PSA: There is no escape room shortage this holiday season

As the holiday season rolls around, the supply chain for all sorts of goods is strained. Shortages here, delays there… stuff is hard.

The good news is that escape rooms have no such shortage, and neither do your local artisans and makers.

So, shop local. Buy your friends and family admission to your favorite escape room.

Reads: "Escape rooms have no supply chain problems - shop local."

And if you’re willing, help boost escape rooms a bit. Share this image and tag your favorite local escape room business.

Thank you!

Thank you to our Patreon backers. This Thanksgiving, we are reflecting on how wonderful you are as a community. We want you to know that we appreciate your support very much.

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Support Room Escape Artist’s Mission

There are lots of ways to support Room Escape Artist, like buying from Amazon, Etsy, or Art of Play 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.

Gnome & Raven – Shipwrecked [Review]

Pirates of the round table

Location:  Richmond, VA

Date Played: October 2, 2021

Team size: up to 12; we recommend 3-6

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $25 per player, 4 player minimum

Ticketing: Private

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

Playing Shipwrecked felt like taking a journey. We traversed a number of interesting environments, each with its own opportunities for exploration. All of this was accentuated by the scale of the gamespace. Gnome & Raven likes building big and beautiful things.

A cave wall with little compartments, each containing a candle. Wax drippings run down the wall.

Shipwrecked played like a traditional escape room, but because of its scale and style, it felt fresh and unique.

Gnome & Raven could improve Shipwrecked by removing the remains of a ghost puzzle, and potentially balancing the use of the impressive space a little more… but overall, this was a stellar experience.

The final room of Shipwrecked was a party room, with an impressive table. One day I hope to throw a party in this room. It seems like it would be fun.

If you’re anywhere near Richmond, I strongly urge you to pay Gnome & Raven a visit and get Shipwrecked.

Who is this for?

  • Adventure seekers
  • Puzzle lovers
  • Scenery snobs
  • Pirate fans
  • Any experience level
  • Players who don’t need to be a part of every puzzle

Why play?

  • That party room
  • The right big interactions captured the theme

Story

While exploring the libations in an old pub, we happened upon a note that suggested that Davy Jones shipwrecked in a nearby cove. We set off in search of his ship, seeking adventure and riches.

Continue reading “Gnome & Raven – Shipwrecked [Review]”

Clue IQ – Excalibur [Review]

The trials of the sword

Location:  Frederick, MD

Date Played: October 3, 2021

Team size: 2-10; we recommend 2-5

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: scaled pricing from $46 per player for teams of 2 to $28 per player for teams of 10

Ticketing: Private

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

Excalibur was an amazing newbie-friendly game. We took my aunt to her first escape room (and my cousin and her friend to their third), and I don’t think we could have picked a better first game for her.

Excalibur had a fantastic blend of solid puzzles, ambiance, and magical tech – all set in an approachable environment.

A sword set in a stone, fog lit dramatically behind it.

If you’re an experienced player, there’s a fun game for you here, but I’d suggest savoring it rather than speed running it. There’s a lot to enjoy. Beyond that, I’d encourage you to bring some newbies and play it a little cool. It was a lot of fun watching my family make the right connections and experience the magic.

If you’re in the DC suburbs, check out Excalibur.

Who is this for?

  • Adventure seekers
  • Puzzle lovers
  • Scenery snobs
  • Fans of swords & sorcery
  • Great for any experience level, but fantastic for newbies

Why play?

  • To introduce your friends to escape rooms
  • Magical triggers

Story

As King Arthur grew old, he asked his wizard, Merlin to set his mythical sword Excalibur back into the stone from which he’d pulled it so that another who was worthy could lift it.

Generations had passed and no one had been able to pull the sword from the stone. It was our turn to face the Trials of the Sword.

Continue reading “Clue IQ – Excalibur [Review]”

Room Escape Artist Holiday Gift Guide – 2021

Welcome to our 6th annual Holiday Gift Guide.

As always, we’re presenting a unique selection of gifts for the adventurous and thoughtful nerds in your life (or you, we don’t judge). This year the REA team and our Patreon supporters shared their wonderful ideas for the gift guide too.

REA logo with a Santa hat atop.

Each year’s gift selection offers an assortment of games, puzzles, tools, and oddities. We don’t repeat gifts year-to-year, so you can always reference our past guides for more inspiration. We’ve put a lot of thought and love into each guide; they still hold up.

