Last weekend’s DASH puzzle hunt

city-logo-pdxSomething that I men­tioned to a num­ber of peo­ple in real life, but I do not think I blogged or tweeted about much was the DASH puz­zle hunt that I attended last week­end. DASH stands for “Different Area, Same Hunt.” As the name some­what implies, a num­ber of dif­fer­ent cities around the coun­try par­tic­i­pated in the same set of puz­zles in the same order, just with dif­fer­ent des­ti­na­tion loca­tions. As I under­stand it, this par­tic­u­lar mechanic was used because the cul­ture in few places (mainly just San Francisco and Seattle) can really sus­tain mak­ing such hunts a reg­u­lar thing. If you can get the game design­ers to col­lab­o­rate across mul­ti­ple cities, it spreads the load and makes the whole thing eas­ier to pro­duce. In the­ory there will be more of these in the future. Who knows? Maybe DASH was the cat­a­lyst to kick off a puzzle-hunting com­mu­nity in PDX?

The setup went a lit­tle some­thing like this: your team starts out with a puz­zle. The puz­zle could be any­thing — from logic to words to music to any com­bi­na­tion. It will take a bit of work to solve, but even­tu­ally it will dis­till down to a sin­gle word. You then con­sult a map con­tain­ing a list of des­ti­na­tion loca­tions, look­ing for a match. Each des­ti­na­tion has a crossword-style descrip­tion and only one should match the word. For exam­ple, a point in the south park blocks was attached to the phrase “an American sto­ry­teller.” One puz­zle solu­tion was “gar­ri­son” (with Keillor implied to make the match). You pro­ceed in this fash­ion from start to fin­ish, through eight puz­zles, eight loca­tions, with the final des­ti­na­tion being a pub. If you get stuck, there are hint pack­ets and a dial-in line.

The recap for the PDX DASH was posted yes­ter­day. While this was not meant to be a com­pe­ti­tion — it is meant to be a fun activ­ity for peo­ple to get together and have a good time — they did post the teams’ answer sheets and hint usage. It was refresh­ing to see that our team (Gospel Tentacle Revival) did not do as badly as I imag­ined. It felt like we were burn­ing through the hints, but I guess we were about aver­age in that regard.

One piece of game mechanic that I rather liked (and might be an idea to steal for a future ARGFest FestQuest) was an enve­lope in the packet of infor­ma­tion that says “do not open until 4:30.” Inside the enve­lope was instruc­tions to the final des­ti­na­tion. It gave a good hard-stop to the activ­i­ties, so if you were hope­lessly lost, you would still end up in the right place with­out get­ting too frus­trated. Fortunately, every­one made it in before the dead­line, so these envelopes were never used.

I do not think I am going to go into all of the details of each of the puz­zles. I might post some of the high­lights in the not-too-distant future, or just ask about them next time you see me.

Overall, I had a lot of fun and was impressed by the amount of thought and work that went into the puz­zle hunt. It was some good brain exer­cise as well as leg exer­cise. I would absolutely do it again!

Posted in: Dear Diary Games Portland Puzzle Games

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