PuzzleNation 2021 Holiday Puzzly Gift Guide: By Category
Welcome to the PuzzleNation Blog 2021 Holiday Puzzly Gift Guide!
We’re excited to be bringing you our biggest gift guide ever! There are so many tremendously fun and puzzly products to share with you. We just might be your one-stop shop for all things puzzly!
This guide is broken down into categories for ease of searching. We have puzzle books, subscription/downloadable puzzles, puzzles by mail, jigsaw puzzles, brain teasers, puzzle games, board games, card games, dice games, escape room/solve the mystery games, party/group games, and miscellaneous puzzle swag.
We’re sure you’ll find the perfect gift for any puzzler on your list!
This year’s Holiday Puzzly Gift Guide is sponsored by Daily POP Crosswords!
Daily POP Crosswords offers a different themed puzzle every single day, spanning everything from TV and film to sports and music!
Quick search links
Pencil-and-paper puzzles are alive and well, and we’re happy to share some of our favorites with you.
Maybe you’re looking for one kind of puzzle, like their Logic Problems Spectacular 5-Pack ($16.95), the Crossword Extravaganza collection ($7.99), or a value pack of Jumble puzzles ($13.95)! Maybe you’d like the ease of printing puzzles at home with Print N’ Solve Seasonal Crosswords ($2.99). Either way, the folks at Penny Dell Puzzles have got you covered.
They have some new offers just in time for the holidays, like their upcoming Winter Fun Pack. Plus their Peanuts line of Word Seek puzzles is available in both Subscription ($25.97 for 1 year) and Print ‘n Solve versions ($4.25 per issue)!
And be sure to check out their deals on Facebook and Twitter throughout the holiday season. They’ve got bundles and discounts for days!
And while we’re on the topic of puzzle books, some of the best constructors working today have released their own books for your perusal! And with New York Times, Los Angeles Times, and USA Today crosswords to their credit, you’re sure to find some quality puzzlers within these pages!
–Doug Peterson and Jeff Chen’s It’s So Easy Crosswords ($9.95)
–Paolo Pasco’s Crossword Puzzles For Kids ($9.99)
–Eric Berlin’s Puzzlesnacks: More Than 100 Bite-Size Puzzles for Every Solver ($8.49)
–David Steinberg’s Juicy Crosswords from the Orange County Register ($11.33)
–Brendan Emmett Quigley’s Octopus Crosswords ($6.95)
–Matt Gaffney’s Fast & Fun Mini Crosswords ($7.95)
–Andrew Ries’s Maverick Crosswords ($5.97)
–Todd McClary’s Fresh Freestyle Crosswords ($7.74)
–Erik Agard’s Food for Thought Crosswords ($9.95)
—USA Today’s Crossword Super Challenge 3 ($9.99)
–Andy Kravis’s Challenge Accepted!: 100 Word Searches ($7.76)
–Shawn Marie Simmons’s 25 Word Search Puzzles for Classic Comics Lovers and 25 Word Search Puzzles for Classic Literature Lovers ($8 each)
—USA Today’s Word Fill-In Puzzles Super Challenge ($9.99)
–Andrews McMeel Publishing’s Posh Take Care: Creative Challenge ($12.99)
–Oliver Roeder’s The Riddler: Fantastic Puzzles from FiveThirtyEight ($14.77)
–Andrews McMeel Publishing’s Take Care by Posh: Inspired Activities for Peace, Take Care by Posh: Inspired Activities for Clarity, Take Care by Posh: Inspired Activities for Tranquility, and Take Care by Posh: Inspired Activities for Balance [featuring crosswords and other puzzles] ($8.99 each)
Letters to Margaret: A Crossword Comic (Hayley Gold/Lone Shark Games)
Narrative storytelling and crossword solving have crossed paths before, but never quite like this. Letters to Margaret gives readers two different perspectives on the same story, each featuring a different set of crosswords for readers to solve (designed by Mike Selinker and Andy Kravis). It’s a really smart, sincere story told from two sides, loaded with top-notch puzzles and a lot of humor and worthwhile commentary.
Click here to learn more about preordering this marvelous mix of art, narrative, puzzling, and commentary. Preorders open in a few weeks! (Physical comic $24.95, digital version $9.95)
The Keymaster’s Bundle by Mike Selinker, Gaby Weidling, and Eric Harshbarger
The Maze of Games is one of the most diabolical puzzle books ever conceived. It allows the protagonists AND the reader to choose their own path through various labyrinths and challenge themselves to dozens of different puzzles in the hopes of conquering each of the labyrinths within the book.
