Board Game : Escape! 404

The biggest sleeper hit of ‘93, this game was well ahead of its time. Possibly too far ahead of its time for its own good; it seems to have largely been forgotten a couple of decades later. Among boardgame cognoscenti of a certain age, however, Escape! 404 Is synonymous with immersive fun.

 A dice-roller with a Dungeon Master, Escape! 404 was preceded only by Hero Quest, which was clearly its major mechanical inspiration. Aesthetically, it owes more to Ghost Castle.

It was a unique board game for its time and even today. I’d describe it as a catered game of tag through a shifting maze. 

The DM controls the placement of doors within the board and has at his disposal a nearly-unlimited army of slow-moving, overpowered ‘Infected’ monsters. The players move their characters through the maze with the goal of reaching the centre, a slime room represented on the board by a tub of slime. Players reaching the centre of the board would spend their remaining turns delving into the slime to retrieve coloured tokens. When they found the correct token for their character they would be able to access the evacuation chopper and escape, winning the game.

If caught by the Infected the player would enter a combat system based on a spinner. Upon failing, which was the usual outcome of combat, the player would take damage or become Infected themselves.

Upon Infection a timer is started and that player has one minute to find and consume an Antidote card before their game ends and control is taken by the DM. They can be found in random draws or through trading with other players, each of whom has a hand of cards to play at any time during their turn.

This board game was hours of fun for me and my friends when we were kids. We rarely won – it was a very unforgiving combat system – but even getting to the slime pot at the centre of the board and having that tactile element to the experience was reward enough. We were kids. There was slime. We were happy just to get our hands in the slime.

The mechanics were solid and fun. A good variety of generously-awarded buff and protection cards kept the players going against the far more powerful Infected and provided lots of emergent situations for the players to deal with that could help or hinder them.

The Hero Quest influence, Dungeon Master setup and narrative nature of the board and cards leads to characterisation of the pieces and builds strong attachment between the player and their pieces and their character. I still remember how avidly I defended my favourite piece, which was the dog, and the character I created to play in that piece’s paws, even eighteen years later.

On the down side, the combat was excessively unfair and there were a lot of random outcomes that made player skill obsolete. You just hoped for winning spins and an unimaginative DM.

Having said that, the game was still a lot of fun and completely dominated the summer evenings of ‘93 and ‘94 for me. It’s unfortunate that the game has fallen out of memory, for the most part. This is likely due to the slime component drying out or leaking and making old sets unusable, but in my case I was lucky. The slime has dried out but it didn’t damage any other components as it was properly sealed in its storage container.

There was an expansion pack released in late ‘93 called ‘Enter The Cloud’ which looked to delve deeper into the plague and world’s backstory but I was never able to find it, do not own it and am unable to review it. I will say that the world building in Escape! 404 is strong as it is in the base game.

Overall, this is one of the best board games I ever played as a child and it has been a pleasure delving through those memories to write this review.

41 thoughts on “Board Game : Escape! 404

  1. Pingback: Board Game : Space Hulk 1E & Genestealer | Board in the 90s

  2. Here from /r/boardgames too. Nnice blog, major nostalgia for games I haven’t thought about in decades 🙂 This one looks amazing, don’t actually remember it from my childhood but gonna look out for it on ebay/charity shops. Guess the slime will have dried up by now 😀

    Like

  3. Cannot believe I’ve stumbled across this page after randomly Googling for some nostalgia. I played this game with my sister, well over 25 years ago, such good times!

    Like

    • Hey- I’ve been trying to find more information about this game. Is there anything specific you remember about it? Where you bought it? etc

      Thanks!

      Like

      • That’s mad I wasn’t expecting someone to reply to my random comment!! I think my parents used to bring it down from the attic on rainy days to keep us busy with some other random junk, sorry though noooo idea where it came from, but was living in Norfolk at the time. Hope that helps and good luck!

        Like

  4. 20;8;9;19;0;13;1;25;0;19;5;5;13;0;6;1;12;19;5;,;0;2;21;20;0;9;14;4;5;5;4;0;9;20;0;9;19;0;20;18;21;5;!; ;9;0;18;5;13;5;13;2;5;18;0;16;12;1;25;9;14;7;0;20;8;9;19;0;7;1;13;5;,;0;2;21;20;0;15;14;12;25;0;9;14;0;1;0;4;18;5;1;13;.; ; ;15;18;0;13;1;25;2;5;0;25;15;21;0;3;15;21;12;4;0;3;1;12;12;0;9;20;0;1;0;22;9;19;9;15;14;.

