Escape the Dark Castle

Created by Themeborne

Escape the Dark Castle
1b8870de497010b047d049cef0eafc4c original
2,119 backers pledged £87,814.00 on Kickstarter

A simple, co-operative tabletop game for 1-4 players, with a stylish design inspired by 80s fantasy nostalgia. Funded on Kickstarter in June 2017, now available for pre-order!

Raised in Kickstarter
£87,814.00 / 2,119 backers
Raised in BackerKit
£8,743.80 / 2,028 backers

Learn About Our Project:


Escape the Dark Castle is a casual, cooperative adventure game with a focus on atmosphere, player cooperation, and fun – perfect for newcomers to tabletop gaming. It takes 2 minutes to set up, lasts around 30 minutes, and no two games are ever alike.    

Players take the role of prisoners on a quest to Escape the Dark Castle, and must work together to overcome its many horrors, traps, and challenges - each of which is represented by a large, beautifully illustrated chapter card. 

As these immersive chapter cards are revealed one by one, the game takes on the form of a shared storybook experience, with the players making decisions about what to do each chapter before using a combination of dice and item cards to complete challenges.

The game is largely inspired by 80s fantasy classics like the TV programme Knightmare, the Fighting Fantasy gamebook series, Dungeons & Dragons, and Heroquest, but you don’t need to know what those things are to enjoy this game. 

This game has simple rules so it’s easy to learn. You’ll be able to get started within about 5 minutes. Below is an overview, and you can read the full rules here. You can also watch a full playthrough video in our Reviews section further down the page. 



It’s approachable - The game is designed with non-gamers in mind, but is no less rich and rewarding for it. Now anyone can enjoy the atmosphere of a classic fantasy quest. 

It’s quick - It takes 2 mins to set up and around 30 mins to play. No downtime, no elimination, and full player engagement throughout. No-one will be bored.

It’s social - Many chapters offer a compelling choice for the group, stimulating regular player interaction and discussion. It's perfect for the pub or a games cafe, but can even be played solo!

It's different every time - You never know what the next chapter will be, so there is plenty of tension and suspense as your unique adventure unfolds each game.

It has a unique look - So many games look alike these days. Here is something truly distinct for your collection. We've worked hard to create a stylish look evocative of retro classics.

There are no heroes - The playable characters are refreshingly ordinary. No musclebound heroes or buxmon heroines here, and there is an equal mix of male and female characters.  

You choose your path - The decisions you make will change how each chapter turns out, and play a significant part in determining success or failure. 

 • It’s the start of something big - We plan to add new chapters, characters, items and advanced rules to expand the game, not to mention taking you beyond the castle itself.  

 • You’ll fall in love with fantasy (again) - By focusing on immersion, we’ve taken a tired, overused theme and created a refreshing, streamlined experience for everyone to enjoy. 

Don’t just take our word for it. We’ve been conducting public playtests for the last 6 months at the following venues:

Each playtester filled in a feedback form after their session. Here is what the gaming public has to say about Escape the Dark Castle:

We'll keep this section updated with other third party reviews and features as they roll in:


"Elegant mechanics, with simple but significant decisions really make ‘Escape the Dark Castle’ sing....There is a great feeling of risk/reward with the combat system that makes the encounters feel increasingly desperate...Every choice feels important right down to who should turn over the next card, for you don’t know what is lurking around the next corner!...Back it. Back it now."

- Iain McAllister, The Giant Brain


“That was epic, I won’t lie…”  
“It’s a fantastic set of mechanics…”  
“I love the way it tells a story, it's so different to what you normally see…” 

Enjoy a full playthrough with this video review from Beasts of War




Criminal: £1 or more

This pledge level is great if you want to support the project and follow it's progress.  

You won't get a copy of the game when the project funds, but you will have the satisfaction of knowing you helped to make it happen, and of course you'll have our heartfelt thanks no matter how large or small your pledge.  

We'll keep you updated as the campaign progresses, and you can always change to one of the other pledge levels later if you decide you want the game after all. 

We're glad to have you onboard.

Prisoner: £25 

This is our standard pledge. Nice and simple. 

