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The Last of Us board game is a punishing, monochromatic roguelike

Naughty Dog has partnered with the developers of Escape the Dark Castle and Escape the Dark Sector

Cover art for The Last of Us: Escape the Dark shows off a mushroom-faced mutant and the series’ traditional logo, with a large blocky font. Image: Naughty Dog
Charlie Hall is Polygon’s tabletop editor. In 10-plus years as a journalist & photographer, he has covered simulation, strategy, and spacefaring games, as well as public policy.

The Last of Us: Escape the Dark is a new board game inspired by the beloved Naughty Dog video game franchise. Its mechanics are unique to its publisher, Themeborne, whose award-winning Escape the Dark Castle and Escape the Dark Sector are punishing, heavily thematic, and uniquely monochrome roguelike adventures. The project will be funded through Kickstarter, with a campaign beginning on Nov. 8 according to Tuesday’s news release.

The Last of Us: Escape the Dark laid out for play. Components include a black board with a flowchart-like design, multiple stacks of cards, as well as custom dice. Character cards show portraits of Joel and young Ellie. Image: Naughty Dog

Escape the Dark games are randomly generated short-form cooperative adventures that run through more than a dozen encounters in a three-act cycle over about 45 minutes. Players work together to overcome a series of random enemies and obstacles, rolling dice and using their character’s items, skills, and traits to persevere. The game relies on custom dice, and is notable for its strictly black-and-white presentation. Both Dark Castle and Dark Sector have so far featured hefty expansions, which include new characters and challenges to overcome. It’s therefore likely that The Last of Us: Escape the Dark will be able to draw inspiration from every game in Naughty Dog’s internationally acclaimed video game franchise. A deluxe edition is also teased in the news release.

Escape the Dark games can also be played solo, a popular feature in modern board games that rose to prominence even before the global pandemic.

Development of Themeborne’s Escape the Dark series began in 2016, culminating in a successful Kickstarter campaign for Escape the Dark Castle in 2017 that raised roughly $113,000 for the production of more than 2,000 copies. Since then the company has run four more campaigns for the series, including Dark Sector which is science fiction-themed. A fifth campaign, for a World War II-themed tabletop real-time strategy game, was canceled in May.