The Best Boxed Escape Game Deals for Cyber Monday 2021

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 Guidealong 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!

Top Tier

Bluefish Games – Hincks

Initial opening of the box shows a wide variety of paper components.

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

A pentagram surrounded with decorative symbols, with a lit candle in the center.

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

Hand holding a gold Box One challenge coin over the game's box art.

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

Red and teal puzzle shirts folded and laying beside one another.

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

An assortment of maps, star charts, and other beautifully designed items.

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

A large assortment of books, letters, newspaper articles, ID badges, and other items.

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!

Second Tier

Puzzling Pursuits

Puzzle portfolios part 1 & 2 with a welcome booklet.

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

An assortment of parody DVD boxes beside a bowl of popcorn including, "The Boonies" "Indiana Bones," and "Mandibles."

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.

Editor’s Note: Here are the hivemind reviews for Taco Twosday and The Spielburger Box Set. Review of Confectionary Countdown is coming soon.

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

Puzzle envelopes for the 4 games.

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.

Editor’s Note: Here are the reviews for Wish You Were Here, Blowback, and Cycle of Learning.

Subscription Games

Subscription games that can be hit-or-miss on an individual basis but that are still worth checking out include the following:

Enigma Fellowship

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

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

Envelopes with different items printed on them.

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.

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.

Palace Games – The Attraction [Review]

Time is flying, never to return.

Location:  San Francisco, CA

Date Played: November 13, 2021

Team Size: 4-8; we recommend 4-5

Duration: ~120 minutes

Price: $410 per team

Ticketing: Private

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

The Attraction thoroughly blew my mind, distorted my sense of reality, and set a new and invigoratingly high bar for the future of escape rooms as an experiential art form. This was a world-class escapist experience worth traveling any distance to play.

An ornate bronze door with an eye. Copper pipes emanate from the door.

The Attraction felt like a waking dream. Impressive feats of engineering and Meow Wolf-level immersive artistry converged into something utterly magical. The Attraction perfectly executed certain physical and psychological mechanics I’ve been eagerly waiting to see an escape room attempt. An impressively diverse range of innovative gameplay and aesthetics yielded a wondrous journey of otherworldly play.

As far as I’m concerned, The Attraction is in strong contention for the best escape room in the world. Palace Games has created something truly breathtaking, and I applaud them for the mountains of creativity, labor, artistry, technical expertise, profound knowledge of the escape room industry, and love that went into creating this experience.

Continue reading “Palace Games – The Attraction [Review]”

How Video Projectors Create Escape Room Magic

One of my favorite things to see in escape rooms is the creative use of video projectors. Displaying text, images or animations in surprising places throughout an experience instills a sense of magic and wonder. There are so many uses for this technology to provide effects, reveals, transitions, hints and more without the need to construct any physical items.

Almost anything you can imagine can appear, move around and then vanish from view without any lasting residue. Projected ghosts can show up right on cue and disappear just as quickly. Leaving players to wonder what they just saw. Fairies might fly across the room and draw our attention to something important. Images of the story’s characters could be projected in the game environment, near or even onto relevant set pieces.

Star Wars - A New Hope scene - R2D2 projects Princess Leia's plea for help.

Lowering the house lights and then projecting narration text in the room to help players follow along with an audio voiceover is an immersive and helpful technique. Especially when it appears in interesting locations, perhaps near items relevant to what is being talked about. 

A message written on a wall, reads, "My mom wasn't much of an optimist, but she never stopped believing that my brother Milton was alive."

Tools are available that allow designers to use projectors to create augmented reality environments. Projection mapping technology can instantly make a physical item in a room look like something completely different.

Projectors can be used as dynamic lighting devices, highlighting specific objects or spaces, changing color and intensity. Creating things like the glow and flicker of a fire, the white-out of a blizzard or the general progression of a sunset. 

Actual see-through windows can be used with exterior scenes projected on a distant surface on the other side. Giving a sense of depth and realism that can’t easily be achieved with a video monitor dressed as a window.


Well-designed housings and mechanical shutters can be used to control the light output and make up for poor black level side effects. They can also help solve issues with light bleed and avoid issues with power-up or menu sequences displaying unwanted images.

