Giant Puzzle Kickstarters: The Enigma Box vs Simulacra

For over a month Lisa and I have been debating what to do with two massive escape room-esque Kickstarter puzzle games: The Enigma Box and Simulacra Games: The Wilson Wolfe Affair.

General thoughts on Kickstarter

I have a small Kickstarter habit that dates back years. I love tossing a little money behind someone’s home-brewed dream project.

Some of those products have turned out fantastic and arrived on time (or close to it).

Others have been serious letdowns or shipped years late.

That’s what happens when you give a person a some money in return for a pinky swear that they will deliver something amazing.

Stylized image of US currency strewn about.

Kickstarter & escape rooms

Earlier this spring Lisa and I published a data-driven analysis of crowdfunded escape rooms.

Since we published that piece in June, I think that the era of crowdfunding real life escape rooms has passed.

But that’s not why we’re here.

Kickstarter & puzzle products

In early 2016, the women behind Escape Room in a Box asked us to promote their play-at-home, tabletop escape room. We thought this was a terrible idea so we said, “only if we can review it.” They sent us a prototype. We played it, enjoyed it, and reviewed it.

Since then we’ve done a couple one-off posts boosting Kickstarters for nerdy key blanks, which we did without a review… It turns out they are pretty awesome, by the way.

A year ago we did a roundup of puzzley crowdfunding campaigns. These were inexpensive items.

More recently, we’ve seen crowdfunding puzzle products that are expensive and ambitious in scope.


This started with Codex Silenda: The Book of Puzzles, a project we backed but didn’t write about. I was 100% certain that they would blow their timeline… and, oh boy, have they. Personally, I don’t care about that. I just hope that they ship a good and fun product that isn’t too sensitive to shifts in climate. (Their product is entirely wood, which could expand/contract in detrimental ways.)

Dueling whales

Now we have these two massive Kickstarter puzzle games: The Enigma Box and Simulacra Games: The Wilson Wolfe Affair.

The Enigma Box costs between $200 and $350. Simulacra costs between $80 and $250.

They have a lot in common:

  • a ton of components
  • composed of multiple puzzles (that could have been individual Kickstarter projects)
  • promised to ship in mid 2018
  • exceeded their funding goals

Setting aside shipping date, which I don’t think either project will hit, let’s take a closer look:

The Enigma Box – I’m pretty dubious of this thing. There are a ton of tangible components that will likely have to come from many different manufacturing facilities. Way too much attention has been focused on the gamebox for my liking. The Kickstarter makes a lot of weird (and sometimes false) marketing claims. It seems like a ton of the game will be digital, but there isn’t much evidence to suggest that those components exist. Try as we might, they don’t return emails, which is never a good sign.

I’m personally excited by Simulacra. I like the theme. It has a great aesthetic. It looks like there is a cohesive and substantial game. Simulacra also involves a lot of paper, which while less exciting than tangible objects, is a lot easier to produce. We also reached a person behind Simulacra.

We’re planning to review them both.

A crowdfunding policy?

The escape room community is rightfully excited about these big projects. If they live up to their own hype, they will be amazing.

The trouble is that when you back on Kickstarter, you never know what you’re gonna get. The bigger the project, the more opportunities for it to underdeliver or never deliver.

We’d love to say that “unless we can review the product, we can’t write about it.” However, that doesn’t work when there isn’t a product to review yet. Nor is it feasible to rush a review of a game like Simulacra that claims somewhere between 20 and 75 hours of gameplay (depending upon the level you purchase).

With all that in mind, we’re open to suggestions about how you would like to see us handle these things in the future.


  1. I am not personally interested in the Home versions of escape games/puzzles but if I was considering to take the plunge one day I would want to look up your review before purchasing.

    Perhaps a PayPal button could be placed on your website for voluntary contributions to REA. Visitors click on one category for a voluntary contribution towards the investment/purchase/pursuit of these types of projects. Clicking on another button to voluntarily fund your annual report (this is a valuable product that you share freely but many of us would have no problem sending a small contribution to support the continuation of this research and analysis). Finally, clicking on another button would allocate my contribution to the Review library.

    All of these contributions would be voluntary (REA remaining available free to all) although it wouldn’t hurt to have a suggested amount next to the buttons. Annual contribution/subscription for the review library $___, Annual reports (all) $_____, Special Projects $____.

    Small amounts would bring in some resources from many appreciative and regular readers of REA who support an unbiased, well reasoned and comprehensive view of this industry, whether providers or participants.

  2. You could include links to interesting crowdsourcing projects as part of the weekly roundup, with a note at the end whether or not you donated (similar to when you note that a room comped your tickets). Then leave it at that, until you receive the final product and play/review it. This seems fair and relevant, without adding some weird burden that you somehow curate those projects for your readers.

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