Escape the Dark Castle – Review

Escape the Dark Castle – Review

Escape the Dark Castle has taken the tabletop gaming world by storm. Want to know what all the hype is about and whether the game is right for you? Read on to find out more!

You have just awoken to find yourself chained up, in a dark, confined space, with only a slither of light coming from a window. You’re a prisoner, held against your will, with no knowledge of what you have done or why you are there. All you can think of however is one thing. How to ESCAPE the Dark Castle!

How it all began

May 31st 2017 – Themeborne launch their Kickstarter campaign for Escape the Dark Castle. A cooperative card game with a focus on atmosphere and adventure, it looked to hark back to the fantasy classics of the 80s. The game delivers a storybook style experience, where players will make decisions and resolve them using a combination of dice and item cards. They will battle enemies, decide whether to venture down long corridors and find themselves trying to defeat foul beasts to escape their incarceration. It all looked incredibly promising.

Because of this, the campaign was met with great interest from the gaming world, funding itself within just 48 hours, a massive achievement for Themeborne. It was clear that there was massive support for this fantastic RPG style game.

How do you play?

The premise is simple. You have been locked away, deep in a castle dungeon. None of you are sure why you are there but know you have to get out. You and your motley crew find a way to escape and that is where you join the game. Each game is made up of 15 chapter cards, each with a unique event. This could be an enemy attempting to decapitate you. It could be a guard who has spotted you but can be easily persuaded. It could be a secret room with treasures to be had. Each play through will be different and you will meet a boss at the end of each game. Here, you will either succeed and escape, or you will meet your grisly demise within the Dark Castle.

That’s it! Its up to you to theme the game how you want! The theme and illustrations within the game are beautiful as well, which helps! It was no wonder then that the project was funded just two days after their go-live.

My experience

Unfortunately, I was late to the party. I had heard about the game and how successful it was, but I had not taken the time to look into what it had to offer. It wasn’t until Tabletop Gaming Live where I managed to experience the offerings of this game. I sat round a table with 3 other people I had never met before. We briefly exchanged greetings before we were thrust into the Dark Castle!

Almost immediately, we formed this bond. We were a group, trying our best to escape. A tight-knit clan ready to take on everything the castle threw at us. It brought us together and by the end, we felt like long lost friends.

Because of this, it made it even easier to play. The way in which you present the game is key, and thankfully, one of the co-creators was at hand to help us. Each card has to be read out to the group and the better the reading, the more intense and thematic the atmosphere gets! The more you put into this game, the more you get out, something I instantly fell in love with.

If you are unfamiliar with the RPG genre but want to try and find a way in, this is a fantastic start! You get a feel for what the game wants from you to give it that atmosphere. If you don’t put the effort in, the experience isn’t there, and that is what makes these games so good in my opinion. You have control over your enjoyment and engagement and you almost feel fulfilled after playing!


Alas, Escape the Dark Castle has stolen my heart! It’s simplicity, its theme and its engagement had me hooked from the outset and I am constantly returning to it and bringing it to the table on game nights.

Alongside this, expansions that are planned for release look to add a great deal more to the game and increase the already massive replayability value of the game.

Overall, this has become one of my standout games for 2018 and one to be enjoyed by many!

Tom Gorner

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