A Scavenger Hunt with a Dragon at the End?

Although I’m the only one who works in the puzzle field, I’m far from the only member of my family with puzzly skills.

Mom is a whiz at cracking crosswords, Sudoku, and Jumble puzzles. My younger sister demolishes jigsaw puzzles, rules trivia games and bar trivia nights, and has a knack for tackling escape rooms. My older sister loves city-spanning scavenger hunts like The Great Urban Race.

And although the GUR is no longer running, plenty of other events around the country are waiting to be discovered to scratch the puzzly itch of enthusiastic solvers.

One of them is coming up in a few weeks, in fact. If you’re near Boston, you can join the Boxaroo crew for their third annual City Scavenger Adventure, The Dragon of Bostonshire!

On August 19th from 1pm to 5pm, Christopher Columbus Waterfront Park will be the starting point — and final destination — for a quest worthy of the name…

Once upon a present time, in a parallel universe known as Bostonshire, a loud rumbling echoed throughout the land. As the town became concerned, the noble Knights of Bostonshire went to investigate… and lo and behold! They discovered a ferocious, enormous dragon, raging and breathing fire. Alas, the Knights are in dire need of YOUR help- will you and your team be able to help them defeat the dragon before Bostonshire is destroyed?

Teams of up to 5 will race around Boston in order to take pictures, solve puzzles, accomplish tasks, and hopefully collect enough clues to return to the park in order to complete the final challenge and slay the dragon!

I reached out to the Boxaroo team for a bit more detail, and they kindly indulged me, explaining that the scavenger hunt aspect of the quest is a combination of puzzle-solving, running around, and accomplishing tasks. The puzzle-solving ranges from memory games and trivia to logic puzzles, with each location providing a different challenge to overcome in order to earn a clue.

It sounds like an awesome time, and I hope it’s a grand success for the players and organizers alike! Click here for more details!

What do you think, fellow puzzlers and PuzzleNationers? Will you accept the challenge of the Dragon of Bostonshire? Have you competed in an event like this one? Let us know! We’d love to hear from you?


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New Puzzle Set for Daily POP Crosswords App Solvers!

Hello puzzlers and PuzzleNationers! Happy Friday!

We have a special alert today for anyone and everyone who uses our Daily POP Crosswords app and enjoys the marvelous free daily puzzle crafted by our dynamite team of constructors!

We have a brand-new puzzle set available to charm your puzzle-loving heart!

Consisting of ten puzzles, all with themes related to love and romance, this Love Letters featured puzzle set in Daily POP Crosswords offers the fresh, pop culture-savvy cluing you’ve come to expect from PuzzleNation, all in ten terrific puzzles collected for your convenience and enjoyment!

Available now for in-app purchase with Daily POP Crossword Coins, don’t miss out on this excellent new puzzle set!

Happy puzzling, everybody!


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A Relaxing Game Night!

The world can be a very stressful place. We live under a constant deluge of news and information, and it’s so easy to get overwhelmed by it all. And while games can be a wonderful escape, you need the right games to restore your spirits and put you in a good mood.

As much fun as co-op games like Forbidden Island, The Oregon Trail Card Game, and Castle Panic! can be, they can also be a little stressful. And if you’re looking to relax, or to chill out after a long week, those might not be the games for you.

So today, I thought we could turn our attention to games that are as tranquil as they are tactical, in the hopes of helping my fellow PuzzleNationers enjoy a calm gameplay experience.


When I asked fellow game enthusiasts for games that are mellow and relaxing, the first one that always comes to mind is Tsuro.

In Tsuro, up to 8 players adopt the role of flying dragons soaring through the sky. Each player chooses from the tiles in their hands in order to build paths on the board, representing their paths through the sky. Naturally, these paths will eventually intersect, and you need to be careful to avoid colliding with another dragon or following a path right off the edge of the board. (Both of those scenarios cause you to lose.)

