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Room 25 Ultimate is a reboot of a game which kind of flew under the radar at Essen 2013. Or at least I feel like it did (I honestly don’t have any sort of numbers to show how popular it was or wasn’t at the time). The story is fairly simple. Players are competitors in a futuristic game show where the players are all prisoners trying to escape from a maze of rooms. This new version of the game keeps the old components of the original game while adding in a few “ultimate” additions to make the game ever more frenetic.
One of the hallmarks of the game is that there are multiple ways to play the game: cooperatively, competitively, solo, and even more. From our previous experiences with the base game, my group prefers the co-op mode, and thus far, all of our games have been in that mode. In this version, players work together to escape the maze of rooms.
At the start of the game, a central room is placed on the table. A 5×5 grid is constructed out of room tiles – making sure that the exit room, “Room 25” is in one of the external corners. Each player is given a player board – which is really just a huge player aid sheet to remind you of the actions/functions of the different room tiles. All players place their plastic figure into the central room. At the start of the game, the players get a clue, each is allowed to look at one orthogonally adjacent room tile to the central room. In order to win the game, the players as a group must discover the Key Room, get everyone into Room 25 and then move that room off the board.
Each player starts the game with 4 base action tiles (move, push, control and look) as well as one special action token which is specific to each player. Depending on which character you chose, you may also get some specific tokens to use with your ability. It is up to your group to decide if you want to get characters randomly or to specifically choose them based on their abilities and how they might work together.
A start player is chosen and that player places his turn order marker on the appropriate space on the track for the number of turns in the game. Players in clockwise order place their marker on the next space on the track.
The game is played in a number of rounds – the number of which changes with the number of players. In a 4p game, there are 8 rounds. In each of these rounds, there are four phases:
M.A.C. card (Move Alone Complex card) phase – at the start of each round except the final round, draw 2 cards from the deck and apply their effects. These cards may cause a row or column of rooms to shift OR they could be a Punishment card where specific characters must lose one of their basic action tokens. For more advanced games, there is a second deck of “Madness” M.A.C. cards with even more varied actions.
Programming – Each player takes his action tiles and chooses one or two of them to use in this round. The chosen tiles are placed face down to the right of your player board. The players must also decide whether or not to use their adrenaline token; this is a once-in-a-game token which will give that player a third action in this round. The adrenaline action can be any of the four base actions and can even be a repeat of one taken earlier in the round. If a player only chooses one token, he places it in between the slots for Action 1 and Action 2.
Action – starting with the current start player, each player does the action corresponding to the tile in the first action space (if you only chose one action tile, when your turn comes around, you can decide if you’re going to take your action in the first or second round). The basic actions include:
Look – choose a facedown tile which is orthogonally adjacent to your figure. Look at it secretly and then put it back in the same place. You may only communicate the color of the room to the other players.
Move – move your figure to an adjacent room. If the tile is still face down, flip it over when you enter it. Then, apply the effects of the room when you enter it.
Push – push another character that is in your room into an adjacent room. If the tile is face down, reveal it. Then apply the effects of the room to the pushed character. You may not push players from the Central room.
Control – Move a line of rooms that you are standing in (either vertical or horizontal). All rooms move one space in the desired direction and the room which was on the end loops around to the other side. You may never move the Central room. Place a marker showing the direction of movement of that chosen row/column – for the rest of this round, this row/column can only move in that direction.
Play goes around the table twice, with each player taking their chosen action. If anyone had played their Adrenaline token, they get a third action at the end of the round where they can use any of the basic actions – even if it is an action that they already took earlier OR an action tile which they had been forced to discard due to a M.A.C. card.
The players win if they have met all the victory criteria. They lose automatically if there are no more rounds. If there is another round, the player marker which is last in line is moved up to the front, thus taking up the correct place in the turn track for the current turn.
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