Escape the Dark Sector: The Tabletop Review

The logo for Escape The Dark sector with the words Escape the Dark Sector in retro -futuristic styles font in white on black

Finally, the four of you escape from your cell, having been captured by aliens in the Dark Sector. They have your ship and it’s going to take might, cunning, and wisdom to travel through the three perilous zones between you and your ride outta here. Grabbing a gun each (thanks handy gun cabinet) you dart down a dark tunnel encountering a pair of guards, thirsty for blood. A quick exchange of laser fire and a cheeky flank maneouver sees their health whittled down before moving in for some hand to hand combat.

They take some lumps out of you and they put up one heck of a fight before going down, so you grab their equipment – some injectable drugs to make you more cunning and a one-use force field. Nice.

Onwards you run, a laser grid, a corridor with a Scooby-Doo style chute trap that leads to what seems to a quick game of Blood Bowl (this Dark Sector is pretty big!), another corridor full of very familiar looking alien eggs, a lab with a messed up black hole experiment…

Onwards.. More battles, more corridors, more rooms, before finally facing the boss…

Who killed us in one shot.

And that was our first game of Escape the Dark Sector, the new dice rolling atmospheric adventure game from Themeborne, and sequel to 2017’s Escape the Dark Castle, which Coaching for Geeks’ own Rob rather liked.

Escape the Dark Sector

Escape the Dark Sector sees you and up to 3 friends play as a crew of spacefarers, held captive in the eponymous Dark Sector. With a large card for each player, a cerebral implant which grants special powers, and a die specific to each player you’re good to go. Grab a pencil and health tracker and flip the card…

What’s in the box?

A whole lot of dice, a whole lot of cards, some health tracker sheets, 4 pencils, and an instruction manual.

There’s also an optional playmat available separately to keep everything in place.

The dice are how you’ll resolve everything in Escape the Dark Sector.  The cards tell the story.

Dark Chapters

Each card features a scenario for our heroes to tackle as a team. Flipping a chapter card may result in battles with mercenaries, bar room brawls, strange laboratories to be plucked of items, or other prisoners to interact with. Each card offers a choice to be made, a battle to be had, or a problem to overcome – and these will be overcome by throwing the delightfully chunky 6-sided dice around.

These dice are all about the three different types of ranged weaponry. There’s a lot more dice in Escape the Dark Sector.

Each character is more proficient at one of the three stats – might, cunning, and wisdom, and the crew dice in Escape the Dark Sector reflect this. Choose someone wise and a bit punchy like Lt Abbot and you’ll have 3 faces giving the chance to roll wisdom, 2 chances for might and a mere 1 in 6 chance to roll cunning. One wisdom and one might side offer double trouble, offering two hits, plus a shield to block enemy’s attacks.

Meanwhile dice for each type of ranged weapon offer the chance to hit, miss, or dependant on weapon type jam or overload, potentially harming the player – as we find out as we loaded my brother-in-law up with all the big energy weapons and he promptly shot himself to pieces.

Hit dice are rolled during ranged combat as the enemies always return fire, to find out if you’re a red shirt or a plucky hero.

Ah yes, unlike Escape the Dark Castle we now have ranged combat as well as getting up close and personal with the definitely not a bat’leth, honest guv’ner…

Escape the Dark Sector – Combat

Whether you’re battling combat droids or alien beasts, it’s all going to come down to dice rolling. There may be a decision to make before combat begins – stealth or attack, negotiate or attack, let the prisoner by or attack, and then the dice rolling begins!

Each card depicts your foe and how many chapter dice it has. These match the might, cunning, and wisdom icons on the crew dice, and must be whittled away to defeat the enemy. Ranged combat allows you to take a dice of any type, while close combat means matching faces and always taking a hit unless a shield is rolled. Different ammo types, ballistic, energy, and explosive, may do different amounts of damage. The guards below need two hits from ballistic or explosive to remove one of their chapter dice, or just one from an energy weapon.

