PN Product Review: Star Trek Fluxx: The Archer Expansion and The Porthos Expansion

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[Note: I received a free copy of this game in exchange for a fair, unbiased review. Due diligence, full disclosure, and all that.]

Crossovers have always been part of the fabric of Star Trek. The Next Generation‘s debut episode had Dr. McCoy (and later cameos by Spock and Scotty), Deep Space Nine‘s debut had Picard (and later Worf joined the cast), and Voyager‘s debut actually launched from Deep Space Nine. Intermingling across time and space made the franchise feel like one enormous, interconnected, living universe, and it made each show stronger.

So it’s only natural that the folks at Looney Labs would want the same thing for their Star Trek-themed editions of Fluxx. Star Trek Fluxx and Star Trek: The Next Generation Fluxx could be played together with The Bridge Expansion, but there was no way to introduce cards or characters from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Fluxx or Star Trek: Voyager Fluxx.

Until now, that is.

Yes, now you can combine all four decks into one massive, constantly changing game with The Archer Expansion and The Porthos Expansion.

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For the uninitiated, Fluxx is a straightforward card game. You collect keeper cards and put them into play. Different combinations of keeper cards complete different goals, and each player has the chance to put different keeper cards and goal cards into play in order to win. So you might find yourself working toward completing the goal at hand when suddenly somebody plays a new goal, and the object of the game changes.

Along the way, players affect how the game is played by utilizing action cards and new rule cards which alter what players can and can’t do. Suddenly, you’ll have to trade your hand with another player, or start drawing three cards each turn instead of one.

The game can turn against you or spin in your favor in an instant; that’s both the challenge and the fun of playing Fluxx.

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The Archer Expansion introduces elements from Star Trek: Enterprise, as well as time travel references that allow the cards from other Star Trek Fluxx decks to overlap (including having Goal cards in play from multiple decks).

Although the original four games will be overwhelmingly represented in your now massive mixed deck, multiple playthroughs quickly revealed that clever players still managed to use the expansion cards to their advantage more than expected. The sheer variety of Goals available meant that no one could keep track of every possible way to win, so a casual scan of the Keepers on the table wouldn’t reveal if anyone was close to winning.

And for anyone worried that mixing the decks would make it hard to return the cards to their original decks, the team at Looney Labs is one step ahead of you.

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From top to bottom, you’ve got the unique fonts for Star Trek Fluxx, Star Trek: TNG Fluxx, The Bridge Expansion, Star Trek: DS9 Fluxx, Star Trek: Voyager Fluxx, The Archer Expansion, and The Porthos Expansion. Although it’s easy to mix up cards from the expansion decks, there’s no mistaking any of the cards from the main four decks.

Speaking of expansions, let’s take a look at the other new offering on deck.

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The Porthos Expansion introduces a few more Star Trek: Enterprise characters (including Captain Archer’s dog Porthos), but is mostly focused on tying together the five Star Trek shows through new Goals and Keepers.

Easily the highlight of the deck is Data’s cat Spot, though I’m also a fan of the Starfleet Medical Goal and the New Rule card that grants an extra card to every player if Star Trek is on TV while you play.

Not only that, but the cards are packed to capacity with inside jokes and fun references to events from the series. (The “Former Borg” card even feels like a reference to the recent Star Trek: Picard show.)

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Star Trek fans could easily lose plenty of game time unearthing all of the connections, quotes, and moments from each show that are represented across both expansion packs. Seeing all the ways the franchise is interconnected is truly a joy, both as a Star Trek fan and a regular Fluxx player who is always looking for new opportunities to snatch victory from my fellow players.

Yes, mixing all four decks virtually guarantees much longer games — the sheer volume of cards makes matching Keepers and Goals tougher! — but if you’re looking for a dynamic, enjoyable way to get more out of your Star Trek Fluxx decks, these expansion packs are a brilliant way to go.

The Archer Expansion and The Porthos Expansion are both available from Looney Labs for $5 each. And you can find the Star Trek Fluxx decks for The Original SeriesThe Next GenerationDeep Space Nine, and Voyager for $20 each.

And you can check them out, alongside dozens of other great puzzles and games, in this year’s Holiday Puzzly Gift Guide!


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Treat yourself to some delightful deals on puzzles. You can find them on the Home Screen for Daily POP Crosswords and Daily POP Word Search! Check them out!

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PuzzleNation 2021 Holiday Puzzly Gift Guide: By Age

Welcome to the PuzzleNation Blog 2021 Holiday Gift Guide!

We’re excited to be bringing you our biggest gift guide ever! There are so many tremendously fun and puzzly products to share with you. We just might be your one-stop shop for all things puzzly!

This guide is broken down by age group, so we’re sure you’ll find the perfect gift for puzzlers of any age on your list!


This year’s Holiday Puzzly Gift Guide is sponsored by Daily POP Crosswords!

Daily POP Crosswords offers a different themed puzzle every single day, spanning everything from TV and film to sports and music!

Available for both Android and iOS users, you get terrific content from some of the world’s top constructors! And the download is free!



For Ages 6 and Up

Chessplus (board game)

The first thing you learn in chess is how the pieces move. But what if that could change? What if you could make new pieces that move in unexpected ways? How would that change the game? With Chessplus, you’ll find out, as you mix and match chess pieces in order to capture your opponent’s king. The possibilities really are endless! ($49.95)

[Click here for our full review of Chessplus!]

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Lexicon-GO! (Winning Moves UK, puzzle game)

Are you a word-forming pro? Take your speed-solving skills and try them out with Lexicon-GO!, a Scrabble-style tile game suitable for solvers of all ages. And those very distinctive letter tiles are available in more ways than ever! You can enjoy Lexicon-GO! in its classic form, in Harry Potter style, or in famous Jumble style! ($11.89 in classic form)

[Click here for our full review of Lexicon-GO!]

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Qwirkle (MindWare, board game)

A wonderful mix of Uno and Mexican Train DominoesQwirkle is a tile-placing game where you try to maximize your points while minimizing the help you give to your opponents. With six bright colors and six different shapes to match up, Qwirkle is endless fun that’s so easy to jump into! ($24.99)


For Ages 7 and Up

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Countaloupe (Bananagrams, dice game)

A card game and a dice game in one, test your luck and your math skills with Countaloupe! Two to four players each have a deck of slice cards, numbered from one to sixteen. Your goal is to roll the dice and discard slice cards from your deck faster than your opponents. Will you savor the fruits of your mathematical labors, or will others enjoy the sweet taste of victory? ($9.99)

[Our review of Countaloupe can be found here!]

Tenzi (dice game)

All of us have rolled dice in games before, but can you roll what you need as fast as possible? That’s the challenge of Tenzi, a game that pits up to four players against each other in tests of speed and dexterity. Can you roll ten 6’s before everyone else? ($14.95)

Scrimish (Nexci, card game)

Combine the card game War with elements of Chess and Memory, and you’ve got something approximating Scrimish, a card game that’s effortless to learn, but offers endless possibilities. Can you protect your crown card while hunting down your opponent’s? With cards for both defense and offense, there’s a lot packed into just 25 cards apiece! ($9.99)

[Check out our full product review of Scrimish by clicking here!]

Tile Securing Travel Scrabble (Hammacher Schlemmer, board game)

Hammacher Schlemmer has always been home to some intriguing Scrabble variants available — who could forget their World’s Largest Scrabble Game? — but when it comes to travel-friendly puzzle game fun, they’ve got just the thing. Tile Securing Travel Scrabble is perfect for those who want to solve on the go! Take your game anywhere and rest assured not a single tile will have moved! ($39.95)

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Timeline (Zygomatic Games, card game)

Timeline pits your knowledge of history against a growing timeline of important events, inventions, and historical moments. You don’t have to know exact dates; you just need to know if something happened before or after something else. Was the toothbrush invented before or after the syringe? Which came first, language or agriculture? Timeline is a fast, fun way of learning (or relearning) history! ($9.99)

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Tsuro: The Game of the Path (Calliope Games, board game)

A path-laying game with tons of style and historical spirit, Tsuro casts up to eight players as flying dragons, and tasks you with laying out your path with special tiles. Try not to meet any other dragons or fly off the board! It’s a simple mechanic with plenty of replay value, and perfect for quick games with large groups. ($40)


For Ages 8 and Up

Coaster Games (The Dark Imp, party/group game)

Coaster Games is a six-pack of games encompassing all sorts of gameplay styles. Counting, word building, deduction, strategy, resource management, and more, and they all fit in your pocket. Perfect for parties or quickplay fun between longer game sessions, you’re guaranteed to find something to enjoy here! (£6.99)

[Find our review of Coaster Games here!]

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Block Chain (ThinkFun, brain teaser)

These linked four-sided blocks can be rotated, spun, tilted, and overlapped. But can you twist and arrange them into a single cube where every face fits a pattern or a path? That’s the challenge of Block Chain, ThinkFun’s delightful twisty puzzle that lets you tinker, twist, and swing each of the three linked blocks into various positions! ($5.99)

[Check out our review here!]

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Star Trek Fluxx: The Archer Expansion and The Porthos Expansion (Looney Labs, card game)

Star Trek is an ever-expanding universe of stories, heroes, adventures, and questions to explore, so it’s only fitting that the ever-changing card game Fluxx has a host of Star Trek-themed card decks for you to try out. Whether you’re a fan of The Original Series, The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, or Voyager, there’s a Fluxx deck stacked with your favorite characters, villains, and pivotal moments from each show. ($20 each)

And now you can combine and cross over those decks and play Fluxx like never before with The Archer Expansion and The Porthos Expansion. These small additional decks not only introduce characters from the show Enterprise to the mix, but they allow new rules for mixing up decks and new paths to victory. Plus they add the beloved pets Porthos and Spot to the game! ($5.00 each)

And if Star Trek isn’t your style, maybe you’d enjoy Fantasy Fluxx, Wonderland Fluxx, Astronomy Fluxx, or any of the other marvelous variations on this classic quick-changing card game! ($16 each)

[Our review for the Porthos and Archer Expansions can be found here. And be sure to check out our full reviews of Star Trek Fluxx, Star Trek TNG Fluxx, and Star Trek Voyager Fluxx too!]

