We take fun seriously… and feel the same about gift giving.
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 shared their wonderful ideas for the gift guide too.
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.
David Spira: “This is one of the coolest tabletop puzzle products on the market. Part puzzle, part story, and part tarot deck… you can take this in however you want. Read the story, enjoy the deck, or solve the puzzles… or do all three. No matter which path you choose, it’s a beautiful experience.” (Review)
Lisa Spira: “We don’t normally do this, but PostCurious has two products in this year’s guide… because we loved them both. Adrift was beautiful, from the artwork to the artifacts to the puzzles. The gameplay was approachable, but not simplistic. It built up into increasingly interesting and compelling ahas.” (Review)
Matthew Stein: “The Vandermist Dossier felt like a work of magic. At first glance, the various documents and artifacts contained within felt authentic, narratively immersive, and — most importantly — not at all like puzzles. With this illusion of apparent normalcy established, the many layers of reveals which followed were all the more satisfying and effective.” (Review)
Children of Wyrmwoods – Escape Tales
$26 (Board & Dice) & save 25% with the promo code “roomescapeartist“
Peih-Gee Law: “Full disclosure: Escape Tales is sponsoring this season of Reality Escape Pod… but they did not pay for this placement. I just really love this game. It has so much depth and consequences. Children of Wyrmwoods has a D&D-meets-escape room feel and for its price, the value is insane. You get so much game for your money.”
Theresa Piazza: “At GGC we mostly create private events, so I’m thrilled that we’re bringing one to the public for the holidays! Although it’s a virtual puzzle race to a virtual finish line, it comes with a crate of puzzles, treats, and more. Tickets are on sale now for December 26th and December 31st. It’s the perfect holiday activity for your family or friends. I’ve worked with GGC to make this happen and I’m really excited about what we’ve created.”
1000 Piece – Night at The Movies Jigsaw Filled with 101 Riddles to Solve
Peih-Gee Law: “The only thing I love more than a good jigsaw puzzle with cute artwork is when there’s additional fun to be had after you’ve completed the puzzle. This series of jigsaw puzzles is filled with funny, punny pop culture riddles. You can choose from different themes like movie titles, book titles, or music.”
Portable Puzzle Board with Lazy Susan, Drawers, and Cover
Peih-Gee Law: “This puzzle board is a must-have for jigsaw puzzle fiends. It spins so you can easily work on this with friends. It has drawers that slide completely out for use as puzzle sorting trays. It even comes with a protective cover. This system is great for putting the puzzle away while you’re not working on it… especially if you have a cat.”
Brett Kuehner: “The book lays out step-by-step construction of 3 escape rooms, with designs and storylines. It also has instructions for the “Game Maker” on how to set up and run the escape, including introduction, hinting, rule explanations, and suggestions for sound effects. The last section is a compact but remarkably good lesson in how to build your own design, including choosing a theme, making it into a story, and linking puzzles together while avoiding red herrings. The book comes with some pieces, but to build the rooms in the book you will need a supply of other standard Lego bricks.”
Sarah Willson: “House of Leaves is an expansive work of experimental fiction, sandwiched between the covers of a book. Unlike a traditional novel, it unfolds in nonlinear fashion, with multiple threads running concurrently and turning in on themselves like a labyrinth. Puzzles are another tool in its overflowing narrative toolbox.” (Review)
Brett Kuehner: “This is a finely-made metal puzzle by a Ukrainian engineer who is currently living through attacks from Russian bombs. Find the multiple tools and steps required to disarm the bomb and locate the Skynet coin inside. It’s precisely engineered and challenging, but not impossible with some thought and experimentation. As Andriy says, ‘I wish peaceful skies to all of you, and I hope that you can see war only in fantastic movies or video games.'”
Brett Kuehner: “Meet Oliver! He’s a relatively easy “sequential discovery” puzzle, where you discover tools as you solve that you use in later parts of the solve. Oliver has 20 pieces and requires quite a few steps to assemble or disassemble. He’s great for novice solvers, and even if you are experienced, you’ll have a lot of fun disassembling and reassembling him.
