Game Review – Game of Thrones: The Iron Throne

I’m always a bit unsure of opting for board games themed around beloved TV shows or films, as there’s always a risk that they’ll fall short, but we decided to give this one a go. Game of Thrones: The Iron Throne, is a game for 3 to 5 players, who take on the role of one of the great houses of Westeros, and fight for control over the other houses.

In Game of Thrones: The Iron Throne, which uses the game systems from Cosmic Encounter, you and your friends each command one of the Great Houses of Westeros, pitting iconic characters against each other in epic battles and schemes. Negotiate, bluff, forge alliances, threaten your rivals — use every tool at your disposal to spread your influence, establish supremacy, and claim the ultimate prize: the Iron Throne!

Continue reading “Game Review – Game of Thrones: The Iron Throne”

The Positives and Negatives of Virtual Reality in Modern Gaming

Guest Post

By looking at it from a wider perspective, it’s safe to assume that virtual reality is a non-threatening influence on our lives and that it’s unlikely to initiate any troubles. However, like many other technologies that constantly develop over time, this type of tech can cause unforeseen problems that weren’t present at first. On one hand, there are physical difficulties stemming from the inadequate design and ergonomics. On the other, there are the mental aspects that separate us from actual reality far greater than we expect. Furthermore, VR even has some moral and ethical concerns, according to Virtual Reality Society, relating to human behaviour and motivations – especially in the gaming industry. Continue reading “The Positives and Negatives of Virtual Reality in Modern Gaming”

Making the most of WordPress – Plugin Essentials

It’s become a common consensus now, that if there is anything you want to achieve with your WordPress website, then there’s probably a plugin that will allow you to do it. At the time of writing this post, there are 42,728 available plugins in the WordPress Plugin Directory, but how do we know which ones to use?

With so many plugins at our fingertips, it’s easy to get carried away, but we need to remember that plugins tend to be third party, and so each time we update WordPress, update our theme, or update another plugin, we run the risk of something stopping something else, or even our entire site, from working correctly.

Continue reading “Making the most of WordPress – Plugin Essentials”

Game Review – Ticket to Ride United Kingdom: The Pennsylvania Board

After being thoroughly impressed with the UK board from the newest edition of Ticket to Ride, tonight we decided to play the second board in the expansion set, Pennsylvania.

Pennsylvania adds in completely new gameplay aspects yet again. This time, when a route is claimed, you also get to take a share available from that railroad line, then at the end of the game, points are scored on who has the most shares in each of the railroad lines.

One thing we got stuck on in this version was whether to score routes as normal when claiming them, as there was no mention of them in the rules, and no points indicated on the board as usual. We decided that due to this, scoring in the Pennsylvania expansion must be only based on shares and completing route cards, but we may have played this wrong….

Pennsylvania is a nice alternative way of playing the game, but given the choice, I think I would be playing the United Kingdom board everytime, and this board alone makes the expansion worth buying!

Bound to be a Christmas favourite, and distributed by Esdevium Games, Ticket to Ride UK Edition: £25.99, available form Waterstones and also from independent game stores which can be found using our Store Locator

Who Should I Vote For?

With the UK General Election looming, everywhere I look people are talking politics. Yet politics is one of the most hated topics in the country! Why? Because it can be controversial, is dominated by people with strong views, and can be incredibly confusing to trawl through all the bullshit and get to the facts.

So with this in mind, how the hell are you supposed to work out who to vote for?

Thankfully there are a number of online resources you can use to help you make an informed decision, but again there are also some that can confuse you even more. So we’ve tested some out some of the resources out there and provided a list of the ones we found most useful;

Who Should You Vote For? – a short quiz to give you an idea of which parties’ views match yours, works well because it gives you a quick idea, and you can see how much you align with each of the parties. The great thing about this site is it also provides a quick explanation of each of the issues, so you can make a more informed choice as to where you stand on each one.

I Side With – another quiz to give you an idea of which parties’ views match yours, results are given in percentages so you can see how you compare. Unfortunately you can match quite highly with more than one party, but it’s still easier than some other quizzes as again each issue provides an explanation of what it means.

Voting Counts – a clear table showing the policies on each major issue for the top 5 parties. Useful to see how each compares clearly without having a quiz decide for you who you align with.

I’m sure there are others out there, but I found these the best for clear and concise information, and good explanations of policy issues. I find that many of these quizzes ask me what my opinion is on a matter I know nothing about, so having these snippets of information before asking you to make a decision is much more helpful than making blind choices.

Either way, be sure to have your say and cast your vote on Thursday 7th May!