Knot Dice and Knot Dice Squared (Black Oak Games, dice game)

Can you twist, turn, and spin these dice to complete beautiful, elaborate patterns inspired by Celtic knots? That’s the name of the game with Knot Dice, a dice game as challenging as it is gorgeous. With single-player and multi-player puzzles included, you’ll be tying yourself in knots for days! ($35, available in green or blue)

And you can add new wrinkles and patterns to your solving with Knot Dice Squared, an expansion set with 26 additional dice, new rules, and more! ($45)

[Click here to check out our full review of both games!]

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Cracker Games: The Imp Box (The Dark Imp, party/group game)

Six unique family games in a reusable box that looks like a Christmas cracker? What an idea! Voting, collecting, observation, and trading are among the gameplay styles you’ll find in The Imp Box, and this neat little package packs a lot of variety into a small space! (£19.99)

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12 Days (Calliope Games, card game)

A proper holiday-themed game for the holidays? You betcha. This wagering game, based on the 12 Days of Christmas, has some of the most beautiful art in the entire card game genre. Plus the two ways to earn points — winning each day of Christmas with the lowest card in the pot vs. keeping as many of a certain value card as possible for the end of the game — offer tons of strategic opportunities in a simple card game. What a treat! ($20)

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Pocket Brainteasers (ThinkFun, brain teaser)

How good is your spatial awareness? You’re about to find out with this quartet of puzzlers, each its own obstacle for you to overcome. Can you reposition the four pieces into a smaller space in 4-T Puzzle or the wi-fi bars of Rec-Tangle into a new arrangement? Can you separate the 4-Piece Jigsaw, or combine the four chairs into The Fifth Chair? These bite-sized brain teasers will certainly keep you guessing. ($6.99 each)

[Click here to check out our review of all four Pocket Brainteasers!]

Slapzi (Tenzi, party/group game)

Slapzi will keep you on your toes. In this quick-reaction game, you’ve got to match your picture cards to the clue cards before your opponents. But with clues like “Not sold in a hardware store” or “Two of the same letter together,” this isn’t as easy as it appears! ($19.95)

[Click here to check out our full review of Slapzi!]

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GolfWords (David L. Hoyt, party/group game)

Combining the skill of golf with a love of wordplay, GolfWords takes puzzles off the page and into your home, testing you both mentally and physically! Complete with the letter mat, putters, golf balls, scoring pads, and other accessories, this unique combination of puzzle and sport can be played solo or by the whole family! ($299.99)


For Ages 9-10 and Up

Escape Room Advent Calendar (Insync Games, miscellaneous puzzle swag)

This advent calendar has no numbers on the doors, and solving a daily puzzle is the only way to figure out which door to open! This clever, festive, chocolate-filled treat is a puzzly twist on a holiday classic! (£19.99)

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Paolo Pasco’s Crossword Puzzles For Kids (puzzle book)

Recommended by several top solvers, this just might be the perfect gateway puzzle book for the young solver in your life. ($9.99)

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Godzilla: Tokyo Clash (Funko Games, board game)

Choose one of these four iconic monsters and let loose your fury all over Tokyo in Godzilla: Tokyo Clash. This tactical monster-vs.-monster game allows you to smash buildings, vehicles, and your fellow monsters on a game board that’s different every time you play! Will you be King of the Monsters by the time Tokyo is in ruins? ($35)

[Check out our full review of Godzilla: Tokyo Clash here!]

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Smart10 (Bananagrams, party/group game)

Can you pick one correct answer from a field of possibilities? Smart10 challenges you and a group of friends to do just that by selecting correct answers from a list of possible responses. It’s tougher than it sounds, and it’ll test your trivia skills and your ability to think under pressure. ($14.99)

[Check out our full review here!]

Pinbox 3000 (Cardboard Teck Instantute, puzzle game)

How about the chance to build your own game? Is that puzzle enough for you? Pinbox 3000 provides all the pieces you’ll need, plus valuable advice for brainstorming and creating your very own pinball game. It’s endlessly customizable, so you can make your Pinbox pinball game as simple or as complex as you like! ($49.95, $54.95 for the Beta Booster Bundle)

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Unlock!: Squeek and Sausage (Asmodee, escape room / solve the mystery game)

Unlock! games consist of entirely of a deck of cards and your app. The cards provide locations, challenges, helpful items, solutions, and warnings, all identified with numbered or lettered cards in the deck. And while there are numerous Unlock! escape games to try — covering everything from haunted houses to desert islands — we recommend the mad scientist-fueled Squeek and Sausage, which is enjoyably silly and still a satisfying challenge! ($11.99)

A-Puzzle-A-Day puzzle calendar (Insync Games, miscellaneous puzzle swag)

Eight puzzle pieces, 365 different puzzles. Now that’s value for your money. Can you place these Tetris-like pieces to tell today’s date, or a favorite date, or any date you choose? (£15.99)

The Great Dinosaur Rush (APE Games, board game)

Bring the insane real-life rivalry of paleontologists Cope and Marsh to life in The Great Dinosaur Rush! As you collect fossils and discover your own unique dinosaur, you must also steal bones, sabotage other scientists, and more! Show off your cunning and creativity in this game that proves historical truth is weirder than fiction! ($50)

Spaceteam (Timber and Bolt, card game)

Can you repair your ship and get the engines up and running before a black hole ends your space adventure forever? That’s the name of the game in Spaceteam, a cooperative, communication-based game where you have to accomplish various tasks with your fellow players while sharing tools. It’s delightful chaos, heightened by the five-minute hourglass timer counting down your dwindling seconds before disaster strikes! A definite favorite around here. ($27.95)

Sagrada (Floodgate Games, dice game)

One of the most beautiful strategy games on the market today, Sagrada is a singularly peaceful gaming experience. Compete with other players to build the most beautiful stained glass window, but with dice instead of glass! Unique and challenging, Sagrada is something else. ($40)

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Castellan (Steve Jackson Games, board game)

Build a castle and then occupy it in Castellan, a game of strategy and opportunity. With great modeled pieces that really add to the aesthetic, Castellan has style and substance. ($34.95)

[Check out our full product review here!]


For Ages 11-12 and Up

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Pass the Pugs (Winning Moves UK, dice game)

A classic tumbling game gets a delightfully charming new update in Pass the Pugs! Collect points based on how the pugs land and race your opponents to 100 points. Will you push your luck and risk your points on additional rolls, or will you “paws” and keep the points you have? (£9.99)

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Enigmas Puzzle Hunt Playing Cards (David Kwong/Dave Shukan, solve the mystery game)

A puzzle hunt lurking within a normal deck of cards? It sounds impossible, but when you’re dealing with puzzler and magician David Kwong, anything can happen with Enigmas! Can you unravel the mystery hiding amongst these playing cards? ($18)

Zendo (Looney Labs, puzzle game)

Puzzle games are all about the rules, but what if you don’t know the rules? That’s where Zendo comes in. In this puzzle game, you arrange Looney pyramids and other shapes into various designs, and then see if those designs conform to a mysterious rule. A game of deduction and trial-and-error, Zendo is a very different solving experience. ($40)

Plus there are two expansion packs available for Zendoeach offering additional rules and varying in difficulty! ($5 each)

[Check out our full review for Zendo here and our review of Expansion Pack #2 here!]

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Puzzometry (jigsaw puzzle)

For a next-level jigsaw challenge, Puzzometry is tough to top. These beautiful pieces can be combined in seemingly endless combinations, and yet, there’s only one solution. Available in seven different styles — Puzzometry ($23.50), Puzzometry Jr. ($18.50), Puzzometry Squares ($23.50), Puzzometry Hex ($23.50), Puzzometry Steps ($23.50), Puzzometry Six ($23.50), and Puzzometry Jr. 2 ($18.50) — you’ve got distinct challenges appropriate for all different ages!

[Check out the full review of the original Puzzometry by clicking here!]

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Friends Top Trumps and James Bond Top Trumps: Gadgets & Vehicles (Winning Moves UK, card game)

Do you enjoy the sitcom Friends? Or the world of James Bond? No matter what your favorite subject or pop culture franchise, Top Trumps is ready and waiting with a sharply packaged game full of question-fueled competition. Each team opens their drawer on the carrying case and removes five cards, all with the potential to stump their opponents. Will your team triumph or will the other team’s trivia smarts win the day? (£10.00 each)

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Exit: The Game: Dead Man on the Orient Express (Kosmos, escape room / solve the mystery game)

Exit: The Game products create an escape room experience by combining a deck of cards, a guidebook, a sliding decoder ring, an interactive phone app, and miscellaneous items to be used throughout the game. What sets Dead Man on the Orient Express above and beyond is that there’s a mystery to solve in the background, even as you tackle all the delightful escape room-style puzzles! ($10.59)

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Cheapass Games in Black and White (Cheapass Games/Greater Than Games, board game)

The library of Cheapass Games is expansive, but even diehard fans don’t have the majority of the company’s original game library. Unless, that is, they own Cheapass Games in Black and White, a hardcover compendium of every game from the black-and-white era. Featuring the rulebooks for famous titles like Button Men and Kill Doctor Lucky, alongside more obscure entries like Escape from Elba, this is a terrific resource for any game fan. ($60, but the digital download is FREE!)

Decrypto (IELLO, party/group game)

Can you covertly communicate with your teammates without revealing your secret code to the opponent team? That’s the name of the game in Decrypto, a party game all about word association and deduction. The first team to crack the opposing team’s codes twice wins! ($20.32)

Tak: A Beautiful Game (Cheapass Games/Greater Than Games, board game)

Many new games build off of classic mechanics, but very few new games truly feel like they could have been played centuries ago. Tak definitely fits that mold, using simple wooden pieces to create a game that feels both fresh and ancient all at once. Inspired by the eponymous game in Patrick Rothfuss’s KingKiller Chronicles series, Tak is a wonderful two-player game that quickly grows addictive. ($40 for University Edition, $59.95 for Classic Edition)

[Click here for our full review of Tak!]

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The Oregon Trail (Pressman Toys, card game)

The classic computer game comes to life as you and your fellow players team up to survive the perilous journey along The Oregon Trail. With art evoking old-school computer games, rampant threats and calamities to endure, and a long and challenging road to travel, will any of you will make it to Oregon? ($12.79)

[Check out our full product review of The Oregon Trail by clicking here!]