Oliver takes around 12 to 18 hours of print time on common printers, and most of the pieces are simple to print and don’t require support. When you are done, you have a rosy-cheeked pig with a few internal compartments suitable for hiding small coin-sized items.”
David Spira: “Few things achieve the greatness of dumplings or soup… and together it’s just spectacular. Now you no longer need to leave home to experience this magical combination. Plus, these soup dumplings are better than most of the ones we’ve had in restaurants. If you’re new to soup dumplings, they sell the steamer baskets and sauces too. So worth it.”
David Spira: “These things are the cure to furniture wobble. They are super stable and practically invisible. It’s difficult to grasp how satisfying Wobble Wedges are without trying them. Now I’m sad that all of my furniture is stable because I want to use more Wobble Wedges.”
David Spira: “At this point, I won’t buy peripherals unless they are USB C… but I still have a lot of legacy tech with USB B connectors. This 2-pack was perfect. One lives on my desk, the other in my backpack. So useful.”
David Spira: “This little thing cuts paper corners, giving them a satisfying rounded edge. It cuts at 3 different sizes… and it doesn’t matter which one you pick. It’s psychologically satisfying in an inconceivable way. I don’t know what neurotransmitter this thing releases… but whoever said that ‘money can’t buy happiness’ clearly never owned one of these.”
Peih-Gee Law: “This reusable smart notebook is designed specifically for use with Frixxon erasable pens. These notebooks erase cleanly with just water, and the best part is being able to upload and organize your notes through their app. You can send notes directly to different folders and the titles are searchable. They have a calendar, to-do lists, and anything else you need to stay organized. I love using these for taking notes while playing puzzle games.”
Cindi Saiewitz: “This game is wonderfully addictive. Our cards are worn out from the number of times we’ve played! It’s a cooperative card game for 3 or more players. Working together with limited communication through changing scenarios kept us coming back again and again.”
Peih-Gee Law: “If you like games like Mysterium or Dixit, you will love Obscurio. It’s a game of interpreting clues through bizarrely beautiful artwork, with a traitor mechanism. It’s a great party game.”
Peih-Gee Law: “This is a great party game with a traitor mechanic. You are trying to figure out who is the murderer based on their set of weapons and evidence. There is a forensic expert who helps you by delivering clues like location, what the scene of the crime looked like, appearance of the body, etc. Because the clues are open to interpretation, the traitor can divert attention to other players.”
Peih-Gee Law: “In this fun cooperative word game, you are trying to guess your letter while creating words from the other player’s letters to help them guess theirs. I love word games, and it’s even more fun when you can work together, instead of competing against one another.”
Peih-Gee Law: “You must work together to play cards numbered 1 to 100 in one of four piles. Two piles are ascending and two are descending. You must play 1 or 2 cards on your turn, and you may not share specific information about what cards you have in your hand. The setup and gameplay is fast and furious, and this game was surprisingly addictive. I like that it is cooperative. It’s also very portable; we take this everywhere with us.”
David Spira: “I learned about these disposable nitrile gloves from the YouTube channel Project Farm (which you should know about if you like making or repairing things). These things offer fantastic and remarkably durable protection.”
Peih-Gee Law: “This headlamp has an extremely bright LED strip in the front, and a spotlight that angles slightly downwards on the side. You can turn them on and off with just the wave of a hand. It’s really lightweight and comfortable. An escape room owner friend stole mine and says he uses it when working on set design all the time. I have also used it when working on jigsaw puzzles in a dim room. It’s too bright to use while walking around (it will blind people looking at you), but it’s great for working in areas where you need extra, portable lighting. ”
David Spira: “I have spent a lot of time on this ladder over the past year or so… and it’s a joy to use. In addition to being stable, with comfortable steps, the top of the ladder has a cup shape, so you can easily have tools and hardware at your disposal without the risk of things rolling around.”
