Room 25

Reviewed by: Andrea “Liga” Ligabue

(Matagot/Asmodee, 1-6 players, ages 13 and up, 30-45 minutes; $34.99)

room251As probably you already know from reading my reviews, I’m not a great fan of collaborative games. What is collaborative in the intent often degrades into a solo experience where one player drives the game for all. Throughout the years, designers have cleverly opted for different tricks to avoid this problem: real time (like in Space Alert) or semi-collaborative mechanics (like Shadows over Camelot). Nowadays, pure collaboratives, like Pandemic or Legends of Andor, are (luckily) just a part of the whole genre.

François Rouzé dealt with the problem with different solutions, including five different playing modes, from a solitaire version to full cooperation. I’ll try first to offer a general overview of the game, then going into details with the different playing modes.

Room 25 is the first and, actually, the only game designed by François Rouzé and I have to admit it is an outstanding debut. Great game, nice mechanics, some new ideas packed in a 30-45 minutes experience: probably my preferred collaborative at present.

Players are member of a futuristic reality trapped in a prison made of 25 square rooms, each one with four doors. Many rooms have traps and/or effects that make movement difficult. The exit, Room 25, is hidden somewhere in this maze and players have to find and reach it in time. In the semi-collaborative mode of play, there are guardians concealed trying to prevent the escape. The theme is clearly drawn on The Cube movie,Tron and Running Man.

There are 32 rooms in the game. The entry room, Room 25 and 30 others. Since only 25 are used, the game will change from play to play. Three different room selections are suggested In the rules, varying in a difficulty scale/level from easy to hard.

The entry room is always put in the middle, all the other rooms are placed faced down creating a 5×5 grid. Room 25 is mixed within the 12 corner rooms (the 4 rooms in the 4 corners of the grids and the 8 rooms orthogonally adjacent to the corners). There are 6 stereotyped characters in the box, with different miniatures but the same rules. Each player takes his character figure and 4 action tokens. There is a programming phase, action phase and countdown phase.

During his turn, each character must secretly program 2 actions, then the actions are resolved in turn order, first the first one and then the second one. Then a new turn begins and so on until the end of the game.

room252Possible actions are: look, move, push and control. Looking means taking one of the four orthogonally adjacent rooms and looking at it. Moving is just moving into one of the four orthogonally adjacent rooms. Pushing allows you to “push” another character sharing the room with you into one of the four orthogonally adjacent rooms. Finally, Controlling means moving all the rooms in the same column or row one space and then taking the room going out of the 5×5 square, putting it in the just created empty space. (A rule prevents shifting, in the same turn, the same column/row in the opposite direction so the first character using this action on one column/row gives the direction of the shift for all the turn. This rule is an example of how this simple game is actually really well designed with a great attention to details.)

The last phase, Countdown, is just a simple way to change the turn order and count the turns in the same way: the characters are put in a row on the countdown track and at the end of each turn the first character on the left is moved in the last position (rightmost the last character).

Where is the fun ? Apart from the Entry and Room 25, there are 14 different kinds of rooms divided into 3 groups/colors: safe (green), obstacle (yellow) and mortal danger (red). The 14 different rooms vary from Mortal Chamber (“when you enter this room you are instantly killed”) to Empty Chamber (“No effect”), passing through rooms like Cold Chamber (“you can take just one action”) or Dark Chamber (“you can’t use look actions”). How the rooms are placed and which rooms are in play make a great difference and one of the great challenges in Room 25 is to find the right sequence/combos of rooms and actions that best fit your needs. The color of the room is the only information players can share during the game about the location/type of the room. This is a really clever way to elude the “one man band” problem of the collaborative game: making information not really available to all the players.

Program, Move and Countdown again and again for 8 turns (in Solo and Full Cooperative modes) or 10 turns (in Competition, Suspicion and Team modes).

Solo mode – In solo mode, you use 4 characters and have to escape the complex in 8 turns. Not easy but I’m not really a solo-play fan.

Full Cooperative mode – Up to 6 players. With 2-3 players, each one moves 2 characters. They have to find Room 25, enter and move it out of the grid. If all characters are in Room 25, they have won a complete victory; if one is missing, a partial victory is attained. Otherwise, it is a loss. Room 25 is not a simple game and playing Full Cooperative is not a sure win. In the first sessions, you will mostly play “look” and “move” actions but soon you will discover that the real way to win is to cleverly use push and control actions. Playing collaborative with the expert set-up can be a real challenge even for expert players.

Competition mode – Competition mode is the best for 2 players. Each player uses 2 characters and the first one able to get his team out of the complex wins. Programming and combining actions of two characters is really great as you can more easily put in action particular strategies.

Suspicion mode – Suspicion mode is the one I prefer. Up to 2 prisoners are actually guards. The roles are secret (Shadows over Camelot-like). To win, the prisoners must all escape. The guards play to prevent it. This mode of play is really entertaining because you have no way of knowing if a character is a guard or a prisoner. Sometimes the best way to win with the guard is to play the game as prisoners until the end and then cut the ground out from under your opponents.

Team mode – Players are divided in teams and the first team able to escape wins. A great way to play as long as you remember the rule that prevents sharing full information about a room and also keeping in mind that all players can hear what are you saying to your teammate.

I think Room 25 is one of the best examples of collaborative game – challenging, with great replayability, and offering many different ways to play – all packed in a small box for a 30-45 minutes experience. Room 25 is something all gamers should make room for in their game library.

Have feedback? We’d love to hear from you.

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