Looking for the best escape room board games? Or looking to build your own from scratch?
I’m a huge fan of escape rooms. I’ve been to dozens, in many countries. Whether it’s with a larger group or with a friend, in an abandoned train station or a converted office – they’re a lot of fun.
The concept is fairly straight forward and there have been a lot of these businesses popping up over the years.
You’re locked in a room. You have sixty minutes to escape before you’re locked in forever / the ship sinks / the asteroid hits / the time vortex collapses or another from a whole host of scenarios.
To escape, you must solve (often in a team) a series of puzzles, locks, riddles and physical obstacles to escape from the room within the, usually, sixty-minute time window.
If you’ve not visited an escape room – I can’t recommend it enough. If you live in a city, there is often plenty to choose from.
You can also host an escape room at home. It could be for a party, for your family, with your friends or your partner or a Christmas or birthday gift. If you have space and patience – you can build your own. Alternatively, you can play one straight out of the box.
This article will cover some of the best escape room board games out there, will delve into some of the props available to create your own escape room and look at some of the guides and ideas available.
- Best Escape Room Board Games
- 1. Mattel Games Escape Room in a Box, The Werewolf Experiment
- 2. Thames & Kosmos – Exit The Game [Various]
- 3. Thinkfun Escape the Room – Mystery at the Stargazer’s Manor
- 4. Mattel Games Escape Room in A Box: Flashback Game
- 5. ThinkFun Escape the Room Secret of Dr. Gravely’s Retreat
- 6. Operation Escape Room – Spy Code
- 7. Big Potato Bucket of Doom: Escape Room Adult Party Game
- How to Build Your Own Escape Room
- Key Tips to Designing Your Escape Room
- Books on Creating Your Own Escape Rooms
Best Escape Room Board Games
1. Mattel Games Escape Room in a Box, The Werewolf Experiment
Mad Scientists, imminent danger, scary bits and a whole hour of immersion. Yes, the Werewolf Experiment was a lot of fun. As the label suggests, it is a whole Escape Room in a Box – and it’s a fairly comprehensive one at that.
There’s no setup here. The timer starts when you open the panel beneath after removing the lid.
So, grab your phone, get the timer set to countdown from 60 minutes and GO!
There’s a lot going on in this game, it’s not just paper and pencil tasks. There are locked boxes, keys, codes and puzzles to solve.
Nineteen escape room puzzles need to be solved in total before the mad scientist of the game turns you and your friends into Werewolves. Granted, that may not sound like a terrible fate for some.
This isn’t for young kids, it’s more of an adult or older teenagers game. Great for a party or family get together.
I’d recommend reading the instructions first – there’s a bit of prep and some printing required to give you the full experience.
Like a physical escape room – you can “reset the room” – there’s a set of instructions available on the games website which tells you how to reset to play anew – but I’ll refrain from saying anything as it’s awash with game spoilers.
For those particularly geeky out there, there is an Alexa Skill available for Escape Room in a Box. Just use an Amazon Echo and your Amazon account.
It’s a pretty cool addition and adds a different element to the game.
Like a physical escape room – it will keep the time, play the obligatory eery music and issue hints when requested. It’s not necessary to use this for enjoying or completing the game – but it’s a nice add-on for Escape Room purists out there.
Overall, hardened Escape Room players may find some of the puzzles a little basic while novices may get lost in some of the later elements. But with a balanced team – you’re highly likely to have a great evening playing this game.
For the money, this is one of the best escape room games out there. Enjoy!
2. Thames & Kosmos – Exit The Game [Various]
|Exit: The Abandoned Cabin | Exit: The Game - A Kosmos Game | Kennerspiel Des Jahres Winner |...||$14.95||Buy on Amazon|
I originally saw these games for sale while at an Escape room in East London. I’ve since played a few of them. There are quite a few available all centring around different escape room themes including;
- Abandoned Cabin – An advanced level escape room game for 1-4 players.
- Dead Man on The Orient Express – An Agatha Christie inspired escape romp designed for 1-4 more seasoned (expert) escape room fans.
- Haunted Roller Coaster – Ideal for beginners. Riddles and a haunted roller coaster on the menu with this 1-4 player game.
With a total of thirteen different games to choose from, each varying in difficulty level, and a range of themes and adventures.
This is mainly a card type of game – no fancy locks to play with – but it’s inexpensive.
You’ll have to fold and destroy bits of the game so it’s a one time use only – but I couldn’t imagine you’d want to play twice – unless you’re showing off to a different group.