Going first means you’ll possibly take damage entering the room. These guys do 1 damage ranged and 2 damage up close, so you may want to open fire

Throw in a variety of permanent and single-use items, the chaps above give up two items after they’re defeated, (I say permanent but some acid dissolved a couple along the way for us), the ability to to take a flank or heal action, and you have a surprising amount of strategy – certainly more than Escape the Dark Castle – without being overwhelming. We found ourselves trading items and weapons to take advantage of our individual strengths and minimise the chance of dying on the next card flip…

The Cards

The large chapter cards are illustrated in the same scratchy pulpy, black and white art style as Escape the Dark Castle. The art doesn’t fit the theme quite as well as Dark Castle, but they’re atmospheric and convey the info needed.  Each turn one player goes first – usually the person with most health as chances are the card is going to make something bad happen to them. Take damage. Make a roll and if you fail – take damage. This game really wants you dead and we found that avoiding combat, where possible, is more important than the items you might gain from killing a foe. Of course we’d found some guns early on so maybe we’d think differently if we were untooled.

The most tense events are when everyone has to roll the same icon in a set number of turns. Certain items can help your chances.

Backpedal to the start of the game and a starting card  sets the scene and have an impact on the game you’re about to play. Then three zones of four cards, or chapters, each, and a final boss. There are only three starting cards – I’d have liked a few more to start things off with a bit more variety, especially as you’ll see the starting room more often than any other card, but 5 bosses make up for it. If you get that far.

Our first game took about 90 minutes, but that included referring to the instruction manual a few times – it’s not laid out in the most useful order, but a handy ‘rules to remember’ card helps out. Subsequent games took 45-60 minutes with 4 players.

Escape the Dark Sector – My Verdict

I had fun attempting to Escape the Dark Sector. I’ve yet to actually Escape the Dark Sector – it’s punishingly tough and, at times, rather unfair and really tough to keep each player alive. It only takes one death to end the game and you’ll be flipping that Mission Failed card a lot. 

It has that Fighting Fantasy/Choose Your Own Adventure look and feel to it, from the difficulty to the art. Cross that with the dice rolling action of Elder Sign or King of Tokyo, throw in some tense battles where you’ll be groaning as you roll a weapon jam one minute and cheering as everyone’s first roll hits another.

It’s not for everyone and for absolute beginners to tabletop gaming, Escape the Dark Castle is a better bet. For anyone who wants a little more depth, and a fun, tropey, sci-fi romp, Escape the Dark Sector is for you.

4/5

Rating: 4 out of 5.

You can buy Escape the Dark Sector direct from Themeborne now!

BUT WAIT.

It’s not all about me. So I recruited my nephews Luke (11)  and Jake (14) to share their thoughts (and also their mum made them do it for homework). 

 

Luke’s Review of Escape the Dark Sector

The game Escape the Dark Sector has good art and a good story. I suggest playing this game multiple times because it’s really hard. When you start out the game it explains the rules quite bad but it’s a good game for the family.With the combat in the game you have to work together so you can defeat enemies and pick up items. The items can be weapons such as guns, shields and more. You can LOSE HEALTH FAST! So make sure you play wisely. Good luck!

 I rate this game 3.5 out of 5.

3.5/5 

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Jake’s Review of Escape the Dark Sector

Escape the Dark Sector is a game where you and your crew mates are abducted by aliens and have to escape. Although that isn’t the most complex story, it makes up with the exciting and engaging gameplay.  Escape the Dark Sector distributes fun and difficulty quite well, but is not an easy game just to pick up. This game reminds me a lot of the video game Cuphead, there is not much difficulty curve, you just jump right in. 

The items you acquire really add depth to the gameplay, with the addition of trading, it creates a sense of strategy and pushes the idea of strengths and weaknesses to the max. My only complaint about this game is how the rules are explained. At times they are a little vague and confusing to the player. 

Battles are hard, complex and could put off newcomers with how punishing they are. Despite this, the more experience you have with this game, the  better time you’ll have. There is a lot of replay value and I’d recommend playing it multiple times to have the full experience. 

This game is very difficult and it’s certain you won’t beat it first try. But that’s the beauty of it. The more you play it, the more you’ll understand the rules and strategies and work together to escape the dark sector.

The art is great, the gameplay addictive and the concept is very simple: Escape the Dark Sector, or die trying. 

4/5

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Our copy of Review the Dark Sector was kindly provided by Themeborne for review.

Robin Bates
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