The Keymaster’s Bundle combines The Maze of Games, The Theseus Guide to the Final Maze, the Maze of Games Map, and the Keymaster’s Tome all in one place, along with some bonus digital downloads like the audiobook version of The Theseus Guide and The Gatekeeper’s Variety Hour radio show! It’s the entire Maze of Games experience!
And Lone Shark Games has an amazing deal for PuzzleNationers: 50% off every version of the Maze of Games if you use this link!
[Click here to check out our full review of The Maze of Games!]
Puzzlecraft: How to Make Every Kind of Puzzle by Mike Selinker and Thomas Snyder (puzzle book)
Puzzlecraft is a nothing short of a self-contained masterclass in puzzle creation. Covering everything from crosswords and Sudoku to logic puzzles and brain teasers, this is the perfect launchpad for any and all aspiring puzzlers and constructors!
Plus there’s a Puzzlecraft companion notebook to assist you in all your constructing endeavors!
And Lone Shark Games has an amazing deal for PuzzleNationers: 50% off every version of Puzzlecraft if you use this link!
Email Subscription/Downloadable Puzzles
Many top constructors and organizations market their puzzles directly to solvers, so between email subscriptions and downloadable puzzle bundles, you’ve got plenty of quality choices!
—The American Values Crossword (subscription and daily puzzles, $22 for 1 year)
—The Inkubator, edited by Laura Braunstein and Tracy Bennett (crossword puzzles constructed exclusively by women, three puzzles a month, $30 for 1 year)
–Matt Gaffney’s Weekly Crossword Contest (starts at $3 per month on Patreon)
–Peter Gordon’s Fireball Crosswords ($32 for 1 year)
—Crucinova crossword puzzles (weekly puzzles, $4.99 per month, $29.99 per year)
–Paolo Pasco’s Expansion Pack crossword suite (pay what you want for the base set, $10 for the XL version)
—Boswords 2020 Fall Puzzle Packet ($10) and previous puzzle packets ($5-10 each)
—Topple puzzle magazine ($1 per issue)
–Lone Shark Games’ Puzzle Vault PDF collections, including Marching Bands, Rows Garden, Crosswords, Cryptics, and more [And they’re 50% off for all PuzzleNationers if you use this link!]
Also, there are some wonderful puzzle bundles available in exchange for donations to worthy causes!
—Grids for Good, a 42-puzzle bundle supporting coronavirus relief and groups fighting systemic racism
—Queer Qrosswords 2, a 32-crossword bundle supporting LGBTQ+ charities and organizations
—Women of Letters, an 18-crossword bundle by female constructors in support of women’s rights causes
–Enrique Henestroza Anguiano’s Mexican Midis, a 5-puzzle bundle supporting COVID relief
Puzzles by Mail
The Crosswords Club
A monthly publication with six Sunday-sized crosswords, The Crosswords Club utilizes some of the sharpest crossword constructors in the business today, and the puzzles are all edited by top constructor Patti Varol. Each bundle is as fun as it is challenging, plus each monthly bundle has an extra word game printed right on the envelope! ($42.95 for 12 issues) [also available digitally]
Wish You Were Here (The Enigma Emporium)
Imagine an entire mystery hidden across a handful of postcards. That’s the multilayered puzzle experience offered by Wish You Were Here, where a series of coded messages awaits you. Unravel all the secrets and discover an exciting tale of danger and spycraft along the way! ($15)
[And if you enjoy Wish You Were Here, there are all sorts of additional puzzle bundles to try out!]
Cryptogram Puzzle Post (Jack Fallows)
A combination of different puzzles and encrypted messages interwoven together with bits of narrative, each edition of the Cryptogram Puzzle Post is a standalone story steeped in mystery and supernatural elements. But solve them all together, and a grand universe of storytelling unfolds. Sold in seasonal bundles and annual subscriptions, this episodic puzzly adventure is quite unique. (£7.50 for single issues, £20 and up for seasonal bundles and collections)
Curious Correspondence Club
An ongoing episode puzzle adventure, the Curious Correspondence Club helps you assemble and solve an ever-evolving mystery surrounding the Guardians and their hunt for the twelve artifacts. What does it all mean? Check your mail every month for new puzzles, hints, and additions to the story. ($21.95 for single chapters, $60 for 3-chapter collections)
For a next-level jigsaw challenge, Puzzometry is tough to top. These beautiful pieces can be combined in seemingly endless combinations, and yet, there’s only one solution. Available in seven different styles — Puzzometry ($23.50), Puzzometry Jr. ($18.50), Puzzometry Squares ($23.50), Puzzometry Hex ($23.50), Puzzometry Steps ($23.50), Puzzometry Six ($23.50), and Puzzometry Jr. 2 ($18.50) — you’ve got distinct challenges appropriate for all different ages!
