A review of Room 25 Ultimate by Derek Thompson from Geek Under Grace. More comments and pictures available here : Geek Under Grace
Several years ago, a friend introduced a group of us to The Resistance. Think of it as an evolution of the party game Werewolf/Mafia with even more lies and deception. I’ve been addicted to the game since then, and I am always on the lookout for new games with a traitor mechanism. Most of these games are played almost entirely in the players’ heads, and have minimal components. Room 25 changes that formula.
Room 25 presents a Hunger Games-esque situation. Players are on a television show, trying to escape a complex without dying. However, some players could be traitors, intending on betraying everyone else. The game is played on a modular board full of traps and trouble. Players scan their surroundings, move, push each other, and slide the rooms around in an attempt to get out before time runs out. Room 25 is a great concept, but the original release had some issues. Does Room 25 Ultimate—now including the Season 2 expansion —solve those problems? Let’s find out!
The game has a “scary” theme—players are trying to escape a complex without dying. Many of the rooms harm or kill the players. No actual gore is present in the game, however. Its main Suspicion Mode has one or two players plotting to betray the others, which prompts them to lie to the other players during the game. However, it should be commended that some improvements are made over the original release (e.g., the female character was originally called “The Bimbo”).
Room 25 is a great concept, and I was very excited to play the original. However, it had its problems. Although you can play the game cooperatively or in Suspicion Mode, we view the latter as the “real” way to play. However, the game was often too deterministic. Players each program two moves on their turn among four available actions, which never change. When traitors are revealed in Suspicion Mode, however, they no longer have to program their actions ahead of time, giving them a huge advantage. We had more than one game where we had no real way to outmaneuver the traitors, due to our limited options.
I’m happy to say that Room 25 Ultimate not only fixes that issue but offers much more. Players now each have an Adrenaline token that allows them to take a third action, which they need not decide until the moment arrives. Revealed traitors, however, lose their Adrenaline token if they haven’t used it yet. Furthermore, each character now has a special ability, making the game much less deterministic. My only complaint here, though, is that several abilities are relatively useless in Cooperation Mode. That’s not a huge deal since we vastly prefer Suspicion Mode, but it’s something to be aware of. Not only do these ideas “patch” the game, they also offer expanded, interesting gameplay without vastly changing the rules. And they aren’t the only gameplay additions.
The main method of re-playability in Room 25 are the tiles. Each game is played on a 5 x 5 grid, and there are many more tiles than what are used in each game. This edition has many extra tiles with a variety of strange effects. There are also now event cards that affect the players in Cooperation Mode, to make that version more difficult. The game also includes extra rules and challenge cards to vary the difficulty. In addition to all of these new toys, the components for this edition are fantastic. The game comes with a well-designed insert to hold everything into place and large player aids for each player that describe every type of room (though I did find one typo).
My only real complaint is that difficulty from one game to the next seems highly variable. Even if you don’t change the rooms up, the layout itself can change the difficulty. I find this inconsistency worth it, however. I love how modular the game is and how no two games are different.
When I played Room 25 before, I knew it had immense potential. That potential has been fully realized in Room 25 Ultimate. It offers tons of new gameplay options that make the system nearly infinitely re-playable, as well as awesome components. It also has a great theme and a tension that keeps you sweating until the end. Room 25 has gone from a game I wished was better to a game I can’t wait to play again.