Marketing Tabletop Puzzle Games on Kickstarter — A Case Study


This article was originally posted on Medium.

Kickstarter is an incredibly powerful tool not just for securing the funds to create a game, but also for marketing the game itself. In this article, I look at the very specific niche of “tabletop puzzle games” and using case studies, go through what works well and what might not be working quite so well.

What is a ‘tabletop puzzle game’, and why am I so fixated on them?

Tabletop puzzle game, play at home escape room, mystery box, puzzle board games… Whatever you want to call them. I’m a Game Designer, and even in our industry we haven’t settled on an exact name for exactly what it is we make. Or an exact genre for that matter. But, in general terms:

Tabletop puzzle games are a specific sub-genre of board games that are typically (but not always) single-play mystery experiences, packed with puzzles to solve. Think “you are trapped in a room and you have 60 minutes to escape”, or “you’ve inherited this mysterious box. You solve the puzzles and complete actions with a singular goal in mind. These games are often collaborative, not competitive, and they’re best played either solo or in a small team.

Some notable examples from Kickstarter include:

Sometimes tabletop puzzle games remain quite niche, popular in the “Puzzle People” communities where 3,000 or so of us share and chat about our favourite new puzzle games. Others break into the mainstream. You might recognise some of the following:

Graphic image from The Panic Room’s online website

And why is this topic so interesting to me? Well, it goes back to the idea of the communities who play these games. In other words:

“The “Puzzle People” communities where 3,000 or so of us share and chat about our favourite new puzzle games”

The most successful Kickstarter groups capture the attention of these people first. A successful first day means a game is all the more likely to be a Kickstarter “Project We Love”, and thus be shown to thousands, if not millions of new players out there. And it all starts with those Puzzle People. But marketing your game to such a small group comes with it it’s own challenges.

This crowd are the Puzzle People, and Nic Cage’s head could be your game.

Show Me the Numbers

To support this article, I went through every single English-language Kickstarter funded game in this ‘genre’ I could find, and compiled them in a spreadsheet here. In the time it took me to finish the spreadsheet, I managed to drink three cups of coffee. But hey, I enjoy crunching numbers whilst absolutely buzzed and excited. So here they are:

  • I was able to find 80 games in this genre since 2015
  • Most were from the USA. A whole 35%.
  • The next ‘most’ was the UK, with 25%.

Of course that might just be Kickstarter deliberately showing me British Kickstarters because of where in the world I am, but I was still surprised to see it.

  • Canada and the Netherlands were the next most represented countries, with 8 and 7 campaigns respectively.

Which companies are raising the most TOTAL moolah?

Well, to make things fair I converted all currencies into USD. These figures are accurate as of May 2023, but given currencies fluctuate they may not accurately represent what the Kickstarters took home at the time.

How much does it cost to make a game? Like, a million bucks?

At the very top, we see:

  • The Shivers, who raised $576,892.00 for their game
  • Mysterious Package Company (and their sister company, Curious Correspondence) who raised $501,637.00 on their most recent 2022 game, $446,281.00 in 2016, and $310,792.00 in 2015.
  • iDVenture, who consistently raise between $271,494.00 — $394,314.00 on every campaign
  • Spectre & Vox, the small British team who raised $308,764.00 in 2020
  • And last but not least, PostCurious’s impressive suite of games raising at most, $290,088.00 in 2020.

The Shivers on Kickstarter

Which campaigns have the highest number of backers?

The numbers start to look interesting if we instead filter the spreadsheet by number of backers. At the top we see:

  • Again, The Shivers at 6,794 people
  • Mysterious Package Company drops off the top-10, with one notable exception: Doomensions, which was a collaboration with Curious Correspondence. They had 5,338 backers.
  • iDVenture shoots right up to the top with a spooky 3,980 backers across both their campaigns, a year apart.
  • PostCurious, with a consistently high number of backers, their highest being 3,734 on Light in the Mist.

Doomensions on Kickstarter

Which campaigns have the highest spend per customer?

This is when things get even more interesting. I decided, out of interest, to divide the total raised by number of backers to see how much people are spending on campaigns. Or in a cynical way: Which companies have the richest backers?

  • A Killing Affair, a new name, comes in at top with just 86 backers who spent each $257.28 on Blind Faith. This isn’t surprising since the lowest pledge level was $125 and the highest $335.
  • Mysterious Package Company is no surprise here, with a very high cost of individual games. Their campaigns see between $238 — $249 per customer spend.
  • The Enigma Box is a new name in the top list again, their 2017 campaign saw an average spend of $221.
  • Similarly, The Detective Society rears it’s head as the company with the 4th highest spend per customer at $215. This again makes sense, since they were selling whole seasons of games.
  • Interestingly, or painfully, the 5th is a Kickstarter campaign called The Boundless Library which was never fulfilled. Backers pledged an average of $200.

Filigree in Shadow on Kickstarter

How about Player Spend by Year?

  • In 2015, I found 1 Kickstarter and it raised $310,792.00 (per backer spend of $240.74)
  • In 2016 I found 3 Kickstarters and they raised $590,410 (per backer spend of $139.47)
  • In 2017 I found 2 Kickstarters and they raised $422,142 (per backer spend of $207.64)
  • In 2018 I found 3 Kickstarters and they raised $38,250 (per backer spend of $24.51)
  • In 2019 I found 10 Kickstarters and they raised $389,792 (per backer spend of $51.24)
  • In 2020 I found 18 Kickstarters and they raised $2,275,464 (per backer spend of $90.29)
  • In 2021 I found 20 Kickstarters and they raised $1,059,446 (per backer spend of $63.03)
  • In 2022 I found 19 Kickstarters and they raised $1,589,997 (per backer spend of $83.18)

What the heck happened in 2018? Well, I don’t know, Kickstarter reported record funds, so maybe folks were just spending their money in other categories. It was a uniquely record-breaking hot summer, perhaps folks weren’t spending a lot of time playing board games? I tried looking up significant events in 2018, as well as any major scandals that might have impacted consumer trust in games. Ethiopia signed a big peace deal with Eritrea, which is awesome, but somehow I don’t think it had much of an impact on Kickstarter either.

