Room Escape Lover’s 2018 Holiday Buyer’s Guide

Commence the commerce!

Room Escape Artist Holiday Buyer's Guide 2018 masthead, features the REA logo with a Santa hat.

It’s that time of year where we express to one another how much we care by buying creative gifts. 

If you have a puzzler in your life (or you’re looking to treat yourself), we’ve done the creativity for you. 

In each category we’ve included gifts spanning a range of prices. We even included a couple of aspirationally priced items. This year’s holiday buyer’s guide is unique from the previous guides we published in 2017 & 2016. 

Tabletop Escape Games

In-game: a beautiful, intricate laser engraved/ laser cut wooden puzzle box.

Tale of Ord

$165 (ships internationally)

If you’re looking for a big puzzle game that requires commitment, Tale of Ord is one of our favorite tabletop puzzle games. The puzzles are challenging and numerous. The writing is about as good as we’ve seen from the play-at-home puzzle game genre. (Full Review)

The back of one of the Cryptogram Puzzle Post envelopes. Sealed and with the illustration of a letter emerging from an envelope.

Cryptogram Puzzle Post

£7.50 per single issue, £20.00 per seasonal (three issues) subscription, £70.00 per annual (twelve issues) subscription (ships internationally)

These monthly puzzle mailings are loaded with gorgeous art and unusual puzzles. Buy them for the challenges. Keep them because they are freaking beautiful. (Full Review)

Unlock! The Adventures of Oz box art features Dorothy, the Lion, the Tin Man, and the Scarecrow waling the Yellow Brick Road.

Unlock! – The Adventures of Oz

$14 (22 CAD) (£25)

Over the course of many installments, Unlock! has shifted from a card-based re-creation of escape rooms to a narrative-driven puzzle adventure series. In our opinion, The Adventures of Oz is the pinnacle of this series. This shouldn’t be your first Unlock! game (that honor should go to Squeek & Sausage), but if you’re comfortable with the series and its mechanics, you should head off to see the wizard. (Full Review)

Sunken Treasure's box art features a sunken tall ship.

Exit: The Game – The Sunken Treasure

$10 (19.50 CAD) (£13)

We’ve played a whole bunch of new installments in the Exit: The Game series of destructible tabletop escape games. Of the batch, The Sunken Treasure has been one of our favorites. It’s by far the best installment for players new to the series. (Full Review)

Deckscape The Test Time Laboratory card, and an introduction from the Doctor.

Deckscape – Test Time

$14 (26 CAD) (£11)

We’re fans of Deckscape’s card-based play-at-home escape games. Test Time was our favorite. (Full Review)

Home

Umbra Magnetic Key Holder with keys and mail in it.

Umbra – Magnetic Key/ Mail Organizer

$15 (19 CAD) (£15)

This magnetic key and mail organizer has been a fantastic addition to our home. It looks great and it’s highly functional. 

Indiana Jones Holy Grail

$25

If you give this re-creation of the Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade Holy Grail to someone and they respond with anything other than “You chose wisely,” then you should just end that relationship. 

A beautiful glass hourglass with copper ballbearings inside as sand.

The Marc Newson Hourglass For HODINKEE

$12,000

This handblown hourglass is filled with 1,249,996 tiny ball bearings and measures 10 minutes. It’s beautiful and expensive. We can’t afford it, but if you buy it, we’d love to see it in person. 

Tabletop Games

Forbidden Island's box with an assortment of cards, location tiles, and pieces.

Forbidden Island

$18 (20 CAD) (£17)

This is a collaborative treasure hunt where 2 to 4 players with unique abilities attempt to obtain 4 sacred items from a sinking item. Each game takes about 30 minutes to play and it feels like a constantly shifting group puzzle. It’s easy to learn and easy to teach. I’ve been playing it fairly regularly for over 5 years.

The futuristic box for Gizmos.

Gizmos

$30 (46 CAD)

This is a recent find for us and we’re pretty obsessed with it. 

Gizmos is a competitive game for 2 to 4 players, where everyone is trying to build more effective chain reaction machines that earn points and resources. It’s competitive, but not in-your-face competitive. Plus, it has a super fun marble dispenser.

Haunted House box for Betrayal.