Deluxe Pairs (Hip Pocket Games/Greater Than Games, card game)

Building on the legacy already established by the bar-friendly series of Pairs decks available, Deluxe Pairs offers a new artistic spin on the classic Pairs “Fruit Deck,” as well as a companion booklet with rules for numerous Pairs variants you can play with the deck! This isn’t just one card game, it’s dozens! ($17)

[Click here for our full review of Deluxe Pairs!]

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Gearjits Roller Coaster (Gearjits, jigsaw puzzle)

Bring your puzzle skills to life as you assemble a working roller coaster from these wooden pieces. Assembling handcranks and gears to operate the machine along with the structure of the roller coaster itself makes this 3-D puzzle more exciting and satisfying than the average 3-D puzzle. ($40.95)

The Island of Doctor Lucky (Cheapass Games/Greater Than Games, board game)

People have been trying to kill Doctor Lucky for over twenty years, and this time around, you’re visiting his exotic island estate to try your murderous luck against the titular Doctor! The Island of Doctor Lucky offers a new gameboard to explore, new movement mechanics, and a very distracting cat. This is the best addition to the series yet! ($40)

And if you’re looking for something closer to the classic game, there’s always the Deluxe 24 3/4ths Anniversary edition of Kill Doctor Lucky. ($39.95)

[Check out our full review of The Island of Doctor Lucky by clicking here!]


For Ages 13-14 and Up

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Minotaur’s Labyrinth (Project Genius, brain teaser)

Can you crack this wooden brain teaser? That’s the question posed by Minotaur’s Labyrinth, a mechanical brain teaser where you must maneuver the Minotaur out of the Labyrinth, then flip over the token, and return to the center of the maze! Ready your puzzle skills and your patience, or you’ll be trapped in the Labyrinth forever! ($24.95)

[Check out our review of Minotaur’s Labyrinth here!]

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Cold Case: A Story to Die For and Cold Case: A Pinch of Murder (ThinkFun, solve the mystery game)

In these mystery puzzle games, you pick up a cold case where the investigation left off, rifling through police interview transcripts, evidence, photographs, and more! Can you solve the murder of a dead journalist or find out what happened to a woman missing from a church bake sale? With an interactive online submission form to test your solution, these ThinkFun murder mysteries are a fascinating bit of hands-on puzzling and crime solving! ($14.99 each)

[Check out our spoiler-free reviews of A Story to Die For and A Pinch of Murder!]

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Gloom (Atlas Games, card game)

Do you enjoy The Addams Family or the art of Edward Gorey? Then Gloom might be a strategy game worth checking out. In this tactical game with a sinister twist, you’re trying to make your Victorian family miserable for points and the lives of your opponents’ families better! Yup, misfortune equals good fortune for you! With gorgeous transparent cards you can lay over each other to track your scores, there’s no storytelling game out there quite like it.

With loads of expansions to add to the creepy world of Gloom — and preorders open for the new Gloomier spinoff game — this is hilariously macabre fun! ($27.95)

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Cluebox Escape Rooms in a Box (iDventure, brain teaser)

These multi-stage puzzle boxes are completely self-contained. You need to explore every inch of its surface to find clues and tools to unlock each stage of the puzzle box and reveal further challenges. Whether you delve into Davy Jones Locker ($49.99) or try to unravel the mystery of Schrodinger’s Cat ($39.99), you will definitely find your puzzly mettle tested by these devious devices!

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Caesar’s Codex (Project Genius, brain teaser)

Just slide the four coded levers into place and open the box. Sounds simple, right? When you’re talking about Caesar’s Codex, one of the brain teasers from the True Genius collection, what appears simple quickly becomes a proper puzzly challenge. There are over 4,000 possible combinations! Can you discover the correct one? ($19.99)

[Check out our review of Caesar’s Codex here!]

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Escape the Room: The Cursed Dollhouse (ThinkFun, escape room / solve the mystery game)

Can you construct and then escape one of the most fully realized home escape room games on the market today? The Cursed Dollhouse is a diabolical and immersive puzzly experience, encompassing five rooms and a host of different puzzles to unravel in the hopes of escaping a horrible fate! ($42.99)

[Check out our spoiler-free review here!]

 

Tavern Puzzles / Tucker-Jones House Inc. (brain teaser)

These hand-forged beauties are ready to challenge your dexterity and cleverness, as you accept the Tavern Puzzles challenge. Whether you’re trying to remove twice as many pieces in a Collaborative Effort or free the triangle from Tridiculous, you’re sure to put your skills to the test. ($27.50 each)

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Codenames (Czech Games, card game)

It’s a race against time to locate all of your spies before your opponents. But in order to do so, you need to communicate information with a single word. Codenames will put your word association skills to work as you try to find secret agents disguised with code words, while avoiding innocent citizens and dangerous assassins along the way! ($11.49)

[Read our full review of Codenames here!]

Lightbox (Eric Clough, brain teaser)

A puzzle box unlike anything you’ve ever seen, Lightbox creates different patterns of shadow and light as you shift and arrange the various plastic plates that make up the box. As you twist and reset them, different electrical connections are made, and different plates light up. As gorgeous as it is challenging, Lightbox is a very eye-catching puzzle that always wows new solvers. ($85)

[Check out our full review of Lightbox by clicking here!]

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Geode Puzzle (Uncommon Goods, jigsaw puzzle)

Forget looking for the edge pieces, because these nature-based puzzles take jigsaws beyond the usual patterning. Geode Puzzle‘s flowing, unusual shapes and vibrant colors create a unique solving experience. ($68)

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Bunny Kingdom (IELLO, board game)

There are plenty of board games where you control resources, build cities, and achieve glory. But how many of them let you do that while being BUNNIES? In Bunny Kingdom, a game combining drafting and area control mechanics, each player builds a fiefdom and tries to outmaneuver their fellow players in managing territory, materials, and trade. The most cunning bunny wins with the most points wins and captures the title “Big Ears!” ($48.92)

The Abandons (Puzzling Pixel Games, board game)

Can you escape a dangerous labyrinth that changes every time you explore it? The Abandons pits the solver against a random deck, where luck, quick decision making, and puzzly skill all must be on your side if you ever want to see daylight again.  ($15)

[Check out our full review by clicking here!]

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Wooden Fractal Tray Puzzles (Martin Raynsford, jigsaw puzzle)

Laser-cut precision and patterns built on fractal designs make these wooden tray puzzles as maddening as they are beautiful. The pieces fall so seamlessly into place that they practically vanish… that is, if you can puzzle out how to place them all into the tray. ($35.99)


For Ages 16 and Up

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Alice is Missing (Hunters Entertainment, solve the mystery game)

Can you and your fellow players solve a mystery without ever saying a word? That’s the challenge offered by the uniquely atmospheric and haunting RPG mystery game Alice Is Missing.

A game played entirely through text messaging, each player takes on the role of a character in the town of Silent Falls, trying to find out what happened to Alice Briarwood. We promise, you’ve never played anything like it. ($21.99)


For Ages 18 and Up

Most puzzle books would probably fall in the Age 9-10 and Up range, but oftentimes, the cluing is geared toward an older audience, so to avoid confusion, I’ve bundled the majority of the puzzle books here.

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Our friends at Penny Dell Puzzles have put together some outstanding holiday collections with puzzles galore to be solved!

Maybe you’re looking for one kind of puzzle, like their Logic Problems Spectacular 5-Pack ($16.95), the Crossword Extravaganza collection ($7.99), or a value pack of Jumble puzzles ($13.95)! Maybe you’d like the ease of printing puzzles at home with Print N’ Solve Seasonal Crosswords ($2.99). Either way, the folks at Penny Dell Puzzles have got you covered.

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They have some new offers just in time for the holidays, like their upcoming Winter Fun Pack. Plus their Peanuts line of Word Seek puzzles is available in both Subscription ($25.97 for 1 year) and Print ‘n Solve versions ($4.25 per issue)!

And be sure to check out their deals on Facebook and Twitter throughout the holiday season. They’ve got bundles and discounts for days!

And while we’re on the topic of puzzle books, some of the best constructors working today have released their own books for your perusal! And with New York Times, Los Angeles Times, and USA Today crosswords to their credit, you’re sure to find some quality puzzlers within these pages!

–Doug Peterson and Jeff Chen’s It’s So Easy Crosswords ($9.95)

–Eric Berlin’s Puzzlesnacks: More Than 100 Bite-Size Puzzles for Every Solver ($8.49)

–David Steinberg’s Juicy Crosswords from the Orange County Register ($11.33)

–Brendan Emmett Quigley’s Octopus Crosswords ($6.95)

–Matt Gaffney’s Fast & Fun Mini Crosswords ($7.95)

–Andrew Ries’s Maverick Crosswords ($5.97)

–Todd McClary’s Fresh Freestyle Crosswords ($7.74)

–Erik Agard’s Food for Thought Crosswords ($9.95)

USA Today’s Crossword Super Challenge 3 ($9.99)

–Frasier Simpson’s Cryptic Crosswords Volume 1, Volume 2, and Volume 3 ($10.95 each)

–Cynthia Morris’s CynAcrostics Volume 6: Imagine That! (Volume 7 coming soon!) and American Acrostics Volume 9: Amazing American Women ($9.95 each)

–Andrews McMeel Publishing’s Pocket Posh Sixy Sudoku Easy to Medium and Pocket Posh Sixy Sudoku Hard ($8.99 each)

USA Today’s Sudoku Super Challenge 3 and Sudoku and Variants Super Challenge ($9.99 each)

–Andy Kravis’s Challenge Accepted!: 100 Word Searches ($7.76)

–Shawn Marie Simmons’s 25 Word Search Puzzles for Classic Comics Lovers and 25 Word Search Puzzles for Classic Literature Lovers ($8 each)

USA Today’s Word Fill-In Puzzles Super Challenge ($9.99)

–Andrews McMeel Publishing’s Posh Take Care: Creative Challenge ($12.99)

–Oliver Roeder’s The Riddler: Fantastic Puzzles from FiveThirtyEight ($14.77)

–Andrews McMeel Publishing’s Take Care by Posh: Inspired Activities for PeaceTake Care by Posh: Inspired Activities for ClarityTake Care by Posh: Inspired Activities for Tranquility, and Take Care by Posh: Inspired Activities for Balance [featuring crosswords and other puzzles] ($8.99 each)

And that doesn’t even cover the many great email and downloadable puzzle books and sets available this holiday season!

