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June 8, 2022

We turned a Medieval Castle into a Massive Escape Game

Q42 (or ‘Q’ as it is colloquially known) is a leading Dutch tech & design agency that we came to know through our work on the Rijksmuseum Escape Game and the online escape rooms we created on their awesome Mibo platform.

Q proudly carries the creed of a happy place for nerds. As part of that, every year they organize a marvelous, larger-than-life trip for their entire team.

This year, they came to us with a unique question: ‘Can you turn our entire team outing into one big escape room?!’ We got very excited by this, and even though we were in the final months of building our new flagship escape room, this was a request too fun to resist.

Where to begin? With a story.

Together with Q42's Tim and Bram, we crafted a story inspired by their previous Christmas outing where they created a "mojo", a kernel that makes up the soul of their company.

This kernel, the spark that makes Q42 special, was almost stolen by a Bond-esque villain, Dr. Stevil.

We used this as the starting point for our own story. The soul of the company had survived this attempted robbery, but was thrown out of alignment in the process and had sought sanctuary in a magical place, the castle.

A few weeks before the event, this video got sent around Q42 to tease the story and challenge the team to uncover the location. Within 10 minutes they found their destination: the otherworldly Castle Czocha in Poland.

Its foundations built in the 13th century, this dreamy castle has it all: towers, dungeons, taverns, a knight’s hall and a deep and dark oubliette. Plus, twelve secret passages leading everywhere. More than enough for our creativity to go wild. 

We know this castle intimately as it was the base of The College of Extraordinary Experience which we’ve been proud to be a part of these past few years.

The Five Houses

Remember the Kernel that sought sanctuary? In order to enable the players to get it back, we divided them into 5 houses during an onboarding ceremony, with names created by our partners to fit Q42’s creed of a Happy Place of Nerds: House Lego, House Miyamoto, House GPT, House Bedrock and House Tabletop.

Just like Hogwarts, they had to make their houses proud by completing as many quests as possible to fill their house cylinder to the top. These cylinders were placed in the heart of the castle for everyone to see the process of each house collecting as many Orbs as possible.

Our original intention had been to make the task of filling the House Cylinders virtually impossible, by making them so tall that no team could actually fully fill them with Orbs. Our goal was to make the teams realize that combining the house points would be the only way to get the Kernel back.

But the energy was so high that Q’ers played from early in the morning to late in the night without taking a break and eventually, one house successfully filled their house points to the max! The level of investment was through the roof and we encouraged each other into creating more every day, which included us and players together making quests on the spot to satisfy everyone’s hunger.

An Escape Room Castle needs… quests! 

The Soothsayer hosting a special Dungeons & Dragons quest in the Tower (and later, the actual dungeon…) Photo credit: Mara Polak

This magical Castle is a harbour for lost souls. Our Guardians, played by us, guard and guide these souls until someone is proven worthy of bringing the Kernel back to Q42. In the three weeks leading up to the event, we designed challenges for Q42's team to prove themselves worthy and finally, magic happened at the castle. We wandered through the halls and corridors, handing sealed envelopes containings tasks and challenges for the bravest and most adventurous players to take on:

🏹 Shooting down Dr. Stevil’s ‘spy balloons’ with bow and arrows

🤿 Diving into the river to retrieve mysterious objects

🧪 Messing with dangerous potions

🔮 Fishing crystal Orbs from the oubliette

🐉 Dungeons and dragons sessions in actual dungeons

🔥 Setting your hands on fire as a test of courage (Random? Maybe. Awesome? Yes.)

You name it!

We ended up creating exactly 42 Quests, in honour of the company’s name, Q42.

Once completed successfully, players received these custom made Orbs which, when positioned correctly, revealed the logo of Q42. These Orbs were what players fought for without mercy, sometimes sabotaging each other in order to win one…

Photo credit: Mara Polak

Shooting down Dr. Stevil’s ‘spy balloons’ that were trying to steal parts of the Kernel by air. Photo credit: Maurice Haak

Celebrating Success: the Closing Ceremony

Victor presenting the container of the Kernel. Photo credit: Maurice Haak

We concluded the weekend with a closing ceremony where the soul of the company got safely back into the hands of the Q’ers, after so many efforts in resolving our quests. Our last night at the castle, both Q’ers and Guardians danced the night away together and celebrated the success of both our missions: the Return of the Kernel, and the creation of an unforgettable adventure.

Photo credit: Mauric Haak

A spectacular closing show by fire wielder Flavia sealed the enchantment of the weekend.

Even with the adventure long behind us, the house crests live on, stuck onto laptops and sewn onto backpacks.