[Check out the full review of the original Puzzometry by clicking here!]
Geode Puzzle (Uncommon Goods)
Forget looking for the edge pieces, because these nature-based puzzles take jigsaws beyond the usual patterning. Geode Puzzle‘s flowing, unusual shapes and vibrant colors create a unique solving experience. ($68)
Gearjits Roller Coaster (Gearjits)
Bring your puzzle skills to life as you assemble a working roller coaster from these wooden pieces. Assembling handcranks and gears to operate the machine along with the structure of the roller coaster itself makes this 3-D puzzle more exciting and satisfying than the average 3-D puzzle. ($40.95)
Wooden Fractal Tray Puzzles (Martin Raynsford)
Laser-cut precision and patterns built on fractal designs make these wooden tray puzzles as maddening as they are beautiful. The pieces fall so seamlessly into place that they practically vanish… that is, if you can puzzle out how to place them all into the tray. ($35.99)
Caesar’s Codex (Project Genius)
Just slide the four coded levers into place and open the box. Sounds simple, right? When you’re talking about Caesar’s Codex, one of the brain teasers from the True Genius collection, what appears simple quickly becomes a proper puzzly challenge. There are over 4,000 possible combinations! Can you discover the correct one? ($19.99)
[Check out our review of Caesar’s Codex here!]
Cluebox Escape Rooms in a Box (iDventure)
These multi-stage puzzle boxes are completely self-contained. You need to explore every inch of its surface to find clues and tools to unlock each stage of the puzzle box and reveal further challenges. Whether you delve into Davy Jones Locker ($49.99) or try to unravel the mystery of Schrodinger’s Cat ($39.99), you will definitely find your puzzly mettle tested by these devious devices!
Tavern Puzzles / Tucker-Jones House Inc.
These hand-forged beauties are ready to challenge your dexterity and cleverness, as you accept the Tavern Puzzles challenge. Whether you’re trying to remove twice as many pieces in a Collaborative Effort or free the triangle from Tridiculous, you’re sure to put your skills to the test. ($27.50 each)
Pocket Brainteasers (ThinkFun)
How good is your spatial awareness? You’re about to find out with this quartet of puzzlers, each its own obstacle for you to overcome. Can you reposition the four pieces into a smaller space in 4-T Puzzle or the wi-fi bars of Rec-Tangle into a new arrangement? Can you separate the 4-Piece Jigsaw, or combine the four chairs into The Fifth Chair? These bite-sized brain teasers will certainly keep you guessing. ($6.99 each)
[Click here to check out our review of all four Pocket Brainteasers!]
Minotaur’s Labyrinth (Project Genius)
Can you crack this wooden brain teaser? That’s the question posed by Minotaur’s Labyrinth, a mechanical brain teaser where you must maneuver the Minotaur out of the Labyrinth, then flip over the token, and return to the center of the maze! Ready your puzzle skills and your patience, or you’ll be trapped in the Labyrinth forever! ($24.95)
[Check out our review of Minotaur’s Labyrinth here!]
Lightbox (Eric Clough)
A puzzle box unlike anything you’ve ever seen, Lightbox creates different patterns of shadow and light as you shift and arrange the various plastic plates that make up the box. As you twist and reset them, different electrical connections are made, and different plates light up. As gorgeous as it is challenging, Lightbox is a very eye-catching puzzle that always wows new solvers. ($85)
[Check out our full review of Lightbox by clicking here!]
Block Chain (ThinkFun)
These linked four-sided blocks can be rotated, spun, tilted, and overlapped. But can you twist and arrange them into a single cube where every face fits a pattern or a path? That’s the challenge of Block Chain, ThinkFun’s delightful twisty puzzle that lets you tinker, twist, and swing each of the three linked blocks into various positions! ($5.99)
[Check out our review here!]