Escape Room Tickets

Before we dive in, I will open with a public service announcement:

The supply chain for all sorts of goods is strained. Shortages here, delays there… stuff is hard.

The good news is that escape rooms have no such shortage. I strongly encourage you to buy your friends and family admission to your favorite escape room.

2021 Gift Guide

Tabletop Escape Games

Escape From the Maze of the Minotaur, Solve Our Shirts

$35-40 (Solve Our Shirts)

Model wearing red t-shirt with the puzzles removed.

Lisa: “This is a fun evening activity that comes with its own souvenir shirt (and a high quality one!) I was repeatedly impressed by how many puzzles and surprises CU Adventures packed into this… article of clothing.” (Review)

Area 51, Break-In

$15 (Amazon)

Opened Area 51 game with side panels unfolded.

David: “Break-In’s Area 51 packed a lot into a small box by using the box as a physical structure for us to play in. I’m shocked at the low price point on this product, as it was crammed with innovation.” (Review)

The Cinderella Murders, Fairy Tale Files

$19 (Society of Curiosities)

A news paper, an illustrated character card of the Fiary Godmother, a sealed envelope, and a cup of tea.

Matthew: “The Fairy Tale Files were a delightful way to bring newer puzzlers or teens into the fold. (I played them with my mom!) Packed with satisfying yet accessible ahas, the two installments currently available embody the beautiful design, slick tech, and narrative-driven puzzling that have come to characterize all Society of Curiosities creations.” (Review coming soon)

The Initiative

$60 (Amazon)

Initiative box art depicts a character's mind filled with rooms.

Sarah W:The Initiative is a unique campaign-based cooperative strategy game with delightful escape-at-home overtones. Unlike most board games, there’s an overarching narrative that ties in with the gameplay mechanics, as well as plenty of secrets—some of which I found while writing up the review.” (Review coming soon)

Exit: Kidnapped in Fortune City

$15 (Amazon)

Exit: Kidnapped in Fortune City box depicts the old west. A sheriff's badge laying on the ground.

Kate: “This is my favorite installment from Exit: The Game to date. Kidnapped in Fortune City is a fast-paced, multi-layered adventure where you’re on a mission to rescue the kidnapped sheriff. You select your preferred path through the base game while working towards a meta puzzle at the end.” (Review)

Jigsaw Puzzles

The Mystic Maze, Magic Puzzle Company

$20 (Amazon)

Box art for The Magic Puzzle Company's The Mystic Maze 1000 piece jigsaw puzzle.

Cindi: The Mystic Maze was the most unusual jigsaw puzzle I’ve ever put together! With highly-detailed artwork and a thoughtful story (and surprises!), this puzzle was a joy to complete. I’ve already added Magic Puzzle Company’s Happy Isles and Sunny City to my list this year!” (Review)

The Puzzle Scoop

$10 (Amazon)

A handle with a large rectangular magnifier on the end over a collection of assembled puzzle pieces.

David: “Magnifier, flash light, and scoop… this little tool can do a lot to help the jigsaw puzzler in your life who’s eyes aren’t quite what they used to be.”

Infinite Galaxy Puzzle 2

$120 (Art of Play)

A jigsaw puzzle of the galaxy, the edge is infinite.

David: “Embrace the infinite. This puzzle of the galaxy poetically has no beginning or end. It endlessly interconnects with itself. It reminds me of the time I took astronomy in college thinking it would be fun… instead it broke my brain.”

Puzzle Books

Cantaloop

$47 (Amazon)

Cantaloop book cover depicts the main character in a mugshot with a lot of swagger.

David: “This was described to me as ‘a really good point-and-click adventure game in book form… that actually feels like a point-and-click adventure game.’ That description was dead-on. If you’ve ever enjoyed a point-and-click adventure game, do yourself a favor and play this. It’s fun, funny, and novel.” (Review)

Hinck’s Gazette

$7 per month subscription (BlueFish Games)

A copy of the Hincks Gazette being held up in front of a fireplace. The frontpage headline reads, "Talking plants now talking back. House plants sassing families all over town."

Lisa: “Ok, this isn’t really a book, but it is puzzles presented in newspaper form, and I think that should count. My life is weird, and I don’t have time to casually puzzle the way that I used to, but if David and I were to subscribe to a regular puzzle product, this would be at the top of our list.”(Review)

Tangram, Volume 1

$27 (Art of Play)

Tangram book cover has a portrait of a person cut into rings, and then twisted.