Despite the potential for competition, most Tsuro games are peaceful affairs as everyone enjoys watching their dragon token loop and swirl across various intersecting paths, hoping to be the last dragon standing on the board. It’s a beautiful, simple game that only takes about twenty minutes to play, and it’s the perfect palate cleanser after a more stressful round of some other game.

[Image courtesy of Starlit Citadel.]

Tokaido is another game about movement, but in a very different vein. Players in this game are all travelers, journeying across Japan’s famed East Sea Road from Kyoto to Edo. Whereas most travel-based games are about reaching a destination first, Tokaido is about reaching a destination with the widest array of meaningful experiences.

Along the way, your character can meet new people, enjoy new cuisines, collect souvenirs, visit hot springs, and visit scenic locales. You add experience points for these events (and acquire achievement cards) to represent your traveler partaking of these experiences.

This elegant game bypasses traditional competition entirely, building a unique game mechanic out of living your best life.

[Image courtesy of Board Game Quest.]

Sagrada is another wonderfully visual game about individual accomplishment. In this game, each player is building a stained glass window using different colored dice. No dice of the same color can neighbor each other, so you need to be strategic about how you place the dice you roll.

Each window is different, and has certain rules for maximizing points. (A certain pane can only be a certain color, or a certain die value, etc.) The players can boost their scores by selecting cards that reward them with points if they create certain patterns within their stained glass window.

Except for competing for the best point total at the end, there’s virtually no interaction between players. You’re all simply working simultaneously on the best window, which is a gameplay style that breeds camaraderie more than competitiveness. It’s genuinely encouraging to see fellow players make good choices in dice placement to create the most beautiful, elegant window patterns.

[Image courtesy of Starlit Citadel.]

For a change of pace, let’s look at a game that’s more about interaction with other players. Dixit is a gorgeous card game where each player is given a handful of cards, each depicting a different, unique, evocative piece of art.

Player 1 will choose a card from their hand and say a word or phrase to the other players that has some connection to that card. It could reference color, or part of the imagery. It could be a joke, or an idiom, or a song lyric. The goal is to be vague, but not too vague. The other players will then each select a card from their hand that could also be described by Player 1’s statement, and the cards are all shuffled face down so no one can see who submitted what card.

The cards are then all placed face up, and each player (except Player 1) votes on which piece of art they think Player 1 chose. Player 1 gets points if some (but not ALL) players chose his card. (If every player chooses it, the clue was too easy, and Player 1 gets no points.) And any other player’s card that earns votes also earns that player points.

This sort of associative gameplay really encourages your imagination and teaches you about how the other players think. There’s no other game quite like it on the market today, and it makes for an intriguing, low-key gaming experience.

Finally, let’s close out today’s post with a classic tile game that mixes Uno-style color- and pattern-matching with Mexican Train Dominoes-style gameplay. Qwirkle is a bit more competitive than the other games on today’s list, but it’s still a game more about collaborating than outdoing your opponents.

By placing different tiles onto a shared play area — either by matching colors or matching symbols — players earn points. If you complete a Qwirkle — a pattern of all six colors for a given shape or all six shapes in the same color — you earn bonus points.

The lighthearted gameplay style lends itself to friendly competition rather than the cutthroat mien evoked by games like Monopoly. Qwirkle’s not about grinding the other players down, it’s about adding to a colorful world in interesting, inventive new ways.


Hopefully these suggestions will make your game nights a little more mellow. And if you’re looking for puzzlier ideas for a tranquil game night, check out our reviews for ThinkFun’s Kaleidoscope Puzzle and Looney Labs’ Zendo, both of which might scratch your puzzly itch in a relaxing fashion.

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The Tetris Effect: Unleashed!

When alarmists talk about the negative effects of video games on players, they’re usually referring to first-person shooters, like Call of Duty, or games that encourage immoral acts, like Grand Theft Auto.

They’re not usually talking about Tetris.