My conclusion is that 2018 was a record low year for puzzle games simply because: The biggest names in the industry at that time simply didn’t run any campaigns that year. Yes, I’m looking at The Mysterious Package Company (who raised $446,281.00 and $310,792.00 the years before), Escape Room in a Box (who raised $135,429.00 the year before), Simulacra Games (who raised $244,175.00), and Enigma Box (who raised $177,967.00 the year before).

How to market your puzzle game on Kickstarter

Okay, so now we can get to the part of the article you’re really here for:

How?! How do I do it?!

How’d it get funded?!

The answer: There is literally no right or wrong answer.

I don’t have the answer. Folks who create campaigns that end up being funded $1m + also don’t have the answer. Following every trick in the books won’t guarantee a successful Kickstarter campaign.

So instead, what we can do is look at what other campaigns did well. I’ll use this article to look at what some of the most successful Kickstarters in the ‘puzzle game’ niche did well, and some pitfalls to avoid.

Make Good Games: A Case Study of, Well, Everyone!

A successful Kickstarter starts months and years before you actually hit ‘Publish’ on your campaign. It starts with making good games. With good games, comes trust.

But wait, I’ve never published a game before!
That’s why I’m going to Kickstarter!

There are other ways designers can build up trust with their audience, so fear not if you’re planning your first game! Why not try:

  • Making a short mini-game that backers can try out?
  • Publishing mini-puzzles on social media?
  • Sending your game to ‘influencers’, and reviewers ahead of the campaign?

Murder on the Moon on Kickstarter

Case Study: Detective Society’s Murder on the Moon
The $1 Pledge Mini Game

In their most recent campaign, The Detective Society are seeking backers for Murder on the Moon, a murder mystery puzzle game set in space. Now, The Detective Society have published many games so there’s no doubt they’re good at what they do. But this time they have added something unique to the campaign: a “mini game”, which backers can gain access to for just a $1 pledge.

This mini game is digital only, accessible via an online password protected portal. For backers new to The Detective Society, it means they can try out their puzzles before committing to the full game.

The $1 pledge is similarly very smart. Backing a Kickstarter campaign means receiving their Kickstarter updates. It’s like giving away a $1 ticket to an event where you get to advertise a full priced product over and over (*cough cough* like those cheesy Home Convention Shows I somehow keep applying for free tickets to). The Detective Society have the duration of the whole campaign to convince an individual backer to pledge the full amount for the game.

The Early Bird catches the wriggly worm of Kickstarter success

Since this is probably the most important point to make, I’m doubling down on it from a slightly different angle:

A successful Kickstarter starts months and years before you actually hit ‘Publish’ on your campaign.

By making good games, you naturally build up an audience. Having an audience before you start a Kickstarter campaign is probably the single most important thing you can do for the success of your campaign. So, what do I mean?

  • Have a strong social media presence
  • Build up an email marketing list
  • Attend conventions, meet your customers
  • Have good press about your company and games

I won’t go into all the details, for each of those bullet points is it’s own pillar of marketing. Plus, building up a presence won’t be the same between two companies. The company killing it on Tiktok might not be focusing on their emails. The company with 500,000 customers on their mailing list might not have time for a convention, and so on.

So instead, here’s how one puzzle game studio did it:

Case Study: Mysterious Package Company and Curious Correspondence’s Doomensions

One of the companies who has historically done very well on that “community” front is Mysterious Package Company. It shows with their latest 2022 Kickstarter campaign, Doomensions. MPC is the kind of company that historically built up a lot of intrigue and FOMO with their customer base — a “join our mysterious society”, before mysterious societies were available, and “we will drop this mysterious box at midnight and there’ll only be 15 available” in a way your local designer t-shirt label probably does today. They also ran a message board called Curios and Conundrums, as well as countless invite-only message boards and Facebook groups that blurred the lines between fiction and reality.

But that’s not all, with Doomensions they collaborated with Curious Correspondence Club who are the organisers of the annual Puzzletember event in September, a free puzzle activity that pulls big audiences. Small, but mighty, Curious Correspondence also had a track record of shipping their own compact envelope games and a dedicated community that probably didn’t have too much overlap with the older, most established, higher spend-per-customer MPC.

It’s a good example of Kickstarter collaboration (more on that later), but more than anything just how building up a community and track record over years and years can help when it counts.

Make Beautiful Games: The 3 Seconds to Make an Impression

Research shows that most people make a first impression of a person within 7 seconds.

Some people say it’s actually 0.1 seconds…

…And in the video game world, the statistic often thrown around is “5 minutes”.

I don’t know if anyone has ever researched how long someone spends on your Kickstarter campaign page. If they have, I couldn’t find the numbers. But lets assume it’s a really short amount of time.

So how can you make an impact?

  • Use the Title and Subtitle to explain what the game is, and what is unique about it.
  • Use striking visuals and short and snappy headers to take users on a visual journey through your campaign. Who are you? What is your game? Why should they back?
  • Show, don’t tell. Include as many eye-catching images as you can — photographs, animated GIFs, illustrations.

But none of these are particularly new or ground breaking ideas, so let’s look at some case studies from the puzzle world:

Pretty Game vs Pretty Campaign

Light in the Mist on Kickstarter

Case Study: PostCurious’ Light in the Mist
Or as you might know it, the prettiest game on the market. Like, ever.

Light in the Mist was a collaboration between PostCurious and illustrator Jack Fallows. Looking at their campaign, it seems like they knew their strength: The physical game itself was incredibly, incredibly pretty. Therefore, the Kickstarter campaign focuses on photographs of the game first. From hand-drawn tarot cards, gorgeous box poster, and add-on prints I’m quietly seething I didn’t pledge for at the time.

Both creators are well known for creating really high quality and beautiful games. But when they came together and made a Kickstarter for Light in the Mist? It was just pure…

*chefs kiss*

Case Study: The Shivers
Or as you might know it, the prettiest looking campaign ever.