Many top constructors and organizations market their puzzles directly to solvers, so between email subscriptions and downloadable puzzle bundles, you’ve got plenty of quality choices!

The Crosswords Club Digital (six crossword puzzles per month, $42.95 per year) [also available in print, details below]

The American Values Crossword (subscription and daily puzzles, $22 for 1 year)

The Inkubator, edited by Laura Braunstein and Tracy Bennett (crossword puzzles constructed exclusively by women, three puzzles a month, $30 for 1 year)

–Matt Gaffney’s Weekly Crossword Contest (starts at $3 per month on Patreon)

–Peter Gordon’s Fireball Crosswords ($32 for 1 year)

Crucinova crossword puzzles (weekly puzzles, $4.99 per month, $29.99 per year)

–Andrew Ries’ Aries Freestyle themeless crosswords ($15 per year), and Aries Rows Garden ($30 per year) [available as a bundle together for $40]

–Joon Pahk’s Rows Garden puzzles ($20 for 1 year) and Variety puzzles ($15 for 1 year) OR get both for $30!

–Paolo Pasco’s Expansion Pack crossword suite (pay what you want for the base set, $10 for the XL version)

–Eric Berlin’s Puzzlesnacks puzzles ($3 per month) and Puzzlesnacks Plus bundle ($7.99)

–Bryant Park 2018 tournament puzzle pack ($5) and 2016/2017 bundle ($10) [$12 for both!]

Boswords 2020 Fall Puzzle Packet ($10) and previous puzzle packets ($5-10 each)

Topple puzzle magazine ($1 per issue)

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Also, there are some wonderful puzzle bundles available in exchange for donations to worthy causes!

Grids for Good, a 42-puzzle bundle supporting coronavirus relief and groups fighting systemic racism

Queer Qrosswords 2, a 32-crossword bundle supporting LGBTQ+ charities and organizations

Women of Letters, an 18-crossword bundle by female constructors in support of women’s rights causes

–Enrique Henestroza Anguiano’s Mexican Midis, a 5-puzzle bundle supporting COVID relief

And for any puzzle fans that love receiving surprises in the mail, we’ve got you covered there as well!

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The Crosswords Club

A monthly publication with six Sunday-sized crosswords, The Crosswords Club utilizes some of the sharpest crossword constructors in the business today, and the puzzles are all edited by top constructor Patti Varol. Each bundle is as fun as it is challenging, plus each monthly bundle has an extra word game printed right on the envelope! ($42.95 for 12 issues) [also available digitally]

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Wish You Were Here (The Enigma Emporium)

Imagine an entire mystery hidden across a handful of postcards. That’s the multilayered puzzle experience offered by Wish You Were Here, where a series of coded messages awaits you. Unravel all the secrets and discover an exciting tale of danger and spycraft along the way! ($15)

[And if you enjoy Wish You Were Here, there are all sorts of additional puzzle bundles to try out!]

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Cryptogram Puzzle Post (Jack Fallows)

A combination of different puzzles and encrypted messages interwoven together with bits of narrative, each edition of the Cryptogram Puzzle Post is a standalone story steeped in mystery and supernatural elements. But solve them all together, and a grand universe of storytelling unfolds. Sold in seasonal bundles and annual subscriptions, this episodic puzzly adventure is quite unique. (£7.50 for single issues, £20 and up for seasonal bundles and collections)

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Curious Correspondence Club

An ongoing episode puzzle adventure, the Curious Correspondence Club helps you assemble and solve an ever-evolving mystery surrounding the Guardians and their hunt for the twelve artifacts. What does it all mean? Check your mail every month for new puzzles, hints, and additions to the story. ($21.95 for single chapters, $60 for 3-chapter collections)

Do you need some miscellaneous puzzle swag to complete a bundle of holiday goodness for the puzzlers in your life?

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Flying Colors coloring book (Penny Press)

Our puzzly pals at Penny Press know that sometimes, you need a break from puzzles, so why not unwind with their Flying Colors coloring book ($6.99).

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I’d Rather Be Puzzling travel mug and Word Nerd mug (Penny Press)

After a long day of puzzling, or while pondering a devious clue, sip some coffee from a snazzy I’d Rather Be Puzzling Travel Mug ($7.95) or this sturdy and bright Word Nerd Mug ($19).


Thank you to all of the constructors, designers, and companies taking part in this year’s holiday puzzly gift guide!

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Treat yourself to some delightful deals on puzzles. You can find them on the Home Screen for Daily POP Crosswords and Daily POP Word Search! Check them out!

Thanks for visiting PuzzleNation Blog today! Be sure to sign up for our newsletter to stay up-to-date on everything PuzzleNation!

PuzzleNation 2021 Holiday Puzzly Gift Guide: By Price

Welcome to the PuzzleNation Blog 2021 Holiday Puzzly Gift Guide!

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We’re so excited to be bringing you our biggest ever gift guide! There are so many tremendously fun and puzzly products to share with you this year. We just might be your one-stop shop for all things puzzly!

In this edition of the Holiday Puzzly Gift Guide, we have endeavored to strike a balance between the most affordable price we could find for each product and the most reliable outlet to get your gifts to you in time for the holidays!

Please enjoy this assortment of dice games, puzzle games, brain teasers, card games, puzzle books, group & party games, murder mysteries, escape room games, puzzles by mail, and board games, all organized in price from lowest to highest. We’re sure you’ll find the right gift for any puzzler on your list!

Any amounts in Pounds have been placed where they’d land roughly when converted to dollars. And please note that shipping is not factored into any of these prices.

Happy puzzling!


This year’s Holiday Puzzly Gift Guide is sponsored by Daily POP Crosswords!

Daily POP Crosswords offers a different themed puzzle every single day, spanning everything from TV and film to sports and music!

Available for both Android and iOS users, you get terrific content from some of the world’s top constructors! And the download is free!



Puzzle Books, Magazines, and Puzzle bundles

Since most of the puzzle books, magazines, and puzzle bundles in this year’s gift guide are between $5 and $15, and most subscription services are between $15 and $30 per year, we figured we’d bundle them all up front before we get into all of the games, puzzles, and other terrific holiday treats!

Pencil-and-paper puzzles are alive and well, and we’re happy to share some of our favorites with you.

new ppd banner

Our friends at Penny Dell Puzzles have put together some outstanding holiday collections with puzzles galore to be solved!

Maybe you’re looking for one kind of puzzle, like their Logic Problems Spectacular 5-Pack ($16.95), the Crossword Extravaganza collection ($7.99), or a value pack of Jumble puzzles ($13.95)! Maybe you’d like the ease of printing puzzles at home with Print N’ Solve Seasonal Crosswords ($2.99). Either way, the folks at Penny Dell Puzzles have got you covered.

peanuts

They have some new offers just in time for the holidays, like their upcoming Winter Fun Pack. Plus their Peanuts line of Word Seek puzzles is available in both Subscription ($25.97 for 1 year) and Print ‘n Solve versions ($4.25 per issue)!

And be sure to check out their deals on Facebook and Twitter throughout the holiday season. They’ve got bundles and discounts for days!

And while we’re on the topic of puzzle books, some of the best constructors working today have released their own books for your perusal! And with New York Times, Los Angeles Times, and USA Today crosswords to their credit, you’re sure to find some quality puzzlers within these pages!

–Doug Peterson and Jeff Chen’s It’s So Easy Crosswords ($9.95)

–Paolo Pasco’s Crossword Puzzles For Kids ($9.99)

–Eric Berlin’s Puzzlesnacks: More Than 100 Bite-Size Puzzles for Every Solver ($8.49)

–David Steinberg’s Juicy Crosswords from the Orange County Register ($11.33)

–Brendan Emmett Quigley’s Octopus Crosswords ($6.95)

–Matt Gaffney’s Fast & Fun Mini Crosswords ($7.95)

–Andrew Ries’s Maverick Crosswords ($5.97)

–Todd McClary’s Fresh Freestyle Crosswords ($7.74)

–Erik Agard’s Food for Thought Crosswords ($9.95)

USA Today’s Crossword Super Challenge 3 ($9.99)

–Frasier Simpson’s Cryptic Crosswords Volume 1, Volume 2, and Volume 3 ($10.95 each)

–Cynthia Morris’s CynAcrostics Volume 6: Imagine That! (Volume 7 coming soon!) and American Acrostics Volume 9: Amazing American Women ($9.95 each)

–Andrews McMeel Publishing’s Pocket Posh Sixy Sudoku Easy to Medium and Pocket Posh Sixy Sudoku Hard ($8.99 each)

USA Today’s Sudoku Super Challenge 3 and Sudoku and Variants Super Challenge ($9.99 each)

–Andy Kravis’s Challenge Accepted!: 100 Word Searches ($7.76)

–Shawn Marie Simmons’s 25 Word Search Puzzles for Classic Comics Lovers and 25 Word Search Puzzles for Classic Literature Lovers ($8 each)

USA Today’s Word Fill-In Puzzles Super Challenge ($9.99)

–Andrews McMeel Publishing’s Posh Take Care: Creative Challenge ($12.99)

–Oliver Roeder’s The Riddler: Fantastic Puzzles from FiveThirtyEight ($14.77)

–Andrews McMeel Publishing’s Take Care by Posh: Inspired Activities for PeaceTake Care by Posh: Inspired Activities for ClarityTake Care by Posh: Inspired Activities for Tranquility, and Take Care by Posh: Inspired Activities for Balance [featuring crosswords and other puzzles] ($8.99 each)

And that doesn’t even cover the many great email and downloadable puzzle books and sets available this holiday season!

Many top constructors and organizations market their puzzles directly to solvers, so between email subscriptions and downloadable puzzle bundles, you’ve got plenty of quality choices!

The Crosswords Club Digital (six crossword puzzles per month, $42.95 per year) [also available in print, details below]

The American Values Crossword (subscription and daily puzzles, $22 for 1 year)

The Inkubator, edited by Laura Braunstein and Tracy Bennett (crossword puzzles constructed exclusively by women, three puzzles a month, $30 for 1 year)

–Matt Gaffney’s Weekly Crossword Contest (starts at $3 per month on Patreon)

–Peter Gordon’s Fireball Crosswords ($32 for 1 year)

Crucinova crossword puzzles (weekly puzzles, $4.99 per month, $29.99 per year)

–Andrew Ries’ Aries Freestyle themeless crosswords ($15 per year), and Aries Rows Garden ($30 per year) [available as a bundle together for $40]

–Joon Pahk’s Rows Garden puzzles ($20 for 1 year) and Variety puzzles ($15 for 1 year) OR get both for $30!

