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‘Tis the season for gift giving… and stressing over finding great gifts. We’re here to help you find the perfect gift for your escape-rooming, puzzle-loving friends and family.
We’re not repeating anything from last year, so check out our first 2016 Holiday Buyer’s Guide for additional inspiration.
Tabletop escape games
Let’s start with the obvious…
Escape Room In A Box: The Werewolf Experiment was the first tabletop escape room we played… and gun to our heads, probably still our favorite. It was just as much fun when we revisited it this year when the Kickstarter shipped. A new version is now available for purchase just in time for the holidays!
Unlock! Escape Adventure is a card-based at-home escape game series with 3 games currently available. In terms of dollars for gameplay, these are a great deal… Plus, you won’t destroy them at all while playing the game! Read our full review.
Exit: The Game is series of tabletop escape games with 3 games currently available in English (more in German). Again, in terms entertainment value for your money, these are a great deal… But go in knowing that you’re going to destroy this game while playing it. Read our full review.
Journal 29 is an intriguing puzzle book with a narrative experienced entirely through puzzles and illustration. It is deeper, more challenging, and more entertaining than your average puzzle book… but it ain’t a cakewalk. This thing will fight you. It’s a wonderful companion for a flight delay. Trust me, I know. Read our full review.
Subscription – Escape The Crate
Among the current selection of at-home subscription games, we recommend Escape the Crate. In each episode, we chase the villain through time to stop him from altering history. Escape the Crate games are not polished (they look like prototypes); however they make up for it with innovative mechanics and consistent quality of gameplay.Read our reviews of Chapter 1 and then Chapters 2 and 3.
Lisa and I don’t own one of these, but oh my, do we want the Dual Chain Planetary. If you’d like to spend lavishly on us this holiday season, this is at the top of our “we absolutely don’t need it, but we want it” list.
This Etsy shop has dozens of beautiful, strange, and unique bowls, plates, and cups. I love the Binary Wine or Tea Cup.
This simple illusion proudly floats a wine bottle in our dining room. It’s amusing. Note that it doesn’t like wide-mouthed bottles.
These are a few collaborative games that escape room players will love:
Pandemic is one of the great collaborative tabletop games. Pandemic Legacy turns it into an ongoing, episodic experience that permanently evolves, damages, and changes the board with each successive episode. It’s gaming with consequences.
This social game of deduction has one player facilitating as a ghost giving signs and the rest of the group playing as psychic detectives. It’s like Clue and Dixit had a much prettier and considerably more fun baby.
This Lovecraftian horror game is intense. It plays out over multiple campaigns and it’s shockingly challenging. If your character dies, they are gone for good. I grew so attached to my character that when he nearly perished at the end of an episode, I couldn’t sit still.
This game also has a boatload of expansions with more on the way. I’ve played them all and I love them.
This last one isn’t collaborative, but it’s a fantastic, inexpensive, compact, and quick 2-player head-to-head game that has both players vying for political dominance in a surprisingly well-researched and thought-out card game.
I love small games that don’t require long rule readings. This is a great casual game that anyone can learn.
This puzzle isn’t a killer, but the trick is clever. No matter how many times I solve it, I love the feel of it. Note that this puzzle is best presented in two pieces. It’s trivial to solve if someone hands it to you completed.
The Cast Diamond is another puzzle that won’t break your brain. It’s just a joy to solve and feels so satisfying. Note that this puzzle is best presented in two pieces. It’s trivial to solve if someone hands it to you completed.
You want something hard? Try separating this layer cake into 4 pieces. I’ll wait.
This thing took me forever to figure out and I’m not ashamed to say so. It’s tough.
I wrote a full review of this long forgotten puzzle that captured my imagination as a child.
I am terrible at Rubik’s Cube-type puzzles and have zero chance of solving this thing. Ever. However, this crazy ball of gears is so psychologically satisfying to manipulate that it doesn’t matter.
It’s absolutely purchasable as the thinking person’s fidget spinner.
At 1,000 pieces, Harry Potter Flying Keys (and yes, it’s licensed) is the perfect jigsaw puzzle for escape room lovers. It’s beautiful. The New York Puzzle Company produces high quality puzzles (we reviewed a different one earlier this year).
They have many more puzzles to choose from if you’re looking for something different.
These animal head jigsaw puzzles are beasts to solve. They have irregular edges, large swaths of repeating patterns, consistent coloration, and unusual piece shapes. They range from 550-700 pieces.