Zendo (Looney Labs)
Puzzle games are all about the rules, but what if you don’t know the rules? That’s where Zendo comes in. In this puzzle game, you arrange Looney pyramids and other shapes into various designs, and then see if those designs conform to a mysterious rule. A game of deduction and trial-and-error, Zendo is a very different solving experience. ($40)
Lexicon-GO! (Winning Moves UK)
Are you a word-forming pro? Take your speed-solving skills and try them out with Lexicon-GO!, a Scrabble-style tile game suitable for solvers of all ages. And those very distinctive letter tiles are available in more ways than ever! You can enjoy Lexicon-GO! in its classic form, in Harry Potter style, or in famous Jumble style! ($11.89 in classic form)
[Click here for our full review of Lexicon-GO!]
Pinbox 3000 (Cardboard Teck Instantute)
How about the chance to build your own game? Is that puzzle enough for you? Pinbox 3000 provides all the pieces you’ll need, plus valuable advice for brainstorming and creating your very own pinball game. It’s endlessly customizable, so you can make your Pinbox pinball game as simple or as complex as you like! ($49.95, $54.95 for the Beta Booster Bundle)
Some of the puzzliest games on the market today are being made by top-flight board game companies, and we’ve got some marvelous games that will appeal to puzzlers of all ages!
The Island of Doctor Lucky (Cheapass Games/Greater Than Games)
People have been trying to kill Doctor Lucky for over twenty years, and this time around, you’re visiting his exotic island estate to try your murderous luck against the titular Doctor! The Island of Doctor Lucky offers a new gameboard to explore, new movement mechanics, and a very distracting cat. This is the best addition to the series yet! ($40)
And if you’re looking for something closer to the classic game, there’s always the Deluxe 24 3/4ths Anniversary edition of Kill Doctor Lucky. ($39.95)
[Check out our full review of The Island of Doctor Lucky by clicking here!]
Castellan (Steve Jackson Games)
Build a castle and then occupy it in Castellan, a game of strategy and opportunity. With great modeled pieces that really add to the aesthetic, Castellan has style and substance. ($34.95)
[Check out our full product review here!]
The Abandons (Puzzling Pixel Games)
Can you escape a dangerous labyrinth that changes every time you explore it? The Abandons pits the solver against a random deck, where luck, quick decision making, and puzzly skill all must be on your side if you ever want to see daylight again. ($15)
[Check out our full review by clicking here!]
Bunny Kingdom (IELLO)
There are plenty of board games where you control resources, build cities, and achieve glory. But how many of them let you do that while being BUNNIES? In Bunny Kingdom, a game combining drafting and area control mechanics, each player builds a fiefdom and tries to outmaneuver their fellow players in managing territory, materials, and trade. The most cunning bunny wins with the most points wins and captures the title “Big Ears!” ($48.92)
The Great Dinosaur Rush (APE Games)
Bring the insane real-life rivalry of paleontologists Cope and Marsh to life in The Great Dinosaur Rush! As you collect fossils and discover your own unique dinosaur, you must also steal bones, sabotage other scientists, and more! Show off your cunning and creativity in this game that proves historical truth is weirder than fiction! ($50)
Tile Securing Travel Scrabble (Hammacher Schlemmer)
Hammacher Schlemmer has always been home to some intriguing Scrabble variants available — who could forget their World’s Largest Scrabble Game? — but when it comes to travel-friendly puzzle game fun, they’ve got just the thing. Tile Securing Travel Scrabble is perfect for those who want to solve on the go! Take your game anywhere and rest assured not a single tile will have moved! ($39.95)
Godzilla: Tokyo Clash (Funko Games)
Choose one of these four iconic monsters and let loose your fury all over Tokyo in Godzilla: Tokyo Clash. This tactical monster-vs.-monster game allows you to smash buildings, vehicles, and your fellow monsters on a game board that’s different every time you play! Will you be King of the Monsters by the time Tokyo is in ruins? ($35)
[Check out our full review of Godzilla: Tokyo Clash here!]
Tak: A Beautiful Game (Cheapass Games/Greater Than Games)
Many new games build off of classic mechanics, but very few new games truly feel like they could have been played centuries ago. Tak definitely fits that mold, using simple wooden pieces to create a game that feels both fresh and ancient all at once. Inspired by the eponymous game in Patrick Rothfuss’s KingKiller Chronicles series, Tak is a wonderful two-player game that quickly grows addictive. ($40 for University Edition, $59.95 for Classic Edition)
[Click here for our full review of Tak!]
