15th Jun 2023 - Escape Plan

by RobinFri, 16 Jun (Updated at Fri, 16 Jun)

We were on the silver screen this week for a good old-fashioned heist movie. The Hollywood-style likeable criminal gang, doing a mixture of Hollywood things - playing it cool, keeping out of sight, or just shooting your way out, in our desperate attempts to get away with the loot in a nice enjoyable feature-length timeframe.

This was Escape Plan, which is a game by Vital Lacerda but feels more akin to the sandbox games like Western Legends and Merchants & Marauders, and not just in terms of the theme. Your aim is to get out of the city with as much cash as possible (while not being killed or arrested), and you do that by travelling around the city to different locations and performing location-specific actions there. So there's loads of sandboxiness in terms of your choice of where to go and what to do, but with the usual intricate Lacerda mechanics. For me it was a great combination.

I had not played this game before, but fortunately Dan and Dave had largely forgotten how to play it, so we started on an equal footing. We then proceeded, Hollywood-style, to carve out distinct personas for our respective bank robbers. The Good, The Bad and The Ugly? I was definitely the Bad: grabbing the cash and shooting my way out. I quickly worked my way up to the top of the Wanted ladder and finished shot-full of bullet holes - so in short, the same as what I normally do in Western Legends. Dave was the cool one, taking it easy, no unnecessary risks; and Dan was the big spender. The poker/gambling element of Western Legends isn't supposed to be included in this game; but he did visit the casino and end up running out of spending money.

With Dan thus thwarted, Dave and I were left to observe the balancing of this game on our way out. I took the "raise hell, get out quick" strategy, while Dave stuck around till the last chance and paid the costs for that. We gained our cash from completely different sources, but our final scores on opposite strategies were almost equal. Dave beat me by $8 out of over 500 each, and I was left to rue not spending half an hour mulling over all my tactical permutations before I got out.

Different strategies that can all lead to similar scores, so perfect balancing: for which Elsa and Pedro get a credit, being cited in the list of principle playtesters. But perhaps some compromise between the strategies would give an even better score? Maybe so, though Dan did not manage to find that ideal compromise on this occasion, and will have lost some sleep puzzling over where it all went wrong. The prevailing tip is: don't run out of spending money. But the best way to win is still a mystery. We'll have to play again, and I for one will look forward to it.

And, shock horror! We actually finished a Lacerda game within the quoted time range. Another unfathomable mystery. True, there were only 3 of us, and we took the maximum quoted 120 minutes, so not sure how we would have managed it with 5. But this game was definitely faster-flowing than some other Lacerda games, and should have a broader appeal, I think.

We finished so fast that downstairs they were just finishing El Dorado - though it turned out they'd actually played it twice; followed up by Flamme Rouge. Upstairs we had Ark Nova and another appearance for Darwin's Journey.

Some nice scientific themes there (to go with the race-for-the-loot themes). But, for all our fans out there in the Kansas Department of Education, we still provided balance of our own with a return visit for Jerusalem: Anno Domini. I love games like Escape Plan and Merchants & Marauders, that cast you in a role that you'd fancy trying out for a few hours; but this game casts you as a disciple at the Last Supper, which has never been on my bucket list. Probably my loss, though, as those who played the game seemed to think it was pretty good.