You'll secure your very own copy of the first edition, along with all applicable stretch goals. 

Shipping will be charged based on your location, but we've done our best to keep those costs to a minimum.

Boss: £45  

Our exclusive, top-level pledge. Limited to 100 backers. 

** PLEASE NOTE - this pledge level is sold out. But keep an eye on it - cancellations are common in the last 48hrs of Kickstarter campaigns and if a slot opens up you might be able to grab it!

Pledging at this level means you’ll get a copy of the game signed (on the box cover) by the designers, along with all unlocked stretch goals. You'll also get The Story Pack add-on for free, a collection of 16 stories delving into the backgrounds of the prisoners, and how they each ended up in the depths of The Dark Castle- see the Add-Ons section below for more details. 

But there’s one final reason to pledge at this level: If the stretch goal Become a Prisoner! is unlocked, you'll be one of only 100 people with the option to buy the limited add-on Become a Prisoner!, turning YOU into a character card! For full details see the Add-ons section below. 

Shipping will be charged based on your location, but we've done our best to keep those costs to a minimum.

Castle: £75 

This is our retailer pledge.  

You must have a store to claim this reward, and there will be a verification process when the project funds. 

You'll get 6 copies of the game, including all applicable stretch goals, at a great trade price. 

Shipping will be charged based on your location, but we've done our best to keep those costs to a minimum.


We'll be working with our expert fulfillment partner Gamesquest to make sure your game is delivered promptly and with expert care. 

We are EU, USA, and AU friendly, ensuring backers in these locations will pay no extra customs charges beyond the shipping cost itself.

Please note: For deliveries outside of these locations, check the rules and regulations on importing goods to your region before you pledge. 

The following shipping costs will be charged based on your location and pledge level as shown: 



Our £11k funding goal will cover the print run and associated logistical costs, but if we are fortunate enough to exceed that goal we'd like to offer you the following upgrades and add-ons:  
(note that all stretch goal targets are in £ GBP)

Naturally, the cards will be great quality regardless, but what we’d really love to do is upgrade them from the standard you find in most board games to a thicker, more luxurious feeling card with a linen finish. Backers at all reward levels would benefit from this. 

The dice will also be great quality as standard but, given the chance, we’d love to go for larger dice rather than the standard size found in most board games. They’d be that bit chunkier and more satisfying this way. Backers at all reward levels will benefit from this.

When we reach this level of funding, we’ll unlock the Become a Prisoner! add-on. That add-on will only be available to backers who pledge at the Boss level, which is limited to 100 backers so pledge early to avoid disappointment! For full details see the Boss pledge listing above, and the Become a Prisoner! add-on listing below. 

When we reach this level of funding, we’ll add an additional Boss card to backer copies of Escape the Dark Castle at all pledge levels. This is a Kickstarter exclusive and will not be available anywhere else.

When we reach this level of funding, we’ll add 3 additional Chapter cards to backer copies of Escape the Dark Castle at all pledge levels. This is a Kickstarter exclusive and will not be available anywhere else.

At this level we'll commission experienced composer Alex Crispin (who also co-designed and illustrated the game!) to produce an original soundtrack, perfectly suited to accompany a game of Escape the Dark Castle.

Backers at all reward levels will have access to this as a digital download for free, but we'll also unlock an amazing add-on option for those who want their OST on cassette! More detail in the Add-ons section below. 

When we reach this level of funding, we’ll add ANOTHER additional Boss card to backer copies of Escape the Dark Castle at all pledge levels, meaning your base set will include 2 extra bosses. This is a Kickstarter exclusive and will not be available anywhere else.

When we reach this level of funding, we’ll add ANOTHER 5 additional Chapter cards to backer copies of Escape the Dark Castle at all pledge levels, meaning your set will include a total of 8 extra chapters. This is a Kickstarter exclusive and will not be available anywhere else. 

Combined with all the other stretch goals, this would give you a total of 10 Kickstarter exclusive cards on top of the base set contents.

When we reach this level, we’ll add a very special rare and powerful relic to the game – the Golden Axe! This is an additional item card which comes with its own special dice. In the game, the wielder of this awesome weapon will roll the special dice alongside their character dice in combat. It may be cumbersome, but it’s devastating when you connect! This is a Kickstarter exclusive and will not be available anywhere else.

