Give us a clue – when to give hints in a room escape game

So how do you feel about hints?

Do you want to be given them whether you’ve asked or not, or do you only want them when you ask for them?

How many is it “fair” to have – and does too many spoil your sense of achievement?

If you play competitively – do you want to be penalised for hints and somehow have the hints you use accounted for in the overall timing of the event?

Do you like cryptic clues, or do you want to ask specific questions and get straight answers?

We’ve been travelling the world playing Escape Games. One in Houston can take up to ten people on a team, and in order to get a hint everyone in the team has to put both hands in the air.  I like this idea for a pure puzzle game as it ensures a consensus, and also makes the players check with each other where they are up to and what they are doing to ensure they are truly stuck before they ask for a hint.  It also has a sort-of inbuilt time penalty because everyone has to stop what they are doing, lose their train of thought, and then get back to it.  I think I’d use this method if I had two teams competing, with a scripted list of clues to be given.

Elsewhere, clues are given either on a screen or via loudspeaker, which are strictly timed for how far the players are along in the game. In another variant players can ask for up to three clues when they need them, but ask for more than three and each one cost 5 minutes added onto the final escape time. That’s a costly penalty, especially when the additional clues are cryptic.

For our competitive convention games, we have been using a timing system where we give three scripted clues for each puzzle – starting with cryptic then getting more practical – based on whether they have completed the puzzle within a certain time frame. For our bespoke games we decide on the hint system dependent on the purpose of the game.

What’s the best method you’ve come across for determining when to give hints in an escape game?

As for how the hint system is physically managed, that’s an upcoming post.


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