My favourite was the Abandoned Cabin. It was just the right level of skills without being too easy or difficult.
It’s the classic horror story setup; you’re driving at night in the middle of nowhere when – arghh – your car breaks down, bad luck!
You need shelter for the night (no, not the car – don’t be a spoilsport) and happen upon an abandoned cabin in the woods nearby. Being the adventurous types – you decide to stay there for the night.
A mysterious disk and a book are found, left by the sinister cabin owner who has locked you inside – do they hold the answers (hint: yes) to aid your escape and return you to your broken down car in the middle of nowhere?
Clues, puzzles and riddles – they’re all here – and your team has sixty minutes to solve the puzzle. But fear not, the game does include hints should you need them.
This isn’t a casual board game. It requires you to invest some serious thought to survive and worth discussing the rules beforehand.
If you just open the box and start fiddling with the bits – you’ll probably end up scratching your head which will no doubt be cut off when the evil cabin owner returns.
A worthy choice for second place. For riddle purists – it’s probably the best out there.
3. Thinkfun Escape the Room – Mystery at the Stargazer’s Manor
|ThinkFun Escape the Room Stargazer's Manor - An Escape Room Experience in a Box For Age 10 and Up||$26.99||Buy on Amazon|
This one is more under the category of escape room games for kids – though adults will enjoy it too. It has quite a scientific angle to it – so it’s not only fun but educational too.
It’s 1869, and after the recent passing of the town’s astronomer, he’s gone missing. The manor where they lived has become a decidedly strange place – odd smells, loud bangs and billowing smoke have all been observed. What’s going on? Well – that’s up to you and your guests to figure out.
Instructions, a solutions wheel, sealed envelopes containing mysterious items and a scene card are all included in the box.
Solve the puzzles, figure out the riddles and use your cunning logic skills to discover the astronomer’s secrets.
This is a great game, especially for groups of children. If you visit the ThinkFun website there are a number of clues should you get stuck as well as instructions for resetting the game to use another time.
4. Mattel Games Escape Room in A Box: Flashback Game
And so the second game from Mattel begins. This is the most recent game I’ve played. Although fun, this wasn’t quite as sharp and challenging as The Werewolf Experiment. Perhaps I’ve been spoiled by the original.
What it is is very bright and colourful and certainly a different vibe than most games out there.
I’m particularly amused by the large STOP notice when you open the box – to avoid spoiling the secrets before the game starts.
It’s a 90 minute game for 2-18 players. Like it’s predecessor box – there are 19 challenges, Alexa integration, a series of clues, puzzles, locks and challenges – there are even lock boxes for that full escape room experience.
A worthy sequel to the original – can you uncover the plot of the sinister Dr. Lisa David? There are a whole new set of challenges in Flashback.
5. ThinkFun Escape the Room Secret of Dr. Gravely’s Retreat
|ThinkFun Escape the Room Secret of Dr. Gravely's Retreat - An Escape Room Experience in a Box For...||$26.99||Buy on Amazon|
Another STEM focussed party game with kids in mind. Set in the year 1913, you and your group have just won an all-expenses-paid trip to the fabulous Foxcrest Retreat for the latest in spa treatments.
Dr Gravely, the retreat’s owner, awaits you as you travel by train. But everything is not all it seems, and you now seem to be locked in the retreat – forced to spend your lives in luxurious spas and fine dining (the horror!).
Contained in this game is a scene card, sealed envelopes containing objects, a solutions wheel and an instruction manual.
Although entertaining – this isn’t quite as engaging as ThinkFun’s other offering The Stargazer’s Manor. I’ve found a number of reviews online which confirm my feelings on it. It just seems a little weaker than its predecessor.
However, it’s still a solid game and good for a child’s party or gathering.
6. Operation Escape Room – Spy Code
To play, the group must select one player to wear the escape belt – the players must then use the sixty minutes to find clues and solve puzzles to release the player from their belt.
There’s a lot going on this game from solving a maze to unlocking locks. The level of difficulty can also be changed to suit the age group of those playing.
I do love all of the gadgets that come with this – it is an impressive collection. So, if you’re looking for something for your younger kids – this is fun and interactive.
7. Big Potato Bucket of Doom: Escape Room Adult Party Game
|Big Potato Bucket Of Doom: Death Dodging Party Game||$14.99||Buy on Amazon|
It’s a big pink bucket of doom. A death-defying party game where you and your group must “escape from tons of seriously bad situations” using… some of the most useless objects imaginable.
