling in love with the solo adventure. I do not normally go for solo games, but this convinced me that there is enough going on to keep me engaged.
Ultimately, if you are the sort of person who likes puzzles, the question will come down to if you enjoy the theme. Again for me, it is a clear winner. The game starts at a frantic pace and amps up providing some really tough challenges. I like the feeling of being rats in a cage the game provides as well as the real threat of entering each room. François Rouzé has done well to design a game that consistently provides a genuine horror film experience as well as providing versatility in gameplay.
In brief, I loved the game and think this game performs well as a base game and is just amazing with the Season 2 expansion. The game is incredibly versatile offering a plethora of game options for almost any gamers who enjoys a bit of pressure in their gaming. A wonderful gaming experience.
If you manage to get the base game you can get Season 2 at our Sponsor The Big Game Theory.