On the other hand, we have the most successful game in the genre: The Shivers. Can I just print out this campaign page and frame it? The Shivers put a lot of time and effort into making their campaign page absolutely gorgeous. From high quality animated GIFs showing the game, to eye-catching illustrations. It’s a very image-heavy campaign, but it paid off.

The Shivers on Kickstarter

The TLDR; If you want to make a good first impression with your puzzle game, do like PostCurious or The Shivers and put the most visually appealing thing about your game on a pedestal.

The Power of Puzzle People

Now is a good time to bring it back to the very first thing I said in this whole article: The puzzle game community. The English speaking puzzle game community is around 3,000–5,000 people strong. They hang out in Facebook Groups, Discord Channels, Reddit, on social media and at in-person events (don’t believe me? Try Puzzled Pint!)

If you’re launching a Kickstarter campaign for a puzzle game, your campaign will live or die by how well you engage the puzzle community.

Kickstarter campaigns that do well are often:

  • Are from creators who are active, helpful and kind in the Puzzle Community. In fact, I think almost every campaign I’ve ever backed was because the creator made a personal effort.
  • Sending out previews of the game to reviewers, ‘influencers’, and other game designers in the industry.
  • Actively nurturing their own community, whatever that looks like. Do you have an ARG? Why not try setting up your own Discord channel or message board about the game.

Lost in the Shuffle on Kickstarter

Case Study: Lost in the Shuffle
From an Unknown Designer to Successful Campaign

Lost in the Shuffle is a really lovely case study and card game that launched on Kickstarter in 2022. It’s a very deceptively simple game. It’s quite literally just a deck of cards. Objectively (and no shade here) there’s nothing particularly eye catching about the visuals either — handwritten text, black and white illustrations, and a sketchy pencil-like quality. It was also by a solo game developer, Spencer is Puzzling who was relatively unknown in the industry.

And yet, Lost in the Shuffle was funded with over 480 backers.

So what did they do right? Well, besides making a game that was really good, they did a few things in the community really right:

  • They sent out copies of the game ahead of time to a number of reviewers and ‘influencers’ in the puzzle game niche.
  • They were active in the puzzle communities, kind and thoughtful about their responses to threads.
  • They appeared on talk shows, podcasts, and the like.

Lost in the Shuffle on Kickstarter

It’s dangerous to go alone! Take this *hands you a collaboration*

The puzzle game niche is small, and we all know each other. But that doesn’t mean that bringing other creators can’t add something new to your campaign.

Game design skill, illustration skill, marketing skill… No one person is perfect, and no one person can do it all…

Not even him

… So there’s always something to add by inviting a collaborator into the fold. A number of Kickstarter campaigns have been very successful in their collaboration, such as:

  • Doomensions, a collaboration between Mysterious Package Company and Curious Correspondence
  • Light in the Mist, a collaboration between PostCurious and Jack Fallows
  • The Medusa Report, a collaboration between Diorama and Sherlocked

I myself will be collaborating on a puzzle experience later in the year with Enigmailed.

THAT SAID: Just be careful out there when you do collaborate — protect yourselves, protect your heart, and protect your intellectual property! Make sure the person or business you’re collaborating with is able to fully commit, is someone you trust, and has a track record of successful delivery of projects.

Paid Ads, and All That Jazz

Not being intimately acquainted every puzzle game’s budget and ad spend, I can’t give any case studies for this — but I will say as a marketer myself, one of the important things you should also consider is Paid Ad Spend. This is the part of your campaign where you cast your net wider than the Puzzle People group and try to attract folks with overlapping interested.

Here are a few tips:

  • Define your target audience, specifically the demographics and behaviours of the people you think will be interested in your campaign
  • Utilise the video and visual content you’re creating for your campaign and repurpose it for any advert campaign.
  • Retarget interested users. If anyone has interacted with your website or brand in another meaningful way, now’s the time to reach back out to them with ads.

Other, outside of the box things you might want to try

Kickstarter is all about experimenting. Especially in the puzzle game niche. What works for [big popular company] or [indie solo developer] might not work for you, so you should try and forge your own path. Figure out what makes you and your game unique, and lean into that.

Create a Series of Puzzles to Support the Campaign

Puzzles that link into your campaign can be used on social media to advertise the game, or just as a way of keeping folks engaged and interested in your campaign. Doomensions did this well.

Offer Limited Edition Content

Remember when I said I was kicking myself for not adding a print onto my Light in the Mist order? You can be absolutely sure I’m getting all the “limited edition” add-ons for the projects I back today.

Offer Retail Copies of your Game

Don’t forget to include a pledge for retailers interested in stocking your game.

Last but not least: When to launch your campaign?

In the puzzle game niche, it’s more important not to launch at a particular time of year, but to be mindful not to launch at the same time as another campaign. We’re a small but mighty group, and the last thing you want to do is ‘compete’ for the attention of the same 3,000–5,000 people.

Yes, the community is collaborative, but at the end of the day your backers don’t have unlimited money. I myself can commit to backing a new puzzle game a month. But two a month? Three a month? I’ll have to be more careful with my pledge. Making your players choose between your fantastic game and the next team’s fantastic game is no good for your business, or for your audience.

If you have launched your campaign at the same time as someone else, take a leaf out of Diorama and The Detective Society’s group and see if there’s a way you can work together and make a fun spin on it!


Mairi, what the heck?! You wrote so many words! I’m not reading all that.

You, scrolling through this article

Okay, okay, okay I got carried away. It’s all that coffee I drank, remember? Here’s the short version, with animated GIFs:

Make sure the game you’re Kickstarting is good. Enough said.

Am I getting through to you Alva?

Prove to people you can make a really good game. Previously published games? Great! Nothing previously published? Send this game to reviewers, press, and influencers.

Start early, and build up your community. Your game will live or die by how well you’re able to mobilise your community — so don’t leave it up to chance!

Make really, really pretty games. It’s worth investing in graphics or illustrators.

Your game, but beautiful.

Engage the Puzzle Community! Make a mini game, or share mini puzzles. This one is a bonus because you can also show off how fun your puzzles are.

Collaboration can be good. But also make sure you protect yourself!