So how does it work? There are yellow cards assigned to each player with doom scenarios such as
You’re on a plane. There are snakes on the plane.
Which you then read aloud.
Each person then hatches their escape plan using the card – and the best (funniest in most cases) wins a doom card by getting the most votes from other players.
Whoever gets three doom cards is the winner.
This really is one for people who get on together and are looking for an amusing way to pass a few hours one evening.
It’s very random and you’ll either all buy into it, rolling around on the floor laughing, or you’ll all just stare at each other with contempt and loathing.
How to Build Your Own Escape Room
If you’re looking to make an escape room at home – your only limited by time, space and ambition. It could be something simple like an extended treasure hunt or something hugely complex like the professionals.
You could be designing for a birthday party, a family gathering, for friends or even as a team-building exercise.
There are a wealth of options and escape room puzzle ideas for your party guests.
You can use locks, sealed boxes, gadgets, blacklights, morse code, puzzle games, riddles, logic puzzles, find hidden objects. Find the clues and solve the puzzles.
Escape Room Games in The Classroom Kit [US Only]
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This is an escape room kit with a huge amount of standard objects instead of sourcing them one at a time.
There’s a huge collection of lock bags, locks, UV lights, viewers, invisible ink pens as well as timers, signs, planning tools, a cypher wheel and more.
Set Your Own Word Combination Padlock
|Master Lock 1535DWD Locker Lock Set Your Own Word Combination Padlock, 1 Pack, Colors May Vary||$9.68||Buy on Amazon|
Set Your Own Directional Combination Padlock
|Master Lock 1500iD Locker Lock Set Your Own Directional Combination Padlock, 1 Pack, Colors May Vary||$19.64||Buy on Amazon|
Jaw Steel Lockout Hasp
Four Digit Code Lock
|2 x Travel Buddy TSA Security Padlock - 4-dial Combination Travel Suitcase Luggage Bag Code Lock...||Buy on Amazon|
Enter Right Password(4 Digits) to Unlock Control [USA Only]
Extra Pig Pen Grid Key Panel [USA Only]
For those unfamiliar with a pigpen cypher – you can read more here.
Key Tips to Designing Your Escape Room
I’ve asked a few seasoned escape room builders and business owners this very question. Although they spend an unbelievable amount of time and thought in their design; many of these tips are transferrable when designing escape room games at home.
- Pick a theme. This may seem obvious – but to fully immerse your players in the game – it needs a good story. Now, this story can be simple “you’re locked in an old cabin” or “you’re trapped in an enemy war bunker”. The story has to have a beginning and an end. Why are they there, what do they need to do. The story doesn’t have to make complete sense – in fact, most stories don’t “you find an abandoned mansion in the middle of nowhere and decide to sleep there” – but it’s still a great premise. There are tons of DIY escape room ideas already out there – but you’re only limited by your imagination.
- Find the space. Depending on the size of your escape room – you’ll need a clear space. You may have a spare garage or room – but if not – perhaps clear space where available.
- Explain the rules and limitations. What are the rules? Is there an order? Most important the limitations. People tend to try and force objects or pull them off the walls. If you don’t want certain things touched (or broken) – tell them in advance. This is particularly the case if you have props stuck to the wall – people will pull them off to look for clues. If you have any particularly fiddly or special types of locks that need to be opened a certain way – demonstrate them before the game starts.
- Provide hints. No matter how well you design the game, people will get stuck. It’s often a good idea to provide hints should they need them. If you’re in the room – they can ask, alternatively use a walkie talkie or a screen you can update from a computer.
- Use a timer. Either put something on the wall – or call out the time at ten-minute intervals.
Books on Creating Your Own Escape Rooms
If you’re looking for a manual or more ideas on building your own DIY escape room – there are a few out there.
How to Create a Low Cost Escape Room
|How to Create a Low Cost Escape Room: For Camps, Youth Groups and Community Centers||50 Reviews||$18.00||Buy on Amazon|
Escape the Living Room
|Escape the Living Room: How to Create an Escape Room Adventure for Home Play. Includes the game...||Buy on Amazon|
Making Escape Rooms for Educational Purposes
|Making Escape Rooms for Educational Purposes: A Workbook||$15.00||Buy on Amazon|
Escape Room Puzzles
This is more of an escape room in a book than an actual guide. But a lot of the ideas here can be adapted to your own purposes.
We hope you’ve enjoyed our article on the best room escape games. Whether you’re looking for board games out of the box or to build your own escape room party in your home – it’s a huge amount of fun.
Remember the age, size and skill levels of your guests before choosing.