Adventure Pack 1: Cult of the Death Knight

£12 + shipping

As an extra special treat for all your amazing support we’ve decided to bring forward our first expansion, Adventure Pack 1: Cult of the Death Knight, at the kickstarter exclusive price of just £12!

What you get:

  • 3 New Characters & their Custom Dice - each a powerful specialist  
  • 15 New Chapter Cards – taking you to new areas of The Dark Castle 
  • 1 New Boss Card – the Death Knight himself, Lord of Decay
  • 3 New Item Cards – Introducing Curses, terrible afflictions to thwart your progress

We’ve made this expansion available as an add-on, open to all backers immediately. The best part is, it will ship at the same time as the base game, so you’ll get all this great content in one big bundle! 

The three new prisoners are all specialists in one particular area: The Mason’s MIGHT knows no bounds, the Hunter can be counted on for CUNNING, and the Bishop is well-known for his WISDOM. Check out those stats!

How it works: 

To claim this add-on, simply choose “manage my pledge” and increase your pledge amount by £12 + the additional shipping cost for your location. We’ve added a chart below to help make this clear, so please check before you pledge.

 For example, UK backers need to pay an additional £1 to ship the expansion alongside their base game, and should increase thier pledge by £13 (12 + 1) to claim this add-on.  

Elsewhere in the world, the increase is higher, and sadly that’s a reality of shipping over 2kgs (4.4lbs) of game to distant lands. Please be assured, we make no profit on the shipping – it’s an unavoidable evil, much like many of the things you’ll encounter in the depths of the Dark Castle…

The Story Pack 

Prepare to immerse yourself even further into the world of The Dark Castle with The Story Pack - a total of 16 dark tales penned by published game-writer and co-designer of Escape the Dark Castle, Thomas Pike. 

What you get: 

  • 9 Character Origin Stories, each delving into the personalities of the prisoners, and of course the dark events which led to their incarceration in the depths of the Dark Castle. Each story will be approx. 1000 words. 
  • 6 Boss Legends, offering up what little is known about the vile overlords of the Dark Castle, and how they are each believed to have wrought their despicable paths to dark power. Each Legend will be approx.1000 words. 
  •  A tale from the dark. A horror story set in the world of the Dark Castle, sure to curdle your blood. Do not read it alone… Approx 2000 words. 

How it works: 

To claim this add-on, simply choose “manage my pledge” and increase your total pledge amount by £8. When the campaign ends, we’ll explain how to specify exactly which items you want your total pledged amount to go towards. 

The story pack is a digital item and will be delivered to all backers when the game launches. 

The stories are in English only. 

There is no additional shipping cost to claim this add-on. 

If you have already pledged at the boss level, we are automatically upgrading your pledge to include this pack at no extra cost.

Become a Prisoner! 


Important notes: 

  • This add-on will only become available if the 'Become a Prisoner!' stretch goal is unlocked at £25k.
  • This add-on will only be available to backers to pledged at the Boss reward level. 

What you get:

Our incredible game artist will hand draw an exclusive prisoner card based on your appearance. Your personalised character card will be professionally printed, just one copy, and shipped to you at no extra cost. 

When the transformation is complete, you'll have an extra character card, unique to your set, fully playable using the dice of whichever core game character you choose to become. Will you be the Abbot, Smith, Tailor, Shepherd, Miller or Cook?     

Imagine the satisfaction when you Escape the Dark Castle personally!

How it works:

Pick the character you'd like to become, then send us a photo of yourself which meets the simple guidlines we will send to you. Being meticulously hand drawn, these may take some time, but when its done you can look forward to a fully stylised version of youself as a prisoner, blending seamlessing into the style of the game and ready to play. 

Cassette Tape 


Important notes:  

  • This add-on will only become available if the Original Soundtrack stretch goal is unlocked at £40k.

What you get: 

While all backers will of course get free access to a digital download of the original soundtrack, those of you who prefer your atmospheric dungeon-synth on cassette can grab this little beauty for only £5 extra. 