This could be you and your co-collaborators

Paid Ads = Good. They get your game in front of new, non-puzzle people.

Don’t launch your game at the same time as another game. It’s not ‘competition’, it’s just logistics. Puzzle people are a small group, don’t make them choose.

Thanks for Reading!

All that’s left to do is to go out there and make good games and launch them on Kickstarter.

Oh and, don’t forget to tell me about the games you launch. Mainly because I want to support your cool puzzle project and shower your campaign with love and attention!

This is me when I see a new puzzle game has been launched on Kickstarter

Kickstarters we’re excited for in Spring 2023


Spring 2023 is finally here, and with it comes a fresh crop of tabletop games ready to take the world by storm. But there’s one genre that’s been steadily rising in popularity and creativity: puzzle games. From collaborative escape room experiences to head-scratching solo challenges, these games are proving that there’s more to the tabletop world than just rolling dice and moving pieces.

And where better to find these innovative and engaging puzzle games than on Kickstarter? Crowdfunding has become the go-to platform for independent designers and publishers looking to bring their ideas to life. With its passionate community of backers and the ability to fund projects directly, Kickstarter has become a hotbed of creativity in the gaming industry. So let’s dive into some of the most exciting puzzle game Kickstarters we’re looking forward to in Spring 2023!


Escape the Book Nook

From Enigmailed (one of our absolute favourite creators) comes a new experience: Escape the Book Nook. A miniature diorama escape room that snugly fits on your bookshelf. Escape the Book Nook is due to launch on Kickstarter some time in May.


Dysturbia: Your Customisable Escape Game Experience

Launching at the end of March, Dysturbia is a trio of play-at-home puzzle projects from homunculus SPIEL. Choose from a book, an advent calendar, or a weekly calendar, and unravel the mystery solo or with friends. You can learn more about the games, and this upcoming Kickstarter from their website here.


Threads of Fate: A Puzzletale [The Tale of Ord Remastered]

Missed Tale of Ord? Yeah, us too. But fear not – the original creator of the rare and expensive experience are working on a Remastered edition, called Threads of Fate: A Puzzle Tale. Little is known about this Kickstarter, except that it’ll launch some time in April.


Blind Faith

From murder mystery company, A Killing Affair, comes a murder mystery game ‘from beyond the grave’. Unlike a classic murder mystery, Blind Faith will be a tabletop game containing evidence players must sort through and solve to ‘crack the case’. We’re intrigued! Blind Faith launches Tuesday 21st March. Get in early to secure an earlybird bonus.


Murder on the Moon

Not as much is known about the latest Detective Society project, since it was officially announced 6 months ago in October 2022, but we’re excitedly awaiting more news about it soon. The Detective Society are best known for their murder mystery series, and a few smaller, family games launched on Kickstarter in the years that followed.


Have we missed one you’re excited for? Let us know in the comments!

Spencer is Puzzling: Lost in the Shuffle | Review


Lost in the Shuffle Review | Boost your brain powers on your quest to become officially, legally, a genius!* Submit all 52 correct answers to access the final challenge, “Puzzle 53” (dun dun duhhhhhn!).

Completion Time: 4 hours
Date Played: 5th October 2022
Party Size: 3
Difficulty: Moderate

I often wonder how you officially become a genius. Is it when you’re accepted into Mensa? Or perhaps when you win an international Scrabble Tournament? No! It turns out the status of genius can be achieved only by solving puzzle 53 in Spencer Beebe’s latest game, Lost in the Shuffle.

“Give me puzzle 53!” I hear you cry.

Not so fast. First, you have to work your way through a deck of playing cards packed with 52 puzzles you must solve to reach your final test.



Ok I’m ready. Where do I start?

Good question. One of the things I absolutely loved about this game is that there are no outright instructions. You have to search for the puzzles before you even think about solving them. Some cards contain multiple puzzles and some puzzles need multiple cards, so finding the puzzles to solve is a puzzle in itself! Phew!

You’re not completely on your own though, when you first begin the game, you’re directed to a website where an introductory video with a surprisingly expressive new friend awaits, reassuring you that you’re about to have a lot of fun (which we did!) You’ll unlock more videos as you progress, which will slowly unravel the story behind Lost in the Shuffle. As well as the videos, the website also hosts the rules of the game, a code sheet and a brilliant hint system that I’ll touch on later. The website is also where you input all your solutions, and you can watch your brain matter increase as the puzzles become increasingly more difficult. Eventually your brain will reach the long awaited point where it’s ready to tackle the biggest puzzle of all.



Sounds like a big deal!

Deal?! Cards?! Get it?! (Sorry) But yes, these puzzles range from relatively simple to really quite difficult so solving them feels like a big achievement. I wish I’d been a fly on the wall watching our celebrations for some of the trickier ones.

There are puzzles to suit (!!) everybody, and because they can be done in any order, you can squirrel away with one puzzle while others work through another. Remember though, some cards are needed more than once! Some puzzles required logic, some observational skills, and some even a quick internet search. There’s also some hidden surprises which I won’t spoil, but they’re really impressive once the penny drops. One things for sure, so much heart has gone into this project and it shows. Every inch of the design of the play of this game has been thoroughly thought through and it’s a joy to experience.

Speaking of joy, seeing the answer sheet gradually fill up with correct answers is a very satisfying way to track your progress. What’s even better is that your answers are saved, so you can take a break whenever you need a log back in to where you left off. We were only forced to take a break because I realised it was past my bedtime on a work night…



Need a clue?

The online clue system is nice and easy. Simply click on the card you’re stuck on, and links to any of the puzzles that card is part of will be revealed. You can then gradually reveal hints, as little or as many as you like, and finally you have the option to reveal the answer if you wish.


The Verdict

I really enjoyed Lost in the Shuffle. It’s a wonderfully unique game which turns this common item we know and love into an innovative experience that provides hours of puzzle solving fun. You can take it with you anywhere, play solo or with others and go for as long or as little as you like at a time. The flexibility of the game and the puzzles within the box are a win, and I look forward to seeing more of Spencer Beebe’s imagination turning into a reality.

