Trapped in a prison in which each room has four doors but apparently no exit, the players must try to find Room 25, the supposed exit to this nightmare. But some amongst them might be guardians of the prison, waiting for the right moment to strike. In the cooperative game Room 25, not everyone wants to escape from imprisonment – but who is the traitor? Each turn, the player moves are preprogrammed, requiring discussion, negotiation – and possibly betrayal.
Room 25 is a novel game. It was created by François Rouzé and produced by Matagot Games. The game consists of 25 tiles, each representing a room in a futuristic jail. It is loosely based on the films The Cube and The Running Man.
With up to six players (base game) you explore the grid, find the exit (room 25) and escape within eight or 10 turns. You need to avoid hazards, lethal areas and traps. All of this before you consider the possibility that one or more of your companions might be a secret traitor. Their mission is to ensure you fail. So, who can you trust?
Players start in the centre of the grid. The room tiles are shuffled and arranged face down into a 5 x 5 square. The exit will be somewhere at an edge. Before each turn, each player must decide independently what two actions to perform that go. These include peeping into an adjacent room to check its contents or walking through to the next room.
You might choose to push another player into the next room. This might be to their advantage (or not, depending on your allegiance). The grid of rooms can be moved. The rows and columns of rooms slide, shuffling up the contents. This is where a good memory can help. As you enter each new room the tile is flipped and its contents are revealed.
Many rooms contain hazards.
- A water filled room where you will drown if you return.
- An acid bath room where one of two occupants is eliminated.
- The mortal chamber meaning instant death.
Some rooms are more benign.
- A series of tunnels allowing players to move around the grid.
- The vision chamber giving you the ability to view other hidden rooms.
The rooms are colour coded; blue, green, yellow and red. The blue rooms will help you escape. Green rooms are safe (but are very few). Yellow rooms are an inconvenience. Red rooms might kill you or another player.
Room 25 requires you to work together within a limited number of moves. Beware though, you have to perform every selected action even if other players have moved the grid or caused other changes. This is where communication is key (in some game modes) with an element of pre-planning to help. In the standard scenario unless all of the players get to Room 25 and this tile is slid off, then no-one has won.
Four Different Game Modes
The game variations and random placement of room tiles ensures that every game is entirely different. This ensures great replay-ability. It is technically possible to escape within half a dozen moves, but this is very unusual.
Within Room 25 there are at least four game set-ups. If you and fellow gamers are good communicators then the standard co-operative scenario with more limited moves is very good. To provide more competition, players can be grouped into teams (of any size). This generates a frenzied race to get all of your team to Room 25 and prevent the opposing teams from escaping.
For those of a more vindictive nature another option has each player as an individual character. This can create a dog-eat-dog world where only one player will survive. Finally, the “suspicion mode” is fantastic. Who is an innocent prisoner trying to escape? Who is a guard placed to sabotage your escape plans? Can you trust anybody? If another player peeps into a room and declares it green (safe) can you trust them to enter it yourself? Are they bluffing? Can you afford to waste moves by double checking? If you stay nearby might they chose to push you into a mortal chamber?
Room 25, as a base game, contains six different characters and enough rooms for a 5 x 5 grid. The room tiles are made of thick, sturdy card. Each coloured mini figure is a good representation of your character. The artwork on each tile shows a top down view of each small room within the prison. The mini-figures are of the correct scale for the rooms and artwork.
The game looks very effective when all 25 rooms are touching each other. However, it is best to leave a small gap between each row and column. This will assist in sliding the tiles during the game. The other tokens needed to select a player’s actions are quite small. While they are colour coded, players new to the game might get confused between the different possible actions.
Matagot have provided a comprehensive list of the room tiles and their actions as well as a summary of each character’s ability. This is essential to new players. However, the font size is tiny making it quite difficult to read if you are over a certain age! The rulebook is very clear (and of a decent font size) and is comprehensive. It also contains a description of each room and its hazards.
When I first unwrapped Room 25 I noticed that one of the mortal chamber cards had an identifying mark on its back. I emailed Matagot and sent back the defective tile. Within a couple of days a replacement arrived that matched with the other room tiles. This little event showed me that this game producer values its players.
Friends that are new to gaming say that Room 25 is unlike any other game they have played. Some of the concepts, such as acid baths or shredder rooms are not suitable for young players, but the principle of the game and its rules are easy to understand and master for children age 10 years or older. Teenagers certainly enjoy this game.
The Season Two Expansion
The base game is good. What makes this game “sing” is the expansion, Room 25: Season Two. Firstly, all of the expansion components fit perfectly within the base game box insert. It is as though it was designed that way! Season Two brings two new characters and allows up to eight players to try to escape together.
Each new character has different special abilities. There are new rooms with additional hazards (and some helpful ones too). Rooms may now be locked by some characters or-re-opened by other players. There are robots! These robots can be controlled remotely to seek out safe rooms or “take the pain” of a “red” room rather than your character. In Season two, sometimes the grid will be slid randomly according to drawn cards. This can really put a spanner in the works.
Other tiles in this expansion will prevent any communication whatsoever, or hinder some actions for certain playing characters. This can make the game much more challenging. Sometimes the time pressures in the latter stages of the game will encourage players’ alpha tendencies to surface. This can be avoided by playing some game modes (individual or suspicion), or just by wisely placing a character in the jamming room and stopping all bossiness completely.
For players who prefer, a solo mode is also possible. One player must negotiate the grid to get their character to the exit in few turns. If you want even more challenge, use the extra tiles in Season Two to create ever bigger grids of different orientations. The possibilities are limited only by your imagination.
Final Thoughts on Room 25
In my opinion, the only way to play Room 25 is together with the Season Two expansion. This expansion takes the novel idea (scoring 7.5 out of 10 for the base game) to an entirely new level (9.0 out of 10). The variability of each game, choice of game mode and the fact that the game plays really well as a solo challenge means Room 25 (with the Season 2 expansion) is a game for all seasons. Rarely does a game play so well for one as well as up to eight players.
The game encourages communication, bluffing and deception and has a nice race against time element with the variability of some random events. This does mean that the outcome of each game is never a foregone conclusion.
I was asked by my daughter if I were stuck on a desert island, which five games would I choose? Room 25 (with Season 2 expansion) would be on that list.