Betrayal at House on the Hill

$33 (60 CAD) (£32)

This hour-long game for 3 to 6 players starts out collaborative until someone triggers the haunting… and then a defector is revealed and the game changes profoundly.

With more than 50 different defector scenarios and a procedurally generated game map, there is a ton of replay crammed into this box. 

While it pulls from horror tropes, it’s not a scary game. If you’d prefer a different theme, however, you can play the equally great Dungeons & Dragons-themed Betrayal at Baldur’s Gate. Finally… if you already know and love this game, Betrayal Legacy looks amazing. 

The D&D-esque box of Gloomhaven, depicting a scene with fantasy knights and rogues.

Gloomhaven

$140 (275 CAD) (£158)

Gloomhaven is a collaborative tactical combat adventuring game in a persistent world with more than 100 missions for 1 to 4 players. Each mission takes 60 to 120 minutes to complete. The game is loaded with hidden content. It’s like Dungeons & Dragons, but more boardgamey. This is a big game for people who like tabletop gaming.

If you’re springing for Gloomhaven, you may also want to consider the Broken Token organizers. I’m not really into custom box organization, but this is one of the few games that warrants it.

A beautiful wooden chess set with the 2019 CES Innovation Award badge.

Square Off Automated Chess Board

$369

This elegant-looking chess board moves your opponent’s pieces using magic (or a computer-controlled electromagnet). It’s crazy how smooth it is. You can play against the game’s AI or against any other Square Off owner in the world. 

Use the code ARTIST20 to receive 20% off.

Tools

A stubby small screw driver.

Klein – 6 in 1 Mini Screwdriver

$11

I keep this little tool in easy reach. This has been another great upgrade to our home. More often than not, if I need a screwdriver for a casual repair, this thing can handle the job. It can also fit into tight spaces. 

A dremel 3000, its box, and a few attachments.

Dremel 3000 Rotary Tool

$59 (111 CAD) (£70)

My Dremel is one of my go-to tools. I use it for everything. If you like to make things, you can almost certainly find an attachment that will improve your process. 

A glowforge 3d laser printer.

Glowforge

$3,995

There is no tool that I would love to own more than a good laser cutter. The Glowforge is the one that I’d buy if we had the space, ventilation, and money.

DIY Crafty Puzzles

A geometric papercraft tyrannosaurus rex bust.

PAPERRAZ Dinosaur Trophy Head Papercraft Puzzle

$38 (71 CAD)

These things are just nifty looking. There’s something about the geometry of them that has stuck with me from the first time I encountered one over a year ago. Plus… dinosaur!

Front of the completed Treasure Box bears the UGears logo.

U Gears – Treasure Box

$45 (75 CAD) (£42)

U Gears models combine puzzle, art, and engineering in one project. We built the Treasure Box, but they have a ton of amazing products. Read our review first to make sure that you have the right tools on-hand. (You don’t need many, but you really need them.)  (Full Review)

Puzzles

The Dog Pile & Cat Stax boxes.

Brainwright – Cat Stax & Dog Pile

$10-13 (18 CAD Cats & 19 CAD Dogs) (£15 Cats & £15 Dogs)

These cat and dog packing puzzles are adorable. They start you off easy, slowly ramping up the difficulty. Whether you’re looking to learn packing puzzles, already enjoy them… or just want the cute dog and cat figures, these are a good buy. (Full Review)

4 different nut and bolt puzzles.

Trick Bolts

$20

Purchased as a pair, each well-crafted bolt hides a different trick. The goal is to remove the nut, but you’ll find it isn’t trivial. Small, sturdy, and easy to carry around, you’ll always have a puzzle handy.

2 Rubik's cubs with funny looking headset power chargers on them.

Smart Rubik’s Cube

$42 (£39)

This looks like a normal Rubik’s Cube with cute headphones, right? The “headphones” are actually a removable charging connector. Why do you need to charge a Rubik’s Cube? This one can transmit the entire state of the cube via Bluetooth to your phone, allowing it to show you how to solve it, or play several different cube-based games. It also has a pleasant clicky-but-smooth feel.

Two hands holding a heart shaped wooden box.

