Pawns ARE the Weakest Piece in the Game – Room: House of Pawns, Episode 3 – January 28, 2018 – PLAY TESTED – FAILED!


Play if… you ever had a fantasy of being a burglar in the Watergate scandal, or a private investigator ransacking an office.

Avoid if… you get anxious just walking into someone’s vacant office, let alone having to search their desk for a pen in the fear that someone walks in on you while you’re doing so.


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 3: RETIRED

Description (from the company website): Esteemed scientist Kumar is dead, and “foul play” is on everyone’s lips. With the Asteroid Bill past the Senate floor, and the Concorde project on schedule, the plot is thickening fast.

Your duty as an oil lobbyist to identify who axed Kumar and why. Was it Frederick O’Connor in a rage of jealousy? After all, Kumar was reportedly having an affair with O’Connor’s wife. Could it have been Mrs. O’Connor herself, a politically ambitious woman who would rather not have had her Kumar antics revealed? Or perhaps someone else altogether with an ulterior motive unbeknown.

All the evidence you need is in Frederick O’Connor’s office. The clock is ticking and you must figure out the plot before the time runs out.

Difficulty (1-10): N/A

Time Limit: 45 minutes

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

Identifier: R3 (Episodes 1 and 2 have 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 is a few blocks away. We recommend that or Lyft/Uber unless you want to roll the dice on driving and finding street parking.


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 now an oil lobbyist who has infiltrated Senator O’Conner’s office, looking for proof of who killed the scientist (Kumar) in an effort to kill the Asteroid Bill that has passed the Senate (the bill, from Episode 2, would advance alternative energy from the element discovered on the asteroid, using the formula that Kumar developed to turn it into efficient energy). Lots of intrigue here.

Understanding of the Mission: Find out who killed Kumar, and the role of the conspirators.

Did We Escape: No, but we had an issue with the timer and never had any idea how much time we had left (so we didn’t ask for any help at a point where it would have made a difference)

Time Remaining: less than zero 🙁

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, however we think not knowing the story may make most of the puzzles and such feel out of place. Read on to understand why.

Where to Eat/Drink Before/After:


Overall Expectation (Summary)
Episode 3 turned out to be the third of three rooms we would unexpectedly try to escape that day. We knew we were going to do Episode 2, and as I said earlier we didn’t know we were going to do the Gallery Heist as well as Episode 3. So what was intended to be a short afternoon turned into a very very long one and I was certainly ready to go home by the time we got into this room. I will try my best not to allow that to detract from my rating of the room. As mentioned in our other review, we initially went to Escape Artist DC to try out House of Pawns, Episode 2, and were surprised when our contact, Melind, mentioned that he was resetting the room to allow us to do the next episode. Always up for a challenge, we decided to go for it.
Story (Rating)
Continuing on from Episode 2, it’s now come out that the scientist you heard about with this crazy asteroid-fuel formula is dead. You’re trying to see if there was a conspiracy surrounding his death and what it means for the Oil industry. Typical; only care about yourself.

Rating: 7/10

Renowned scientist Kumar, who developed the formula that used the element found on the asteroid and convert it into sustainable energy, has been killed, and you are an oil lobbyist who is seeking proof of a conspiracy in order to kill the bill (because you don’t LIKE any type of energy that isn’t oil).

The story is a good continuation of the episodes, and – again – I was a bit confused at first whether we were the “good” guys or the “bad” guys. In this case, we’re the “bad” guys, depending on how much you like the environment.

Again, you don’t have to have done Episodes 1 or 2 to play Episode 3, but it is kind of cool to follow the story line from a different angle.

Rating: 8/10

Mission (Rating)
Figure out everyone’s role in the conspiracy and get out before you get found out.

Rating: 6/10

Find out who the conspirators are and who actually killed Kumar… and escape the room within 45 minutes.

Rating: 7/10

Puzzle Diversity (Rating)
Again, as with Episode 2, this room was full of things we have not experienced / encountered before. As usual, I dislike saying that, however it is nonetheless as true as it was in Episode 2, with the exception of the safe. While the majority of the room is essentially untouched (the desk and table and larger furniture pieces remain as is), and if I recall correctly this is the same office, the smaller items that are swapped, such as the color coded lock box, are again things we’ve not encountered.

Conversely, there were one or two things in the room that we were unaware we should have been using. Much like one of Mike’s recent forays into an escape room on his own (when traveling), there are things we were not told that we should have done that are commonplace things we are specifically told not to do.

Rating: 8/10

As with Episode 2, there is very little in this room that is similar to another puzzle or clue… even within and between episodes. There were some really great puzzles that required some teamwork, and others that you could attempt to solve on your own (but I wouldn’t recommend it).

Logic, again, will be your friend in this room since you will primarily be using your mind vs. doing more physical puzzles that we’ve found in other rooms.

Rating: 8/10

Puzzle Complexity (Rating)
I will say that this room was just as difficult as Episode 2. Obviously by design. I take nothing away from the company for designing a meticulously difficult room. There is also nothing I can say to really indicate just how difficult these rooms are. Anything I say will most likely not do it justice.

Rating: 10/10

The puzzles in this room were hard… especially with only 3 of us. I can honestly say that they were mind-draining (and maybe we shouldn’t have done so many in one day and approached it with fresh perspectives).