£36 (no extra shipping cost) 

Important note: This add-on is for Castle level backers only. 

What you get:

6 copies of Adventure Pack 1 - Cult of the Death Knight, at the same trade discount as your Castle pledge. 

How it works: 

Simply increase your total pledged amount by £36  

Themeborne is a small, startup design studio based in Nottingham, UK. We make immersive tabletop games with approachable rules and uncompromising artwork. 




A Labour of Love 

Escape the Dark Castle is our first game. It's a labour of love that's been in our lives for more than 3 years.

It started out as something we felt passionate about creating just for ourselves - the kind of game we wanted to play (and invite non-gamer friends to play) which just didn't exist on the market at that time. We wanted to capture the atmosphere of classic 80s and 90s fantasy games, but with none of the fiddly rules, piles of tokens or confusing special abilities that tend to clutter most modern games in this category. If we could do that without resorting to a whacky or comedic tone, we knew we'd be on to something. 

Resisting overcomplication and staying true to our vision, we bonded uniquely over the following years of developing and crafting the game. As old friends living in three different cities, the development sessions became an excuse to get together, and in the end played a big part in keeping our friendship strong as our lives took us in different directions. It means a lot to us. 

Eventually, the next natural step was to try and bring Escape the Dark Castle to a wider audience, and Themeborne was set up to launch the game and give you the chance to enjoy it as much as we do. 

Why use Kickstarter? 

We've put all the time and money we have into bringing the game to where it is today, from creating the content and artwork, to building prototypes, to attending conventions for playtesting. We've laid a solid foundation and given it everything. Now we need your help to make this dream a reality by crowdfunding the first print run of Escape the Dark Castle.


If you back this project, not only will you be securing your very own copy of the first edition, you’ll be helping a talented new team of designers enter the industry. The team at Themeborne is deeply passionate about tabletop gaming, and we'd like nothing more than the opportunity to continue making great games for you in the years ahead. We have grand plans.

Here is just a taste of what Themeborne has in store: 

  • More Castle: Of course, we can expand Escape the Dark Castle with more chapters, characters and items. There is so much we can do from this solid base.
  • More Escape the Dark: We've always envisaged Escape the Dark as a series of games - the Castle set is just the beginning. The scope for other themes, settings and licences is absolutely huge, and we're very excited about going down that path.
  • More Advanced: Escape the Dark Castle is very deliberately simple and accessible, but from this basis we can craft a longer, more involving adventure for those who want something more elaborate and strategic. 
  • More Games: Escape the Dark is not the only project we have simmering away at the studio. We've got several other designs in development already, from a pure-strategy game we believe is genuinely ground-breaking to a manic, team-based party-game like nothing else on the market today. 

All told, we've got several years worth of games stored up, and all of them will be delivered with our trademark focus on theme, style and player experience. So, if you like the way we do things and want to see what we do next, back us today!  

Are you a content creator? We’ve got a press releases, logos, photos and more - ready and waiting for you here. We may be adding more as the campaign progresses, so check back regularly. 

Need something specific? Get in touch and we'll see what we can do!







Latest Updates from Our Project:

Had your survey?
8 days ago – Tue, Jul 18, 2017 at 04:26:17 PM

Dear Backers, 

Thanks to everyone who has already completed their survey.  

If you have not received your survey, then something went wrong, so please contact us directly through Kickstarter or and we'll take care of it. 

As a reminder, all surveys must be finalised by Monday 31st July, and your payment methods will be charged shortly after that. 


Surveys Incoming!
17 days ago – Sat, Jul 08, 2017 at 11:15:19 PM

Dear Backers, 

This weekend you will receive your surveys by email from Backerkit!  

This is where you get to specify exactly which items & add-ons you’d like to receive, and to confirm your shipping address.  

All surveys must be completed by Monday 31st July 2017.  After this time you will no longer be able to make changes to your pledge. 

Here are a few tips to help get you started:  

Can I increase my pledge?
You can! The survey will look a bit like an online store and you’ll start with “credit” equal to your pledged amount. You’ll see which items are included in your pledge level as standard, and you’ll have the opportunity order any add-ons you want at the same time. If you want to add items costing more than your starting credit, you’ll just need to pay the difference at the checkout.  