–Paolo Pasco’s Expansion Pack crossword suite (pay what you want for the base set, $10 for the XL version)

–Eric Berlin’s Puzzlesnacks puzzles ($3 per month) and Puzzlesnacks Plus bundle ($7.99)

–Bryant Park 2018 tournament puzzle pack ($5) and 2016/2017 bundle ($10) [$12 for both!]

Boswords 2020 Fall Puzzle Packet ($10) and previous puzzle packets ($5-10 each)

Topple variety puzzle magazine ($1 per issue)

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Also, there are some wonderful puzzle bundles available in exchange for donations to worthy causes!

Grids for Good, a 42-puzzle bundle supporting coronavirus relief and groups fighting systemic racism

Queer Qrosswords 2, a 32-crossword bundle supporting LGBTQ+ charities and organizations

Women of Letters, an 18-crossword bundle by female constructors in support of women’s rights causes

–Enrique Henestroza Anguiano’s Mexican Midis, a 5-puzzle bundle supporting COVID relief


And now, without further ado, here is our price-sorted list of puzzly delights for you and yours!

$10 and Under

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Star Trek Fluxx: The Archer Expansion and The Porthos Expansion (Looney Labs, card game)

Star Trek is an ever-expanding universe of stories, heroes, adventures, and questions to explore, so it’s only fitting that the ever-changing card game Fluxx has a host of Star Trek-themed card decks for you to try out. Whether you’re a fan of The Original Series, The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, or Voyager, there’s a Fluxx deck stacked with your favorite characters, villains, and pivotal moments from each show. ($20 each)

And now you can combine and cross over those decks and play Fluxx like never before with The Archer Expansion and The Porthos Expansion. These small additional decks not only introduce characters from the show Enterprise to the mix, but they allow new rules for mixing up decks and new paths to victory. Plus they add the beloved pets Porthos and Spot to the game! ($5.00 each)

And if Star Trek isn’t your style, maybe you’d enjoy Fantasy Fluxx, Wonderland Fluxx, Astronomy Fluxx, or any of the other marvelous variations on this classic quick-changing card game! ($16 each)

[Our review for the Porthos and Archer Expansions can be found here!]

Zendo Expansion Packs 1 and 2 (Looney Labs, puzzle game)

Zendo challenges you to arrange Looney pyramids and other shapes into various designs, and then see if those designs conform to a mysterious rule. Essentially, you’re trying to deduce what the secret rule is by building different designs.

And if you need additional rules to spice up your Zendo game, these two expansion packs offer new twists for all difficulty ranks, adding new wrinkles to an already devious game! ($5 each)

[Check out our full review for Zendo here and our review of Expansion Pack #2 here!]

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Block Chain (ThinkFun, brain teaser)

These linked four-sided blocks can be rotated, spun, tilted, and overlapped. But can you twist and arrange them into a single cube where every face fits a pattern or a path? That’s the challenge of Block Chain, ThinkFun’s delightful twisty puzzle that lets you tinker, twist, and swing each of the three linked blocks into various positions! ($5.99)

[Check out our review here!]

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Flying Colors coloring book (Penny Press, miscellaneous puzzle swag)

Our puzzly pals at Penny Press know that sometimes, you need a break from puzzles, so why not unwind with their Flying Colors coloring book ($6.99).

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Pocket Brainteasers (ThinkFun, brain teaser)

How good is your spatial awareness? You’re about to find out with this quartet of puzzlers, each its own obstacle for you to overcome. Can you reposition the four pieces into a smaller space in 4-T Puzzle or the wi-fi bars of Rec-Tangle into a new arrangement? Can you separate the 4-Piece Jigsaw, or combine the four chairs into The Fifth Chair? These bite-sized brain teasers will certainly keep you guessing. ($6.99 each)

[Click here to check out our review of all four Pocket Brainteasers!]

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I’d Rather Be Puzzling travel mug (Penny Press, miscellaneous puzzle swag)

After a long day of puzzling, or while pondering a devious clue, sip some coffee from a snazzy I’d Rather Be Puzzling Travel Mug ($7.95).

Coaster Games (The Dark Imp, party/group game)

Coaster Games is a six-pack of games encompassing all sorts of gameplay styles. Counting, word building, deduction, strategy, resource management, and more, and they all fit in your pocket. Perfect for parties or quickplay fun between longer game sessions, you’re guaranteed to find something to enjoy here! (£6.99)

[Find our review of Coaster Games here!]

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Countaloupe (Bananagrams, dice game)

A card game and a dice game in one, test your luck and your math skills with Countaloupe! Two to four players each have a deck of slice cards, numbered from one to sixteen. Your goal is to roll the dice and discard slice cards from your deck faster than your opponents. Will you savor the fruits of your mathematical labors, or will others enjoy the sweet taste of victory? ($9.99)

[Our review of Countaloupe can be found here!]

Scrimish (Nexci, card game)

Combine the card game War with elements of Chess and Memory, and you’ve got something approximating Scrimish, a card game that’s effortless to learn, but offers endless possibilities. Can you protect your crown card while hunting down your opponent’s? With cards for both defense and offense, there’s a lot packed into just 25 cards apiece! ($9.99)

[Check out our full product review of Scrimish by clicking here!]

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Timeline (Zygomatic Games, card game)

Timeline pits your knowledge of history against a growing timeline of important events, inventions, and historical moments. You don’t have to know exact dates; you just need to know if something happened before or after something else. Was the toothbrush invented before or after the syringe? Which came first, language or agriculture? Timeline is a fast, fun way of learning (or relearning) history! ($9.99)


$20 and Under

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Cryptogram Puzzle Post (Jack Fallows, puzzle by mail)

A combination of different puzzles and encrypted messages interwoven together with bits of narrative, each edition of the Cryptogram Puzzle Post is a standalone story steeped in mystery and supernatural elements. But solve them all together, and a grand universe of storytelling unfolds. Sold in seasonal bundles and annual subscriptions, this episodic puzzly adventure is quite unique. (£7.50 for single issues, £20 and up for seasonal bundles and collections)

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Exit: The Game: Dead Man on the Orient Express (Kosmos, escape room/solve the mystery game)

Exit: The Game products create an escape room experience by combining a deck of cards, a guidebook, a sliding decoder ring, an interactive phone app, and miscellaneous items to be used throughout the game. What sets Dead Man on the Orient Express above and beyond is that there’s a mystery to solve in the background, even as you tackle all the delightful escape room-style puzzles! ($10.59)

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Codenames (Czech Games, card game)

It’s a race against time to locate all of your spies before your opponents. But in order to do so, you need to communicate information with a single word. Codenames will put your word association skills to work as you try to find secret agents disguised with code words, while avoiding innocent citizens and dangerous assassins along the way! ($11.49)

[Read our full review of Codenames here!]

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Lexicon-GO! (Winning Moves UK, puzzle game)

Are you a word-forming pro? Take your speed-solving skills and try them out with Lexicon-GO!, a Scrabble-style tile game suitable for solvers of all ages. And those very distinctive letter tiles are available in more ways than ever! You can enjoy Lexicon-GO! in its classic form, in Harry Potter style, or in famous Jumble style! ($11.89 in classic form)

[Click here for our full review of Lexicon-GO!]

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Unlock!: Squeek and Sausage (Asmodee, escape room/solve the mystery game)

Unlock! games consist of entirely of a deck of cards and your app. The cards provide locations, challenges, helpful items, solutions, and warnings, all identified with numbered or lettered cards in the deck. And while there are numerous Unlock! escape games to try — covering everything from haunted houses to desert islands — we recommend the mad scientist-fueled Squeek and Sausage, which is enjoyably silly and still a satisfying challenge! ($11.99)

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The Oregon Trail (Pressman Toys, card game)

The classic computer game comes to life as you and your fellow players team up to survive the perilous journey along The Oregon Trail. With art evoking old-school computer games, rampant threats and calamities to endure, and a long and challenging road to travel, will any of you will make it to Oregon? ($12.79)

[Check out our full product review of The Oregon Trail by clicking here!]

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Pass the Pugs (Winning Moves UK, dice game)

A classic tumbling game gets a delightfully charming new update in Pass the Pugs! Collect points based on how the pugs land and race your opponents to 100 points. Will you push your luck and risk your points on additional rolls, or will you “paws” and keep the points you have? (£9.99)

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Friends Top Trumps and James Bond Top Trumps: Gadgets & Vehicles (Winning Moves UK, card game)

Do you enjoy the sitcom Friends? Or the world of James Bond? No matter what your favorite subject or pop culture franchise, Top Trumps is ready and waiting with a sharply packaged game full of question-fueled competition. Each team opens their drawer on the carrying case and removes five cards, all with the potential to stump their opponents. Will your team triumph or will the other team’s trivia smarts win the day? (£10.00 each)

Tenzi (dice game)

All of us have rolled dice in games before, but can you roll what you need as fast as possible? That’s the challenge of Tenzi, a game that pits up to four players against each other in tests of speed and dexterity. Can you roll ten 6’s before everyone else? ($14.95)

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Cold Case: A Story to Die For and Cold Case: A Pinch of Murder (ThinkFun, escape room / solve the mystery game)

In these mystery puzzle games, you pick up a cold case where the investigation left off, rifling through police interview transcripts, evidence, photographs, and more! Can you solve the murder of a dead journalist or find out what happened to a woman missing from a church bake sale? With an interactive online submission form to test your solution, these ThinkFun murder mysteries are a fascinating bit of hands-on puzzling and crime solving! ($14.99 each)

[Check out our spoiler-free reviews of A Story to Die For and A Pinch of Murder!]

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Smart10 (Bananagrams, party/group game)

Can you pick one correct answer from a field of possibilities? Smart10 challenges you and a group of friends to do just that by selecting correct answers from a list of possible responses. It’s tougher than it sounds, and it’ll test your trivia skills and your ability to think under pressure. ($14.99)

[Check out our full review here!]

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Wish You Were Here (The Enigma Emporium, puzzle by mail)

Imagine an entire mystery hidden across a handful of postcards. That’s the multilayered puzzle experience offered by Wish You Were Here, where a series of coded messages awaits you. Unravel all the secrets and discover an exciting tale of danger and spycraft along the way! ($15)

[And if you enjoy Wish You Were Here, there are all sorts of additional puzzle bundles to try out!]