Andrew Reynolds: “Packed full of humor, anecdotes, and insight, The Puzzler was a delight to read. Jacobs does a wonderful job of making this book feel personal. He immersed himself in puzzles for years to write this book and provides meaningful conversation on a broad spectrum of puzzles.” (Review)
David Spira: “I learned about this from Adam Savage’s YouTube channel… and this book is an incredible resource. It’s an illustrated almanac to tools and hardware… plus a ton of reference material. The magic of this book is that I make and fix things, but have no formal training. I frequently know what hardware I need, but have no clue what it is called. This book fixes that.
The catch is that it’s old. It was published in the mid 90s, so it’s missing newer stuff, and the lighting section leaves a lot to be desired because LEDs changed the game… but honestly, those shortcomings are minor compared to just how useful this book is.”
Brett Kuehner: “Here is a tour of the puzzlebox traditions of many countries, including Japan, Switzerland, America, and elsewhere, with gorgeous pictures and details of the inner workings of many of them. It is deserving of a spot on any puzzle-lover’s bookshelf.”
Lisa Spira: “The Directional Lock may be dead, but we’ve immortalized them with t-shirts. Whether you love them or hate them, we have a design for you. And if you’re wondering, the Halo shirt has outsold the Horns shirt since we released them… and it isn’t close.”
Brett Kuehner: “I’ve tried a bunch of pocket-sized UV flashlights, and this is by far my favorite. It’s tiny, surprisingly bright, rechargeable, weighs only 11 grams, and runs for more than an hour in normal brightness mode. Since it is 365nm, which is a shorter wavelength than the more common 395nm lights, it produces different and usually more intense fluorescence.”
Sarah Mendez: “For kids with an insatiable need to fidget, these little cubes offer countless configurations of spatial intrigue. Whether trying to create a particular structure or aimlessly exploring their options, my kids (and their dad) have been fiddling with these for months.”
Sarah Mendez: “This game uses your kid’s love of messes to drive an exploration of puzzles. A mix of mental and physical activities, a motivating story, and some rewarding trinkets make this a fun activity for your family to share.” (Review)
Logic Land – The Enchanted Castle Deduction Puzzle
Sarah Mendez “Any puzzling apprentice needs a course or two in logic. Logic Land is an approachable, interactive way to introduce 6-8-year-olds to the practice. The quality magnetic pieces make this an excellent travel game as well.”
Sarah Mendez: “By building entertaining, graphical stories around learning a particular skill, these books inspire tweens to explore new hobbies. My 10-year-old has baked a pie, sewn a robe, and started her own comic based on this series, and she’s just getting started. More than anything, these offer the gift of creation…and if you’re lucky, you might get a pie in return.”
Sarah Mendez: “To all the children of the 80s & 90s out there, this will seem like the conceptual heir to Mr. Mystery but with the added structure of stories, overarching goals, and super-spy tools! I had to buy this set twice so that both my kids (7 and 10) could complete each book.”
For the Pets
Peih-Gee got a little doggo named YumYum. He’s an adorable little muppet… and he hasn’t yet screwed up a recording of Reality Escape Pod.
Peih-Gee Law: “This was a gift from David when I got my puppy YumYum, and my pup loves it. It took him about a week to figure it out, and now he’s opening all the compartments in the correct order. This slows down feeding and keeps him entertained while working his brains.”
David Spira: “The Oculus Quest 2 is here, and it’s a mighty impressive piece of consumer technology… that you’ll mostly use to play games… and we endorse that. There are tons of escape-room-esque games to enjoy on the Quest 2, so if you aren’t bought in on the platform, now might be the time. I know I am considering it myself.”