Can I get multiple copies of the game, and of add-ons?
You can! Each backer can order up to 3 copies of each physical item. If you’d like to order more than this please contact us. An extra shipping charge may apply to multiple copies, based on your location and the total weight of your order, and will be calculated at the checkout.  

Can I switch pledge level?
You can! It's possible to switch to the Prisoner level from any other level. On the very first page of the survey (underneath the 'Get Started!' button) you’ll see the option to switch.

I missed the Kickstarter, can I still get the game?
You can! Pre-orders will also be going live this weekend. We’ll put a link on the campaign page and on our website to help you find it easily. 

If you have any questions about your survey or about pre-orders, please don’t hesitate to get in touch:

Quest Complete!
24 days ago – Sat, Jul 01, 2017 at 11:56:09 PM

Congratulations everyone – we did it!

After an exciting campaign, we’ve emerged victorious and Escape the Dark Castle is now officially happening. It’s a dream come true for us, and we’re having a hard time expressing the many emotions flying around the studio. What we do want to say is that you, our incredible community of backers, deserve just as much credit as we do. You have every right to feel proud that you helped bring a brand-new game into existence from a small, independent publisher. You’ve started something, and that doesn’t happen every day. 

Oh, and you’ll be getting an awesome game in the post too! 

What happens next? 


We’ve been informed that Kickstarter has already tried to gather your pledges, and most of those have gone through. 

We’re aware that Kickstarter was not able to take payment from some of you. This is pretty normal as we understand it, so don’t panic if that’s you. There are all sorts of reasons why a payment can fail, and you have 7 days to get it all sorted. So please just double check your payment details, call your bank, or ask Kickstarter directly what the problem is. We don’t have any control over payments, but we’re here to help in any way we can. Drop us a line if there is anything we can do. 

BackerKit coming soon… 

You should all have a confirmation email from Kickstarter showing the total amount you’ve pledged. None of the add-ons will be listed on there yet, that comes later. 

We are now working hard to now set up BackerKit – a simple interface which will let you easily see which items you’re getting, and give you one last chance to add anything you missed-out on. We’ll send out another update as soon as that is ready to rock. 

For now, rest assured that if your payment has gone through you’ve got nothing to worry about, so just sit back and enjoy our moment of collective triumph. 

Keep in touch 

Don’t forget to sign-up to our mailing list here. It’s the best way to make sure you never miss an update. And please head over to our Facebook page, drop a like, and share your comments with us. We’ll be posting cool stuff on there from time to time and you can follow our progress as we head towards launch. 

Thank you all!


Final Call
25 days ago – Fri, Jun 30, 2017 at 09:43:02 PM

Dear Backers, 

We are now into the final 90 minutes of the campaign!

Please have one last look at your pledge total and payment details to make sure everything is in order. 

We are on-hand to answer last minute questions. 

See you on the other side! 

The Final Days!
26 days ago – Fri, Jun 30, 2017 at 08:08:39 AM

This is it, folks. We’ve arrived at the final days of the campaign – and what a month it’s been! 

Before we descend into the mayhem of the final few days, we wanted to take a moment to thank each and every one of you for supporting us this far. This community has surpassed our expectations to put it mildly, and we are constantly aware that none of this would be possible without you. 

Here are a few important notes for all backers about how the final days are going to play out: 

  • The campaign ends at 11.59pm this Friday June 30th BST (British Summer Time). For those of you in different time zones, please check carefully what that means for you in terms of your local time. For example, in the USA the campaign will end a lot earlier – don’t miss out! 
  • Also, please don’t try to wait until after the campaign to pledge for your add-ons. We can’t guarantee we’ll be able to accept late pledges. To avoid disappointment, please make sure you’re happy with your final pledge amount, including all add-ons and shipping, well before 11.59pm on the 30th. Besides, if everyone gets their final amounts in now, we’ll surely rocket past the final stretch goal!  

That’s all for now, but you can expect regular updates from us as we move ever closer to the finish line.

And remember: we’re here to answer your questions and guide you through the process, so don’t hesitate to get in touch for whatever reason. 

Let’s do this!