Heart CaseSold out 💔

$104

Pluredo makes some terrific hand-crafted wooden puzzles. This one, a “sequential discovery” puzzle, reveals tools as you progress. You’ll need to use the tools to open the final compartment. It’s not too difficult, but it’s satisfying nonetheless.

3 bolts protruding from an elegant block of wood labeled, "Mr Puzzle Australia"

3 Wise Bolts

$138

This is another sequential discovery puzzle, where each bolt reveals new tools that you can use to get further into the puzzle. It’s a little more expensive and a lot harder. Don’t expect to solve this in a single sitting.

Jigsaw Puzzles

A 1000 piece Harry Potter flying keys puzzle, depicts the book's hero's riding broomsticks and trying to catch flying keys.

New York Puzzle Company Harry Potter Puzzles

~$20 (~30 CAD) (~£20)

The New York Puzzle Company makes beautiful traditional cardboard jigsaw puzzles. Their pieces have unusual shapes and their print quality is great. Their Harry Potter puzzle line is a perfect choice for the puzzling Potterhead in your life. Our favorite is the 1,000 piece Flying Keys puzzle… naturally. 

Geode puzzle mostly assembled.

Nervous System – Geode Puzzle

$60

Small but mighty. This intricate little laser-cut wooden puzzle was far more complex and interesting than its piece count suggested. (Full Review)

Video Games

In-game: a beautiful multicolored series of circular repeating patterns surrounding an eye.

Gorogoa

$5 on iOS, $15 on Windows & Nintendo Switch

Gorogoa is a novel, gorgeous, and innovative puzzle game that doesn’t overstay its welcome. It may be a short game, but it’s mighty. (Full Review)

In-game, and array of basic puzzles that build in complexity.
A series of starter puzzles.

The Witness 

$9.99 on iOS, $13.60 on Android, $39.99 on Xbox & Steam

The Witness is one of the great puzzle games of our time. It’s a deep exploration of one puzzle type that sublimely guides you from novice to master with a difficulty curve that teaches you, while still making you be smart. (Full Review)

Books

Multi-colored cover of the atlas obscura explorer's guide for the world's most adventurous kid.

The Atlas Obscura Explorer’s Guide for the World’s Most Adventurous Kid

$13 (24 CAD) (£12)

We’re big fans of Atlas Obscura. Whenever we travel, we try to sneak in some strange sites. This book is made to help kids feel more connected to the world and more comfortable traveling. It’s fun and quirky. 

Cover for Y the last man volume 1, features Yorick and Ampersand.

Y The Last Man Volume 1

$19 (34 CAD) (£16)

This 5-volume graphic novel series from 2002 by Brian K. Vaughan is still one of my favorite stories. It explores a world where only two animals with a Y chromosome survive a sudden calamity. It’s the kind of setup that could have turned gross or terrible quickly, but is heartfelt and intriguing. It’s also one of those rare series that stuck the landing. That last issue was haunting. 

The Art of Game Design book.

The Art of Game Design: A Book of Lenses, Second Edition

$59 (72 CAD) (£47)

Whether you’re an escape room designer already or you’re aspiring to be one, if you are designing games, this is a must-read.

Stocking Stuffers

An assortment of 10 different color FriXion pens in the package.

Pilot – FriXion Ball Erasable Gel Ink Pens

$11 (25 CAD) (£8)

These heat-activated erasable pens are amazing! We use them whenever we’re puzzling. They erase well and don’t leave any eraser dust behind. (Full Review)

A metal and plastic toy that looks like a lollipop, it fans out into different shapes controlled by magnets.

Lollipopter

$25 (40 CAD) (£25)

All hail the king of the fidget toys. This thing is just cool. It has no practical purpose or challenge to it. It’s just immensely satisfying to fiddle with. 

A candle made to look like the bust of Toht, the vile Nazi from Raiders of the Lost Ark.

Raiders of the Lost Ark Melting Toht Candle

$35 (52 CAD) (£25)

Set fire to a Nazi to relive one of the more satisfying villain deaths in cinematic history from the comfort of your own home.

Escape Rooms

Post game green screen photo the team on the bridge of the boat being rescued.

Here’s your annual reminder to purchase a gift certificate from a local escape room company. It’s the perfect gift. 