Lost in the Shuffle can be purchased on Spencer is Puzzling here.

Please Note: We received this experience for free in exchange for an honest review.

Studio Stamp: On Circus Grounds | Review


On Circus Grounds Review | 1883, Circus Maester in Dalfsen, the Netherlands. Right in the middle of his opening speech Nicolaas Maester collapses in front of the audience. The ringmaster of Circus Maester appears to have been murdered. It doesn’t take long for somebody to be arrested and for the case to be closed.

Date Played: July 2022
Time Taken: ~2 hours
Number of Players: 3
Difficulty: Hard


A new Kickstarter game?! Argh! Take all of my money! 2022 has been an excellent year for Kickstarters honestly… From Ruff Bluff, to Unsolved Science, to PostCurious’ Light in the Mist, to Curious Correspondence’s Doomensions. But now we have another, just as exciting game to look forward to from the brilliant minds of Studio Stamp: On Circus Grounds. The best part of this one is that it’s already been released in Dutch as Meester, 1883 to rave reviews and a solid 8.7 on Board Game Geek.

From the moment our box arrived and I popped it open on our table, I knew we’d be in for something very special. A small box, yes, but an in calculable number of beautiful documents came pouring out. A locket, a little vial, scrolls upon scrolls. Studio Stamp’s attention to detail is *chefs kiss*, and we couldn’t wait to get stuck in.



Come One, Come All

Roll up, roll up, for Nicolaas Maester presents a circus night like no other. Enchanting dancers, lion tamers, fortune tellers, and death defying stunts… But tonight is not a night like any other. Tonight the ringmaster of the circus suddenly, in the middle of the show, collapses dead. The case goes cold, the evidence grows dusty on a shelf, and soon society forgets the curious case on the circus grounds. That is until the mysterious box packed with evidence arrives on your, the player’s, doorstep. Can you crack the cold case and identify the true culprit of that fateful night?

If you couldn’t tell, On Circus Grounds is a lot more in the category of “murder mystery” than “escape room”. For starters, you’re not really escaping anything. For seconds, the experience is all about deduction and paying close attention. There is a medley of characters each with motives as compelling as the other. But to succeed in this case you have to pay close attention to everything they write and every little detail about their person.

Sure, there are quite a few puzzles in the game too, and I think Studio Stamp does a good job of balancing puzzles against story, but more on that later! For now it’s important to know that you’re not looking for a specific number combination or word output. No, the puzzling is softer. In the introduction letter, the game sets out four key questions to answer:

  • Who murdered Nicolaas Maester?
  • What was their motive?
  • What object was used to commit the murder?
  • If applicable, how did the culprit gain access to it?

So, no pressure, hey!



Roll Up, Roll Up

I chose to play On Circus Grounds in a team of 3 players over a quiet evening, each of us with varying levels of experience in solving games like this, and each of us at various levels into our glass of wine. Given that circumstance, I will say that we definitely struggled with this game. We struggled first with who was who, and then with who did what, and after quite a bit of arguing we weren’t 100% sure on the ‘correct’ answer to input into the website in the end. It’s a murder mystery, but it’s a deeply complex one that should challenge even the most seasoned puzzle enthusiasts.

But the flip side is, this isn’t the first time our very specific team has struggled with a murder mystery case in a box, as regular readers might remember from The Fire in Adlerstein. So I will say perhaps murder mysteries just aren’t quite for us, and that’s okay.

But unlike all the other murder mysteries in a box we’ve ever played, this one had a LOT going for it. For starters, it’s packed with puzzles. A lot of the information is just given in plain text, but a lot more must be solved before it can be used. Think ciphers, folding puzzles, reading maps and so on. So there was never a boring moment in the whole game. For seconds, the quality of the materials was absolutely gorgeous. No, seriously. I kind of want to take the whole game and frame it, it’s that pretty! I’ve never encountered a box with such a consistent level of high quality materials and I cannot believe the retail price is under €50. For that money you get so much material, lovingly hand-made and hand packed, and beautiful to spread out over the table.


Puzzling through the Circus

So this is The Escape Roomer, we have to talk about the puzzles! Puzzles, there are plenty.

Overall, players can expect to encounter a few different ‘types’ of puzzles. But, this being a game consisting of mostly paper, these puzzles usually fell on the side of ‘cipher’ or word style puzzles which, if I have to admit, erred on the longer side to decode. In general, I can’t over-emphasise how much reading there is to do. We often found it hard to know exactly what to do to tease out the secret message or the secret author of the text, but a quick check of the hints page usually set us along the right way. That said, in many more moments we knew exactly how to decode a puzzle but found the contents of the text so lengthy we again consulted the hints to skip a little manual decoding time.

But when they weren’t lengthy ciphers, the puzzles were great fun! My favourite in the whole game involved a little jar of a curious concoction we needed to take to our kitchen and mix. Whilst it didn’t work perfectly (I blame the unseasonably hot weather we’ve had here in the UK), we understood how it worked and were delighted by the physicality of it. Any puzzle that surprises and delights is a double thumbs up from us.

Mostly, the puzzle output for each item in our box was looking for a connection between two people, or a motive and a person, or so on, but we got there in the end… Sort of, anyway! After 2 hours of sorting and resorting through everything we knew, drawing timelines and striking names off pieces of paper… We were ready to make our deduction! We promptly headed to the linked website to answer a few questions on a futuristic AI style of police database.

Only… We got it wrong!

Whoops… The wrong suspect sentenced to prison? Well this is a cold case and all the suspects are long gone. So, thankfully the game’s finale let us re-choose our answers until we finally got them correct, and we were able to experience the fun finale as it was intended.



The Verdict

So, we didn’t succeed, but I think that’s okay. Unlike traditional escape games in a box where the answer is super clear, murder mysteries deal in deduction and nuance and small details and meticulous note-taking. Which are all things we’re not so great at. But, the most important part was that we had fun playing the game. A lot of fun in fact! There was plenty for a team of 3 to get along with, and some brilliant moments of discussion between us as we ironed out details. The game is beautiful, the puzzles enjoyable, and I have no doubt this will be a fan-favourite for many armchair detectives for years to come. A round of applause for Studio Stamp, and I highly recommend checking this game out on Kickstarter.