Tsuro: The Game of the Path (Calliope Games)
A path-laying game with tons of style and historical spirit, Tsuro casts up to eight players as flying dragons, and tasks you with laying out your path with special tiles. Try not to meet any other dragons or fly off the board! It’s a simple mechanic with plenty of replay value, and perfect for quick games with large groups. ($40)
The first thing you learn in chess is how the pieces move. But what if that could change? What if you could make new pieces that move in unexpected ways? How would that change the game? With Chessplus, you’ll find out, as you mix and match chess pieces in order to capture your opponent’s king. The possibilities really are endless! ($49.95)
[Click here for our full review of Chessplus!]
A wonderful mix of Uno and Mexican Train Dominoes, Qwirkle is a tile-placing game where you try to maximize your points while minimizing the help you give to your opponents. With six bright colors and six different shapes to match up, Qwirkle is endless fun that’s so easy to jump into! ($24.99)
Cheapass Games in Black and White (Cheapass Games/Greater Than Games)
Yes, we’ve got a book in the Board Game section. Allow us to explain.
The library of Cheapass Games is expansive, but even diehard fans don’t have the majority of the company’s original game library. Unless, that is, they own Cheapass Games in Black and White, a hardcover compendium of every game from the black-and-white era. Featuring the rulebooks for famous titles like Button Men and Kill Doctor Lucky, alongside more obscure entries like Escape from Elba, this is a terrific resource for any game fan. ($60, but the digital download is FREE!)
Friends Top Trumps and James Bond Top Trumps: Gadgets & Vehicles (Winning Moves UK)
Do you enjoy the sitcom Friends? Or the world of James Bond? No matter what your favorite subject or pop culture franchise, Top Trumps is ready and waiting with a sharply packaged game full of question-fueled competition. Each team opens their drawer on the carrying case and removes five cards, all with the potential to stump their opponents. Will your team triumph or will the other team’s trivia smarts win the day? (£10.00 each)
12 Days (Calliope Games)
A proper holiday-themed game for the holidays? You betcha. This wagering game, based on the 12 Days of Christmas, has some of the most beautiful art in the entire card game genre. Plus the two ways to earn points — winning each day of Christmas with the lowest card in the pot vs. keeping as many of a certain value card as possible for the end of the game — offer tons of strategic opportunities in a simple card game. What a treat! ($20)
Star Trek Fluxx: The Archer Expansion and The Porthos Expansion (Looney Labs)
Star Trek is an ever-expanding universe of stories, heroes, adventures, and questions to explore, so it’s only fitting that the ever-changing card game Fluxx has a host of Star Trek-themed card decks for you to try out. Whether you’re a fan of The Original Series, The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, or Voyager, there’s a Fluxx deck stacked with your favorite characters, villains, and pivotal moments from each show. ($20 each)
And now you can combine and cross over those decks and play Fluxx like never before with The Archer Expansion and The Porthos Expansion. These small additional decks not only introduce characters from the show Enterprise to the mix, but they allow new rules for mixing up decks and new paths to victory. Plus they add the beloved pets Porthos and Spot to the game! ($5.00 each)
Gloom (Atlas Games)
Do you enjoy The Addams Family or the art of Edward Gorey? Then Gloom might be a strategy game worth checking out. In this tactical game with a sinister twist, you’re trying to make your Victorian family miserable for points and the lives of your opponents’ families better! Yup, misfortune equals good fortune for you! With gorgeous transparent cards you can lay over each other to track your scores, there’s no storytelling game out there quite like it.
With loads of expansions to add to the creepy world of Gloom — and preorders open for the new Gloomier spinoff game — this is hilariously macabre fun! ($27.95)
Codenames (Czech Games)
It’s a race against time to locate all of your spies before your opponents. But in order to do so, you need to communicate information with a single word. Codenames will put your word association skills to work as you try to find secret agents disguised with code words, while avoiding innocent citizens and dangerous assassins along the way! ($11.49)
[Read our full review of Codenames here!]
Deluxe Pairs (Hip Pocket Games/Greater Than Games)
Building on the legacy already established by the bar-friendly series of Pairs decks available, Deluxe Pairs offers a new artistic spin on the classic Pairs “Fruit Deck,” as well as a companion booklet with rules for numerous Pairs variants you can play with the deck! This isn’t just one card game, it’s dozens! ($17)
[Click here for our full review of Deluxe Pairs!]
