Saturday, June 26, 2021

Boardgames - The Conundrum Box

The REAL conundrum: how to actually get those boxes



The Conundrum Box
# of Players:
? (I recommend 2-4)
12+ (I'd say 10+)
60-150 min (depending on the box, and chosen difficulty)
Weight (Physical Components):
105g - 225g (typically around 150g)
Weight (Puzzle Tallies):
9-12 Locks, 20-30 Deductions, ~20 Tasks

Game Design & Mechanics

Sample game components (credits: CrateJoy)

  • The Conundrum Box operates primarily as a subscription-based service, meaning that the "preferred way" of consuming their products is to subscribe to a monthly package.
  • Each such package is a stand-alone game, although there have been cases where a given storyline stretched over a few months.
  • Every box is meant to be played using an internet connection. You'll be given a URL for the current adventure, along with a password to enter on the website to get you started.
  • Through that same website, you'll get story elements, the occasional clue, and ersatz locks in the form of password-locked pages.
  • In each box, along with documents and a few physical components, you'll find sealed envelopes, which can, in turn, contain more envelopes. You can only open those when the game website tells you to.
  • There's no real "time limit" - at least not in the game interface itself. You can provide your own timer, and the game does propose three different time limits to choose from, depending on your experience level. The website will also tell you when to start and pause that timer.
  • As shown above, every puzzle comes with an extensive set of hints, down to the actual answer you need to type in.
  • The basic subscription is handle through CrateJoy. Older boxes can be purchased directly from the company's website, but 1) those are more expensive, and 2) they only ship to the US.
  • Boxes are meant to be replayable by others, but some components might require to be cut, or written on. As far as I've seen, replacement for those components are available online, along with reset instructions.
  • The overall game mechanics do a great job at mimicking that "Escape Room feel", without having to rely on actual locks.
  • The storylines are significantly more developed. Some elements even extend through several boxes.
  • While mostly paper-based, the puzzles remain varied and clever nonetheless.
  • I know this is a recurring argument, but as with all internet-dependent boxes, you'll be limited in when, where, and how you get to play those boxes.
  • Likewise, the price point is (again) quite problematic, especially for Canadians.
    • Even if you start off thinking: "Ah well, 38 bucks for a new box every month, that's pretty reasonable.", the problem is that shipping to Canada is another 27 bucks.
    • And then you might think: "Fine then. I'll just order a bunch of boxes at once, to consolidate shipping costs." Well, the base cost for an older box is significantly higher (50 bucks each), so you might have to buy a lot of them to even out those costs...
    • ...except that wait - you can't have those older boxes shipped to Canada! As far as I've figured out, your sole option for old boxes is this Etsy page, which, once again, seems quite expensive. Expensive enough to warrant, in turn, customs fees.
  • I initially felt that the puzzles were uneven - some fairly easy, others way too hard. I've since come to the conclusion that it's more of a "signposting" issue. Figuring out which puzzle you're supposed to solve next can be fairly hard in some cases. Furthermore, older boxes had few non-linear puzzles, and lots of "use this clue to obtain another clue for the next task". Recent boxes appear more streamlined.

Other considerations

Let's be more practical, now. How can you get to try those darn boxes?
  • Used boxes
    There's a very strong second-hand market for boxes such as these. Check out Facebook market places to see if someone if you general vicinity happens to be reselling those boxes.
  • Group purchases
    Might be easier to shell 70$ for a box knowing that friend A will buy it back from you at 35$, before selling it back to friend B for 20$...
  • Boardgame libraries and cafes
    If you favorite board game cafe lets you borrow and play games on site, you could convince them to get a subscription. Even better if this is an Escape Room venue with a side boardgame cafe. ūüėĀ
  • Boardgame conventions
    While I don't bring all my game boxes to events such as Ludo-Outaouais, I do bring several, and I wouldn't mind handling "special requests". I can't be the only one around. Look it up.

Currently Out (underline bold titles are those I've played personally)
  • A Mardi Gras Mystery
  • Anastasia: The Lost Princess
  • Escape from Sleepy Hollow Box 1: Washington's Spies
  • Escape from Sleepy Hollow Box 2: The Awakening
  • Escape from Sleepy Hollow Box 3: The Headless Horseman
  • The Great Explorers Society and the Orient Express
  • The Storyteller Box 1: Aladdin's Lamp
  • The Storyteller Box 2: Scheherazade
  • The Emerald Isle
  • The Agency
  • Sleight of Hand
  • Welcome to Wilde World
  • Temple of the Sky Gods
  • The Artemis Rescue
  • Werewolf’s Call
  • Escape from Nottingham Jail
  • The Dinosaur Heist
  • The Great Explorers Society and the Forbidden Temple
  • Tall Tales
  • The Sorcerer's Legacy
  • The Last Viking
  • Maui's Curse
  • Christmas Escape Room Box
  • Valentine's Day Adventure
  • Summer Box
  • Escape the 90s Mall!
  • The Harvest Festival

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