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Saturday, 17 April 2021

Cairo witchcraft and wizardry

Omneya Yousry and her team successfully solved a crime puzzle game this week, winning third place in the first outdoor adventure of its kind in Egypt 

Omneya Yousry, Tuesday 15 Dec 2020
The Corombians team
The Corombians team
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I’m a massive fan of adventure and enthusiastic outings that have more excitement to them than simply chilling out. Hence, I went for the CluedUpp Games event in Cairo on 5 December. Wondering what this game is? And how you can play it? What you will need and what you need to do to win? Follow me and live part of the experience of the CluedUpp mystery.  

CluedUpp Games is an award-winning British games studio that specialises in creating unique, outdoor adventure games. It was formed in December 2016; since then, almost half-a-million players from more than 38 countries worldwide participated in their city-wide events. This was their first time in Egypt.

“Wands at the ready detectives” was a crime-solving adventure that takes places in multiple cities around the world. I joined the event in Cairo. A spell-binding new adventure game, my team of mystery-solving wizards joined me, and we all had a lot of fun in the Zamalek neighbourhood.

The Gebna Team, Best K9 detective
The Gebna Team, Best K9 detective

The game transported us into a fantasy world of witchcraft and wizardry, and this enchanting outdoor adventure game took us on a magical journey across town. One ticket covers a team of six participants, so you needed at least two to join. Kids under 16 played for free.

I found out about this game on Facebook Events and went with a few of my co-workers and study colleagues. It was just LE760 per team to enter, but we got a discount and had it for LE600. Split between a few people, it was a very cheap way to hang out with friends. Plus, there was the fact that it was in Zamalek, my favourite neighbourhood in Cairo.

My team consisted of six members, all “Corombians”. Together, we took part in a crime-solving puzzle that felt similar to the board game Cluedo. We needed to solve who had committed the murder, and with what weapon. 

Teams can choose their own start time between 9am and 2pm. We started at 12 noon. Two hours, twenty-seven minutes, and thirty-one seconds later, we had solved the crime and ranked in third place, on a list of 25 teams, according to how fast we had solved the mystery. With only seven witnesses and one weapon we had taken all the glory. Yay!

We had a little incident before we scanned the QR codes on the phone app, wrote down our team name, and uploaded our photos. We were stopped by police who asked us for our IDs and kept asking us about the game details for more than 15 minutes. A crowd of people divided into teams in weird costumes scattered across the neighbourhood had given them the feeling that something fishy was about to happen. This was definitely a problem in the coordination.  

There are some essential things you need to know before you play. Keep on reading if you want to know all the tricks we learned that can also help you win the game. You’ll need at least one smartphone per team, a creative and clever team name and witchcraft and wizardry inspired fancy dress. The latter is optional, but fun. 

You are basically buying a voucher code to use during the game. Everyone on the team can use the app to create an account and play along, so it’s important to download the app at home to save mobile data. 

Another thing is that you don’t have to return to a witness to ask a question or use a particular informant. Let me say that at first we were disappointed to find that all the witnesses were virtual characters on the app. We thought there would be real people we would find and ask, collect physical weapons from and find a murderer in a hidden place. But it turned out that this was our own misunderstanding – even if it would have been a lot of fun.

Trolls
Trolls

We made the mistake of doubling back to ask old witnesses questions or use an informant card. This wasn’t necessary. Once you have visited a witness in a particular location, you can ask them questions, use a hint or use an informant again. By keeping on backtracking to ask this one witness for more information, we got a lot of two-minute time penalties and we also guessed a wrong murderer once with a 30-minute penalty. If we had known this earlier, I’m pretty sure we could have won the game because we spent a lot of time trying too hard to do so. 

Third hint: the witnesses don’t lie – supposedly maybe it’s because we had so little information about the game as it’s the first time it was held in Egypt, but we all thought too hard about the witness statements. There was a lot of “well, that’s suspicious. Maybe she’s lying.” It turns out that if a witness tells you something, you can pretty much guarantee it’s a fact to help you solve the case, however. 

Fourth, bring a backup phone-charger. As I mentioned, you’ll need your phone to play this game. It’s important that the team leader brings a charger as they’ll be using their phone to log witnesses, accuse potential murderers, and so on. 

There were prizes in the following categories: fastest team (awarded to the Horus Pocus team), best fancy dress (Trolls of Cairo’s Dungeons team), best team photo (a team who must not be named), best team name (Mystic Misfits team), best little detective “kids prize” (Trolls of Cairo’s Dungeons team) and Best K-9 detective “dogs prize” (gebna team). 

Nada Arafa, a 31-year-old engineer, commented that “what I liked about it was that it was a new experience and a new adventure in Cairo. The competition feeling itself was pretty cool. But the English was tough, especially as it was British English, and the witnesses were virtual. They were not real people. It would be more interesting if it was based on an old Arabic story in the Arabic language with real witnesses to ask.”

Amir Youssri, a 38-year-old web designer from the Dancing Sorcerers team, said that “it was a great first experience, regardless of the fact that the local police weren’t aware of having such an activity around the neighbourhood, making them ask a lot of questions of the first few incoming teams until they were acquainted with what was happening. Once that had happened, they were very friendly to the end of the day, which was great.”

Trolls of Cairo’s Dungeons
Trolls of Cairo’s Dungeons

“I have to say that the game was harder than we thought, and next time we will have to be more prepared. We should learn some tactics before we start. Having a lot of text to read was one thing we didn’t expect in a game like this.”

“In fact, it was never clear what we should’ve expected from the game. The game description on the website, Facebook page and emails was written in a way that was good enough only for those who already know the game – which isn’t a wise thing to do when adding a new country to the market,” Youssri added.

Omar Khaled, a 30-year-old marketer in Cairo, agreed. “The organisers should be more aware of the game area, because we walked through working areas following the map. It might have been better inside a mall or something like that,” he concluded. 

 

*A version of this article appears in print in the 17 December, 2020 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly

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