The “escape room” game genre has been flush over the last several years – Unlock!, Escape the Room, Escape Room: The Game, and Deckscape have all released multiple products. My personal favorite series, however, has been Exit: the Game, from Kosmos Games. Released in English in 2018, one of the more recent of entries in the ten-game series is Dead Man on the Orient Express.
An escape room board game seeks to recreate aspects of an actual Escape Room – players work together to examine components, find clues, and solve an unfolding series of puzzles in order to emerge victorious. Many early escape room games (including early Exit star The Abandoned Cabin) thematically focused on escaping – sometimes just a room, sometimes a manor, laboratory, or temple. As the genre has matured, however, more of the games have conceptually broadened. That includes Dead Man on the Orient Express.
Thematically, Dead Man on the Orient Express presents a murder mystery on the legendary Paris-Constantinople train route. As one might guess, the thematics draw liberally on Agatha Christie’s famed Murder on the Orient Express for superficial details – the detective is Achilles Pussot (instead of Hercule Poirot), the victim is Ratchington (instead of Ratchett), and so forth.
Mechanically, Dead Man on the Orient Express presents a distinctive twist because you don’t just solve standard puzzles to get out – you have to actually solve the murder by naming the correct suspect. There are lots of ‘standard’ sort of puzzles, of course, as the players must open a dastardly quantity of locks throughout the various train cars and passenger rooms.
Note that Dead Man on the Orient Express (and, I think, all of the Exit games) are marked as destructible – that is, the game indicates that certain components must be marked up, folded, or torn during the course of the game. In theory, I don’t find this a problem – I would be perfectly content to buy a $15 game knowing I’m going to have a fun hour or two out of it with friends. However, we ultimately were able to play through Dead Man on the Orient Express without damaging any components (and so I gain another chip in my favorite meta-game, trading board games).
As compared to other escape room games, I have found that Exit provides a good spread of puzzle types and reasonably challenging difficulty. In particular, I appreciate that Exit sustains difficulty without relying too heavily on puzzles that involve pulling out a magnifying glass to find some hidden detail. Exit also has a history of creative use of components, and that continues in Dead Man on the Orient Express … although I can’t tell you how, of course. Kosmos rates Dead Man on the Orient Express at a difficulty 4/5 (the average rating is a 3/5; nothing is rated a 1 or a 5, so Dead Man on the Orient Expres is one of the three Exit games with effectively the highest difficulty rating).
I’d give a series of thumbs up to Dead Man on the Orient Express (if giving thumbs up was a thing that I did). I recommend escape room games for puzzle-solving fun. If you like escape room games and haven’t tried the Exit series, I highly recommend that you do so. And if you’ve played and liked other Exit games, I’d strongly recommend checking out Dead Man on the Orient Express. It provides that familiar Exit array of really fun puzzles, with its own mystery twist.
Promotional consideration was provided in the form of a review copy.