We’re Just Pawns in a Much Larger Game… – Room: House of Pawns, Episode 2 – January 28, 2018 – PLAY TESTED


Play if… you live in DC primarily for the political scene.

Avoid if… you couldn’t make it through Season 1 of House of Cards.


Escape Artist DC:

Address: 720 I St SE, Washington, DC 20003(click address for Google Map)

Contact and Website: 301-502-2043

The Room – House of Pawns, Episode 2: RETIRED

Description (from the company website):
Fossil fuel dependency may come to an end faster than expected if the Asteroid Bill passes, but not everyone is happy about the prospect of this game-changer. Sen. Frederick O’Connor’s college buddy may have found a way to convert one of the asteroid’s natural elements into abundant fuel. Can you, as a lobbyist for the alternative energy jetsetters, find the element and the formula to secure your freedom from the room?

Do not expect the key to be out in the open. It is hidden among clues everywhere you look. Your objective is to sift through all the chaff to get to the wheat — fast! You will have no time to waste flapping your gums when the world’s energy crisis could be moments from an astounding conclusion.

Difficulty (1-10): N/A

Time Limit: 45 minutes

Cost: $20 (for adults; $16 with Student ID)

Identifier: R2 (Episode 1 has been retired)

Party Size: 3-10

Staging Area: Decent sized waiting area with plenty of things to keep you occupied while you wait. FYI, to access the site you’ll have to go up half a flight of stairs. Then, to get to the actual escape rooms, another flight of stairs.

Metro Access/Parking: Eastern Market metro stop is about 3 blocks away. If you drive, you’re going to be looking for street parking, so we recommend metro or Lyft (or rolling the dice and driving).


This is the video we took before we entered the room:

This is the video we took just after we completed the room:

Note: The ERG were given the opportunity to try out this room for free, with the understanding that we would continue to provide an honest review and follow the same process we’ve used on all of our other ratings.


Description of the room: You’re locked in an office and have 60 minutes to find the formula for this alternative energy spectacle.

Understanding of the Mission: While locked in the office, you need to use all the clues hidden in plain sight, as well as your mental faculties (if you have any), to solve the puzzle and find the formula and element needed for this astronomically useful source of new found energy.

Did We Escape: Yes

Time Remaining: ~7:30

Our Suggested Party Size: We only had 3, and that wasn’t enough. We recommend 5-8.

Did the room challenge the entire team? Yes

Members of our team (other than the ERG): Heather

Worth the time and money? Yes. But we missed episode 1, and we feel that we lost some of the backstory (again, however, it wasn’t a requirement to play this room, which has since been retired and replaced with Episode 3.

Where to Eat/Drink Before/After:


Overall Expectation (Summary)
Mike had done all the recon on this location, so all I knew was basically the story for House of Pawns Episode 2. What we would all subsequently find out was that this was the first of three rooms we would end up doing that day. We’ve spent a lot of time trying to do all the rooms at the locations where we’ve already been. So, in doing my research on locations we had not visited yet, this one rose to the top of the list based on proximity and the interesting premise of the rooms following a storyline (different episodes). We had such a great experience at Immersion Escape Room in Charlottesville that we wanted to see how another place handled a story told across multiple room experiences.
Story (Rating)
This is one of the few rooms that is actually based on something real. (Yes, I actually looked this up on the way home.)

There’s an Asteroid bill on its way to being passed and your local Senator knows someone who found a way to convert that asteroid into seemingly limitless amounts of (alternative) energy.

+.5 for being real.

Rating: 7/10

With the Asteroid Bill about to be passed, you are a lobbyist supporting alternative fuel interests. You sneak your way into Senator Frederick O’Connor’s office after hearing rumors that his college buddy developed a formula that converts an element found on the asteroid into safe and efficient alternative energy.

So, for this storyline, it’s a bit complex and I initially found it hard to follow (since it was based off of Episode 1, which we did not get to do), but the pre-room video helped, and the story for Episode 2 was separate enough from the master storyline so it didn’t require doing Episode 1.

This was really a unique storyline and very different from other political themes we’ve done before, so I decided to give it a slightly higher rating than I normally do.

Rating: 8.5/10

Mission (Rating)
Get into the Senators office, find the formula and what the element found in the asteroid is, get out without being caught.

Rating: 7.5/10

Infiltrate the Senator’s office, find the formula and the element, and a way to escape the room within 45 minutes.

Rating: 7/10

Puzzle Diversity (Rating)
This is by far the easiest rating I’ve ever had to give. There was not a single thing that we have encountered in this room before, and that’s not just saying that there were no combination locks, which there actually were not.

I’m talking well thought-out, researched, built, and designed seemingly from scratch to fit the room and the story. (Actually, there was a standard electronic safe. So there was one thing we’ve seen. Hahaha)

If nothing else, you should check out this room just to see the puzzles, story be damned!

Rating: 10/10

Escape Artist DC did an amazing job with making sure that this room had puzzles that ran the spectrum. There were a few that you could spot right away (i.e., “I think we have to work on this”), while others built upon other pieces that you found and came together in new and interesting ways.

