A cooperative card game of betrayal and resource management.

Prison Escape is a cooperative and competitive game for 4 players. Players play as Prisoners trying to escape a high security prison. Luckily, they’ve managed to smuggle and create enough digging tools to get the job done, having what they need to go through the prison’s various obstacles such as dogs, guards, metal gates, concrete and more, each with a different danger value. The Prisoners need to work together by bringing forward the best combination of tools, represented by cards, that will deal with the problem, with every victory bringing them a step closer to the exit, as well as giving each of them some cigarettes (the equivalent of points) to enjoy.

In order to win, the Prisoners need to first successfully clear 5 obstacles, with the player contributing the best digging tools getting the most cigarettes. Only the player with the highest amount of cigarettes in their possession after the escape will be declared the winner, meaning not everyone will perform as requested by their fellow inmates.

The game is about quick thinking, trust, and betrayal. Only the most cunning of Prisoners will survive.

Design Process Statement

 The two social game elements we were assigned were Betrayal and Coopetition. We started off by playing some games that have some form of these elements, such as Bang, Munchkin, and Dead of Winter, and taking an in-depth look at their rules in order to get some inspiration. We knew we wanted a game with interesting relationships between the characters, but the way we went about it wasn’t the best. We ended up with complex diagrams and an overabundance of information that players will need to process before starting the game. Lots of scaling down and research soon followed before we got the first prototype we found promising.

Three features were present in most of our iterations, and remained up until the final game. We believed that a good way to represent cooperation and competition is to have players escaping something together, with one having to gain the upper hand someone and escape before the others. We also liked the idea of having “rooms” open up one by one so the group gradually discovers what they’re up against, and the third feature was that they each had items they all needed to go through those rooms. We finally settled on a game being about a group of prisoners using a set hand of digging tools to go through obstacles in a prison and collect a certain number of cigarettes. One of the prisoners would actually be an undercover cop who needed to accumulate cigarettes in order to discard them from the final pool. After the first few playtests, what we were told and what we discovered were that while the gameplay and the theme are exciting, there is little replayability. There was also a problem with the cop having the same objective as the prisoners, and therefore there was no way to narrow down which player is the cop in order to strategize against him/her. Despite those issues, we were happy that there was a lot of communication, collaboration, and backstabbing taking place, with the players being very into the game.

We made several changes to add replayability and depth. We added character cards that have unique skills, hidden event cards that can hinder or help players every round, as well as the ability to buy new skills using cigarettes. The last change we made was removing the cop and keeping it about the prisoners themselves. While having hidden events was a welcome feature, the ability cards added too much secrecy and strategy, in addition to having too many variables to keep track of. This caused communication between players to all but vanish. We quickly scrapped the abilities and characters, sticking with event cards, but keeping the cop out of the picture. We finally conceded that removing a role that added nothing to the game was preferable to changing the overall objective.

After some more playtests with positive results, minor tweaks were made such as removing one random card from play at the start to add a bit more unpredictability while keeping the resource management system. We also created a board for the players to play on to reinforce the theme and avoid confusion over how many successive failures players can suffer before reaching the end. We can’t wait to watch people lie, backstab and laugh at each other in the game we’ve created.

Prison Escape

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