On Circus Grounds can be purchased in Dutch via Studio Stamp’s website here. For the English version, back their Kickstarter.

Please Note: We received this experience for free in exchange for an honest review.

Trapped Puzzle Rooms: Ruff Bluff: A Furlock Holmes Mystery | Review


Ruff Bluff: A Furlock Holmes Mystery Review | Barker Street Detectives… An urgent request has come across my desk and I request you aid me in this investigation. A distressed Ms Barbara Fetcher requires our assistance with the case of The Missing Ruby Bone. Contained in this box you will find evidence gathered from the scene of the Ruby Bone’s disappearance. Identify the culprit of the theft and recover the priceless artefact. A particularly puzzling path awaits you inside…

Date Played: May-June 2022
Time Taken: ~4 hours
Number of Players: 1
Difficulty: Challenging!

I knew Ruff Bluff would be something special as from the moment I received it I had it sitting in pride of place at the front of my board game shelf. Without fail every single person that visited our apartment in time between then and now, commented on the new addition:

“Ruff Bluff? Haha what’s that?” or “OMG are those dogs playing cards?” to “Furlock Holmes? I love it!”

Cue my whipping it off the shelf and spreading out the materials to gush to my friends and family about my favourite puzzles in the game. Even before the Kickstarter went live and the game was made available to the general public, this game is single handedly causing big ripples in my little community here in London, just by merit of it sitting on my shelf. The box is so appealingly light-hearted and funny with a picture of dogs all sitting round at a card game, and the name ‘Furlock Holmes’ suggests something puzzlingly brilliant.

…And that’s before I even start on what comes inside the box! But wait, I’m getting ahead of myself.



About Ruff Bluff: A Furlock Holmes Mystery

Furlock Holmes is the fox character created by escape room company Trapped Puzzle Rooms all the way over in the United States. Creators of Taco Tuesday (oh! I’ve heard of that one), and a whole host of digital, remote avatar and audio rooms, Trapped Puzzle Rooms isn’t as much of a household name here in the UK escape room community as it clearly is in the United States. But after playing their first foray into physical boxed rooms, I’m impressed – and only slightly regretful that this is the very first experience of theirs we’ve played. We missed out not playing all the others in lockdown!

In June 2022, the company put Ruff Bluff up on Kickstarter as a sequel to their existing ‘Furlock Holmes’ mystery, “Furlock Holmes Museum Mystery”. The original game is a web-based point-and-click mystery that follows the titular character Furlock Holmes as he investigates crimes around a fictionalised, vintage London. That said, there’s absolutely no requirement to have played the first game before diving right into Ruff Bluff. They’re completely different!

Ruff Bluff is a 6 – 12 hour mystery game. The complete experience is self-contained within a small box, with a handy answer-checker online. It’s best played over a couple of sessions, and the box is broken up into four parts to make it easy to stop and start between those. As a bonus, the website also saves your answers up until that point so you can pick up wherever you left off!

I took on this mystery over around ~3 days, with a week or so inbetween. I took on Part I at my desk on a funny Friday afternoon. The second part is much longer and much more manual which took a little time over another day. Then I whizzed through the final two parts an afternoon a few weeks later. This super well for me, and I’d definitely recommend taking a similar approach over two or three evenings.

So, the technical parts and the ‘what to expect’ out of the way, here’s how I got on…



The game is afoot (well… apaw)

This exciting, canine-themed mystery pushes players right into the deep end! There’s been a crime! A priceless Ruby Bone has gone missing from a poker match and it’s up to you, the players, to figure out whodunnit. There are seven suspects: the seven dogs who were sitting around the table playing cards. They are:

  • Austin Fetcher, a Husky with a very boopable nose
  • Pablo Diggbury, a professional Barkeologist
  • Barbara Fetcher, the furriest ball of floof I’ve ever seen
  • Darleen Haskel, a sleek looking Dalmatian
  • Julia Dripping, a very dribbly St Bernard from New Bark City
  • Renaldo Blurri, my personal favourite, a Greyhound with a bowler hat on
  • Richard Ruffington, a pup who shares my birthday!

The game starts with dossiers about each of these dogs. Who they were, where they’re from, and what job they do. Within these dossiers are a number of blanks, and that’s where the player comes in – to fill in the missing information by scouring the clues and looking for details.

This proves an excellent introduction to the game as players are encouraged to really get to know the characters and start making their own assumptions about whodunnit (which by the way, I guessed completely wrong until the very last minute – which is exactly what a good whodunnit should do!).

To help you out, this first portion of the box is absolutely packed with clues. They’re not single use either – throughout the game I found myself constantly referring back to details from the first part and small nudges within the dossiers. From stacks of $700 bills, to a whole deck of playing cards, to napkins, poker chips, postcards and drink matts. It’s an understatement to say there really is a lot going on in this box and I loved it. Each new object seemed to hide so many puzzles, but the game leads you through them gently in a way that doesn’t feel too overwhelming as you scour the evidence. It’s a real “pin everything up on an evidence board and take a step back” kinda game, and I really enjoyed this.



The second part of the game however was my absolute favourite. I don’t know why I’m so easily impressed by a jigsaw puzzle mechanic but hey, what can I say? I’m just a simple gal who likes complex jigsaw puzzles. The one in Ruff Bluff was absolutely brilliant. It’s the kind of puzzle in a game that even though your partner doesn’t want to take part they can’t help but slide over to help you put a piece or two into their place. Whats more, it fit so well with the story too!

With box one and box two out of the way, the final two chapters were the home-run in terms of puzzle solving. By this point, you know the characters and you know what’s what. All that’s left to do it solve the case.

Even though I literally just said one paragraph ago that the jigsaw was my favourite… I lied. The puzzle that came directly after the jigsaw puzzle was my favourite. This time definitely no spoilers because it was so much fun to open that Box 3 and realise what the game wanted me to do. So I’ll just leave it by saying it was a logic puzzle at it’s absolute finest. More games should include puzzles like this. No, seriously. Designers take note!