Projected Hints

An idea that I am excited about is using projectors to replace the video monitors that are sometimes used to provide text-based hints. Immersion-breaking TV monitors are often mounted high up in out-of-play areas of the room. They take your focus off of the game space and often force players to look backward or to return to an earlier section of the game. I appreciate escape room designs that don’t include video monitors if they don’t fit the theme, however, I also recognize the value of hints delivered in text form. They can be read through several times and can remain available to the players until they have served their purpose. 

Using a projector to display text hints on a wall or on an object in the gameplay space is a wonderful alternative. It can help maintain immersion and keep players’ focus where it should be. When the hint is no longer needed, the projection can stop and there is no permanent evidence of the display device intruding in the game world. Multiple projectors mounted throughout the experience can display hints in different locations where players tend to gather. They can lead players forward through the game rather than have them looking back to a TV screen positioned above the entry door.

Projectors In Close Quarters

Short-throw and Ultra short-throw projectors allow for a variety of placement possibilities that can limit the risk of players interfering with the displayed image. Rear projection is another option for dealing with this issue.

Pico projectors are inexpensive, bite-sized magic makers that can be hidden almost anywhere to provide surprise moments. 

A projection of the REPOD logo beside some candles and a cryptex.
A projection of the REPOD logo, candles have been moved reveal that they were hiding a tiny projector.

These small units can also display large images. My 2.75” cube projector can produce an in-focus 86” diagonal image at a throw distance of just 7.5 feet. Creators can experiment with different types of display surfaces like inside cabinets, into crystal balls, mirrors, onto curved objects or maybe even clouds of fog. Pepper’s Ghost is an effect that benefits from discrete projector placement.

A projector projecting the SNL "Magic" meme.

I love when I see projectors used to add special touches to escape games. I hope more designers will consider using them to bring fun and magical effects to their future builds.

Get a Pico Projector

If you’re interested in checking out a good pico projector, I was using an AAXA P2-A Android (which is older and hard to find new these days), but if I were to buy one today, I’d probably get a Kodak Luma 350.

*Thanks to Brett Kuehner for contributing thoughts and ideas to this post.

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.

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.

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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.

Room Escape Williamsburg – Time Siege – The Battle of Yorktown [Review]

Time turned upside down

Location:  Williamsburg, VA

Date Played: October 1, 2021

Team size: 2-8; we recommend 2-4

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $27.50 per player

Ticketing: Public

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

We have a huge soft spot for locally-themed escape games, and Time Siege – The Battle of Yorktown was just that. Williamsburg is a tourist town built on history, and Room Escape Williamsburg set their story in an especially intriguing – and the most influential – moment of the region’s history.

This time travel game focused heavily on its story, creating a sort of Where in Time is Carmen Sandiego narrative. A time heist occurred that would spell disaster for the American Revolution. We had to use our time machine to traverse time, find the stolen items, and return them to their rightful time and place.

Metal door to a time machine, there is caution tape along the edges and an assortment of danger notices.

Aesthetically, Time Siege – The Battle of Yorktown vacillated between deliberate and haphazard craftsmanship, with lots of exposed wires and loose components. It was always clear that things were there for a reason; it wasn’t clear that they had been built with intention.

From a gameplay standpoint, the puzzles were pretty straight forward. Experienced players will likely move through this game pretty quickly. This is one you enjoy for the local flavor rather than the challenge. If engaging with that local history sounds like your type of adventure, and you’re in the area, then this one is worth checking out.

Who is this for?

  • Puzzle lovers
  • History buffs
  • Any experience level

Why play?

  • Local theme
  • Did a lot with the time travel mechanic

Story

As agents of the Bureau of Time Justice, we had been dispatched to traverse time in pursuit of Valerie VonBuren, codename Magpie. Magpie had stolen key items from General George Washington at the Battle of Yorktown.

We needed to find the items, correct the timeline, and if possible, apprehend Magpie.

Continue reading “Room Escape Williamsburg – Time Siege – The Battle of Yorktown [Review]”