“I am” is a pun because if you want to have a prayer of solving these, begin with the animal’s eyes.
If you love difficult jigsaw puzzles, this is a must-buy… but know that you’re playing on hard mode.
It molds like silly putty and hardens into rubber. It’s insulated against electricity and it’s heat- and cold- resistant. This was one of the first things that we published about on Room Escape Artist over 3 years ago… so like 5 people have seen that post. I use it all of the time to repair and customize things around our home.
Fun fact: I once brought Sugru to a humanitarian crisis and fixed a whole bunch of things around a UN field office with it.
Hey escape room owners! I sure hate picking up splinters while playing escape rooms. This especially flexible sandpaper is fantastic for smoothing over all sorts of nooks and crannies. I am a big fan… and no, I’m not kidding… I think sandpaper is fantastic.
Breath of the Wild is a modern masterpiece and a brilliant display of adventure puzzle game design. Hopefully Nintendo makes enough Switches available this holiday season. If you can get your hands on one, you will not regret the time you spend exploring Hyrule.
Super Nintendo Classic
My brother procured an SNES Classic for me and ever since our Escape Room Tour of NYC ended, I’ve been enjoying some of my all-time favorite video games once again. Mega Man X, Super Mario World, and The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past are three of the finest examples of game design out there.
There is so much to learn from and enjoy about these games.
The catch: These things are maddeningly hard to acquire at the moment, but if you get one, you win Christmas. I’m pretty sure that’s how this works.
Endgame is The Hunger Games for puzzle lovers. For anyone who enjoys dystopian teenager fiction and puzzles, this trilogy offers both. The first person to solve the puzzle in the first book Endgame: The Calling won $500k in gold. It’s a crazy hard puzzle.
If you’re interested in the history of game design, the early PC gaming era is a treasure trove of stories and learning. Break Out chronicles the creation of many classic Apple II games. I loved the Oregon Trail and Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego chapters.
Winston Breen is a puzzle-loving teenager. In this story, Lisa puzzled along with Winston as he got swept up in a treasure hunt. The book presents puzzles within an entertaining narrative. (Full review forthcoming.)
This documentary tells the insane story of a group of teens in the 1980s who decided to recreate Indiana Jones: Raiders of the Lost Ark shot-for-shot. It took them years and thus their ages change from shot to shot. They almost killed themselves creating this. It’s a hell of a story.
The intensity and ingenuity demonstrated in this film reminds me of some of the most interesting escape room companies that I’ve encountered. It’s also streaming on Netflix at the moment.
Ok, I was skeptical too, but this thing is mesmerizing, beautiful, and so damn cool.
We’re always on the move, electronics in tow. These reusable rubber twist ties are perfect for securing the cords for our phones and earbuds.
For our laptops, we swear by the Quirky PowerCurl for taming our Macbook power cables. Be sure to get the right size for your power cable.
This one might seem obvious… but you can give the gift of an escape room.
I recommend, however, that you plan out the entire excursion instead of buying a gift certificate. It’s better to provide the full experience rather than a gift card that’s likely to get lost.
I found Pedro and the Puzzle Palace in a local bookstore earlier this year, on a shelf promoting local authors. In this adorable picture book Pedro learns core values through puzzles. This is for real, little ones.
Spy Code Games
Spy Code offers 3 games for children: Break Free, Operation Escape Room, and Safe Breaker (reviewed individually). Each game teaches different puzzling skills through brightly colored plastic props, with some remarkably satisfying and fun interactions.
Rush Hour Jr. is a fun spatial puzzle for kids as young as 6. If this one seems a little too basic, try the version for adults instead.
This fantastic book is perfect for helping kids learn the basics of cryptography… as well as the roots of so many escape room puzzles. It’s also a great read if you design escape rooms (full review).
Ok, I lied. I’m repeating one thing from last year: supporting Child’s Play.
I’ve written about this a few times because I love this organization. They allow you to buy and send toys directly to children’s hospitals. There are plenty of good causes to give to, but since we’re focused on fun and games, I can’t think of a better way to give back than to provide some fun for kids who desperately need an escape.
If you purchase via our Amazon, Etsy, or Puzzle Master links, you will help support Room Escape Artist as we will receive a very small percentage of the sale.
Please share this buyer’s guide far and wide.
We truly appreciate your support.