Spaceteam (Timber and Bolt)
Can you repair your ship and get the engines up and running before a black hole ends your space adventure forever? That’s the name of the game in Spaceteam, a cooperative, communication-based game where you have to accomplish various tasks with your fellow players while sharing tools. It’s delightful chaos, heightened by the five-minute hourglass timer counting down your dwindling seconds before disaster strikes! A definite favorite around here. ($27.95)
Unspeakable Words (Playroom Entertainment)
Some word games might drive you mad, but only Unspeakable Words actually makes keeping your sanity part of the gameplay! As you spell different words, you have to make a die roll to see if spelling the word cost you a bit of your sanity. If you lose too much of it, you’ll start uttering unspeakable words, which can be worth more points… if your sanity can take it! A fun twist on Scrabble and other word-forming games. ($44.95)
Combine the card game War with elements of Chess and Memory, and you’ve got something approximating Scrimish, a card game that’s effortless to learn, but offers endless possibilities. Can you protect your crown card while hunting down your opponent’s? With cards for both defense and offense, there’s a lot packed into just 25 cards apiece! ($9.99)
[Check out our full product review of Scrimish by clicking here!]
Timeline (Zygomatic Games)
Timeline pits your knowledge of history against a growing timeline of important events, inventions, and historical moments. You don’t have to know exact dates; you just need to know if something happened before or after something else. Was the toothbrush invented before or after the syringe? Which came first, language or agriculture? Timeline is a fast, fun way of learning (or relearning) history! ($9.99)
The Oregon Trail (Pressman Toys)
The classic computer game comes to life as you and your fellow players team up to survive the perilous journey along The Oregon Trail. With art evoking old-school computer games, rampant threats and calamities to endure, and a long and challenging road to travel, will any of you will make it to Oregon? ($12.79)
[Check out our full product review of The Oregon Trail by clicking here!]
Knot Dice and Knot Dice Squared (Black Oak Games)
Can you twist, turn, and spin these dice to complete beautiful, elaborate patterns inspired by Celtic knots? That’s the name of the game with Knot Dice, a dice game as challenging as it is gorgeous. With single-player and multi-player puzzles included, you’ll be tying yourself in knots for days! ($35, available in green or blue)
And you can add new wrinkles and patterns to your solving with Knot Dice Squared, an expansion set with 26 additional dice, new rules, and more! ($45)
[Click here to check out our full review of both games!]
A card game and a dice game in one, test your luck and your math skills with Countaloupe! Two to four players each have a deck of slice cards, numbered from one to sixteen. Your goal is to roll the dice and discard slice cards from your deck faster than your opponents. Will you savor the fruits of your mathematical labors, or will others enjoy the sweet taste of victory? ($9.99)
[Our review of Countaloupe can be found here!]
Pass the Pugs (Winning Moves UK)
A classic tumbling game gets a delightfully charming new update in Pass the Pugs! Collect points based on how the pugs land and race your opponents to 100 points. Will you push your luck and risk your points on additional rolls, or will you “paws” and keep the points you have? (£9.99)
Sagrada (Floodgate Games)
One of the most beautiful strategy games on the market today, Sagrada is a singularly peaceful gaming experience. Compete with other players to build the most beautiful stained glass window, but with dice instead of glass! Unique and challenging, Sagrada is something else. ($40)
All of us have rolled dice in games before, but can you roll what you need as fast as possible? That’s the challenge of Tenzi, a game that pits up to four players against each other in tests of speed and dexterity. Can you roll ten 6’s before everyone else? ($14.95)
Escape Room / Solve the Mystery Games
Cold Case: A Story to Die For and Cold Case: A Pinch of Murder (ThinkFun)
In these mystery puzzle games, you pick up a cold case where the investigation left off, rifling through police interview transcripts, evidence, photographs, and more! Can you solve the murder of a dead journalist or find out what happened to a woman missing from a church bake sale? With an interactive online submission form to test your solution, these ThinkFun murder mysteries are a fascinating bit of hands-on puzzling and crime solving! ($14.99 each)
Exit: The Game: Dead Man on the Orient Express (Kosmos)
Exit: The Game products create an escape room experience by combining a deck of cards, a guidebook, a sliding decoder ring, an interactive phone app, and miscellaneous items to be used throughout the game. What sets Dead Man on the Orient Express above and beyond is that there’s a mystery to solve in the background, even as you tackle all the delightful escape room-style puzzles! ($10.59)
Alice is Missing (Hunters Entertainment)
Can you and your fellow players solve a mystery without ever saying a word? That’s the challenge offered by the uniquely atmospheric and haunting RPG mystery game Alice Is Missing.