Matthew: Tangram is an art journal themed around wonder that features artists from a wide range of creative disciplines. Each volume also hides hours of puzzles, designed by yours truly! (I don’t get any additional royalties… I just want more people to play it.) The first volume is a self-contained puzzle hunt with a tactile meta sequence, and the second volume contains even harder puzzles that lead to real-life hidden treasure…”

Mechanical Puzzles

Cluebox 2: Davy Jones’ Locker

$45 (Art of Play)

Large wooden puzzle box with many ornate pieces and symbols.

Brett: “Cluebox 2: Davy Jones’ Locker is a terrific sequel to the original Cluebox. It ups both the puzzle and design aspects, with on-theme shapes and graphics leading you through a series of challenges that will make escape room players feel right at home. It packs in 60 to 90 minutes of puzzling for most players, at a very reasonable price, and is resettable so you can share it with family and friends.”

Kagen Sound Maze Boxes

$265 each (Art of Play)

Wooden puzzle box with a metal maze embedded in the top.

Brett: “Kagen Sound is widely acknowledged to be one of the finest crafters of wooden puzzle boxes. His Maze Boxes have simple but precise woodworking, with a metal maze locking them. You’ll rapidly discover the maze is trickier than it appears, though still solvable by mortals.”

Home

Midnight Ice Cream Scoop

$34 (Amazon)

Sleek, steel ice cream scoop.

Lisa: “So… we may have consumed a lot of ice cream over the past couple years… like a lot a lot. This was admittedly a decadent purchase, but it works way better than any other ice cream scoop I’ve ever owned. And everyone can have a good laugh at how, umm, suggestively shaped it is.”

Duck & Bunny Illusion Shaker Set

$48 (Art of Play)

Salt & pepper shakers that look like a duck or bunny depending upon how they are oriented.

Matthew: “Is your dining room table lacking in wonder? Shake things up with this delightfully sculpted rendition of the classic duck/ bunny optical illusion.”

Tap Score – Water Test

$250 (Amazon)

Tap Score home water testing kit contents, includes instructions, sampling vials, chlorine test strip, and box.

David: “One of the many home improvement projects that I undertook this year was setting up a water filtration system. It turns out that there are lots of options and the one you need is based on what you need to filter out. Tap Score was by far the easiest part of this project. This simple testing system gave me so much information and made it easy to understand. I cannot recommend it highly enough.”

Flyte – Levitating Light

$349 (Art of Play)

An illuminated light bulb floating over a block of wood.

David: “These things are so cool. Every time I encounter one I always wish I owned one.”

Office

RayMay Pen Style Portable Scissors

$10 (Amazon)

David: “These are the coolest portable scissors. They shrink down to the size of a pen, and they work damn well. The blades are full tang (meaning the metal runs throughout the body), and they are a great addition to my portable puzzle solving kit (more on that kit in a future post).”

Sakura SumoGrip Retractable Eraser

$7 (Amazon) & $7 for a 3 refill pack (Amazon)

SumoGrip retractable eraser.

Lisa: “David got tired of us burning through erasers before we finished up using a pencil, so he dove down an eraser rabbit hole and emerged with this. I’ve since made him buy 3 more so I can stash them in bags and desks. The refills are also great.”

Midori Foldable Aluminium Ruler

$14 (Amazon)

Foldable, aluminum metic ruler.

David: “I’ve been looking for a small, foldable aluminum ruler… and finding a good one was strangely difficult. This one is fantastic. A while back I mostly switched to metric measurements for my projects, and I haven’t looked back. Metric makes both the measuring and math way easier. Don’t @ me.”

SENNHEISER HD 599 Open Back Headphone

$150 (Amazon)

Brown and beige headphones resting on a sound system.

David: “Between running a virtual convention and launching a podcast, I have spent way too much time wearing headphones, so much so that it was becoming painful… until I bought these headphones. I absolutely love them. The sound quality is magnificent, they fit well, but they don’t clamp down on my head. These headphones feel and sound much more expensive than they are.”

Tabletop Games

Poetry For Neanderthals

$16 (Amazon)

Poetry For Neanderthals box beside the card components, and a large inflatable club with the word "NO" painted on it.