Apparel 

Legends of the Hidden Temple T-shirts

$13 (17 CAD) (£19)

You either grew up with this and think these shirts are awesome… or you have no idea what I’m talking about. (More Details)

A black shirt with the white outline of a black cube.

Rusty Lake Apparel

$17.50

I love this creepy mobile escape room-style video game series. It has long deserved a post… stay tuned. If you or your loved ones are Rusties… may I suggest the Cube shirt? You know what to do. 

For Kids

A scratch programming demo featuring an animated cat.

Scratch

Free!

Coding is fun and a critical literacy now and in the future. 

Scratch is a free programming language for children to create stories, animations, and games. It’s a straightforward, unintimidating way to learn how to create with code. To kickstart your kid, check out the book, Coding Games in Scratch: A Step-by-Step Visual Guide to Building Your Own Computer Games.

Puzzle your kids logo

Puzzle Your Kids

Free/$3 per month

This is an email subscription from Eric Berlin, the creator of the wonderful Winston Breen book series. He delivers a weekly paper puzzle (in PDF format) designed for younger puzzlers (but often still interesting for adults). It has both free and paid tiers. 

A clear sphere filled with colorful ramps and mazes.

Perplexus 

$17 (25 CAD) (£23)

Perplexus is a dexterity puzzle where a player attempts to navigate a silver ball through 100+ obstacles. It’s fun and challenging. 

I’ve seen these things in quite a few escape room lobbies, but it turns out that they are huge with kids. 

Perplexus comes in a number of different flavors including the Epic and Star Wars: Death Star editions. 

Playmobile Haunted House includes dracula in a coffin, dr frankenstein, and frankenstein's monster.

Playmobil

Starting at ~$20 (~29 CAD) (~£43)

Lisa grew up with Playmobil. She had an entire town of people. They provided her with an endless outlet for creativity in play (and inadvertently, a career). Today, Playmobil offers Explorers of the Hidden Temple and Haunted House play sets, among many others. They are so escape room-y, it’s not even funny. Get your kids hooked on adventure while they’re young. 

Two kids reaching under the Klask table to play it.

Klask: The Magnetic Game of Skill

$38 (68 CAD) (£40)

It’s like air hockey, but with magnets and a few added obstacles. Plus, it doesn’t take up an entire room. 

The orange Curiosity Box featuring an adorable octopus logo.

The Curiosity Box

From $49.90 per quarter for a quarterly plan to $45.90 per quarter for an annual plan

This box is delivered quarterly with 9 science toys, puzzles, books, and games designed to entertain and educate a knowledge-hungry kid. 

Charity

Direct Relief's orange logo.

Direct Relief

“Direct Relief is a humanitarian aid organization, active in all 50 states and more than 80 countries, with a mission to improve the health and lives of people affected by poverty or emergencies – without regard to politics, religion, or ability to pay.”

Direct Relief on Charity Navigator

Charity Navigator: Your Guide To Intelligent Giving's compass logo.

Give & Give Smart

Regardless of the organization you plan to donate to, please take a few minutes to research the way that the non-profit operates. Charity Navigator evaluates non-profits based on their financial responsibility and transparency. 

I’m not going to name names, but I can guarantee that Charity Navigator will change the way you look at some of the best known non-profits.

Past Buyers Guides

Our past guides still have great stuff in them…

2017

2016

Thank You

Thank you to our friends Brett, Max, Paula, and John for their wonderful suggestions for this holiday buyer’s guide.

If you purchase via our Amazon links or use our discount codes, you will help support Room Escape Artist as we will receive a very small percentage of the sale. We truly appreciate your support.

3 thoughts on “Room Escape Lover’s 2018 Holiday Buyer’s Guide

      1. I am sad to report that they are sold out for good. If you want once, you’ll have to borrow one from an owner or hunt one down on the secondary market.

        This was their response to our email:

        “Yes, Heart Cases are sold out now.
        I’m very sorry but our puzzles are all limited editions which will never be produced again.

        Therefore, we ask customers to register our newsletter if they don’t want to miss puzzles.
        Every time we start selling new puzzle or start eBay auction, we will send a newsletter.”

        Here’s where you can subscribe their newsletter: http://blog.pluredro.com/2017/11/pluredro-newsletter.html

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