Students solve mysteries while play-testing new game ‘Save the Circus’

Casey Wanatick

Students in Stephen Schaffter’s period four chemistry class gathered in mini circles as they figured out how to open an imaginary locked box in order to save the circus.

On March 13, co-creators of the popular party game “Escape Room in a Box” Ariel Rubin and Juliana Patel paid a visit to Schaffter’s period four class to play-test their new game “Save the Circus.”

“A couple of weeks ago, Mr. Morrison and I were talking about PearlCon coming up and their names came up,” Schaffter said in regards to an annual school event that features a car show, cosplay and a multitude of board and card games. “Just coincidentally, they emailed me and said ‘Hey is PearlCon still a thing?’ Well, we talked back and forth and back and forth and it came out that they were looking for a group to help play-test.”

Each class was divided into four groups and were led by a group leader who explained the rules of the game. Each leader was a student from Schaffter’s fourth period class who went to his room during nutrition to learn the game ahead of time so they could help their classmates.  

The card game’s objective is for a group to unlock the secret vault of circus supplies in order to keep it running. The two groups, the performers and deceivers, are tasked with obtaining a key and must use the keys to unlock the vault. The performers are trying to keep the circus running while the deceivers are trying to steal the circus supplies. In order to unlock the vault, all keys must be dealt and the group must vote on who will unlock the vault based on what character they think they are. If the performers have all three keys then they win but if a deceiver has just one key, then they win.

“Honestly, it was very fun,” sophomore Maria Strake said. “It’s kind of like ‘Werewolf’ if you’ve played it. The thrill is like nothing else.”

According to Rubin, the idea of the game originated from the party game “Werewolf,” which is where she and Patel first met online.

“We love ‘Werewolf’ and we love all of those games but there are some things we don’t like as much in them,” Rubin said. “We didn’t like, for example, that you could become a ghost and then you don’t get to play for most of the game and we didn’t like that there was a narrator so there is one person who doesn’t get to play the game. So we started thinking about how we can make a game that doesn’t have narrators and doesn’t have ghosts. That was sort of the first step to iterate how to get to this game.”

Schaffter originally got in touch when Rubin offered to donate a copy of  “Escape Room in a Box” to PearlCon and the two have been keeping in touch ever since. Schaffter hopes that Rubin and Patel will be able to work with the school more in the future.

“It was just this natural synergy of being able to help them out, they help us out,” Schaffter said. “It is my hope that they are going to be able to participate at PearlCon.”