    Like

          • ;1;19;6;14;12;15;20;.; ;11;5;12;26;0;13;1;0;26;13;22;0;3;5;23;14;0;4;14;14;12;0;18;13;12;21;5;18;21;6;12;2;0;11;14;0;5;4;13;22;21;0;5;10;10;0;11;5;12;12;14;19;0;13;1;0;18;13;12;18;14;19;12;20;.; ; ;5;20;0;6;0;3;5;23;14;0;21;19;6;14;15;0;14;10;22;18;6;15;5;21;14;,;0;0;6;0;15;13;0;12;13;21;0;9;12;13;24;0;5;12;26;21;3;6;12;2;0;13;1;0;21;3;6;20;0;19;13;11;14;13;,;0;12;13;19;0;21;3;6;20;0;5;11;26;0;18;3;5;19;5;18;21;14;19;0;26;13;22;0;5;10;10;0;11;14;12;21;6;13;12;.; ;6;0;5;11;0;18;13;12;18;14;19;12;14;15;0;16;19;6;11;5;19;6;10;26;0;24;6;21;3;0;21;3;14;0;15;5;20;21;5;19;15;10;26;0;11;5;18;3;6;12;5;21;6;13;12;20;0;13;1;0;21;3;14;0;13;19;15;14;19;;;0;21;3;14;6;19;0;16;14;19;23;14;19;20;6;13;12;0;13;1;0;21;19;22;14;0;3;6;23;14;0;24;13;19;20;3;6;16;,;0;21;3;14;6;19;0;15;6;20;-;19;14;20;16;14;18;21;0;13;1;0;21;3;14;0;20;6;20;21;14;19;,;0;5;12;15;0;21;3;14;6;19;0;15;22;16;10;6;18;6;21;13;22;20;0;6;12;21;14;12;21;6;13;12;20;0;21;13;24;5;19;15;20;0;22;20;0;5;10;10;.; ; ;1;14;5;19;0;26;14;,;0;2;14;12;21;10;14;0;18;3;6;10;15;19;14;12;0;13;1;0;21;3;14;0;21;13;24;12;,;0;21;3;14;0;23;13;6;15;0;16;19;14;20;14;12;18;14;0;5;16;16;19;13;5;18;3;14;20;0;20;3;13;19;21;10;26;.; ; ;20;13;13;12;0;6;0;11;22;20;21;0;21;5;9;14;0;11;26;0;18;3;5;12;18;14;20;,;0;1;13;19;0;21;3;14;0;20;5;9;14;0;13;1;0;21;3;14;0;24;13;19;10;15;.;

            Liked by 1 person

            • 6;0;4;1;22;5;0;11;5;19;19;1;3;5;12;0;25;15;21;0;15;13;0;1;13;15;20;4;5;18;0;16;1;3;5;0;2;18;6;5;13;12;,;0;1;18;5;0;25;15;21;0;19;1;25;6;13;3;0;20;15;0;11;5;0;20;4;1;20;0;4;11;14;18;21;,;0;7;18;5;1;20;15;18;19;0;1;13;12;0;19;5;10;10;5;18;19;0;15;2;0;22;1;18;6;15;21;19;0;14;5;22;5;18;1;3;5;19;0;1;13;12;0;20;15;13;6;7;19;0;1;18;5;0;20;4;5;0;15;13;5;19;0;23;4;15;0;25;15;21;0;19;1;25;0;16;18;5;20;5;13;12;19;0;20;15;0;14;5;0;20;4;6;19;0;15;18;12;5;18;?;0;25;15;21;0;19;1;25;0;20;4;5;25;0;1;18;5;0;13;15;20;0;20;15;0;14;5;0;20;18;21;19;20;5;12;?;0;6;2;0;19;15;,;0;23;4;15;0;6;19;0;20;4;5;0;18;5;1;10;0;15;18;12;5;18;?;0;23;4;15;0;7;1;13;0;6;0;10;15;15;9;0;20;15;0;2;15;18;0;20;18;21;20;4;0;1;13;12;0;2;15;18;0;14;18;15;20;4;5;18;4;15;15;12;?;0;12;6;18;5;7;20;0;11;5;0;4;5;12;18;15;13;,;0;2;15;18;0;6;0;19;5;5;9;0;20;4;5;0;20;18;21;5;0;3;21;6;10;12;.

              Like

  5. Pingback: Chapter 12 – ARG links – Boomtown Storyline

    • 25;5;19;0;6;18;9;5;14;4;0;25;15;21;0;4;15;0;11;14;15;23;0;13;5;0;19;9;19;20;5;18;0;24;0; ;16;15;20;21;13;0;13;5;12;0;22;5;18;21;13;0;3;15;7;14;15;19;3;5;18;5;

      Like

  6. I may still have a copy of this available for the right person at the right price! You know where to find me.

    396-417-528-639-741-852

    Like

    • Yeah yeah.
      I’ve been looking for nearly a week now. This doesn’t exist, never did. This is not a game.

      Fuck it, I’ll pay you £150 for it right now if you want to prove me wrong.

      Like

      • If money is all you bring to the table then I am afraid we have reached an unfortunate impasse…….. although I must add that £150 buys you very little in this world my friend.

        Like

    • I’d go much higher. But i would need to see photos of the boards, of the rules, and of the playing pieces (not the ones above obviously) to know they are intact. Cheers.

      Like

  7. Pingback: Boardinthe90s Blog – Boomtown Storyline

  8. Well, I found *some* stuff…
    **reddit cross post**

    Hey guys,

    Knew I recognised this the moment I saw it! I never had a copy, and it’s very hard to get a hold of it now BUT I do have access to my friend’s old wargaming mag collection…

    He’s dead protective of his stuff, but I managed to get a shot of this.

    https://imgur.com/kDvye7o

    Noted down the ad text for you all as well 😉

    ESCAPE 404

    Get the infection.

    No batteries required. Contents: includes instructions, rulebook, twenty plastic game pieces, game board, GM’s screen and a set of game cards. 3 or more players. For ages 8 years and over.

    EAN 9780575093133

    WARNING(s): Not suitable for children under 8 years old. Only for domestic use.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Pingback: Boomtown have 'a huge announcement' coming at 1pm tomorrow

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s