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The Deadbolt Mystery Society - "Ashes to Ashes"

Photo above is property of The Deadbolt Mystery Society


Company: The Deadbolt Mystery Society

Game: Ashes to Ashes

Country: USA 🇺🇸

Language: English

Type of Game: Tabletop Game 📬

Genre: Detective

Date Played: April 1, 2024

Difficulty (based on 3 players): 6.5/10

Size of Team: Unlimited (Recommended 2 ppl)

Time: Unlimited (Recommended 2.5 Hrs)

Price: $25.89 USD


A murder in a funeral parlor, well that's ironic, and also convenient too. From farm to table, funeral parlor to coffin box. But who would want to kill Bernard Sparks, funeral director of Eternal Slumber funeral parlor, a man who brought comfort and comedy to those grieving.

There are no leads, except the breadcrumbs of clues Bernard left, leading us to slowly uncover the snaking mystery in his copious trove of personal effects and business documents. A bullet to the head is no accident, but you still don't have a suspect. Canvas the area, see whose story doesn't add up, and use the funeral preparations that Bernard had wisely and suspiciously created for himself, to find the killer, and awaken the mystery of the Eternal Slumber funeral parlor.


As always the Deadbolt games have consistently high production value, and this box may even top their usual standard. They did a great job with the funeral aesthetic, incorporating it into the flavor images and puzzle design. It all adds to the magic and to the immersion when playing the game. Most of all I think with this box they've done a great job of incorporating tactile objects. They know, as we know, it's a lot more fun to root through the dead man's wallet than it is to simply be given a stack of his possessions. There's also a secret box with secret items that will keep you saying: “when do I get to open this!”.


The thing I love about this box in particular is how it incorporated narrative style puzzles in a big way. The beginning is perfect. You have to work through the remains of the victim and then compare this information with the testimony of the suspects to determine who is lying and potentially covering their tracks. There's something about narrative puzzles, the free form of induction and deduction, collecting all the details, identifying from out of this mass what is and is not essential, comparing it up to the suspect statements to identify the contradiction. It could very well be that that little insignificant thing is the key to it all, and the eureka moments of connecting that little bit of information and making it blossom in a revealing investigating moment. The narrative puzzling continues as we try to search the victim's personal effects for the information that will allow us to crack the personal passcodes that gate our access to what will prove quite the intriguing behind the scenes shenanigans going on. And of course it wouldn't be right if you didn't have a couple classic puzzles thrown in the mix, what comes to mind is reading the will and its instructions and how perfectly it is incorporated as a vehicle for progressing through the puzzles. The story is pretty twisty too, and will leave you guessing, and perhaps moralizing, to the end.

Photos above are property of ESCAPETHEROOMers


Deadbolt is wise enough to realize that every box may be a person's first, so they tend to start each box with a smaller initial phase to showcase the theme and style of the puzzling, and to ease the player into the game, before you are thrust into the deep end in the second more expansive phase. The early game in Ashes to Ashes sets a great tone and begins with an ingenious narrative puzzle that is the hallmark of the rest of the case. It comes closest to approximating a real case file, where you are given a bunch of evidence and have to use it to build towards a proof. In this case you are first judging the testimonies of the suspects, but the narrative puzzling actually factors into every aspect of the game, even the interpretation of the story itself. It forces you to keep the story and its details and the unfolding case both firmly in your mind, and they are intertwined in a natural way that really makes the mystery come fully to life. I've notice that the Deadbolt boxes tend to have a finale where you kind of have to bring it all back home, and this one is no exception, having you run over a long and epic sequence of puzzling revisiting the past and putting it all together to eventually unlock the truth, which i think is a fantastic conclusion to the whole experience. A small, very small criticism: Its a fine balance in creating a puzzle, determining what to tell and what to simply show in representing a puzzle, between granting what is sufficient to allow the player to figure out the nature of the puzzle and its solution, and giving them too much so that once understood the puzzle turns into a routine follow along. You don't want to be too obtuse or it gets frustrating, but on the other hand the piecing together the riddle from undefinedness of the object is the challenge, and thus the fun in itself. Some of the puzzle became something of a follow along once the initial logic was uncovered, which can work as a matter of a reveal, but it can also become routine, and something that should be minimized as such.

Photos above are property of ESCAPETHEROOMers


It's a solid box, were you expecting anything less? And it is a special box, made special by its unique incorporation of narrative puzzling. I really like that they leaned into this aspect, though there's nothing wrong with a little good old fashion classic puzzling. An idea that looms large in my mind when I think about these boxes is if they should move away from the puzzling and more towards a realistic style case file, with its deduction from a broad set of facts and objects, narrative focus, inclusion of motive and means. Although why mess with the perfect formula when it works very well to accommodate their diverse player base. I would love to see a long form box as well, one that might give them more room to experiment with the nature of the puzzles, as they have here, and that might bring new and exciting challenges. I am continually impressed and consistently excited every time I do a Deadbolt box and I highly recommend you try to get your hands on this stand out scenario, especially if you have already played a few of them and are hankering for a more narrative puzzle leaning box.


(If you do decide to try this game, give us a shoutout or tag us on social media so we know you heard it from "ESCAPETHEROOMers"!)

Disclosure: We thank The Deadbolt Mystery Society for providing us with samples of the game. Although a complimentary experience was generously provided, it does not impact our opinion on the review whatsoever.


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