Lisa: “I love any sort of word challenge, and this one is both unusual and fun – you can only use one syllable words. When your friends (or husband) use multisyllabic words, you get to bop them on the head with the inflatable ‘NO’ club. You can always count on Exploding Kittens to combine completely disconnected mechanics to make a hilarious game.

Wingspan

$60 for the base game, an additional $30 for the Oceana Expansion (Amazon)

Wingspan's beautifully painted box with a white, black and orange box.

David:Wingspan is a paragon of beautiful and deliberate design. This is a meaty tabletop game with so much going for it from its careful balancing, to its obsessive attention to bird details, to the elegant art and components. There are two expansions, but I strongly recommend picking up the Oceana Expansion as it adds an additional resource that helps further balance the game and open up new strategies.”

Stay Cool

$23 (Amazon)

Stay cool box, depicts an anthropomorphized bomb in distress.

David: “Hey Theresa, can you get me a quote on that game Stay Cool for the Gift Guide?”

Theresa W: “Oh absolutely. In the morning. We’re drunk playing it literally as we speak. It’s great.”

David: “Got it. Thanks.”

Tools

Hakko-CHP-170 Micro Cutter

$8 (Amazon)

Red and black micro cutters.

David: “I picked these up for snipping some plastic and light metal… and they feel great. I’ve used plenty of similar products over the years, but there is something about the shape of the handles that makes me feel considerably more in control of this tool.”

Govee Wifi Water Sensors

$54 (Amazon)

3 water sensors, a base station, and a controller phone app.

David: “Earlier this year we had a pipe burst in our home. It was exciting, to say the least. These water sensors are my new line of defense against a future water calamity. They haven’t been battle-tested yet, and I hope they never are, but for now, they stand guard.”

Books

AMORALMAN, Derek DelGaudio

$14 (Amazon)

AMORALMAN book cover by Derek Delgaudio. Book cover is an infinite copy of itself.

Lisa: “When I’m as impressed by a piece as I was by Derek DelGaudio’s In & Of Itself, I’ll always read the book. This book gave me more insight into the man behind that magic. His adventures in high stakes sleight of hand had me on edge. I literally couldn’t put it down.”

Little Billy’s Letters: An Incorrigible Inner Child’s Correspondence with the Famous, Infamous, and Just Plain Bewildered, Bill Geerhart

Used starting at $7 (Amazon)

Little Bill's Letters book cover, is written like a child wrote it.

David:Little Billy’s Letters are a collection of letters to celebrities, politicians, business leaders, and convicted murderers written by an adult, posing as child… and their actual responses to him. I impulse purchased this book in the middle of the night. It’s sort of a strange, hilarious artifact of the 90s. Strong recommend.”

Klara and the Sun: A novel

$16 (Amazon)

Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro book cover is red with black lettering and features an open hand with the sun in its palm.

Lisa: “Reading a book by Kazuo Ishiguro is a lot like solving a puzzle. So much about the characters and their world mirrors our own, but as you read, you piece together the oddities to discover what’s different. His newest book Klara and the Sun: A Novel grapples with technological advancement, and also the meaning of being human.”

Stocking Stuffers

Chocolateral Puzzle Chocolate, Enigmailed

$8 per bar (Etsy)

A piece of chocolate resting on its green packaging, labeled, "Mind Dark Chocolate, The Case of the Fatal Experiment."

Lisa: “This is great chocolate, with some small puzzles on top. If I need to sell harder, then this isn’t for you.” (Review)

Bonus Chocolate

$12 (Art of Play)

A chocolate bar with elegant packaging.

Matthew: “This edible illusion is the perfect opportunity to play with your food. A clever take on how chocolate subdivides into smaller pieces, here you’re guided to rearrange those pieces into a new rectangle of the same size — with a bonus piece magically left over. The chocolate is delicious, too!”

Holiday Cards – Set of 3, PostCurious

$14 (PostCurious)

3 different winter themed holiday cards with puzzles hidden in them.

Theresa P: “These cards are beautifully illustrated and contain approachable puzzles for all to enjoy. Consider sending them to anyone on your holiday greetings list!”

Schrödinger’s Cat: A Game of Curiosity

$30 (IKantKoan)

Schrodinger's Cat a Game of Curiosity tin.

