On 23 June 2021, the Bank of England will be releasing a new £50 polymer banknote celebrating the life and work of scientist and mathematician, Alan Turing OBE. Just as you would expect from a project honouring this important AI pioneer and heroic WWII figure, this isn’t just any old nifty fifty. Inspired by Turing’s skills in crypto-analysis and code cracking, the Bank of England and GCHQ have come together to create a design that includes encoded information to solve! Here at Zatu, we also want to celebrate Turning’s talents and values. As such, we have come together to devise our own list of great code cracking games. The only question is, will you maintain a steady nerve, or will you crack under the pressure?
Bonus: if you’re tempted to test your mettle against GCHQ’s finest code-makers, there is a series of 12 puzzles based on the new £50 banknote features which you can access for free on their website here
I must have been good last year because the Zatu Secret Santa left me a lovely present under my tree. That gift was my first ever escape room experience, Exit: Cemetery of the Knight.
Now I know I am incredibly late to this genre. Plus my only real excuse is that co-operative style games are not my usual top go-to picks. But I have become a lot more enthusiastic about playing them over the past few months and I would definitely like to try more. Nevertheless, my collection is still currently weighted in favour of competitive games. I can’t help it. Overlooking bad luck and my lack of skills, I still strive to be the architect of my own playing destiny.
Without doubt, however, any game requiring me to decrypt information in pursuit of victory has better outcome when I work together with others. Left to my own devices, I couldn’t escape a telephone box, let alone a full blown gaming scenario. And so, games like the Exit series from Kosmos, are a great way to get stuck in. And, even better, you can pick and choose the ones to suit your own code cracking skill level.
I can’t reveal too much (as that would be the worst f spoiler ever!), but I can tell you that the 10 card based riddles you work through in this game are varied in their complexity. Plus, as with the other titles in the Exit series, this is a tear-it-up, fold-it-down, one-time shot experience.
I wouldn’t say Exit: Cemetery of the Knight is the easiest of the Exit games. It is categorised as a 3/5 – intermediate puzzle, and a few of the conundrums are going to click better if you are more familiar with the series. But it is a good example of the genre, and a good choice for those with some existing experience to enjoy. It will certainly get your internal Enigma machines firing on all cylinders!
With more Exit content planned by Kosmos in the future, as Alan Turning himself once said: “this is only a foretaste of what is to come, and only the shadow of what is going to be”.
Mysterium Park is the successor to the hit 2015 Mysterium. This game is set in a fairground and is a co-operative game. I have explained this game to newbie players as being what Cluedo would be if it were designed now.
In Mysterium Park, someone will play as the ghost, and the others are a team of psychics. The game is played over three different rounds. First, you must guess the innocent suspects to discount, then the locations where the ghost player was *NOT* murdered, and then finally you must correctly guess the killer and murder location. The ghost player is kind of like the Dungeon Master in D&D set ups where they almost run the game. The ghost plays weird art cards out of their hand to try and allude to one of the nine cards out in play. The character and location cards are so detailed; there are lots of different items to link to as well as overarching themes and colours. Being the ghost is a totally different experience to playing as a psychic, but both are fun.
I have played this game a lot over the five months it has been in my collection. With a little simplification and a top down camera angle, this game is also possible to play over video call. If you name the locations and the characters, it's vastly easier for people to play. In real life, there is a lot of pointing to things to explain what weird idea you’re talking about, and the names for the cards help the team to communicate well without being in the same room. This game is unlike most games that non-gamers have played. Like the art within it, its enjoyment is incredibly subjective and will not be for everyone, but I love it.
Decrypto has a lot going for it. Just opening the box and pouring through the contents, you are drawn into kitsch 1960’s Cold War goodness.
Centre stage are the two team player stands with gelled screens that reveal text on the jumbled cards when they are slotted into place. Each team will have four secret words, and each round, one of you will be trying to get your team mates to guess the order of these words determined by the numbers on a floppy disc card.
This will cause some serious code making and breaking as opponents track your clue giving. Why? Because in every subsequent round, they get to guess the correct sequence before your own team does.
This isn’t a game you win, but one you lose. Make your clues too easy and by round four or five your opponents will have achieved the two intercepts needed to win. Make the clues too hard, and your team will guess the wrong order. Plus, two incorrect guesses on your own side will also mean a loss.
So what kind of clues can you give? Pretty much whatever you like: sing, hum, describe, compare, mime – and this is very much one of its sources of hilarity. Laughs are balanced with tension. As rounds pass, you enjoy the nail-biting joy of finding out whether you made it too easy, too hard, or just right.
I love the Decrypto experience. The hardest part about it is actually the rule book which can make the game sound harder to play than it is. But, if you start with a dummy round to clear up any mistaken complexity, Decrypto then hits that sweet spot where both gamers with little experience and those with greater code cracking skill levels can play and have fun together.
Have you ever wanted to be part of Ocean’s 11? Does securing secret loot from a highly guarded safe sound appealing? If so, then Burgle Bros is the game for you, my code cracking friends!
In this co-op game, you and your friends have to sneak around a building, locating the safes on each floor. But, this is not as easy as it seems. Whilst searching for the safe, you also have to avoid the guard on patrol on your floor. Every move you make could set off an alarm alerting a guard to your location if you aren’t careful. As you explore the building though, you may also find helpful items, secret doors, or stairs to other floors.
Once the safe is located, you have to crack the code to access the loot hidden inside. But, unlike the other games on this list, this requires more exploration than brainpower. To crack the safe, you have to firstly reveal all the tiles in the same row or column. Only then will you find out the secret code you need!
In order to crack the code, you have to roll the secret code using dice on the safe. Although you don’t need to roll the whole code at once and can break it over several rounds. When you have cracked the code, you will then be able to access the loot inside. You need to beware though. Some loot can almost cause more problems than it is worth - including the Persian kitty which will try to escape! But, if you manage to make it to the top of the building, with all of your loot, then you will be able to escape and win.
Burgle Bros is a fun game with a quirky theme and some great code cracking!