But as it turns out, playing Tetris can have curious side effects. Some folks who play for prolonged periods of time report seeing the iconic tetromino shapes falling as they drift off to sleep, or when they close their eyes. (This has also been reported by jigsaw puzzle solvers, who see curved lines, and Rubik’s Cube solvers, who continue to see the constantly shifting colors of the cube.)

There are additional anecdotal stories of people viewing the world in a Tetris-y way after solving, fixating on how shapes could fit together.

It’s common enough, in fact, that it has its own term: The Tetris Effect.

It has also inspired a Tetris game of the same name, which is releasing later this year for the Playstation 4. Tetris Effect enhances the Tetris experience by tying musical themes and imagery to the traditional gameplay.

One player describes the play experience in an article for Kotaku:

I played the game in VR, though that is optional. The first time I landed a Tetris, the screen exploded in a beautiful display of particle effects, sea life swam around me, the controller vibrated and the music swelled in a way that sent chills down my spine — I’ve done this a million times before but not like this.

[Image courtesy of Eurogamer.]

The game also boasts a new solving trick — the Zone mechanic — which allows you to stop time and place several blocks at one time, meaning you could line up multiple pieces to drop at once and clear more lines. The previous limit was four lines, but now, with the Zone mechanic, it’s possible to clear out up to sixteen lines at once! (Naturally, there’s a term for that as well. It’s a decahexatris.)

This is an excitingly immersive evolution of the classic puzzle game, and I can’t wait to check it out.


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This Weekend: Puzzly Tournaments and Film Debuts!

This Sunday, July 29, from noon to 5 PM, puzzlers from all over will gather at The Roxbury Latin School in West Roxbury, Massachusetts for the second annual BosWords Tournament!

With three divisions to choose from — Expert, Amateur, and Pairs — puzzlers of all ages and experience levels will have the opportunity to test their puzzly wits.

The four themed puzzles in regular competition have been constructed by Laura Braunstein, Andrew Kingsley, John Lieb, Joon Pahk, and Brendan Emmett Quigley, and after the scores from those puzzles are tabulated, a championship themeless crossword by David Quarfoot awaits the top three solvers in each division!

BosWords is asking for $20 for adults, $20 for pairs, and $10 for students to attend and compete, which is a real bargain!.

You can check out their Facebook page for full details!

But that’s not all that’s happening in the world of puzzles this weekend!

Yes, the film Puzzle opens today in select theaters!

The film stars Kelly MacDonald (who you might know from Brave, Boardwalk Empire, Gosford Park, or Trainspotting), Irrfan Khan (Life of Pi, Slumdog Millionaire, In Treatment, and Jurassic World), and David Denman (The Office, Angel, 13 Hours, and Logan Lucky).

The plot focuses on Agnes, a suburban mother taken for granted by her husband and family, who discovers a passion for solving jigsaw puzzles. This newfound passion unexpectedly draws her into a new world – where her life unfolds in ways she could never have imagined.

The trailer below hints at the beautiful cinematography and engaging performances of all involved, and I suspect this film will be something special:

Will you be attending the BosWords tournament or hitting the theaters to watch Puzzle, fellow puzzlers and PuzzleNationers? Let us know! We’d love to hear from you!


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PuzzleNation Product Review: Vault Assault

There is no rivalry in the world of make-believe more iconic than cops versus robbers, and rarely has that classic dynamic been as frenetic and as fast-paced as it is in the dice game we’re reviewing today, Vault Assault.

The goal of the robbers is to acquire as much wealth as possible and then escape before the cops arrive. The goal of the cops is to minimize the amount the robbers acquire/get away with and capture the robbers before they can escape.

Each round, the players will portray both the cops and the robbers, allowing players opportunities to both rack up lots of ill-gotten gains and minimize the loot captured by the other players.

Each round consists of two phases: the Diamond Heist and the Vault Assault.