I will say that there were only two or three things that you physically had to unlock (such as a chest/drawer or a briefcase), so the room is meant to use what you find in plain sight more so than being rewarded by opening cabinet after cabinet after cabinet (there was some of this, but not overwhelmingly so).

Rating: 9/10

Puzzle Complexity (Rating)
This, however, was a completely different story. I will say this is one of the hardest rooms we’ve done, but not as hard as Episode 3, which will get it’s own rating soon.

We came into this room thinking we were just going to run through it like any other escape room we’ve done. That was a huge fucking mistake. While yes, this is an escape room, I will quote what a game master in a horrifically shitty escape room in New Jersey said to me (that I’ve yet to rate on the blog…hrm…), and I quote, “This is more of a thinking room than an escape room.” [Fuck. Her.]

But, it’s really not. It just seems that way. As I said earlier, once you start getting the flow down, and you start to understand how the puzzles work, it does get easier. But the puzzles are just hard (Giggity). In a lot of other rooms, things fit easily and noticeably, whereas in House of Pawns, while everything is in the open, almost literally, the connections you need to make is where your critical thinking skills really kick in and our need for alternate points of view would have been useful. Having only three people doing this room probably was part of our problem.

Rating: 9/10

I can honestly say that this was one of the more complex rooms when it came to solving the puzzles. This room is built on subtle clues and hiding things in plain sight.

There were only three of us in the room, and this is one of the few times where I’d actually advocate having almost double that number in the room because there were some puzzles that needed more than one person to work on them to be able to solve them or needed that fresh look that suddenly snapped the missing piece into place.

We were slow in getting started just because there was a lot of stuff to look through, but once we solved the first one, we moved through the room at a modest pace.

Logic will help you here as well as looking at puzzles from different points of view, or even angles, in order to figure out what you have to do and how to move on to the next clue.

Rating: 9/10

Flow/Cohesiveness/Uniqueness (Rating)
Once you’re able to actually wrap your head around some of the puzzles, the room starts to flow together a little more naturally. When we first started, I felt that we really didn’t have anything that seemed to fit together or lead to other items. So once we got over that first hump, it was a little easier to actually get moving through the room.

Now that’s not to say the room was linear by any means. The three of us were all working on different things at different times, and that may have caused some confusion. However, as we were each working on our own puzzles, we ended up having to talk to each other and combine brain power to actually solve them.

Aesthetically, I did feel like I was in somebody’s office. (This is not that hard a thing to replicate…) There was a desk, chairs, lamp, couch, whiteboard, Etc. The only thing missing was a secretary outside the door.

Rating: 7/10

I’m going to start off with the easy part of this section… the room is well decorated and you feel like you’re in an office (maybe not as opulent as a Senator’s office, but I’m not going to be THAT picky). The decor really didn’t seem to have a particular “present day” vibe to it and may have seemed a bit dated… I couldn’t tell if it was present-day or within the last 20 years, but it was designed well enough to fit any period of recent history and fit the story well.

There is a definite feeling of espionage while you’re scouring the room trying to find anything that just MAY be a part of the puzzle, and that just adds to the experience.

The flow of the room… now here’s the real nuts and bolts of this section. There is stuff EVERYWHERE and it’s not obvious as to what you have to pick out and piece together. It took us probably about 5 minutes to get the first puzzle solved, and that was pretty slow for us, normally.

Otherwise, once we solved that one, we began to get a feel for the room and what to look for that wasn’t obvious. So, the design of this room and how it wove the puzzles through the story and the mission were really well done.

This is NOT a linear room, so there is plenty for people to do at different spots in the room, but make sure you take a large enough team to adequately approach solving the puzzles and challenges you find.

The tablet-based timer and clue delivery system was a good idea, but had some tech issues and audio feedback. It didn’t detract from the game though.

Rating: 8/10

Fun/Amusement (Summary)
I had a decent amount of fun in this room, considering how much it actually kicked our asses. The difficulty level of this room actually added to the wow factor when we solved something, that that always helps make you have more fun. Amused may not be the right word for this room… I had a good time and was challenged, so it was definitely “fun” in that sense.
Game Master (Summary)
Melind was good with the nudges. I think he was a little too eager to ensure we enjoyed the room to the point where he was constantly giving us help, sometimes unsolicited. Melind was a pretty good GM. He knew who we were and offered to stay in the background in terms of offering full on clues or nudges.
How Helpful Were Any Clues Given, if any (Summary)
I don’t remember how much we asked for because this room and Episode 3 are a giant mish-mash in my head, but whatever help we received was helpful. No hints or clues, but a clarification or two from our GM.
Anger Level Score ERG (pronounced URG, as in “we should have known better”) Score
I’m giving this room a 3/5 primarily because we needed more people and my brain can only hold so much useless shit until it explodes.

Rating: ??? Fists – 3/5

I didn’t feel stupid at all. This room was a tough one.

Rating: — FacePalms – 0/5


Final Thought: For a new location and going in blind, we were surprisingly challenged at the complexity of this room and in the challenge of not easily finding puzzles and things to solve right away. This is a room that has a bit more of the design interwoven into the flow and the storyline, so be prepared!