The Abandons (Puzzling Pixel Games, board game)

Can you escape a dangerous labyrinth that changes every time you explore it? The Abandons pits the solver against a random deck, where luck, quick decision making, and puzzly skill all must be on your side if you ever want to see daylight again. ($15)

[Check out our full review by clicking here!]

Deluxe Pairs (Hip Pocket Games/Greater Than Games, card game)

Building on the legacy already established by the bar-friendly series of Pairs decks available, Deluxe Pairs offers a new artistic spin on the classic Pairs “Fruit Deck,” as well as a companion booklet with rules for numerous Pairs variants you can play with the deck! This isn’t just one card game, it’s dozens! ($17)

[Click here for our full review of Deluxe Pairs!]

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Enigmas Puzzle Hunt Playing Cards (David Kwong/Dave Shukan, escape room / solve the mystery game)

A puzzle hunt lurking within a normal deck of cards? It sounds impossible, but when you’re dealing with puzzler and magician David Kwong, anything can happen with Enigmas! Can you unravel the mystery hiding amongst these playing cards? ($18)

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Word Nerd mug (Penny Press, miscellaneous puzzle swag)

Get ready for a cozy day of puzzling with this sturdy and bright Word Nerd Mug ($19).

Slapzi (Tenzi, party/group game)

Slapzi will keep you on your toes. In this quick-reaction game, you’ve got to match your picture cards to the clue cards before your opponents. But with clues like “Not sold in a hardware store” or “Two of the same letter together,” this isn’t as easy as it appears! ($19.95)

[Click here to check out our full review of Slapzi!]

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Caesar’s Codex (Project Genius, brain teaser)

Just slide the four coded levers into place and open the box. Sounds simple, right? When you’re talking about Caesar’s Codex, one of the brain teasers from the True Genius collection, what appears simple quickly becomes a proper puzzly challenge. There are over 4,000 possible combinations! Can you discover the correct one? ($19.99)

[Check out our review of Caesar’s Codex here!]

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12 Days (Calliope Games, card game)

A proper holiday-themed game for the holidays? You betcha. This wagering game, based on the 12 Days of Christmas, has some of the most beautiful art in the entire card game genre. Plus the two ways to earn points — winning each day of Christmas with the lowest card in the pot vs. keeping as many of a certain value card as possible for the end of the game — offer tons of strategic opportunities in a simple card game. What a treat! ($20)

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Star Trek Fluxx (Looney Labs, card game)

Star Trek is an ever-expanding universe of stories, heroes, adventures, and questions to explore, so it’s only fitting that the ever-changing card game Fluxx has a host of Star Trek-themed card decks for you to try out. Whether you’re a fan of The Original Series, The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, or Voyager, there’s a Fluxx deck stacked with your favorite characters, villains, and pivotal moments from each show. ($20 each)

Also be sure to check out The Archer Expansion and The Porthos Expansion packs to combine different Star Trek Fluxx decks for a whole new game experience! ($5.00 each)

And if Star Trek isn’t your style, maybe you’d enjoy Fantasy Fluxx, Wonderland Fluxx, Astronomy Fluxx, or any of the other marvelous variations on this classic quick-changing card game! ($16 each)

[Check out our full reviews of Star Trek Fluxx, Star Trek TNG Fluxx, and Star Trek Voyager Fluxx here!]


$30 and Under

Decrypto (IELLO, party/group game)

Can you covertly communicate with your teammates without revealing your secret code to the opponent team? That’s the name of the game in Decrypto, a party game all about word association and deduction. The first team to crack the opposing team’s codes twice wins! ($20.32)

A-Puzzle-A-Day puzzle calendar (Insync Games, miscellaneous puzzle swag)

Eight puzzle pieces, 365 different puzzles. Now that’s value for your money. Can you place these Tetris-like pieces to tell today’s date, or a favorite date, or any date you choose? (£15.99)

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Curious Correspondence Club (puzzle by mail)

An ongoing episode puzzle adventure, the Curious Correspondence Club helps you assemble and solve an ever-evolving mystery surrounding the Guardians and their hunt for the twelve artifacts. What does it all mean? Check your mail every month for new puzzles, hints, and additions to the story. ($21.95 for single chapters, $60 for 3-chapter collections)

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Alice is Missing (Hunters Entertainment, escape room / solve the mystery game)

Can you and your fellow players solve a mystery without ever saying a word? That’s the challenge offered by the uniquely atmospheric and haunting RPG mystery game Alice Is Missing.

A game played entirely through text messaging, each player takes on the role of a character in the town of Silent Falls, trying to find out what happened to Alice Briarwood. We promise, you’ve never played anything like it. ($21.99)

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Puzzometry (jigsaw puzzle)

For a next-level jigsaw challenge, Puzzometry is tough to top. These beautiful pieces can be combined in seemingly endless combinations, and yet, there’s only one solution. Available in seven different styles — Puzzometry ($23.50), Puzzometry Jr. ($18.50), Puzzometry Squares ($23.50), Puzzometry Hex ($23.50), Puzzometry Steps ($23.50), Puzzometry Six ($23.50), and Puzzometry Jr. 2 ($18.50) — you’ve got distinct challenges appropriate for all different ages!

[Check out the full review of the original Puzzometry by clicking here!]

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Minotaur’s Labyrinth (Project Genius, brain teaser)

Can you crack this wooden brain teaser? That’s the question posed by Minotaur’s Labyrinth, a mechanical brain teaser where you must maneuver the Minotaur out of the Labyrinth, then flip over the token, and return to the center of the maze! Ready your puzzle skills and your patience, or you’ll be trapped in the Labyrinth forever! ($24.95)

[Check out our review of Minotaur’s Labyrinth here!]

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Qwirkle (MindWare, board game)

A wonderful mix of Uno and Mexican Train DominoesQwirkle is a tile-placing game where you try to maximize your points while minimizing the help you give to your opponents. With six bright colors and six different shapes to match up, Qwirkle is endless fun that’s so easy to jump into! ($24.99)

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Cracker Games: The Imp Box (The Dark Imp, party/group game)

Six unique family games in a reusable box that looks like a Christmas cracker? What an idea! Voting, collecting, observation, and trading are among the gameplay styles you’ll find in The Imp Box, and this neat little package packs a lot of variety into a small space! (£19.99)

Escape Room Advent Calendar (Insync Games, miscellaneous puzzle swag)

This advent calendar has no numbers on the doors, and solving a daily puzzle is the only way to figure out which door to open! This clever, festive, chocolate-filled treat is a puzzly twist on a holiday classic! (£19.99)

 

Tavern Puzzles / Tucker-Jones House Inc. (brain teaser)

These hand-forged beauties are ready to challenge your dexterity and cleverness, as you accept the Tavern Puzzles challenge. Whether you’re trying to remove twice as many pieces in a Collaborative Effort or free the triangle from Tridiculous, you’re sure to put your skills to the test. ($27.50 each)

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Gloom (Atlas Games, card game)

Do you enjoy The Addams Family or the art of Edward Gorey? Then Gloom might be a strategy game worth checking out. In this tactical game with a sinister twist, you’re trying to make your Victorian family miserable for points and the lives of your opponents’ families better! Yup, misfortune equals good fortune for you! With gorgeous transparent cards you can lay over each other to track your scores, there’s no storytelling game out there quite like it.

With loads of expansions to add to the creepy world of Gloom — and preorders open for the new Gloomier spinoff game — this is hilariously macabre fun! ($27.95)

Spaceteam (Timber and Bolt, card game)

Can you repair your ship and get the engines up and running before a black hole ends your space adventure forever? That’s the name of the game in Spaceteam, a cooperative, communication-based game where you have to accomplish various tasks with your fellow players while sharing tools. It’s delightful chaos, heightened by the five-minute hourglass timer counting down your dwindling seconds before disaster strikes! A definite favorite around here. ($27.95)


$40 and Under

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Castellan (Steve Jackson Games, board game)

Build a castle and then occupy it in Castellan, a game of strategy and opportunity. With great modeled pieces that really add to the aesthetic, Castellan has style and substance. ($34.95)

[Check out our full product review here!]

Knot Dice and Knot Dice Squared (Black Oak Games, dice game)

Can you twist, turn, and spin these dice to complete beautiful, elaborate patterns inspired by Celtic knots? That’s the name of the game with Knot Dice, a dice game as challenging as it is gorgeous. With single-player and multi-player puzzles included, you’ll be tying yourself in knots for days! ($35, available in green or blue)

And you can add new wrinkles and patterns to your solving with Knot Dice Squared, an expansion set with 26 additional dice, new rules, and more! ($45)

[Click here to check out our full review of both games!]

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Godzilla: Tokyo Clash (Funko Games, board game)

Choose one of these four iconic monsters and let loose your fury all over Tokyo in Godzilla: Tokyo Clash. This tactical monster-vs.-monster game allows you to smash buildings, vehicles, and your fellow monsters on a game board that’s different every time you play! Will you be King of the Monsters by the time Tokyo is in ruins? ($35)

[Check out our full review of Godzilla: Tokyo Clash here!]

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Wooden Fractal Tray Puzzles (Martin Raynsford, jigsaw puzzle)

Laser-cut precision and patterns built on fractal designs make these wooden tray puzzles as maddening as they are beautiful. The pieces fall so seamlessly into place that they practically vanish… that is, if you can puzzle out how to place them all into the tray. ($35.99)

Tile Securing Travel Scrabble (Hammacher Schlemmer, board game)

Hammacher Schlemmer has always been home to some intriguing Scrabble variants available — who could forget their World’s Largest Scrabble Game? — but when it comes to travel-friendly puzzle game fun, they’ve got just the thing. Tile Securing Travel Scrabble is perfect for those who want to solve on the go! Take your game anywhere and rest assured not a single tile will have moved! ($39.95)

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Cluebox Escape Rooms in a Box: Schrodinger’s Cat (iDventure, brain teaser)

This multi-stage puzzle box (pictured on the right) is completely self-contained. You need to explore every inch of its surface to find clues and tools to unlock each stage of the puzzle box and reveal further challenges. Try to unravel the mystery of Schrodinger’s Cat and test your puzzly mettle! ($39.99)

Tak: A Beautiful Game (Cheapass Games/Greater Than Games, board game)

Many new games build off of classic mechanics, but very few new games truly feel like they could have been played centuries ago. Tak definitely fits that mold, using simple wooden pieces to create a game that feels both fresh and ancient all at once. Inspired by the eponymous game in Patrick Rothfuss’s KingKiller Chronicles series, Tak is a wonderful two-player game that quickly grows addictive. ($40 for University Edition, $59.95 for Classic Edition)

[Click here for our full review of Tak!]