In the Diamond Heist phase, the cops and robbers each line up five of their dice. (The cops do so secretly, laying out an arrangement of three alarm symbols, one dye-pack symbol, and one diamond symbol in any order they choose.) The robbers lay out five wire symbols, and then choose one to flip, trying to match the one they flip to the diamond symbol the cops have secretly chosen.

Essentially, the Diamond Heist is part strategy, part luck as the robbers try to steal the diamond by cutting wires to the security system, while the cops lay dye-pack traps to ensnare the robbers. Either the cops will begin the Vault Assault with an advantage or the robbers capture a diamond tile as part of their loot.

[In this scenario, the robbers chose poorly, and triggered the alarm, meaning that the cops will start with one die already rolled when the Vault Assault starts. The robbers could have opted to flip another die in the hopes of finding the diamond, but in the end, they opted not to risk giving the cops a greater advantage.]

Once the Diamond Heist phase is concluded, the Vault Assault begins, and the game kicks into another gear.

Tenzi- or Yahtzee-style dice rolling and quick decision-making become crucial as both cops and robbers try to roll specific patterns in order to complete tasks. As the robbers roll to steal from the vault (or each other), to interfere with the cops, or to escape, the cops are trying to complete rolls in order to fuel up, arrive at the crime scene, engage the robbers, and arrest them.

Both sides roll their dice at the same time, making for an incredibly chaotic and fun play experience that simulates the kind of stress you might be under if you were really robbing a bank and trying to get out before the cops arrived. Between robbers filling their coffers (and forcing the cops to reroll their dice) while the cops confiscate some of the stolen loot while trying to arrest the bad guys, it’s a very competitive and adrenaline-inducing sequence of events.

In this scenario, the cops have two out of the four doughnut symbols up (meaning they’re halfway to completing the first task en route to arresting the robbers). But they also have two dye-packs up, and two more dye-packs would allow them to remove several Vault Tiles from the robber’s stacks, meaning the robbers would have less loot. Would you choose to keep rolling for doughnuts or to hamper the robbers with dye-packs?

On the robber side, they have three targets, meaning they’re one away from stealing a Vault Tile from another player and adding to their loot. But they also have a green hostage symbol up, which they can put aside in order to make the cops immediately reroll all of their dice. Would you choose to go for the steal or to disrupt the cops’ efforts?

In addition to all that interplay, some of the vault tiles also trigger actions that can hamper your gameplay. A handcuffs symbol, for instance, means you have to roll your dice with your wrists together until the end of the turn (as if you’re handcuffed). These little roleplay-centric details add a playful edge to the game, injecting a bit of silliness into gameplay that could otherwise turn somewhat cutthroat.

One several rounds have elapsed, the players (both cops and robbers) total up the value of the loot in their getaway cars, and the player with the highest total wins. Oh, and those Diamond Heist tiles? They’re worth $40,000 apiece!

[With Vault Tiles ranging in value from 0 to $20,000, a diamond tile could be a real game-changer for your loot total at the end of the game.]

Vault Assault is less about long-term strategy and more about being able to make good decisions in the heat of the moment. If you’re able to put your puzzly mind to work making the most of the dice rolls in front of you — both to increase your profits and hamper your opponents, whether you’re a cop or a robber at the time — then you’ll probably come out ahead.

Of course, that’s more of a one-on-one mindset. And with three-player and four-player/team rules to allow for different combinations of players, you can implement some wider strategic gameplay. In three-player games (1 cop and 2 robbers), have one robber focus on hampering the cops while the other raids the vault (and then switching, so both robbers can cash in). In four-player/team games (two cops, two robbers), one cop can focus on recovering stolen goods while the other works on arresting players. There’s plenty of fun to be had with the format.

Can you cash in, hold the cops at bay, and make your escape, or will the cops nab you and all your ill-gotten goods before you make it out the door? And in the end, will you make a better cop or a robber?

[Vault Assault, published by Inside Up Games, is available through their website, as well as certain online retailers.]


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