Matthew: “I’d never fully internalized the emotional dimension of Schrödinger’s Cat Paradox until I played Jessica Creane’s brilliantly simple Schrödinger’s Cat: A Game of Curiosity. This pocket-sized game made quantum physics fun, thought-provoking, and accessible.”

For the Little Ones

5-Minute Mystery The Museum of Everything

$23 (Amazon)

5 Minute Mystery Box, depicts an animal detective.

Sarah M: “This fast-paced game methodically introduces kids to close observation, strategic deduction, and racing a clock. The basic mechanics are simple: search for hidden clues, get information, and eliminate suspects. However, the variety of crimes to solve allows this game to be as easy or as challenging as you want. It’s adaptable to kids as young as 5, targeted to kids between 8-10, and still appealing enough for adults to join in. And, if that’s not enough, there’s also a toy cryptex!”

Roller Coaster Challenge, ThinkFun

$32 (Amazon)

Roller Coaster Challenge box beside the puzzle components.

Sarah M: “This 3-dimensional physics puzzler exercises your brain differently than many spatial reasoning products. Given a partial blueprint of a coaster and a specific set of materials to use, it’s your job to design a route that keeps the coaster on track. When you solve a challenge, you get the satisfaction of watching a mini-coaster glide through your creation! The 40 puzzles will entertain ages 6-10, but even grown-ups can have fun creating their own designs. And maybe the biggest selling point? There’s a LOOP-DE-LOOP…and it works!”

Hoakes Island: A Fiendish Puzzle Adventure

$18 (Art of Play)

Hoakes Island - A Fiendish Puzzle Adventure book cover, has an assortment of animals and rides.

Brett: Hoakes Island is a beautifully designed and produced book that tasks the reader with using the diary of Henry Hoakes to solve a mystery and save the island. Rita the Anteater is your guide to the adventure, sending you on a journey through newspaper clippings, letters, and a map of the island.”

ROKR 3D Assembly Puzzle DIY Wooden Music Box

$19 (Amazon)

A wooden robot with a glowing heart.

Lee-Fay: “My 9 year old loves this. It’s a music box plus the robot is adorb.”

Something Special

LEGO Ideas Typewriter

$200 (Amazon)

A beautiful typewriter made from legos.

David: “This typewriter is a LEGO kit, and it’s magnificent. This was born out of the community-driven LEGO IDEAS site… which reminds me… if you haven’t taken a couple minutes to throw your support behind these LEGO IDEAS projects, you really should:

These ideas are so damn cool and they should exist, just like this LEGO typewriter. “

Endless Spring

£600 (Grand Illusion)

David: “It’s a lot of money to commit to a prank… but let’s be real, anyone who says, ‘money can’t buy happiness’ hasn’t seen this.”

Support Room Escape Artist’s Mission

There are lots of ways to support Room Escape Artist, like buying from Amazon, Etsy, or Art of Play 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.

Rush Hour Live Escape Games – Exit Protocol [Review]

License to plan trips

Location:  Fredericksburg, VA

Date Played: October 2, 2021

Team size: 4-6; we recommend 4-5

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $28 per player

Ticketing: Private

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

Exit Protocol was a traditional escape room with an emphasis on challenge, wrapped in references to Hollywood spy thrillers.

A desk in a travel agency, there are clocks on the wall for different timezones.

The high points for Exit Protocol were clever interaction design, especially in the mid and late game. The struggle of Exit Protocol, however, was a difficulty curve seemed erratic and difficulty spikes that sometimes felt under-clued.

I’ll add that we got a glimpse into what Rush Hour Live Escape Games is working on, and we are genuinely excited to see what they have in the pipeline. This is a company that knows how to build cool moments and the more that they lean on that skillset, the stronger their products will be.

As far as Exit Protocol is concerned, if you’re an experienced escape room player looking for something a little more challenging, check this one out. Newer players or players looking for something less focused on difficulty, should consider checking out some of Rush Hour Live Escape Games’ other offerings.

Who is this for?

  • Puzzle lovers
  • Best for players with at least some experience

Why play?

  • You’re looking for a more challenging, puzzle-y escape room
  • For self-aware spy thriller tropes and references

Story

Our CIA team was on assignment when something went wrong. Since the agent in charge was unreachable, we had to step in and secure our facilities and shut down the operations.

Continue reading “Rush Hour Live Escape Games – Exit Protocol [Review]”