More fun than the actual Castle
Help Owain Glyndwr storm Cardiff Castle!
It’s 1404 and the English have occupied Cardiff’s most precious asset – our castle.
Glyndwr has plans to take back the castle in an epic battle but first, he needs your help!
You need to search around the castle to find the secret entrance and retrieve the plans so he can formulate his attack!
The last time we paid a visit to Escape Rooms Cardiff (ERC), things were very different. The year was 2018, and we were just little baby enthusiasts having played less than 30 games, and only ever in a team of at least four, generally five. Escape Rooms Cardiff looked very different then too! Although they are still conveniently located in the same building in Cardiff city centre, they now occupy the former coffee shop on the ground floor in addition to the space they had originally, and have used this to create an epic cinema-style screening room for their shiny new health and safety briefing video.
But I’ve gotten ahead of myself. We were due to play our first game at ERC bright and early at 9:15 on a Saturday morning. But being the early birds we are, we found ourselves in Cardiff with plenty of time to kill. So after foraging for our breakfast, we thought we’d have a brief stroll around the city, and take a quick peek at the inspiration behind our first game, Cardiff Castle itself. Remember when I said Escape Rooms Cardiff are conveniently located? Well, they’re just a five-minute walk from the castle, so it’s no surprise that the two have joined together for an official reimagining of the iconic building in escape room format.
Walkabout completed, we made the five-minute journey from the castle to Escape Rooms Cardiff, and prepared for the adventures ahead. We stepped through the door into the darkened reception area, and once the 9:00 group finished their briefing, we stepped through the curtain to the cinema room to watch the new video all about the do’s and don’t’s of escape rooms (DO look everywhere, DON’T lick any wires – you know the drill). Thoroughly briefed on Health and Safety, our GM met us at the exit and escorted us up the staircase to the secret entrance to the castle.
Covid-19 Procedures: Escape Rooms Cardiff are still asking players to check in with NHS Track and Trace. ERC have staggered start times to avoid groups crossing over in public areas. The staff continued to wear masks, and we were asked to keep them on in common areas (we kept them on in-game too). There were also hand sanitising stations around the building.
The games at Escape Rooms Cardiff have always had well-designed sets (Z was their newest game when we visited in 2018, and that set, in particular, was pretty impressive then), but they’ve stepped it up another gear entirely for Cardiff Castle. The game occupies the same space as the former Heist, and uses a similar theme; for this is if you want to get technical, a heist-themed game. But the difference is it’s 1404, and you’re stealing castle blueprints instead of enacting a modern-day jewel theft from an art gallery. This distinction makes all the difference, for although we were there to break in, steal something, and break back out again, it was definitely a castle-storming adventure and not your run of the mill thievery.
Had I not been told that Cardiff Castle sits in the same space as the first game we ever played at ERC, I would never have known. Granted it’s been a little while since we were last in the venue, but there is nothing even remotely similar to give it away; even the trip up from reception didn’t feel familiar as we stopped outside the sturdy castle door to receive our mission before stepping through into the flickering torchlight of the past.
Cardiff Castle had a pretty linear flow as we moved from space to space, breaking into the castle and then hunting for those sneaky castle plans, and finally, breaking back out again with the secret knock. With a heisty theme, the narrative wasn’t overly present, but that was more than made up for with the beautiful set design, as we found ourselves in rooms that looked very much like many of the old castles I’ve wandered into over the years I’ve been living in the UK. With the lovely set and the subtle ambient soundtrack, it was very easy to become totally immersed in the puzzle-solving as we raced through the game and aid in the Welsh rebellion.
The set design lent itself incredibly well to thematic puzzles and gave plenty of opportunities for interesting interactions with our surroundings, rather than simply relying on keys and codes to bar the way. In fact, I think there was only one coded padlock in the entire game and only one or two keys.
The puzzles were very fair, and (for the most part) well signposted, allowing us to flow smoothly from task to task, with only one or two minor stumbling blocks, as we encountered a lovely variety of puzzles, with tasks that involved logic, lateral thinking, some minor searching, and a keen eye for observation, and thankfully, no maths. The linear path often meant that we were working on tasks in tandem, but midway through, Cardiff Castle opened up a bit, and we were able to explore independently to figure out what might come next, even if we didn’t have all of the information yet.
Perhaps the only thing that felt out of place in Cardiff Castle, other than one modern combination padlock, was the timer screen that could, and would, also display clues. But I’ll forgive this one, as I definitely prefer the screen with concisely typed out nudges to a walkie talkie or a GM entering the room! Especially when they’re accompanied by a little alert noise to let you know that they’re there.
Due to an administrative mix up in the behind the scenes of Review the Room (i.e. accidentally deleting all of our notes about our experience that we made while stopping for cake and coffee), I’m afraid I cannot remember the name of our GM. I want to say it was Alex, but I am probably just making that up and pulling a name out of thin air. But whoever was running our game was an excellent host; friendly, personable, and quick with the clues when we needed them. Though, to be fair, we made his job relatively easy, since we clicked pretty well with the puzzles, and managed to storm the castle in about 33 minutes with only one or two nudges when we went off on a tangent.
Cardiff Castle is by far the prettiest of all the games we’ve played at Escape Rooms Cardiff, and possibly the prettiest we’ve played in Cardiff itself. It’s a solid game that will be fun for enthusiasts and great for newcomers to escape rooms, plus it’s a perfect tie in if you’re planning to visit the game’s eponym while you’re in the area.
Team: 2 players – escaped in 33 minutes
Address: 119 St Mary St, Cardiff CF10 1DY