It was a long-time wish of mine to play a Vital Lacerda game. I was a bit scared that I would be overwhelmed. Escape Plan from 2019 is reportedly his lightest game so I was glad to try it out first.
Escape Plan is divided into 3 rounds in which each player has between 3-5 turns. Players take on the role of thieves, with the police at their heels. Everyone tries to collect as much money as possible within those turns and then escape before the city gets fully locked down at the end of round three.
At the start of every round, new location tiles are placed on the game board with locations to visit, among which are the exits to escape. Police close down exits and in the last round only one exit remains available for escape. Players have to risk how far to wander off from the potential exits and keep enough cash to be able to escape. The first player who escapes through the last remaining exit does so for free but the other players have to pay (bribe) their way out, with the last player paying the most.
On a player’s turn a player chooses to move around the board and visit shops, hospitals, safehouses and even gang members to gain assets, contacts, but most of all cash. Cash is what will win you the game. The player who escapes with the most cash is the winner.
I liked how money is tight and how important the tile placement is. I also really liked that there is quite a bit of player interaction; moving police to the most notorious player and closing down locations to prevent other players from visiting those locations. Speaking of notoriety, there is a notorious track that players can take advantage of by becoming increasingly notorious. The track also determines the player order. However at the end of the game players lose points the further up they are on this track. Going up and down this track seems like an obvious strategy which I hope is not the only way to do well in this game. More plays will have to deny or confirm this assumption. The art from Ian O’Toole is functional and doesn’t distract from the game play.
The explanation of the game took quite a long time because there are so many options, players with “analysis paralysis” can take a long time to complete a turn. This seems to be inherent to a lot of Vital Lacerda games where players can take auxiliary actions before/during or after their regular actions. This brings me to my only real negative experience during my first game. Because you can get extra actions during the game, combined with the changing turn order, it can happen that you are doing nothing for 30 minutes, waiting for your turn to come back to you. Unluckily that happened to me during my first game, oddly enough it didn’t affect my score too much and I came in second. We played a 4 player game, but I would think the game would scale well, with 3-4 players as the sweet spot.
I watched a video to learn the game so I can’t really comment on the rule book. The rule book easily answered the questions that we had. Overall, my first experience was quite positive and I think I’m ready for more Vital Lacerda in the near future.