Once upon a time, when we were browsing the almighty internet, we came across some black and white game with amazing art. After some more investigating, we found that this was a company called Themeborne who has made two black and white games so far. Escape the Dark castle, and their new one, Escape the Dark Sector. After contacting Themeborne, they made us happy with sending Escape the Dark Sector to review it.
In Escape the Dark Sector you find yourself in a detention block of a vast space station together with your crew members. You have no idea where your space ship is, but you are determent to find it and escape from this place. However, nothing can prepare you for the dangers, traps and terror you will discover along your way…
How to Play.
The setup in this game is done in five minutes, especially if you have the game mat that you can buy for €9.99 on their website which shows you exactly what card goes where, but it’s not necessary to play the game. First you create the mission deck. For this, you take the big cards, sort them by kind and shuffle them. Then you take one boss card and Place four act three cards on top of it. Repeat this for act two and one and place a starting card on top. Place this facedown as your mission deck. Then shuffle the item deck and place it facedown next to the mission deck. You also place all the dices (except for the crew dices), sorted by kind, above the mission deck as shown in the setup. Next you take the flank card and medical drone card, and place them with the available white side up, left from the mission deck (leave space to discard the mission cards). Don’t forget to place the epilogue cards as well above the item deck.
Then every player chooses a crew member and the matching dice, and takes one medical record and a cybernetic implant. Draw a small dot in the left upper corner to show that you start with twelve HP.
Every crew member has it’s own unique mixture of traits and a dice to match it. If you choose a crew member who has a lot of might, but less cunning for example. You will see that the matching dice (with that crew members name on it), will have more might traits, but only one cunning trait. The chance to roll might will be higher for this crew member. You also choose an implant with a unique ability, this will let you reroll your dice during ranged combat for example.
Escape the Dark Sector does not have a turn order, you will have to decide as a team who reveals the next card. If that card has ‘YOU’ written, the effect on that card is applied to the player who revealed it. In order to win, every crew member has to survive until each card is resolved. If a crew member dies, everyone loses the game and you read the ‘mission failed’ card. If you resolve the last card and survive, you can read the ‘mission accomplished’ card.
The game will tell you most things through the cards, like when you can draw items, or when you have to roll your crew dice in order to get trough for example. Every player have four spaces for items. Note that a horizontal item takes two spaces. You can exchange items with another player at the end of the chapter, when drawing new items, or when you take a trade action while you are in combat. If you find a ranged weapon, it already comes fully loaded. Place ammunition dice on the weapon to show how much ammo you have left.
If a card tells you to begin combat, take the dices shown on that card in the left lower corner. If a crew member icon is shown, each member rolls their crew dice and add whatever they roll to the enemy dice. In order to defeat your enemy, all dices have to be removed from battle. You can attack by starting ranged combat, or close combat (unless the card states otherwise). No matter what combat you choose to start with, you can always perform standard combat actions as long as at least one other crew member distracts the enemy. At least one crew member will have to shoot (ranged combat) or fight (close combat) in order to distract the enemy. You can reload your weapon, activate the drone in order to get one health back (this can only be used once every chapter), trade in order to use an item from another player (you may immediately use it), or take cover. If you take a standard action, the enemy won’t attack you this round.
If you choose to fight your enemy with ranged attack, you can either shoot your enemy, or flank him. To shoot, you must have a loaded ranged weapon and roll the dice indicated by the kind of ammunition that weapon uses, along with a hit die. The enemy’s card will show how much damage you will do with each kind of ammunition. Apply the results of the ammo dice to the enemy’s hit chart, and discard a chapter dice of your choice for each wound you inflict. Lastly, apply the result of the hit die you have rolled. The enemy will try to strike back, if the hit die lands on the HIT icon, you lose HP equal to the ranged attack value shown in the bottom right of the enemy’s card. Whenever you lose or gain HP, update your medical chart immediately. If you defeated your enemy by removing all the dices, the enemy will try to attack you one last time. If you flank your enemy, place you crew dice on the flank card and roll a hit die. If you roll a HIT, you take only one damage. In the next round, you will be able to surprise the enemy with a shoot or fight attack, and he won’t fight back because he didn’t see you coming. If your attack inflicts a wound, remove an additional die of your choice. Then flip the flank card, it cannot be used again this chapter. Note that you can only flank your enemy if you start with ranged attack. If the shoot action is not taken in this round by any player, the fight will chance to close combat.
In close combat, you fight the enemy with your crew dice. If your crew dice matches an icon shown on the chapter dices of the enemy, you can remove that dice. If you roll a double icon with a shield around it. You not only can remove two matching dices from the enemy, but you will also block the enemy attack. If you do not block, you will automatically get hit. Apply the damage shown for close combat on the enemy card. If you defeated your enemy by removing all the dices, the enemy won’t attack you again with close combat. Don’t forget to draw item cards if the cards icon is shown at the bottom of the enemy’s card after combat.
After you finished a chapter, make sure you flip the medical drone and flank card back to the white side ready for use. You can also take a reload action for one weapon and exchange items with other players. If you want to play Escape the Dark Sector solo, simply chose two crew members and set up the game as normal. You will make the decisions for both crew members and will decide who will lead in each round.
Playthrough of the game.
Let me start with saying that this is not an easy game at all. But, this is one of the rare games (in my opinion) where it doesn’t matter if you don’t beat the game because the experience of exploring the space ship you are trapped in is already a lot of fun. It took us a couple of games before we beat it for the first time. We love it that you have to decide as a team who will reveal the next card to see the horror it will behold. Will it be a monster who will trap the leading player? Or maybe a trap where all crew members will have to test their skills in order to survive? The atmosphere this game places you in is amazing and the art of the cards make it even easier to get involved in the story. We were really amazed to see how much exactly you can accomplish with only black and white art, but they really did a good job. We also like the sizes they choose for the mission cards. With this size, you can really go trough the mission deck as if it was a book.
The replayability in this game is really high. For each set up, you shuffle all the chapter cards, boss cards, etc, and compose a new mission deck. This means you will have different story every time you play the game. With the expansions, even more mission cards, boss cards and starting cards are added to your game. The game also is well designed for more players. For a lot of enemies, each crew member has to add an additional dice to the enemy. With four players, this is four extra dices to defeat. One of the best features of this game is that is also doesn’t take long to play a full game. We were done with one game every time between 30-60 minutes, but it felt like we went on a great journey with every finished round.
Escape the Dark Sector is a cooperative adventure game in a Sci-Fi atmosphere. This game has a lot of replayability and not one game will be the same. That being said, it is not easy to escape the Dark Sector and you will need practice in order to beat the game. It is a game based on luck since there are a lot of dices involved, but you can work your way around this with the other actions the game has to offer. Together with your team, you have to figure out the best strategy, what items are good to use, and who is going to lead in order to win and defeat your enemies. If you love sci-fi story telling cooperation games, this is a must have in your collection.