Room Escape Lover’s Holiday Buyer’s Guide – 2019

‘Tis the season to bepuzzle your family and friends. We’re here to help.

Room Escape Artist Holiday Buyer's Guide 2019 masthead, features the REA logo with a Santa hat.

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!

Puzzles

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

$21.50 – Amazon

Exit: The Game Catacombs of Horror box art featuring a skull, and lit candle.

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

$20 – Amazon

The Flashback box art.

Escape Room in a Box: The Werewolf Experiment was the early gold standard in tabletop escape games. The women behind that game have released its sequel, Flashback. Predictably, it was fantastic.

Doctor Esker’s Notebook

$15 – Amazon

The small card deck sized box for 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

Witches Kitchen – $16 – Amazon

Space Observatory – $20 – Amazon

The cover of Ravensburger Escape Puzzle, Witch's Kitchen.

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

$44 – Amazon

Escape Iron Gate's box featuring a prison and labeled, "The prison break party game."

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.

Jigsaw-ish Puzzles

3D Rubber Ducky Puzzle

$11.50 – Amazon

A 3D crystal jigsaw puzzle of a rubber ducky.

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

$120 – Nervous System

A laser cut wooden jigsaw puzzle of the eather that has no beginning or end.

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]

$49 – Amazon

Link climbing a mountain to a massive egg.

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

$25 – Schell Games

This is a killer James Bond-meets-escape-room VR game. Room Escape Artist’s puzzle video game reviewer Steve Ewing loved it.

Puzzle Books

This year’s selection of books is different from those we’ve featured in the past. We’ve been branching out.

Puzzle Snacks

$8 – Amazon

Cover of Puzzle Snacks, "More than 100 clever bite-sized puzzle for every solver" by Eric Berlin.

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

$22.50 – Amazon

Ship of Theseus title page.

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.

Cain’s Jawbone

$15 – Amazon

The box art for Cain's Jawbone depicts a library with a deadman on the floor and a person in the shadows outside of the window.

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

$7 – Amazon

The elegant black, white, and blue Sudoku Puzzle book.

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.

Bletchey Park Puzzle Books also offers other titles including Logic, Cryptic Crosswords, Math Puzzles, and of course Code Breaking.

Home

Triforce Alarm Clock

$30 – Amazon

A golden triangle assembled from 4 smaller triangers. The centerpiece has an alarm display.

It’s dangerous to wake up alone! Take this.

Chocolate Key Mold

$6 – Amazon

4 antique lever keys in a clear 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

$19 – Etsy

Morse code welcome mat reads, -.- -. --- -.-. -.-, -.- -. --- -.-. -.-.

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.

Tabletop Games

Ex Libris

$42 – Amazon

The cover of Ex Libris depicting a strange magical library.

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

$33 – Amazon

The cover of throw throw burrito depicts two cartoonish burritos.

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?

$17 – Amazon

Whats That Smell's box in the bag.

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.

Tools

Wera Screwdriver

$32 – Amazon

A Wera screw driver with extendable neck, and 6 bits that store in the handle.

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

$10 – Amazon

A Klein NCVT-1 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

$11 – Amazon

A Klein RT210 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

$7 – Amazon

A gerber shard with a bottle opener, pry tool and, cutting 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

$65 – Amazon

An airbrush kit.

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.

RECON

$300 Early Bird – Room Escape Artist

RECON - Reality Escape Convention logo features a penrose triangle and and a blue eye.

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.

Stocking Stuffers

NY Times Crossword Puzzle Calendar

$13 – Amazon

Box for the NY Times daily crossword calendar, depicts a crossword grid.

Shhh… I’m getting this for Lisa. Don’t tell her.

Secret Aardvark – Habanero Sauce

$9 – Amazon

Bottle of Secret Aardvark Habanero Hot 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.

Hoberman Switch

$14 – Amazon

A blue ball with unusual cuts n the side. One the inside you can see purple coloration.

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.

Frixon Highlighters

$8 – Amazon

6 flourscent highlighters in a package with Japanese writing.

Last year we shared Frixion pens in our Holiday Buyer’s Guide. Since then, we’ve learned of Frixion highlighters… which are pretty great, although admittedly less versatile than the pens.

Hanayama Harmony Cast Puzzle

$8 – Amazon

A tangled musical note and the treble clef symbol.

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

$17 – Amazon

A child's latch board with a keyed lock, a gate latch, a combination lock, and a briefcase lock.

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

$13 – Amazon

Cover art of "Curiosity: The Story of a Mars Rover," depicts an illustrated anthromorphic 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

Amanda, Drew, David, & Lisa post-game at Escape From the 6. Each is wearing costumes and props from their games.

This is your annual reminder that a gift certificate to a favorite local escape room is a great gift.

Take a look at our escape room directory or regional recommendations guides to find something fun.

Something Special

Custom Secret Message Ring

$600 – Erica Weiner

A stack of three rings in silver, gold, and rose gold. Each has a different arrangement of stones on the band.

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.

Hobbit Hole

$2,390 or $3,270 (depending upon size) – Etsy

A Hobbit Hole home open with small furniture inside.

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:

Support Room Escape Artist’s Mission

There are lots of ways to support Room Escape Artist, like buying from Amazon after clicking into the links included in this post or backing us on Patreon.

The money that we make from these helps us to grow the site and continue to add more value to the community that we love so much.

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