Update: You can find even more ideas in our 2020 Holiday Buyer’s Guide!
‘Tis the season to bepuzzle your family and friends. We’re here to help.
Every year we assemble a unique list of puzzles, tools, and other items that we think escape room lovers would love to give or receive.
This year’s list contains the most expensive item we’ve ever listed… as well as the spiciest item. (These aren’t the same item.) Enjoy!
We’ve got all manner of puzzles for you, broken out into categories for your convenience.
Tabletop Escape Games
We play and review a lot of tabletop puzzle games every year. We separate the great from the rest so that you don’t have to.
These were our 5 standouts (in no particular order) that put their own twist on the medium.
EXIT The Game- The Catacombs of Horror
The folks behind the EXIT The Game series have been cranking out tabletop escape games for a few years. Catacombs of Horror is decidedly the crown jewel in the current collection. We loved this double-length tabletop puzzle experience.
Escape Room in a Box: Flashback
Doctor Esker’s Notebook
Looks can be deceiving. Doctor Esker’s Notebook didn’t look like much, but it had some brilliant puzzling. We highly recommend this little deck of cards. We also have the sequel, Son of Esker, waiting on our to-play pile. We can’t vouch for the sequel yet, but we are excited to give it a go.
Ravensburger Escape Puzzle
Ravensburger’s Escape Puzzles are part jigsaw puzzle and part tabletop escape game. Players first solve a 759-piece jigsaw puzzle. Then they solve the puzzles embedded within the image to ultimately resolve a meta-puzzle. The Escape Puzzle twist added more purpose to the jigsaw assembly. Our favorites were Space Observatory, which was a more challenging jigsaw but an easier escape puzzle, and Witch’s Kitchen, which looked great and played evenly across all types of puzzles.
The Escape Game – Escape from Iron Gate
The Escape Game put a new twist on the tabletop escape room format with Escape from Iron Gate. This competitive escape game pitted us against each other in a quest to puzzle, act, draw, and trade our way out of prison the quickest. It’s easy to learn and accessible to non-gamers… but don’t underestimate its strategic depth.
3D Rubber Ducky Puzzle
I honestly thought this was going to be garbage, but I was wrong. These 3D puzzles are surprisingly satisfying and solid. They offer a lot of different designs, but I went with the Rubber Ducky… it was the one.
Infinite Earth Puzzle
We’ve reviewed a few Nervous System puzzles and this Infinite Earth Puzzle looks like it might be their coolest product yet.
Puzzle Video Games
The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening [Switch]
Nintendo has done a full remake of this classic. Whether you’ve played the original or never heard of it, I highly recommend it.
I Expect You to Die
This is a killer James Bond-meets-escape-room VR game. Room Escape Artist’s puzzle video game reviewer Steve Ewing loved it.
This year’s selection of books is different from those we’ve featured in the past. We’ve been branching out.
Puzzle Snacks was an inspired idea for a book. It’s a collection of word puzzles deliberately designed for quick solving. They don’t require any crossword puzzler wizardry, nor do they necessitate an extensive vocabulary. They are straightforward, fun, and clever. We ate them up.
Ship of Theseus
Created by J.J. Abrams and Doug Dorst, Ship of Theseus is an immersive novel with layers of storytelling. The other day, Room Escape Artist correspondent Sarah Willson published her review that was months in the making. All I can say is, I wish that I had the time to dive into the deep end on this one. I’m glad she did.
If Ship of Theseus isn’t puzzley enough for you… Try Cain’s Jawbone. This is an 85-year-old puzzle that was recently reprinted. It’s an intensely cool concept and I’ll likely never be able to solve the copy that I own.
Bletchley Park Puzzles
When I was looking for a Sudoku book, the Bletchey Park Puzzle Books caught my eye, not because they are special from a puzzling standpoint, but because the cover art was simple and understated. Most puzzle books of this style have loud covers that look like they were designed by a 6-year-old who just learned about WordArt.
Triforce Alarm Clock
It’s dangerous to wake up alone! Take this.
Chocolate Key Mold
Lisa and I love dessert… a lot. We like making desserts and we especially enjoy consuming them. Chocolate key molds bring together a few of our favorite things. We’re guessing that there might be a few other folks who feel the same way.