Which Escape Game? – A comparison of Escape Game companies in the North West

As far as I am aware, there are currently 6 Escape Game companies within 20 miles of Manchester, and I have been lucky enough to visit and review four of them. After seeing how each company approached the escape game business, I have put together a comparison table to see how each company measures up against the rest…..

The Companies

1. Make a Break Manchester – Opened in March 2014, making it Manchester’s first escape game. The Make a Break team were contacted to see if we could come down and review them for the comparison piece, but they were not interested in being included in the review.

2. Breakout Manchester – Opened in May 2014 and took the escape game business by storm! Currently running six games across two sites in Manchester, and have recently opened another site in Liverpool.

3. Clue HQ Warrington – Opening in July 2014 Clue HQ added some healthy competition to escape games in the North West. Currently running three rooms in their Warrington site, (with more planned) they have also recently opened a second site in Blackpool running a third game.

4. Escape Quest Macclesfield – Opening November 2014, we haven’t had chance to go down and review this one ourselves yet but we have spoken to the owners and hope to get down there soon. We have also heard some good things about this site, so hopefully we will be able to fit in a visit and add them to the reviews at a later date.

5. Lockin Escape Manchester – Opened December 2014 and brought some great rooms and ideas to the Manchester scene, currently running three rooms with a fourth in production.

6. Escape Rooms UK Manchester – Opened January 2015 and is the first company in the North West to be part of a world wide franchise. Currently running five rooms with more in production, and two more sites planned for London and Birmingham.

Which Escape Game Company?

Out of the four companies I have reviewed, we will be looking at each in terms of venue, price, room variety, room design, puzzles & hints, website, and any little extras we think should be taken note of.

Venue
  • Breakout Manchester – Both sites are reasonable, last time we went to the Brazennose Street site there were no toilet facilities actually in the venue (although you could use the ones in the cafe next door), but the waiting areas are comfy and nice. 3/5
  • Clue HQ – The Warrington site is found under the railway arches. While it might not be all swanky and posh, they have good basic facilities and again a nice comfy waiting area. 3/5
  • Lockin Escape – This company is situated above a Chinese restaurant in Manchester’s China Town. While it might not be ideal having to access the venue from the restaurant, once up there Lockin Escape have done wonders with the decor of the waiting area. With a professional looking reception desk and waiting area, themed decor throughout, and good facilities, Lockin have upped the game with their location. 4/5
  • Escape Room UK – Having the backing of a worldwide franchise probably helped this company get a leg up when they started out, but that doesn’t take away from the fantastic venue they have.Located in a converted nightclub, Escape Room UK has a fully stocked bar and plush waiting area, plenty of staff on hand and an amazing venue with superb facilities. 5/5

Winner – Escape Room UK

Price

  • Breakout Manchester – 2 people £36 (£18 per person), 3 people £48 (£16 per person), 4 people £56 (£14 per person), 5 people £65 (£13 per person) 5/5
  • Clue HQ – 3 people £63 (£21 per person), 4 people £76 (£19 per person), 5 people £85 (£17 per person), 6 people £90 (£15 per person) Clue HQ quite often have deals running on Groupon or Wowcher for their Bunker 38 game where up to 6 people can place for a heavily discounted rate 5/5
  • Lockin Escape – 3 people £63 (£21 per person), 4 people £76 (£19 per person), 5 people £85 (£17 per person), 6 people £90 (£15 per person) Currently have an offer of 10% off with code LOCKINOP 4/5
  • Escape Room UK – 2 people £44 (£22 per person), 3 people £60 (£20 per person), 4 people £72 (£18 per person), 5 people £80 (£16 per person), 6 people £90 (£15 per person) Currently offering 15% off with code ESCAPE15 3/5

Winner – Clue HQ (with a voucher code)/Breakout Manchester

Room Variety

  • Breakout Manchester – Total of 6 rooms on offer with a difficulty rating of 3/5 to 5/5.  5/5
  • Clue HQ – Total of 3 rooms on offer with a difficulty rating of 3/5 to 5/5.  3/5
  • Lockin Escape – Total of 3 rooms on offer with a difficulty rating of 3/5 to 5/5.  3/5
  • Escape Room UK – Total of 5 rooms on offer with a difficulty rating of 3/5 to 5/5.  4/5

One thing to mention about the escape room difficulty rating is that each company rates their rooms internally, and therefore a 3 star room at Breakout Manchester is not necessarily the same difficulty as a 3 star room at Escape Room UK. From our experiences, Breakouts rooms are easier (easier, not easy….) followed by Clue HQ, and Lockin Escape and Escape Room UK are the most difficult. Of course we cannot provide a fully accurate scale without playing every single game, but from those we have played, (which have usually been the hardest rated rooms) this is the best guide we can offer.