Zendo (Looney Labs, puzzle game)

Puzzle games are all about the rules, but what if you don’t know the rules? That’s where Zendo comes in. In this puzzle game, you arrange Looney pyramids and other shapes into various designs, and then see if those designs conform to a mysterious rule. A game of deduction and trial-and-error, Zendo is a very different solving experience. ($40)

Plus there are two expansion packs available for Zendoeach offering additional rules and varying in difficulty! ($5 each)

[Check out our full review for Zendo here and our review of Expansion Pack #2 here!]

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Tsuro: The Game of the Path (Calliope Games, board game)

A path-laying game with tons of style and historical spirit, Tsuro casts up to eight players as flying dragons, and tasks you with laying out your path with special tiles. Try not to meet any other dragons or fly off the board! It’s a simple mechanic with plenty of replay value, and perfect for quick games with large groups. ($40)

Sagrada (Floodgate Games, dice game)

One of the most beautiful strategy games on the market today, Sagrada is a singularly peaceful gaming experience. Compete with other players to build the most beautiful stained glass window, but with dice instead of glass! Unique and challenging, Sagrada is something else. ($40)

The Island of Doctor Lucky (Cheapass Games/Greater Than Games, board game)

People have been trying to kill Doctor Lucky for over twenty years, and this time around, you’re visiting his exotic island estate to try your murderous luck against the titular Doctor! The Island of Doctor Lucky offers a new gameboard to explore, new movement mechanics, and a very distracting cat. This is the best addition to the series yet! ($40)

And if you’re looking for something closer to the classic game, there’s always the Deluxe 24 3/4ths Anniversary edition of Kill Doctor Lucky. ($39.95)

[Check out our full review of The Island of Doctor Lucky by clicking here!]


$50 and Under

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Gearjits Roller Coaster (Gearjits, jigsaw puzzle)

Bring your puzzle skills to life as you assemble a working roller coaster from these wooden pieces. Assembling handcranks and gears to operate the machine along with the structure of the roller coaster itself makes this 3-D puzzle more exciting and satisfying than the average 3-D puzzle. ($40.95)

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The Crosswords Club (puzzle by mail / email subscription)

A monthly publication with six Sunday-sized crosswords, The Crosswords Club utilizes some of the sharpest crossword constructors in the business today, and the puzzles are all edited by top constructor Patti Varol. Each bundle is as fun as it is challenging, plus each monthly bundle has an extra word game printed right on the envelope! ($42.95 for 12 issues) [Also available in digital format]

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Escape the Room: The Cursed Dollhouse (ThinkFun, escape room / solve the mystery game)

Can you construct and then escape one of the most fully realized home escape room games on the market today? The Cursed Dollhouse is a diabolical and immersive puzzly experience, encompassing five rooms and a host of different puzzles to unravel in the hopes of escaping a horrible fate! ($42.99)

[Check out our spoiler-free review here!]

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Bunny Kingdom (IELLO, board game)

There are plenty of board games where you control resources, build cities, and achieve glory. But how many of them let you do that while being BUNNIES? In Bunny Kingdom, a game combining drafting and area control mechanics, each player builds a fiefdom and tries to outmaneuver their fellow players in managing territory, materials, and trade. The most cunning bunny wins with the most points wins and captures the title “Big Ears!” ($48.92)

Pinbox 3000 (Cardboard Teck Instantute, puzzle game)

How about the chance to build your own game? Is that puzzle enough for you? Pinbox 3000 provides all the pieces you’ll need, plus valuable advice for brainstorming and creating your very own pinball game. It’s endlessly customizable, so you can make your Pinbox pinball game as simple or as complex as you like! ($49.95, $54.95 for the Beta Booster Bundle)

Chessplus (board game)

The first thing you learn in chess is how the pieces move. But what if that could change? What if you could make new pieces that move in unexpected ways? How would that change the game? With Chessplus, you’ll find out, as you mix and match chess pieces in order to capture your opponent’s king. The possibilities really are endless! ($49.95)

[Click here for our full review of Chessplus!]

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Cluebox Escape Rooms in a Box: Davy Jones’ Locker (iDventure, brain teaser)

This multi-stage puzzle box (on the left) is completely self-contained. Explore every inch of its surface to unlock each stage of the puzzle box and reveal further puzzles. Delve into Davy Jones Locker and solve these nautically themed challenges! ($49.99)

The Great Dinosaur Rush (APE Games, board game)

Bring the insane real-life rivalry of paleontologists Cope and Marsh to life in The Great Dinosaur Rush! As you collect fossils and discover your own unique dinosaur, you must also steal bones, sabotage other scientists, and more! Show off your cunning and creativity in this game that proves historical truth is weirder than fiction! ($50)


$60 and Over

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Cheapass Games in Black and White (Cheapass Games/Greater Than Games, board game)

The library of Cheapass Games is expansive, but even diehard fans don’t have the majority of the company’s original game library. Unless, that is, they own Cheapass Games in Black and White, a hardcover compendium of every game from the black-and-white era. Featuring the rulebooks for famous titles like Button Men and Kill Doctor Lucky, alongside more obscure entries like Escape from Elba, this is a terrific resource for any game fan. ($60, but the digital download is FREE!)

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Geode Puzzle (Uncommon Goods, jigsaw puzzle)

Forget looking for the edge pieces, because these nature-based puzzles take jigsaws beyond the usual patterning. Geode Puzzle‘s flowing, unusual shapes and vibrant colors create a unique solving experience. ($68)

Lightbox (Eric Clough, brain teaser)

A puzzle box unlike anything you’ve ever seen, Lightbox creates different patterns of shadow and light as you shift and arrange the various plastic plates that make up the box. As you twist and reset them, different electrical connections are made, and different plates light up. As gorgeous as it is challenging, Lightbox is a very eye-catching puzzle that always wows new solvers. ($85)

[Check out our full review of Lightbox by clicking here!]

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GolfWords (David L. Hoyt, party/group game)

Combining the skill of golf with a love of wordplay, GolfWords takes puzzles off the page and into your home, testing you both mentally and physically! Complete with the letter mat, putters, golf balls, scoring pads, and other accessories, this unique combination of puzzle and sport can be played solo or by the whole family! ($299.99)


Thank you to all of the constructors, designers, and companies taking part in this year’s holiday puzzly gift guide!

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Treat yourself to some delightful deals on puzzles. You can find them on the Home Screen for Daily POP Crosswords and Daily POP Word Search! Check them out!

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PuzzleNation Product Review: Star Trek Voyager Fluxx

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[Note: I received a free copy of this game in exchange for a fair, unbiased review. Due diligence, full disclosure, and all that.]

The mission statement of Star Trek, through all its different iterations in film, television, novels, comic books, and other media, has been plain as day: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no one has gone before.

Cue the theme song.

So it’s only fitting that the designers at Looney Labs continue to do the same with their Fluxx library of games. They explore strange new words — from Adventure Time and Batman to anatomy and astronomy. They seek out ways to breathe new life to their now classic card game by tying in different entertainment universes. And they boldly take the game where it has never gone before.

Again, cue the theme song.

Now, they’re venturing into the Delta Quadrant with their latest Star Trek-inspired twist on Fluxx — Star Trek Voyager Fluxx — so let’s take a look, shall we?

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For the uninitiated, Fluxx is a straightforward card game. You collect keeper cards and put them into play. Different combinations of keeper cards complete different goals, and each player has the chance to put different keeper cards and goal cards into play in order to win. So you might find yourself working toward completing the goal at hand when suddenly somebody plays a new goal, and the object of the game changes.

Along the way, players affect how the game is played by utilizing action cards and new rule cards which alter what players can and can’t do. Suddenly, you’ll have to trade your hand with another player, or start drawing three cards each turn instead of one.

The game can turn against you or spin in your favor in an instant; that’s both the challenge and the fun of playing Fluxx.

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[In this sample game, we have both Keepers we need to fulfill the goal, but we’re prevented from winning because we possess the Creeper card as well.]

Star Trek Voyager Fluxx marries the chaotic gameplay of the card game with familiar characters and themes from the iconic science fiction franchise to create an enjoyable play experience that shifts at warp speed. Even long-time Fluxx players are kept on their toes by the constant tweaks and variations each new set introduces, this one included.

Like the other Star Trek Fluxx games, Voyager Fluxx has a unique font for the card titles — allowing you to complicate the game by mixing it with other versions, and still quickly locate the cards for each set when you’re done — as well as Goals, Keepers, Creepers, Actions, and Rule cards based on the TV show.

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[From top to bottom, you’ve got the unique fonts for Star Trek Fluxx,
Star Trek: TNG Fluxx, The Bridge Expansion, and Voyager Fluxx.
(Not pictured: Star Trek: DS9 Fluxx)]

Whereas the Holodeck often came into play in the TNG edition of the game, Voyager Fluxx features coffee (Captain Janeway’s favorite), as well as the different time-travel ships Voyager encountered. (This plays into not only Keepers and Goals, but Action cards as well that affect the rules going forward.)

Some of the Keeper cards also grant additional actions to the players who use them — like taking additional cards, resolving Creepers that would prevent you from winning the game, etc. — that make them more desirable and handy than Keepers in other editions of the game.

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Not only that, but the cards are loaded with inside jokes and references to events from the series. Classic lines are quoted, and the cards cover everything from various friendships and romances from the show’s history to some of its most controversial moments; I for one cannot believe they mentioned the episode where they broke the warp 10 barrier and turned into weird little lizards.

Heck, the Caretaker that kicked off the show’s seven-season storyline even appears, and can disrupt the game as powerfully as he disrupted Voyager’s first episode.

Fluxx has always been a game that invites opportunism, chaos, and flexibility, but even by Fluxx standards, Star Trek Voyager Fluxx might be the most malleable edition yet. The game shifts constantly, and long-time players will find themselves as uneasy and paranoid as newcomers to the game. (Given Voyager’s long trip through unfamiliar space, that seems like quite an appropriate mood to evoke. Well done on that one, Looney Labs.)

