Most fans of heavy strategy games have probably learned to appreciate Vital Lacerda’s particular style. He has been pumping out hobbyist-favorite games for several years including Kanban (#222 all-time BGG), the Gallerist (#62 all-time BGG), and Lisboa (#107 all-time BGG). Escape Plan is his latest game and Kickstarter, and it’s a departure from the more cerebral themes his games normally adopt. But that doesn’t make the game any less complicated and engaging. The game begins after a heist, you’ve gotten away with a score, but the police are onto you. Can you collect the money you’ve invested or hoarded in the city and get out in time?
In Escape Plan, you will be building a dynamic map and moving around the city collecting money, contacts, and equipment that will help you with your grand escape at the end of the game. As the map changes, you may need to adjust your strategy to ensure you have what you need to enact your plan. Other players can’t attack you directly, but they can move the police to interfere with your plans, and clear out safehouses before you have a chance to collect your stash. In the end, only the co-conspirator with the most money wins - but just getting out can be a challenge.
Stand Out Features
Fun, rewarding actions: No matter where you decide to move on your turn, you’re going to get something good out of the action. Moving far away from where you are in one turn is very risky because you need to avoid a lot of cops, but the good news is that even if you’re forced to stay nearby for a turn, you’ll most likely still get something useful later in the game.
Dynamic Board: Since you’ll be creating the board as you’re playing, each game is going to play out slightly differently and give you different options. As you play, you will be unlocking access to businesses, safehouses, and exits that could be components of your escape. But new tiles also makes the board larger, and harder to navigate. You’ll have to make tough decisions on whether you should stick to your plan, or adjust it based on how the tiles come out.
Excellent Player Count Scaling: Of all of Lacerda’s games, I think this is the best two player game. In 2-player mode, Sandra is back from Kanban to torment you by locking locations, removing valuable safes, keys, and contacts from play. She can’t hurt you directly, but her movement can hinder your plans if you aren’t careful.
Lots and Lots of Stuff Going On: There is a ton of stuff happening on the board. There’s gang members that can be bribed, contacts to recruit, stacks of tiles to accumulate. This gives the game a “living” feel which keeps the gameplay engaging throughout. While the game seems extremely complicated when you first learn it, all the pieces click into place after your first play.
What We Liked
While I haven’t played this game at full player count, I think this is the quickest to play of Lacerda’s games. Two players can easily finish in an hour (not counting setup since I am playing on Tabletopia). With more players, it slows down as there’s frequently a lot of choices to make when deciding to travel to a new space. Luckily, player location doesn’t have a huge effect on your own decisions, so you can plan your moves well-ahead your turn.
Players aren’t able to directly attack each other, but you can antagonize your opponents by moving police onto their space, closing businesses before they get access, or emptying a safehouse of its keys. This feels like just the right amount of “take that” for this theme. If this were a movie in this setting, it would most likely result in a bloodbath by the end credits, so the lack of violence here is surprising and welcome.
The other thing that is nice is that all of your money and assets are hidden until the end of the game. While you can generally tell how well a person is doing by the number of counters they’ve managed to get on the board, you really won’t have an idea of who is winning until the end.
The last thing to mention is that there’s really a lot of different strategies you can take in the game. Safes can pay out huge if you invest in safehouses early, exit tiles can also pay out well, and are a way of edging out the competition towards the end of the game. Alternatively, you can go for “set collection” by scoring the businesses, but the amount of income you lose by doing this can make late-game very tricky (and might even result in a blown escape.)
What Could Be Improved
It’s still early, so it’s understandable, but the rulebook is rough. Do yourself a favor and skip it in favor of watching the rules video posted on the Kickstarter.
Notes on the Tabletopia Version
The Tabletopia port is excellent, showing off the game’s excellent art, with no placeholders present on the table. The issues that do exist have to do with stacking components and isn’t Escape Plan’s fault. When you move the big city tiles, meeples and tiles sitting on top can behave in erratic ways, sometimes resulting in a meeple flying across the screen, or a lost tile.
Each game of Escape Plan plays out differently than the last, and there’s a lot to like here in player counts 2-5. The solo rules are still in prototype format so we decided not to take a look at that here. If you like any of Lacerda’s previous games, or heavy theme with your heavy strategy, then Escape Plan is a no-brainer to back.
Time To Learn: About 2 hours reading the rules/watching a video.
Price: Currently free on Tabletopia. $79 pledge on Kickstarter.
Thom: (9/10) Excellent - very much enjoy playing.
Jinko: (8/10) Very good - enjoy playing and would suggest it.
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