Morse Code Doormat
When we moved into our house, we commissioned the creation of this doormat… and now it’s for sale on Etsy for all to enjoy.
Ex Libris is a competitive tabletop game where everyone is a wizard librarian working to assemble the most impressive and best organized collection of magical books. If that description is speaking to you, then you probably need to buy this game.
Throw Throw Burrito
A card game meets dodge ball… but with foam burritos. Created by Elan Lee and Matthew Inman (The Oatmeal), this is a delightful and funny game. Lisa beta tested this back before the Kickstarter.
What’s That Smell?
I hate this game. If there’s someone in your life that you aren’t fond of, but are stuck with, and you need to get them a present, this is the low key, passive-aggressive gift you’re looking for. For a good time, read my review.
I’ve long wanted a lightweight, full-sized screwdriver with interchangeable bits that is also easy to toss into a bag. It turns out that penetration tester (and quite possibly the most interesting person on the internet) Deviant Ollam found the solution.
I freaking love this screwdriver. It lives in my bag now. I’ve already bought a second one to give to a friend. I have a feeling that I’ll be giving these things as gifts pretty often.
Klein Tools Non-Contact Voltage Tester
We bought our first house this year and I’ve been learning to do a little electrical work. This tool is a lifesaver. Sure, you can do it with a multimeter, but why bother when the non-contact voltage tester is so effortless?
Klein Tools Outlet Tester
This little guy plugs into an AC outlet and immediately checks its functionality. This is one of the most efficient tools I’ve ever used. If I had to use a multimeter to check every outlet in the house, it would have taken so much more time and effort.
Gerber 7-in-1 Shard Keychain Solid State Tool
I’ve been carrying this simple multitool on my keychain for a little over a year. It’s not a comprehensive tool, but it’s great for quick, reactionary situations… and it’s TSA friendly.
Paasche MIL-Set Double Action Siphon Feed Airbrush
Earlier this year I asked Justin Nevins, the creator of the one true Cryptex, what his favorite tool was. His answer was an airbrush, which surprised me. He suggested this Paasche brush and followed it up by saying, “I swap out the plastic bottles for glass. I like this brand over Testors’ because of the metal components.”
It’s also worth noting that it requires an air compressor.
We’re producing an escape room convention on August 23 & 24, 2020 in Boston. The escape room creator in your life (which may be you) should absolutely attend. We’re doing the hard work and believe that we’re building something special.
NY Times Crossword Puzzle Calendar
Shhh… I’m getting this for Lisa. Don’t tell her.
Secret Aardvark – Habanero Sauce
Hot sauce habit intensifies.
I love me some hot sauce. I’m not competitive about it, nor am I a masochist. I just love me some spice and the flavor of habanero peppers. Secret Aardvark is a flavorful, medium-heat hot sauce with no calories, carbs, or sugar. I put it on basically everything that isn’t a dessert.
Why is this on here? I love it. Also, it’s “secret” aardvark. It’s totally on-brand for us.
Created by artist/ engineer/ architect Chuck Hoberman, the Hoberman Switch is far more interesting than a fidget toy. When you toss this ball in the air, its outside flips inside and the color changes.
Hanayama Harmony Cast Puzzle
I’m not the biggest fan of entanglement puzzles, but this one was special. The aesthetic offers something more than just two pieces of metal twisted together. It’s also a satisfying solve.
For Real Little Ones
Lock Latch Board
Help your tiny humans enjoy themselves and build fine motor skills while training them for escape room greatness.
I’m not naming names or anything, but if your kid can effectively use a briefcase lock, they might be a more useful teammate than some of the adults that I’ve played escape rooms with.
Curiosity: The Story of a Mars Rover
This book is as beautiful as it is adorable. Child me would have made my mom read it to me until she had it memorized.
Escape Room Tickets
This is your annual reminder that a gift certificate to a favorite local escape room is a great gift.
Custom Secret Message Ring
Erica Weiner makes delightful custom jewelry. These rings add an extra layer of intrigue because the gems are used as a cipher to hide a message.
This is pretty much the greatest material gift that one could give.
Is it too expensive? Maybe… if you don’t love your kids.
Past Holiday Buyer’s Guides
We still stand by our previous holiday buyer’s guides. They are worth exploring:
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