In short, if you can’t tell by my enthusiasm – I had a lot of fun with the puzzles in this game. I found them to be genuinely enjoyable to solve which is at it’s heart what all games should do. For sure, I used a couple of hints. Okay, okay maybe more than a couple of hints… But despite this the whole thing felt well balanced in terms of difficulty.



When you’ve eliminated the possible…

Puzzles aside, let’s talk about the theme. Ruff Bluff’s unique selling point is… Well… Dogs.

If you’re a cat person, look away now. This game is set in the canine universe and is not for you. In fact there aren’t many other animals at all, other than a pesky squirrel, and the occasional off-handed mention of a dog’s owner. For example, my favourite part in the whole game:

“My human recently dug up a part of my back-yard and put in some new plants. I didn’t feel like they did a very good job digging. So I spent the whole afternoon digging several dozen holes all of the yard. Not only did my human not appreciate my hard work, they got upset! – I Can Dig It”

“Dear Dig It, Humans never really understand all the hard work we do for them. Whenever they accidentally vacuum our fur off the couch, we have to take the time and shed more all over it. Whenever a jogger passes by our house, we bark and bark until they keep doing by. This is important work. My advice is to keep digging holes. Eventually you’ll dig one they like and they will reward you with lots of treats.”

As a dog person. In fact, possibly one of only two ‘dog people’ here at The Escape Roomer *grumbles at all the cat enthusiasts here*, I appreciated putting our four legged canine friends at the front and centre of an exciting mystery like this one.

And what a plot it is too. It’s exciting, has twists and turns, and more dog puns than you can shake a stick at. Again, this game is FUN.



The Verdict

I had a lot of fun playing Ruff Bluff: A Furlock Holmes Mystery and I’ve no doubt this one is going to go down as a ‘favourite’ of a lot of folks out there.

For me, the very best thing about the whole experience were the puzzles. I saw some delightful ones I’d never quite experience before and genuinely had fun solving them throughout the whole game. When the box first said it would take 6 – 12 hours, I don’t mind admitting I groaned a tiny bit. Now, having finished the game, it turns out 12 hours is not enough. I want more of the Furlock Holmes universe. Give me sequels! Give me more puzzles! For this reason I’ve chosen to award this game the coveted Puzzle Prize here on the Escape Roomer, for outstanding puzzle design. It’s well deserved.

My particular copy was an early access, pre-Kickstarter copy. As such some of the materials weren’t ‘final’ quality, there were one or two missing bits, and a few corrections to keep in mind. However this doesn’t affect the review whatsoever, since the creator was so helpful in explaining what to keep an eye out and these are things which are planned to be fixed by the time of publication. That’s why I’ve absolutely no hesitation in recommending this game to other players.

In terms of accessibility – it ticks the boxes with no puzzles reliant on colour or sound that could restrict accessibility for any players. The only thing to flag is that in one puzzle you may find yourself looking very closely for details, so potentially not for folks who might be hard of seeing. But otherwise appears to me to be a very accessible game all round. With easy to understand puzzles, I also have no qualms about saying it would be a great game for a family audience. It’s packed with dog puns and so long as you don’t mind the themes of gambling / drinking at a poker game, then you’ll be golden with Ruff Bluff.


Presently, Ruff Bluff: A Furlock Holmes Mystery can be purchased by backing Trapped Puzzle Rooms’ Kickstarter here.

If you want to see what other games they have available, check out their website.

Please Note: We received this experience for free in exchange for an honest review.

Unsolved Science: Case 01 The Object | Review


Case 01: The Object Review | Unsolved Science is a challenging cooperative tabletop mystery game for 1-4 players. But instead of locks and puzzles, in this mystery, science IS the game mechanic.
Perform real experiments. Analyze weird data. Become the scientist to figure out why a mysterious object could spell disaster for the world.

Completion Time: 2hr
Date Played: 20th January 2022
Party Size: 2
Difficulty: Medium

I was so exited when this game arrived on my doorstep. I’m by no means a science expert, but the idea of performing experiments and analysing data is completely my jam. Then mix that with solving a mystery?! Hand me a white coat and goggles because I’m ready to play.



The Unboxing

This game has clearly been made with a passion for making science fun at it’s heart. The materials are of a really high quality, and allow you to become immersed in the story as though you are receiving components directly from the Planetary Protection Strategy Service. We get a letter, name badges (with space for achievement stickers), a progress tracker, an evidence board, 3 yellow investigation envelopes, an answer envelope and most excitingly, a mysterious object!

Once all the materials have been laid out and we’ve found 4 small clear containers from the cupboard (finally a use for our leftover Gu indulgences), we open the letter to reveal our mission. A mysterious object has fallen into the hands of a questionable intelligence organisation, and they believe it could change the world. But can they be trusted? It’s up to us to uncover the secrets of their puzzling discovery.



Let the Experiments Begin

Using both the instructions and the progress board, the order in which you need to perform the experiments and analyse the data is made really clear which I appreciated. Within each envelope are several experiments, designed to gradually reveal information and test your ever growing knowledge as you progress. You track your findings on the evidence board, which is really useful for remembering the wave of new facts you’re learning, and to refer back to later in the game.

The experiments are a mix of physical tasks and observations as well as analysing a range of photos, charts and various media found online. There’s no need to navigate away from any of the online materials provided, Unsolved Science have created an online portal of information where you can search for key words to help as part of your investigation. I’d really encourage you to use this regardless of your scientific knowledge, as it’s essential in discovering the true nature of the mysterious object.

We really enjoyed the wide range of experiments provided, and found it was a lot closer to solving puzzles than we expected. Asking ourselves why certain patterns or differences were occurring required logic and reason, and discovering the answer was just as satisfying as unlocking a padlock!



Dig Deep

The key to solving the mystery of the game is to answer a number of important questions correctly to unlock the best ending online. These questions ask you to dig deep, and take a good look at the evidence you’ve acquired to find the right solution. They are each assigned a difficulty level which gives you a good indication of how much information you need to answer it. We found we didn’t answer the hardest difficulty questions until the very end of the game, so don’t worry if you feel behind at any point, the a-ha moments will come!