A game played entirely through text messaging, each player takes on the role of a character in the town of Silent Falls, trying to find out what happened to Alice Briarwood. We promise, you’ve never played anything like it. ($21.99)
Enigmas Puzzle Hunt Playing Cards (David Kwong/Dave Shukan)
A puzzle hunt lurking within a normal deck of cards? It sounds impossible, but when you’re dealing with puzzler and magician David Kwong, anything can happen with Enigmas! Can you unravel the mystery hiding amongst these playing cards? ($18)
Unlock!: Squeek and Sausage (Asmodee)
Unlock! games consist of entirely of a deck of cards and your app. The cards provide locations, challenges, helpful items, solutions, and warnings, all identified with numbered or lettered cards in the deck. And while there are numerous Unlock! escape games to try — covering everything from haunted houses to desert islands — we recommend the mad scientist-fueled Squeek and Sausage, which is enjoyably silly and still a satisfying challenge! ($11.99)
Escape the Room: The Cursed Dollhouse (ThinkFun)
Can you construct and then escape one of the most fully realized home escape room games on the market today? The Cursed Dollhouse is a diabolical and immersive puzzly experience, encompassing five rooms and a host of different puzzles to unravel in the hopes of escaping a horrible fate! ($42.99)
[Check out our spoiler-free review here!]
Coaster Games (The Dark Imp)
Coaster Games is a six-pack of games encompassing all sorts of gameplay styles. Counting, word building, deduction, strategy, resource management, and more, and they all fit in your pocket. Perfect for parties or quickplay fun between longer game sessions, you’re guaranteed to find something to enjoy here! (£6.99)
[Find our review of Coaster Games here!]
What happens if you mix Charades and Taboo? You get something close to, but not nearly as chaotically fun as, the miming, talking, humming, drawing game Hint! You need to get your teammates to guess what you’re hinting at (but without saying one of the disqualified guesses), and if you’re not careful, the other team might steal your hint! ($39.99)
Can you pick one correct answer from a field of possibilities? Smart10 challenges you and a group of friends to do just that by selecting correct answers from a list of possible responses. It’s tougher than it sounds, and it’ll test your trivia skills and your ability to think under pressure. ($14.99)
[Check out our full review here!]
GolfWords (David L. Hoyt)
Combining the skill of golf with a love of wordplay, GolfWords takes puzzles off the page and into your home, testing you both mentally and physically! Complete with the letter mat, putters, golf balls, scoring pads, and other accessories, this unique combination of puzzle and sport can be played solo or by the whole family! ($299.99)
Cracker Games: The Imp Box (The Dark Imp)
Six unique family games in a reusable box that looks like a Christmas cracker? What an idea! Voting, collecting, observation, and trading are among the gameplay styles you’ll find in The Imp Box, and this neat little package packs a lot of variety into a small space! (£19.99)
Slapzi will keep you on your toes. In this quick-reaction game, you’ve got to match your picture cards to the clue cards before your opponents. But with clues like “Not sold in a hardware store” or “Two of the same letter together,” this isn’t as easy as it appears! ($19.95)
[Click here to check out our full review of Slapzi!]
Can you covertly communicate with your teammates without revealing your secret code to the opponent team? That’s the name of the game in Decrypto, a party game all about word association and deduction. The first team to crack the opposing team’s codes twice wins! ($20.32)
Miscellaneous Puzzle Swag
Escape Room Advent Calendar (Insync Games)
This advent calendar has no numbers on the doors, and solving a daily puzzle is the only way to figure out which door to open! This clever, festive, chocolate-filled treat is a puzzly twist on a holiday classic! (£19.99)
Flying Colors coloring book (Penny Press)
Our puzzly pals at Penny Press know that sometimes, you need a break from puzzles, so why not unwind with their Flying Colors coloring book ($6.99).
A-Puzzle-A-Day puzzle calendar (Insync Games)
Eight puzzle pieces, 365 different puzzles. Now that’s value for your money. Can you place these Tetris-like pieces to tell today’s date, or a favorite date, or any date you choose? (£15.99)
I’d Rather Be Puzzling travel mug and Word Nerd mug (Penny Press)
Thank you to all of the constructors, designers, and companies taking part in this year’s holiday puzzly gift guide!
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