James Cobalt: “The current Quest 2 sale is the best value it’s ever been (even before the price increase earlier this year). Here are a bunch of games you might enjoy:”
David Spira: “Available in either brass or silver finish, this work of art measures 25.98x 17.7 inches and 6.6 lbs… and if Lisa and I could figure out where to mount them, you better believe that we would own a pair of these. Our holiday wish is that one of you does something brilliant with these and sends us a photo. We want to live vicariously through your giant octopus tentacle clad doors.”
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Support Room Escape Artist’s Mission
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Price: $24.99 to $44.99 per player depending on player count
Game Breakage: One element was out of commission, but was clearly marked and handled well.
Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock
Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints
Breakout Games’ CLUE was a fantastic implementation of the original board game, keeping true to the slapstick humor and deduction we’ve loved for years. With incredibly family friendly nature, CLUE delivered an experience true to the original mechanics by implementing an overarching deduction meta-puzzle to stop the murder from ever happening.
Breakout threw everything but the kitchen sink into this experience, with numerous callbacks to the board game and great set design. The attention to detail and the high tolerance for alternate puzzle solutions shined. With the high quality of many of the puzzles, interactions, and characters, there was only one run down and out of place puzzle that could easily be swapped for something more charming.
The space felt larger than it was due to placement of doors within the set as well as the narrative incorporation of other rooms within the vast mansion. This space was decadent until it wasn’t – CLUE showed us inaccessible parts of the mansion that were much more lush and polished than the game space, making the set feel worse in comparison.
We’d like to think that every time someone wins Breakout’s CLUE, someone doesn’t open the board game, as we, the players, have stopped the murder from actually happening in the first place.
CLUE is a great option for a family fun experience at the Breakout locations that offer it in their lineup.
We delighted in Adrift’s structured gameplay. It was so well organized. This made it approachable and immensely satisfying for my anti-chaos personality. It expertly on-boarded players, and gradually dialed up the difficulty. While some of the later puzzles were quite challenging, and in one instance a change in gameplay pattern threw us off for a bit, the tangible artifacts kept us engaged and the solutions delivered.
Furthermore, Adrift was beautiful. Every component was crafted with exquisite care. You’re purchasing more than just puzzles here. You’re purchasing art. Although some aesthetic choices gave us narrative pause, the beauty of the components made Adrift that much more fun to play through.
Adrift is the type of tabletop puzzle game that would make a perfect gift for the puzzlers in your life. It packs a few hours of compelling gameplay, which in turn give you back some keepsakes (or even ornaments), if that’s your thing.
A few pieces of advice for your playthrough to maximize fun: You don’t have to play the entire game at once. It’s easy to divide it into sections. Start with yellow and blue, and save red for last. When the puzzles ramp up, don’t be shy with the hints. PostCurious excels at hint delivery, so these won’t spoil your enjoyment of the game. With this setup, Adrift is an accessible experience for puzzle veterans and the puzzle curious.
Who is this for?
Any experience level
Unique and beautiful artifacts
Illustrations you might just want to hang on the wall
Clever and approachable puzzle design
Our client had been having strange dreams. Moreover they were producing gorgeous art that they didn’t have the skills to create. We were looking into these phenomena to unravel the mystery of it all.
The Lost Tomb of Anubis was an absolutely beautiful room with fair, interactive puzzles and fun reveals. Although a couple aspects suffered from tedium, the general feel was adventurous and lavish. We were active, we explored the space, and we earned our escape.
Like many tomb games, we had to overlook the dim lighting. It was haunting and lovely, but also frustrating to navigate when deciphering ancient symbols whose details mattered. As always, more flashlights or at least one well-lit spot would have gone a long way.
The puzzles were generally tactile and satisfying, allowing us to interact with every set piece of interest. The room made good use of a large space and benefited from teamwork. However, the game lost some momentum near the end when a few puzzles felt a bit too similar.
Ultimately, though, this was a solid puzzling experience within a believable environment that we didn’t want to leave. Along with The Mobfather, it’s another reason that Great Escape of Central Texas is worth a short side trip for Austinite enthusiasts.