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The Mystery Agency - "The Balthazar Stone"

Updated: May 23


Photo above is property of The Mystery Agency


Company: The Mystery Agency

Game: The Balthazar Stone

Country: United Kingdom 🇬🇧

Language: English

Type of Game: Tabletop Game 📬

Genre: Adventure

Date Played: August 12, 2021

Difficulty (based on 2 players): 7/10

Size of Team: Unlimited (Can be solved alone. Recommended for ages 14+)

Time: Unlimited

Price: £40 inc. VAT. Shipping for 1 game - £3.59 UK, £21 USA. 10% off purchases of 3 or more games with code MULTIBUY10


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Legend has it that a cursed stone lies locked inside an ancient treasure chest. To open it, you will have to journey to Sharkstooth Island with Elsa and unravel the mysteries that will help you to reveal the secrets trapped within. Can you find out what became of Elsa’s father along the way? It’s said that some people have been driven mad trying to solve this mystery and open the chest! Dare you try?!!


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The quality of this set strikes you as soon as you receive it. The outer cardboard box is enticing, smart and sturdy. Upon opening it you reveal an ornate real wood chest which really does make you feel excited to crack it open and discover the secrets it holds. It is locked with a small 3 digit padlock and comes with its own illustrated travel tag. Also inside the box is a page from an old “newspaper” containing a news story and on the back an unfinished crossword puzzle and some small ads. That’s all you see until you crack the first puzzle, but after that the physical artifacts are of good quality, varied and plentiful!


Photo above is property of The Mystery Agency


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To get started you must enter a code from inside the box into the Agency’s website, and reveal your workspace containing your first clue, a hint file and a computer where it asks you for the answer (this felt a little bit “spoilerish” due to it revealing what you will be seeing at the end). Once you have opened your first clue though you are underway and once the chest is open, a selection of items is made available to you to continue the story and containing further puzzles. Below these - ANOTHER PADLOCK! Sadly our box had either not been glued correctly or had suffered a bashing, and the internal walls had collapsed a little, revealing some of what was hidden in the next compartment, but we tried to restore it without peeking too hard at what was contained in there.


During the course of the game you will use physical clues, read notes, use maps and codes and access websites in order to solve the puzzles, unlock the secrets and make your way down to the very bottom of the chest where lies what you seek!


There’s no real jumping ahead - although you are not led through the next steps, you will have limited information at each stage, so if it feels like you can’t progress with a puzzle, then you may not yet have all the information you need. So just put it aside and try something else. There is a fair bit of reading in the game and a lot of it is in either quite small or a cursive handwriting font, so get your spectacles on before you start!


Once you have completed the game and provided the final solution, you get a digital certificate and, very kindly, a set of instructions for resetting the box, meaning as long as you don’t write on any materials and treat everything carefully you can re-gift this for someone else to enjoy. We found with a paper and pen handy we didn’t need to write on anything, although if you have the option you could make photocopies in order to give you something to work with.

Photos above are properties of ESCAPETHEROOMers


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There is a very nice mix of puzzles in this set, starting right from when you open the packaging, and all the puzzles seem to be in keeping with the theme of pirates, curses and adventuring. Some of them are more straightforward than others, but that’s preferable to them all being too easy or too hard. The hint system on the Agency’s website is very clever - giving you a file of all the puzzles you will be solving, containing 2 progressive hints and then the answer, with a very thorough explanation of how the answer is reached, so you’re never left wondering “but why?!”. After watching another solver complete this game and then reading the hints, we realized that we had gone about some puzzles in an entirely different way but had arrived at the same answer, which surprised us, and, if unintended by the creators then just an odd coincidence! All in all it took the two of us around 90 minutes to solve (not against the clock).


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This was an amazing debut by The Mystery Agency, founded by Henry Lewis of the wonderful Mischief Theatre (for even more fun check out their plays, DVDs and TV shows!)


We kickstarted the full set of three, so they worked out cheaper than they are now available for, but I feel that as long as you fully immerse yourself in the story and take the puzzles and adventure slowly, then this is great value for money.


There were some known issues with the inside of the chest for earlier adopters, such as our box structure mentioned earlier, with broken internal walls or locks that had come away from their shackles. Be sure to take your exploration of the physical elements slowly and don’t use these as an opportunity to cheat! There are also some logistics issues for the deliveries but considering this is a new venture for a small team new to the market, its initial popularity and what with Brexit, Covid and other barriers to deal with, this is not surprising and some patience may be needed, but it is very much worth the wait.


We can’t wait to see what other mischief we get up to in the other two titles from this group, and from the website, it looks like a fourth is already in the planning!

 

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


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