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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