We’ve played 7 different escape room board games and over 100+ escape rooms across the United States and Europe. These 3 escape room board games specifically impressed us the most, and are worth considering for anyone who likes both escape rooms and board games!
We think these are an excellent alternative to escape rooms, especially on rainy days, for families with children, and for people looking for a budget alternative.
#1. Secret of Dr. Gravely’s Retreat – ThinkFun
This is the second of two games in ThinkFun’s two-game series called Escape the Room. Both of the games are high-quality, but in our opinion this one edges out the first (Mystery at the Stargazer’s Manor) game as the best.
In Secret of Dr. Gravely’s Retreat, you and your friends are invited to an all-expense paid trip to Dr. Gravely’s Retreat, but the retreat has some new additions and you will realize that things are not as they seem. This game has some very mild horror themes and is a asylum-themed mystery puzzle game.
The structure of the game is standard for those familiar with escape room board games. There are four envelopes, each containing a variety of puzzles and potentially more envelopes. Solving puzzles correctly and verifying your solution with the solution wheel will give you access to more envelopes, which will develop the story and progress the game.
This particular game is notable for a series of puzzles that involves some physical manipulation. These puzzles were a welcome addition to us and helped increase both the difficulty and the variety of puzzles involved in the game.
Overall, this gets our choice as the #1 Escape Room Board Game for its high quality materials, fun puzzle experience, and great value for any small group of escape room fans that want to play at home.
- Full Review: Secret of Dr. Gravely’s Retreat – ThinkFun (Review)
- Dr. Gravely Hints and Answers: http://www.thinkfun.com/escapetheroom/retreat/hints/ (please don’t read before starting!)
- Materials: Mostly cardboard and paper. Quality of materials is impressive.
- Replay Value: No replay value, although if you’re really careful with the pieces you can repack it up and give it to a friend to play. Repacking instructions are provided.
- Difficulty: Moderate
- Players: 3-8 officially, but we recommend 1-3. This particular game has particular parts that can only really be played by one person at a time. Thus we don’t recommend any team sizes larger than 3.
- Duration: Officially 90 minutes.
- Age: 13+ (official recommendation)
- List Price: $21.99
- Purchase on Amazon: http://amzn.to/2cIwj1n
#2. Mystery at the Stargazer’s Manor – ThinkFun
This is the original and first of the two games in ThinkFun’s two-game series called Escape the Room. Again, both of the games are high quality, but we think the sequel edges out Stargazer’s manor as the first on our list.
The year is 1869 and you and your friends are tasked with solving the disappearance of the town’s local astronomer. You hear strange noises from within of the observatory and step inside to investigate what happened. This adventure is a mystery puzzle game with mild steampunk tones.
The structure of the game is similar to the structure from Gravely’s Retreat. Those familiar with either game will immediately understand the structure of the other. We enjoyed the quality of the materials.
We feel like this game might be too easy for most escape room enthusiasts and is potentially better for families playing with children. However, this is still a high-quality product with a variety of puzzles, well-made materials, and intriguing story. Overall, this is a great way to get into the escape room board game genre.
- Full Review: Mystery at the Stargazer’s Manor – ThinkFun (Review)
- Stargazer Hints and Answers: http://www.thinkfun.com/escapetheroom/stargazer/hints/ (please don’t read before starting!)
- Materials: Mostly cardboard and paper. Quality of materials is impressive.
- Replay Value: No replay value, although you can repack it up and give it to a friend to play. Repacking instructions are provided.
- Difficulty: Easy
- Players: 3-8 officially, but we recommend 1-3. The game is a bit too easy for more than 3 players to do it.
- Duration: 90 minutes (but experienced teams should finish much quicker).
- Age: 10+ (official recommendation)
- List Price: $21.99 (Note that this might be on sale. Check out our post Stargazer’s Manor is on Sale)
- Purchase on Amazon: http://amzn.to/2cEe40i
#3. Escape Room: The Game – Spin Master Games
Escape Room: The Game is a set of 4 distinct 60-minute escape room adventures released by Spin Master Games. The four games included are Prison Break, Virus, Nuclear Countdown, and Temple of the Aztec. Spin Master is also planning to release expansion packs (sold separately).
The general structure of each of the 4 games is similar to the games by ThinkFun. You will have 3 envelopes in each game that you will be able to open in sequence if you solve the right puzzles.
The most notable difference between Spin Master’s game and the ThinkFun games is the solution verification mechanism. You can check your answers via the “Chrono Decoder” product. The Chrono Decoder functions as both a timer and as an electronic way to verify your answers. You can input your answers into the decoder by placing in the right four “keys”. Each game has exactly three answers that you need to put into the Chrono Decoder.
Our main issue with Spinmaster’s series of the games are the puzzles themselves. In most of the games, we thought that some of the puzzles required extremely tricky jumps of logic. Additionally, too many of the puzzles depended on traditional ciphers, which grew old for us.
Still, the material is nice and this set should provide a few hours of fun for any escape room enthusiasts looking for a fun challenge.
- Full Review: None yet.
- Hints and Answers: Hints provided via hint cards. Answers at Prison, Virus, Nuclear Countdown, Aztec,
- Materials: Mostly paper. Quality of materials is good.
- Replay Value: No replay value. You can repack each game by looking at the list of contents for each envelope. You can give it to a friend to play if you’re really careful with the pieces, although you will also need to give them the decoder (and this will prevent you from playing any expansions that they provide).
- Difficulty: Challenging
- Players: 3-5 officially, but we recommend 2-3. 1 person might be too few as there are quite a few places where people can get stuck. We don’t think there’s enough to do in parallel for more than 3 people to enjoy it.
- Duration: 60 minutes per game.
- Age: 16+ (Official Recommendation)
- List Price: $39.99
- Purchase on Amazon: http://amzn.to/2jxSQ4o
Honorable Mention: Puzzled Pint
Puzzled Pint is a puzzle hunt that runs monthly in 35+ english speaking cities every month. This gets an honorable mention since it’s not an escape room board game, but still should be able to keep small groups of escape room enthusiasts entertained for 1-2 hours at home. One huge plus is that these puzzles are free, and there are years worth of archives available online so you can play from the comfort of your own home!
More Escape Room Board Games
If you’re interested in reading more about escape room board games, Errol (a fellow escape room blogger) has compiled together all of the options in the market along with a bunch of reviews at http://thecodex.ca/2016/10/27/guide-escape-room-board-games/
We also really liked SCRAP’s escape room board game called PuzzBox, but since that’s not available for sale currently we have excluded it from our list.
If you’re interested in escape room video games, there’s none better than the Zero Escape series. Check out 999, Virtue’s Last Reward, and then Zero Time Dilemma. Each of these DS games contains many “escape rooms”, but the true highlight is the convoluted story that ties all three games together.
Full Disclosure: We were provided complimentary review copies of both ThinkFun games. The Amazon links are affiliate links, which means that we may get a referral commission if you use them.