We did have to ask for clues on this room because there were points where we were just stuck for minutes at a time, not knowing what to do or how to proceed. Some of the things we overlooked… others were REALLY, REALLY well-hidden in plain sight.

Rating: 10/10

Flow/Cohesiveness/Uniqueness (Rating)
When we started this room, we were looking forward to seeing how the story played out from the previous episode. What I hadn’t expected was the sheer level of frustration I would feel, for multiple reasons that I hope are going to be clear by the time you finish reading this review.

I feel like the puzzles that were in this room had almost nothing to do with the story line while simultaneously being directly related to…something in the story that I just didn’t know? I don’t necessarily think that has any relation to not having done Episode 1, as Episode 2 felt as if it was a standalone Escape story. Additionally, a larger problem we encountered was that we had no timer for this room. So while we were steadily working on things, there were times where we would slow down to sit back and review, having absolutely no idea how much time was left on the clock. Now this was due to a technical glitch with the timer system, which was an Android tablet mounted on the wall that was accidentally started and then immediately stopped by our GM.

What we ended up getting out of this room was just a little annoyance and dissatisfaction with the fact that we didn’t know how much time was left and we were getting incredibly frustrated by the puzzles we were trying to solve, and basically the idea that we really no longer wanted to be there at that point. Well, I will leave that as having spoken for myself.

I might have to suggest we come back and do episode 3 with a more full team.

Rating: 6.5/10

As this used the same room as the previous episode with the same setting (the Senator’s office), the decor itself was fine (and essentially follows what I said about Episode 2).

I may have been a bit brain-dead, but I would have to say that I preferred Episode 2 over this one. While the puzzles and clues were related to the story line and the mission, I felt that the pieces in this one were not as cohesive in the overall storyline and mission. The players were related, but the connectedness to the episodic theme seemed to be a bit more of a stretch. Think of a parallel story that goes along with the main storyline in a TV series you are watching (for TWD fans… think of the episode about how Morgan found his pacifist nature… it’s related the the overall theme, but lacked the “urgency” or the punch when you compare it to the whole Rick/Neegan storyline).

I’m not saying that it wasn’t enjoyable or that it didn’t fit, but it took me longer to get into the environment of this one vs. the immersive effects of Episode 2.

We never really found our flow in this room, and that’s due to the challenge of the puzzles themselves more so than how the room worked as a whole.

You could do this room with a larger group and have people work on different areas and then come together, which is how we like the design of rooms to go. There may have been “too” much going on in other areas, and how long it took to solve some of the puzzles.

We also had a technical glitch with this room in that the timer was stuck at 45 minutes (it was accidentally paused by the GM when he was starting it at the beginning of the game). None of us noticed it until an undetermined amount of time had gone by, and we reached an roadblock where we went to the tablet to ask for a clue.

By that point, we shrugged it off, got a clue, and kept playing. When our GM said that we only had a minute remaining, we knew that failure was imminent. After time ran out, we did get a hint as to how to get past our sticking point and then were able to solve the last 2-3 puzzles that remained.

Rating: 6/10

Fun/Amusement (Summary)
This room was tougher than the other 2 we did, by far. But by the time we got out of it, I was mentally and physically drained, for multiple reasons.  The room was challenging, which I liked, but there were parts where I was frustrated in the time it took to solve some puzzles. In defense of the company, that’s on us because we only went with 3 people when the room could hold 10. Hubris can bite you in the ass, and it did.
Game Master (Summary)
I will mimic what I said for Episode 2 with a copy and paste from that post:

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 good in understanding that we preferred to go through the room without any nudges or help unless we specifically asked. There were points where he offered clarifications or nudges on areas that we had already solved, but we did end up asking for a few clues that – sadly – did not help us complete the room in time.
How Helpful Were Any Clues Given, if any (Summary)
So, we never really asked for clues in this one because we had not really checked the clock because it was stopped. :/ We asked for clues twice, but took so long to do so (again, based on the timer issue) that we didn’t have enough time once we started moving forward again.
Anger Level Score ERG (pronounced URG, as in “we should have known better”) Score
The mounting frustration due to having too few people in this room coupled with the lack of an actual timer for the room multiplied by the fact that I honestly felt like I had no idea what the fuck I was doing for parts of this room, makes my rage level here an absolute Rage Quit 5 of 5.

Rating: ????? Fists – 5/5

The room was challenging and we didn’t have enough people to do it… I’ll give myself a medium rating on this because we should have know better to do the room with only 3 people after seeing how two other rooms in this location were designed (even though we escaped them both)… and maybe asked to postpone Episode 3. It also didn’t help that two of the crew had injuries that physically sapped their energy while we were in here (again, not an excuse, but something we had to content with).

Rating:  FacePalms – 3/5


Final Thought: Even though we failed to complete this room, we’re going with the old adage that “you can’t win them all.” The room was well designed in terms of offering an experience of diverse and complex puzzles, and the story line over numerous episodes was an interesting premise. However, we felt that the cohesiveness and flow of Episode 2 vs. Episode 3 was just slightly better. If you’re going to do this room, bring a big crew. You’re going to need it.

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