Wrongfully incarcerated in the depths of The Dark Castle, you and your fellow prisoners now embark on a desperate quest to escape. However, the castle is a treacherous place, filled with horrors, traps, and challenges – each of which is represented in the game by a large, beautifully illustrated chapter card.
The object of the game is to overcome every card in the castle deck while keeping everyone in your group alive. If you do this, you all Escape the Dark Castle and win the game together. However, if anyone dies along the way, the game ends immediately and you must try again!
Setting up the game
1) Create the Castle
- Shuffle the chapter cards and deal 15 face-down to form the castle deck.
- Shuffle the boss cards and place 1 face-down underneath the castle deck.
- Place the Start Card on top of the castle deck, with the image of the castle face-up.
- Shuffle the item card deck and place it face down to the right of the castle deck.
- Place the chapter dice in a pool above the castle deck
2) Choose characters
Lay out the character cards and corresponding character dice where all players can see them. The etchings on each character’s cell wall show how well-possessed they are of the following traits:
The number beside each symbol shows how many times the symbol appears on that character’s unique character dice.
Each player should choose which character they would like to play, place that character card face-up in front of them, and take the corresponding character dice.
3) Set Health Points
Each player will need to keep track of their character’s health points (hp) using the pads and pencils provided. The starting hp for each character varies according to the number of players in the game:
- 1 or 2 players: 18hp each
- 3 players: 14hp each
- 4 players: 12hp each
During the game characters will gain and lose hp but can never exceed their starting hp.
Playing the Game
Gameplay involves turning over the chapter cards one by one, and completing the challenges revealed.
- Turn Order – There is no turn order. Instead, you must decide as a group which player will turn the next chapter card. But be warned, chapters sometimes contain grisly consequences which only apply to the player that turned the card. Such consequences are indicated with a bolded you.
- Turning Chapter Cards – When turning a chapter card, place it face-up to the left of the castle deck, as though you had turned the page of a book. Read the italic text aloud to the group to set the scene. Then follow the instructions to complete the chapter.
- Drawing Items – When instructed to draw a number of item cards, first draw and place them face-up where all players can see, the decide as a group how the items will be distributed.
- Carrying Items – Each character can carry a maximum of two items, think of it as one item in each hand. The items a character is carrying should be placed beside their character card.
- Trading Items – Items can be traded between characters, but only after a chapter has been completed, or when new item cards are being drawn. Items cannot be traded during the events of a chapter or during combat.
- Using Items – Items can be used at any time unless the item card indicates otherwise. The text on each item card describes what it does. Some items must be discarded when used, but unless instructed to do so you can keep an item for as long as you like.
Fighting Combat is fought in rounds. Each round has two simple steps, Attack and Defend.
- Attack – To begin a round of combat, each participating player simultaneously rolls their dice to make an attack. Resting players do not roll. Then, in any order the players choose, resolve the attacks one at a time
- Defend – If any chapter dice remain after each character’s attack has been fully resolved, the enemy is still alive and attacks back! Any character participating in the combat who did not roll a block, now takes damage equal to the attack value of the enemy
- Resting – At the beginning of each combat round, before any dice are rolled, one player can choose to rest – hanging back from the fight to momentarily recuperate. A resting player does not roll to attack, does not take damage and cannot use items. Instead, that player gains 1hp for each round they rest. The resting player can re-join combat at the beginning of any round they choose, or can rest for the entire combat if they wish.
- This ends a round of combat – Begin the next round by simultaneously rolling to make another attack, and continue fighting rounds of combat until the enemy is defeated or a player is killed
- Defeating an Enemy – after you fully resolve a round of player attacks, all chapter dice have been removed, the enemy is immediately defeated and it does not make a final attack against the players. When you have defeated an enemy, draw one item card. Then, choose which player will turn the next chapter card and continue the game.
Completing Chapters & winning the game
The instructions on each chapter card will explain what must be done to complete the chapter. You may be asked to make a choice, roll dice, use items, fight an enemy etc.
When you have completed a chapter, continue turning and completing chapter cards until you Escape the Dark Castle by defeating the Boss and win, or until a character is killed and you lose the game.
Good luck, prisoners…
Escape the Dark Castle is part dungeon crawler, part RPG, part fantasy novel & looks like a 1930’s monster film. This game is amazing! It truly is one of the biggest shocks I have ever gotten; I have never had a game exceed my expectations like this one.
It has is all, a storytelling that transcends you to an immersive atmosphere and a wild ride that there is a real chance you could lose. The atmosphere of Escape from Dark Castle leaps into next gear when you use Spotify to play the official game soundtrack. Though not necessary, this is an amazing touch that heightens the atmosphere.
We sat down to play Escape the Dark Castle and picked the players we liked. This was our first mistake. We started playing and turned the cards without think; and just expected a few battles and then to fight a boss. We expected it to be more Power Rangers, couple of fights, take a few knocks and then beat the big bad at the end. What we got was Dark Souls, we died by chapter 5.
It was actually really embarrassing. We read the rules a little more and even watched a how-to video, as our egos told us we may have played it wrong. No, we didn’t, we just sucked. We decided to play again, this time thinking about our character choices based on what we had previously experienced. We played smart, thought more and made it to chapter 9.
As there is 45 Chapters and you shuffle them every game; you don’t just play the same chapters every time or in the same order. This makes character selection so challenging and yet, so exciting too. This game is really well thought out and there is no guarantee that you will make it to the end. I’ve never played a game like this, where you need to really play the game perfectly to win.
We actually only made it to the boss once in 8 games and I have a games night this weekend with the same team. They have all requested that I bring this because they want to win a game. It is funny, this is possibly one of the toughest games I have played; but I love it and It is so addictive
Escape the Dark Castle art is a wonderful, or so I think. The other 3 members of my team weren’t fans of it. For my it had this 1930’s monster movie vibe that has an air of nostalgia to it. Not to mention, it is a Dark Castle, doesn’t that mean you will see mostly blacks and greys? The art of this game is the only real issue with this game, as I believe I’m at about 70 / 30 on people not liking to like the art. Once in game through, you don’t really notice it as much. You are too busy battling for your life!
Overall, I was amazed and quite blown away by Escape the Dark Caste, looking at the box and reading about the game play; I expected it to be good. But it was amazing.