Escape: The Curse of the Temple. Given that the game is not normally distributed in the United States, this was a great find, particularly since we also got two of the expansions almost for free.
One of the great things about GenCon is that you get to playtest almost any game before you buy it. My wife had played before, and recommended it highly. After watching the group ahead of us play, and then playing through it myself, I was hooked.
Escape: The Curse of the Temple is a cooperative board game themed around the concept of exploring a jungle temple, dodging deadly traps, and retrieving gems before the temple closes, trapping you inside forever. The most unique feature of the game is that its played in real-time. You have ten minutes to play the game, and when time's up, you immediately either win or lose. Time is kept by an included soundtrack, which not only provides some music appropriate for the theme, but also signals certain events that you have to react to or face the consequences. The music adds a great ambiance to the game, and really contributes to the pressure to get in, get the treasure, and get out.
The temple is laid out by randomly arranging a series of square interior pieces, which are revealed one at a time as you explore. The exit to the temple is always one of the last interior pieces in the pile, which means that you have to reveal most of the temple before you're able to escape. These same interior pieces also include the pedestals for the gems. The number of gems left in the temple contributes to the difficulty in escaping. So to get out, you not only have to find the exit, but you also have to get as many gems as possible.
All this is accomplished through a simple dice-rolling mechanic. Rather than standard dice, each person has a set of five dice with six different symbols on them. Exploring, moving between rooms, and picking up gems are all accomplished by different combinations of these symbols. Furthermore, the dice also include a curse symbol, which locks that die out of the game until you (or another player in the same room) rolls the blessing symbol. Finally, once you've gotten enough gems, it takes yet another combination of dice for each player to exit.
If you've played the classic game Yahtzee, the dice rolling plays out a lot like that. Except rather than taking turns, every player is playing at the same time for the entire length of the game. Each player is constantly rolling twice, trying for specific combos, then moving on to the next step. Since you can choose to save a particular roll and reroll the others, there is a certain amount of strategy in your rolling, but for the most part you're just trying to roll as fast as you can.
The base game includes a few other variants to try once you've mastered the base game, and the two expansions add even more options. I haven't yet had the time to try these out, but once I do so I will definitely report back.
Escape: The Curse of the Temple
is a great game and one that I highly recommend. Even if you're not a big "geek-gamer," this is a fast, fun game that anyone can enjoy. The game is easy to play, easy to teach, and one enjoyable by all ages. If you get a chance to pick it up, you won't be disappointed.