Winner – Breakout Manchester

Room Design

  • Breakout Manchester – The rooms have improved a lot from when the company first started out, with the quality of decor and props ever increasing. Perhaps Breakouts main downfall however is that the rooms still tend to be more basic. They have done well with the space that they have, but you are more aware of being in a room which has props to make it look like a lab, and not an actual lab. 2/5
  • Clue HQ – Bunker 38 was a good room, but the location of the the venue in itself lead quite well to this theme. I would be interested to see how good the other rooms look, but Clue HQ were definitely off to a good start with this one. 3/5
  • Lockin Escape – Lockin brought room design to a whole new level. We played a game which was based around a museum heist, and the room really felt like a small museum exhibition room. The quality of the props and decor was very good, and it all helped add to the atmosphere of the game. 4/5
  • Escape Room UK – Escape Room have really run away with this one, the care and attention to detail is phenomenal, even down to the smell in the room. The decor and props are of a very high quality, and the bar has truly been set high by these rooms. 5/5.

Winner – Escape Room UK

Puzzles & Hints

  • Breakout Manchester – puzzles can be heavily reliant on finding 4 digit codes or keys for locks. Improved with Sabotage, but currently means the rooms may not be as playable one after another. Could concentrate on a better variety of puzzles to keep the games fresh. Hint system is excellent, using a TV screen to communicate, the staff are good at letting you get on with things if you don’t need help, and also know when to step in if you need a little nudge. 2/5
  • Clue HQ – more variety in puzzles which was a nice change, also good at keeping the puzzles within the theme of the room. Also use the TV screen hint system, staff are again good at knowing when to intervene. 3/5
  • Lockin Escape – Great variety in puzzles, we loved the increased use in technology and move away from constant code finding. Means the different rooms are unlikely to get stale if playing more than one. Hint system uses a radio however which can be difficult to hear, but we have recommended the use of the TV screen and hope to see this implemented in the future. 4/5
  • Escape Room UK – Great variety in puzzles, again a good use of technology and new ideas, unlikely to get bored playing these rooms. Hint system was unfortunately the worst, help button on the wall brings a member of staff into the room to give you a hint in person. Ruins the atmosphere and illusion of being locked in, have also recommended the use of TV screens and hope to see this implemented in the future. 3/5

Winner – Lockin Escape

Website

  • Breakout Manchester – Very good, lots of information about the game, the rooms, and extensive FAQ. Could do with being updated to include more information about how to find the new site at The Great Northern, we had a bit of trouble finding this one but directions for the Brazennose site are great. 4/5
  • Clue HQ – Not as fancy but lots of information about the rooms and another good FAQ. Also has great directions to the site. 3/5
  • Lockin Escape – Very professional, looks good, plenty of information about the different rooms, and amazing info graphics about what skills each room requires. Good FAQ and directions to site, as otherwise would not be easy to find. 5/5
  • Escape Room UK – Great website, looks very professional, good FAQ. Has good background on the rooms available but could do with more information on difficulty level. 4/5

Winner – Lockin Escape

Summary

  • Breakout Manchester – Has so much potential, and currently being the best value for money at base price (and only beaten by Clue HQ even after discounts have been applied). Would say this is currently the best site for younger players and has a great fun feel to the whole experience. Needs to invest in prop and set design and bring more variety to puzzles, but we have no doubt that the staff are working on this as we speak. 21/30
  • Clue HQ – Huge venue with tons of potential, probably has the best floorspace to expand game rooms. Best for accessibility, the only company to have a fully accessible venue and games, although wheelchair users and others with mobility problems may not be able to participate in all puzzles, but you can play all available games. Could do with a sprice up on the website. 20/30
  • Lockin Escape – Great ingenuity and fresh approach to puzzles, definitely one to look out for as they develop further. Could do with improving the hint system. 24/30
  • Escape Room UK – Best for professional setting, would do well with corporate events and stag/hen parties. Has a partially accessible venue and 2 fully accessible game rooms. Amazing themes and decor, but desperately need to chase the hint system, as this is the only thing letting them down. 24/30

Lets be honest, there’t not much in it, and there isn’t one of these companies I would not recommend. At the end of the day to comes down to personal preference, and with all of these companies constantly working to improve their games and develop new ones with fresh ideas, we have no doubt that all four of them will be sticking around in Manchester for a long time to come. Fingers crossed we’ll get to revisit the sites again soon so we can keep you posted on how they’re improving!

For more detailed information on some of the rooms available, check out the reviews I have done after playing these games;

Breakout Manchester – Virus
Clue HQ – Bunker 38
Breakout Manchester – Sabotage
Escape Room UK – The Secret Lab
Lockin Escape – Treasure Hunter