Every time I think like I’ve seen every trick Fluxx has to offer, they manage to surprise me. Although this isn’t the most complicated version of Fluxx I’ve ever seen — the absence of Ungoals is nice, though balanced by the Surprise cards that can be used at any time — it’s sufficiently fresh enough to keep players of all experience levels coming back for more.

[Star Trek Voyager Fluxx is available from Looney Labs and certain online retailers, and will be featured as part of this year’s Holiday Puzzly Gift Guide, launching next week, so keep your eyes open!]


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PuzzleNation Product Review: Star Trek Chrono-Trek

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[Image courtesy of Trekcore.]

[Note: I received a free copy of this game in exchange for a fair, unbiased review. Due diligence, full disclosure, and all that.]

Some of the most important moments in the Star Trek franchise center around altering the past through time travel. Choosing to save Edith Keeler in the original series, the Enterprise-C sacrificing itself to bring peace to the Klingons and the Federation in Star Trek: The Next Generation, or Sisko preventing a Tribble bomb from killing Kirk in Deep Space Nine… iconic scenes both humorous and galaxy-changing involved rending the fabric of time and space. (Heck, the new film franchise was based entirely on changing the timeline from what we knew previously!)

So when I heard that Looney Labs updated their time-jumping strategy card game Chrononauts to include elements from the Star Trek universe, it seemed like a perfect fit. How did they do? Find out today as we review the new Star Trek Chrono-Trek card game.

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[A sample of each of the 11 different types of cards in the game.]

Much like its inspiration Chrononauts, Chrono-Trek is all about the cards. You’ve got assignment cards, ID cards, timeline cards that make up the playing space, artifact cards, cards that change history (and others that change it back), as well as cards that can help or hinder your fellow time travelers.

At the beginning of the game, the timeline cards are laid out in a 4×9 grid that represents the historical timeline from the Star Trek shows and films. Each player then draws an ID card representing a Star Trek character. Each character has certain victory conditions — some combination of events that must be preserved or changed in the timeline and artifacts to be acquired during play — that must be met for you to win the game. The ID cards are ranked by difficulty, indicating how complex the victory conditions are.

As for the other cards available to the player, they allow you to manipulate time, find artifacts, or manipulate the cards in your opponents’ hands. (For Fluxx players, some of these Action cards will seem very similar, as will the artifact cards, which are played just like keepers in Fluxx.)

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[A small glimpse of the timeline.]

The history-changing aspect is the puzzliest part of the game, as you determine what moments to change (and which to protect from your opponents) in order for your timeline to come to pass. But you must be careful, because you also need to ensure that you don’t accidentally end the game by allowing the anomaly from the series finale of Star Trek: The Next Generation — the Anti-Time Devron Anomaly — from preventing life on Earth. (In nearly every scenario, that’s a game over for all players. Pretty daunting, to say the least!)

And although bending time to your will and winning is certainly fun, watching the effect ripple down through the cards after making a bold history-altering move is arguably the best part of the game.

It will take one or two playthroughs — with easier ID cards only — to get used to the game mechanics, but after that, it’s a quick and easy deep-dive into the more complex victory conditions and a much more immersive and challenging play experience. (The game can go a bit too rapidly if you’re only using two players, so I’d recommend playing with four or more players to get the most out of the game.)

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[A comparison of a one-pip (easy) ID card and a four-pip (complex) ID card. Kirk simply requires you to protect one moment, invert another, and collect an artifact. Meanwhile, Evil Spock requires you to find the Fracture card, manipulate two events just to place the Fracture, and still maintain another moment AND acquire an artifact. That’s a much taller order.]

The designers did an impressive job figuring out which moments from the 50 years of Star Trek history to include in the timeline, which characters to offer as ID cards, and so on. For a Star Trek enthusiast, there are great references and little callbacks galore to favorite moments from the series. Not only that, but the game ups the ante from the original Chrononauts formula, keeping all of the best aspects of that game while making this one feel unique.

I posed the question in the intro asking how Looney Labs did marrying Star Trek and Chrononauts. The answer? They boldly went where no Star Trek card game had gone before, and created one heck of a fun adventure.

[Star Trek Chrono-Trek is available from Looney Labs and other participating retailers.]


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A World of Puzzles and Games at Norwescon 42!

Your friendly neighborhood puzzle blogger took a trip across the country to attend Norwescon, the premiere fantasy and science fiction convention in the Pacific Northwest.

This was the 42nd edition of the convention, and if you know your sci-fi novels, then you’re not surprised that there were all sorts of references to The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. (The number 42 is a big part of the first novel.)

The convention’s subtitle was “Don’t Panic” (another HHGTTG reference), and lots of convention attendees were in their bathrobes or carrying towels, representing the two main characters of the series, the bathrobe-wearing Arthur Dent and the towel-toting alien tourist Ford Prefect.

As with any convention, the costuming was amazing. There were fairy godmothers, vikings, mermaids, Daleks, folks in Seahawks-colored finery (it was Seattle, after all), a Predator offering free hugs, an inflatable T-rex costume with those robotic grabber arms, and even photo ops with Krampus and Santa! (And Easter Krampus on Sunday.)

One of the oddest moments for me was seeing a group of people in uniforms I didn’t recognize, and realizing they weren’t con attendees, they were the flight crew for an international airline. (The hotel was across the street from the airport.)

Although many of the convention’s panels and events have a writerly focus, plenty of attention is also given to art, films, games, and pop culture, so there was loads for puzzle and game fans to enjoy at the event.

The dealers room — the main area to shop for costumes, books, fabric, t-shirts, memorabilia, collectibles, and more — had several game shops represented, toting loads of games at good prices. (Several of which we’ve reviewed on the Blog in the past, and some that will be reviewed in the future.)

[All hotel nooks and crannies were stuffed with thematic exhibits, including this delightful leave-a-book, take-a-book mini-library a la The Restaurant at the End of the Universe.]

Board game demos were available all day, complete with skillful players to introduce newbies to various games, as well as tabletop roleplaying adventures in all sorts of settings and systems, from Dungeons & Dragons and Vampire: The Masquerade to Pathfinder and more. In fact, one of the gaming spaces was right down the hall from my hotel room, and it was PACKED morning ’til night with enthusiastic roleplayers telling stories, rolling dice, and battling monsters.

There were open games as well as sign-ups for specific games and adventures, including a multi-table multi-hour battle for gang supremacy in the fictional city of Waterdeep.

One of the most intriguing puzzle/game experiences available to try at the convention was Artemis.

Artemis is a spaceship bridge simulator that allows a group of players to essentially play out a Star Trek-esque adventure. Each player has instructions, controls, and a laptop in front of them, as well as a big screen for everyone to view (much like the main viewer on the bridge of the Enterprise).

Two teams, each piloting their own ship (the Artemis or the Intrepid) must battle foes, trade goods, dock with space stations, and explore the galaxy, all while maintaining their weapons, shields, energy usage in the ship, and piloting control, as well as communicating with their sister ship through headset.

I moved back and forth between the two “ships,” watching as the players navigated different challenges, cooperated (and disagreed) on command decisions, managed their resources, and ventured between the stars, all while some pretty impressive graphics tied the whole play experience together.

What really struck me about the Artemis style of play was how much communication was required for success. It is a co-op game in the same vein as Castle Panic!, Forbidden Island, or Spaceteam, but with a lot more personal responsibility. Plus the laptop interfaces for each station were slick and well-designed, bringing that polished Star Trek: The Next Generation feel home.

I was also responsible for some of the puzzliest events at the convention. Although I did participate in some panels on writing, literature, roleplaying games, and movies (both good ones and the worst of b-movies), the two events that were the main focus of my time were a LARP/scavenger hunt based on The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and an escape room based on Star Wars.

The HHGTTG event was built as an in-universe scavenger hunt where players (who were all expected to bring their towels, of course), had to complete five tasks. The completion of each task led to a rune for the players to record on their gamesheet. and earn five runes, then spell them out in a secret location using their towels, in order to ask an important question.

Some of the tasks included:

  • finding HHGTTG character names in a word search grid, then reading the remaining uncircled letters as a secret message
  • singing karaoke to the mermaids at the hotel pool
  • assisting a Vogon poet with her terrible poetry

They had to earn all five runes, then find me in a secret location and spell out the runes with their towels. If they did so correctly, they would bring one of the missing dolphins back to Earth (and received a small stuffed one for their efforts).

[A bag full of dolphins, awaiting a possible return to Earth.]

The Star Wars event was a traditional escape room with puzzles to solve, boxes to unlock, combinations to find, keys to uncover, and a room to escape under a time limit. Designed for the teenaged attendees, the escape room was set on a bounty hunter’s ship, and all of the players were recently captured by the bounty hunter, awaiting transport to an Imperial prison.

But the bounty hunter has fallen victim to one of his own security protocols, so all of the “prisoners” have a chance to escape, if they disable the (Nerf gun-)armed droid blocking the escape pod, as well as either shut off the radiation leak near the pod OR gather enough bacta to heal themselves from radiation damage in order to actually survive the escape.

[Nerf guns and five shipped boxes. An embryonic escape room.]

[The contents of said shipped boxes. An escape room mid-construction.]

Although some of the boxes were opened out of order (by brute force, rather than proper solving) and one of the puzzles had an unfortunate printing error, the players unraveled the mysteries of the bounty hunter’s ship and escaped with only seconds to spare before the Imperials arrived. SUCCESS!

(Plus friend of the blog Jen Cunningham cooked up some lovely victory certificates for the players, which was a cool bonus. Thank you Jen!)

More importantly, despite the hiccups encountered during both events, everyone had fun while playing (either walking away with a small dolphin or a certificate).

The entire convention was a blast (an exhausting one, but a blast nonetheless), and I highly recommend attending Norwescon next year to any fans of horror, sci-fi, fantasy, writing workshops, games, roleplaying, and of course, puzzles.


Thanks for visiting PuzzleNation Blog today! Be sure to sign up for our newsletter to stay up-to-date on everything PuzzleNation!

You can also share your pictures with us on Instagram, friend us on Facebook, check us out on TwitterPinterest, and Tumblr, and explore the always-expanding library of PuzzleNation apps and games on our website!