Editor’s Note: This is a guest post by Lauren Bello. She originally shared this write-up on her Facebook on November 20. For this re-share on November 28, we’ve edited it a bit, since it’s now a week later. This version also includes links back to Room Escape Artist reviews. Lauren’s write-ups are spot on and you can find many of her favorites in our 2020 Holiday Gift Guide and 2021 Holiday Gift Guide… along with more gift ideas for your puzzle-loving friends. Thank you to everyone in our community who pointed us toward Lauren’s amazing deal sleuthing.
Guess what? I played 228 boxed/enveloped escape games, narrowed down the cream of the crop, and found their sales so you don’t have to!
Bluefish Games – Hincks
Bluefish Games’ entire Hincks line is a treasure. Spectacular puzzles full of “aha!” moments, a charming and unusual world, and ridiculously affordable prices. Start with Curious Elevator of Mr Hincks, and if you enjoy it, move on to the Hincks Gazette (you can order back issues) and the Curious Stairs of Mr Hincks.
20% off everything in the Holiday Store through Cyber Monday with the code HOHOHINCKS.
Dark Park Games – Witchery Spell
If you’re willing to splurge and wait on shipping from the Netherlands, DarkPark Games’ award-winning Witchery Spell is pretty much universally beloved. Quality artifacts, quality story, quality puzzles. Shipping stays the same no matter how many items you order, so to make shipping worth it, consider finding someone else local who wants to play and make a group order. You can also order refill kits so you can share or resell after. Their Conspiracy-19 game is also worth playing, and a new game called Never House is coming soon.
Witchery Spell is currently 25% off and there are only 29 boxes in stock, so HURRY.
Box One by Theory11
The less you know going in, the better. Savor the surprises.
Usually cheapest at Target, where it frequently goes on sale as part of a buy-2-get-1-free deal. Currently on sale at Walmart for only $20! No idea how long this deal will last!
Editor’s note: Lauren is right about surprises, but if you want to know just a little more, here is the Room Escape Artist Review and a podcast interview with the creator. I recommend the interview for AFTER you play the game.
Solve Our Shirts
Solve Our Shirts’ first shirt, the delightful Escape from the Maze of the Minotaur may genuinely be the most comfy T-shirt I own. Just be sure to solve it before you wash and wear it! Their second shirt just went up for sale (preorder) this week, and I can’t wait to play.
Team up with someone to buy a pair for a discount, and/ or get an additional discount through November: 15% off $100+ with code SENDINGOUTANSOS.
Society of Curiosities
Society of Curiosities is a subscription-based game where you combine handcrafted artifacts and polished websites to progress through a serialized adventure. My favorite game of theirs (and you’d be totally fine starting here instead of Chapter One: Madok’s Lost Treasure) is Chapter Two: The Posie Ring and the Chapbook.
Until November 21, you can get 10% off subscriptions or 15% off games. They don’t have sales often, so get on it!
Editor’s Note: Unfortunately this sale has ended, but let us entice you anyway with Matthew Stein’s interview with creators Michelle Rundbaken and Yacine Merzouk about the tech behind the scenes in these games
Key Enigma – Hack Forward
Key Enigma’s Hack Forward is quite fun, but it ships from Spain, so it will take some time to arrive in other countries. It might be too late to make a good Christmas gift, but still – absolutely worth playing. Another combination of physical items and websites: you’re using a chat interface to communicate with characters about what you find. I haven’t yet received their new game Calling Card, but it looks fantastic. (You can skip Butterfly Curse, in my opinion.)
35% off through Black Friday with discount code BLACKFRIDAY… which appears to still be applied site wide at the time of this posting.
Crack-A-Nut Mysteries’ games are all lovingly hand-crafted and personalized to the recipient. S.O.U.P. is on the easy side, but fun nonetheless. Double Major has a gripping story in which you play a major role. (Root of All Evil is story-driven, with few puzzles.) Not sure if you want to splurge? Room Escape Artist has written glowing reviews of all of these.
Currently 10% off all orders through the end of the month with code OHNUTS10. Orders will also receive a free pin!
Editor’s note: Thanks for the shoutout, Lauren. Reviews are now linked above for everyone’s convenience!
On a slightly lower tier but still great fun, Puzzling Pursuits is fun and affordable – I especially enjoyed La Famiglia.
From November 26 to November 29, get 20% off with code BLACKFRIDAY.
Editor’s note: REA review of Blackbrim: 1876 is coming soon.
Trapped Takeout games are great fun and have hours of content, usually with clever word-based puzzles. That said, they’re mostly paper-based and not always packed efficiently, so cost with shipping can be a bit much.
BUT… Bluefish Games is teaming with them to offer a discount: BLUEFISH20 for 20% off.
The Detective Society
The Detective Society is funny and tongue-in-cheek, though their humor may not be for everyone. (Here’s a good way to tell if they’re for you: want to buy something illegal? Just click here.) Their stories frequently involve doing things like logging into emails and bank records, through websites packed with jokes and bonus content. They ship from the UK, and to be honest, they can feel overpriced, but they’re so unique in tone that they may still be for you.
No known holiday sales yet.
Curious Correspondence Club
Curious Correspondence Club is a challenging puzzle subscription that frequently involves papercraft assembly. I’ll be honest, it divides a lot of puzzle fans. I personally love it, but even I get a bit frustrated when one fuzzy detail derails a puzzle. Still, there’s nothing else quite like it. Each game has a strong “time-spent-puzzling to cost” ratio, I love the company for hosting “Puzzletember” on Instagram this year, and I always rush to play it the moment it arrives.
Free pin promotion if you purchase through the link on their Instagram.
25% off the box set with code BLACKFRIDAY, and 50% off the first chapter in a subscription with code WELCOME.
The Enigma Emporium
The Enigma Emporium postcard games are tough and cipher/process heavy, but if that’s your jam, they’re fun, cheap, and packed with puzzles.
No holiday sale, but they’re inexpensive enough that a sale would be overkill.
Subscription games that can be hit-or-miss on an individual basis but that are still worth checking out include the following:
Enigma Fellowship prides themselves on using only recyclable materials in sustainable packaging. They’ve also got some of the lowest prices on the market. They’re still working out how much signposting each puzzle needs, in my opinion, but they’re absolutely lovely people, totally available on email, excited to hear feedback, and worth checking out.
Their new non-subscription game The Magical Tale is currently on pre-sale for $25 off through Dec 1 (and subsequently $15 off until Dec 25), and the rest of the store is up to 20% off until Saturday with code BFRIDAY10.
Escape Mail had a rough start, in my opinion, but they improved over the course of the year, and Chapter 10 in particular was a blast. They’re also extremely affordable, especially if you bundle.
20% off through November 29!
Gruzzle is a small company that creates mostly paper-based puzzles. Honestly at first I thought they were competent but unexciting, but they’ve been eager to implement feedback and the quality of their boxes has evolved. They’ve really grown on me, especially the bonus puzzles after each box: string them together to solve a meta-puzzle, and you’ll receive a special challenge coin and bonus puzzle in the mail.
$5 through Cyber Monday with the code BLACKBOX.
Editor’s Note: Here’s our review of The Will.
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