If you’re feeling stuck, there is an excellent clue system provided with three levels of hints to help you on your way. There is also an answers envelope, which you can compare your findings to but which will not reveal the answers to the dig deep questions.



But what is the Mysterious Object?!

Obviously, I’m not going to tell you. But I really enjoyed the story behind this game, and I’d like to know what happens next! I don’t know if any follow up games will be a continuation of this story, but the ending certainly left me wanting more.


The Verdict

We absolutely loved playing The Object and found it to be the perfect balance of scientific discovery, fun and mystery. Don’t be fooled into thinking science experiment kits are just for kids, this game is designed primarily for adults and we had an absolute blast while discovering facts we didn’t know before. Unsolved Science have created a unique, exciting new addition to add to the tabletop mystery game community and I can’t wait to see what they come up with next. We’ve also chosen to award it the special “Wow Award” for being an especially innovative game!


The Unsolved Science Kickstarter

If you’re interested in playing Unsolved Science’s Case 01, the game will be available in early 2022 via Kickstarter. You can sign up for news and updates by heading to Unsolved Science’s website here.


Please Note: We received this experience for free in exchange for an honest review.

The ‘Book of Dreams’, a Puzzle Book Collaboration Launches on Indiegogo in Support of Doctors Without Borders


For the past six months something very exciting has been brewing among some of our favourite escape room creators. We’d heard rumours- well no, more like whispers that a mysterious book like no other was being written by an A-team of puzzle creators.

So when the news of “The Book of Dreams: A Puzzle Anthology” finally dropped, we could not wait to find out more! But the wait is nearly over, as it’s with great excitement that we announce the Book of Dreams launches on Indiegogo on the 17th of March 2022 at 6.30PM GMT.

Intended as a “love letter” to the global escape room community, twelve respected puzzle game and escape room creators have come together to make one fantastic story told across twelve parts and absolutely packed with puzzles.

No matter your experience level, the Book of Dreams has been designed to suite players of all puzzling prowess. So there’s quite literally, something for everyone!

Once Upon a Time…

The story of The Book of Dreams follows Lucy, a young girl who becomes trapped inside her dreams. Just like any great adventure, our hero must travel through each of the dreams and solve the riddles and puzzles in order to escape her sleepy fate.

“Once upon a time, on a warm summer evening, that seemed like any other evening that came before it, 10 year old Lucy climbed into bed. After a long and exciting day, she was ready for a long rest, and fell asleep,  Little did she know, that her adventure was just about to begin”

Above: The team at Sherlocked showing off the Augmented Reality aspects of their chapter.

Meet The Team Behind The Book of Dreams

The Book of Dreams has been produced by Lee Ballan and created by twelve creators from around the world. Each creator represents something unique about the escape room industry – whether it be digital games, online puzzle hunts, physical, award winning escape rooms, or tabletop puzzle games.

All connected with their immense love of this industry of ours!


Anna and Ace Ellett – BlueFish Games
Errol Elumir – Cryptex Hunt
Phil Hill –  Cryptic Enigmas
Charlie Bond and James Hamer-Morton – Deadlocked
Khiara Foss and Logan Giannini – Enigma Emporium
Summer Herrick – Locurio
Elyssa and James Warner – Paruzal Games
Rita Orlov – PostCurious
Anna Lysova and Lisa Levina – Scarlet Envelope
Francine Book, Victor Van Doorn and Terry Brochard – Sherlocked
Nick Moran – Time Run, Spectre & Vox
Midnight Quests – The Pyramid

100% Profits Donated to Doctors Without Borders

Initially the project was planned to be announced later in the year, but the creators have decided that because of the situation in Ukraine, the project is being pulled forward in order to donate 100% of the profits to Doctors Without Borders.

Doctors Without Borders are an international, medical humanitarian organisation working in more than 70 countries around the world. Their medical teams act fast to save people’s lives in conflict zones, natural disasters and epidemics – including in Ukraine.

How to get involved

The Indiegogo campaign goes live today, and you can head to the page here or “Like” their Facebook page to receive all updates on the project.

Here at The Escape Roomer, we cannot wait to pledge and learn more about the project as it unfolds! See you in your dreams, puzzlers…

Spectre & Vox announce an additional 500 copies for those who missed the Kickstarter


The hottest Kickstarter game of 2020 was undoubtedly the mysterious Spectre and Vox. Created by two British escape room veterans Nick Moran, the former Creative Director of live escape rooms like Time Run and Sherlock: The Official Live Game, and Glen Hughes, the founder of Tandem Set and Scenery.

The game is an enormous 3D Haunted House escape room with over 296 individual pieces. Backers could pick up a copy of the game for £119 or more and the whole project was funded in just under 3 hours, with the finished funding total of over £250,000.

GIF (c) Spectre & Vox

How to Purchase A Copy of Spectre & Vox

For most, the Kickstarter was the only chance to get the game, meaning there’s very likely only around 1,800 copies of the game being created.

That was until in a recent post on Kickstarter the Spectre and Vox team announced that they are creating and selling an additional 500 extra copies of the game to be shipped after the Kickstarter backers are fulfilled.

These additional games will retail at £250 and they will be available to purchase directly from the Spectre and Vox website ‘within the next couple of weeks’.

The link to purchase isn’t live yet, but you can go ahead and bookmark their homepage right here:

Image (c) Spectre & Vox

Estimated Delivery Date

As it stands, the Kickstarter is currently running slightly behind schedule. Originally, the game was scheduled to be fulfilled in March 2021 but unfortunately due to countless reasons (strict lockdown restrictions in the UK, the big B (ending in -rexit), the Suez Canal catastrophe, and a billion more things that happened in 2021), the deadline has been pushed back.

Their current ‘final’ deadline is 21st of March 2022 and things are looking great for this deadline. Meaning the game will be in your hands within the next couple of months, and any folks purchasing a copy of the game at full retail price can expect theirs a little while later.

Delays or no delays, Spectre and Vox will likely be worth the wait.