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The Birthday Burglary Review, a spoiler free look at the fifth Holiday Hijinks escape game

My oldest daughter turned sixteen this year and one of the gifts we gave her was a copy of The Birthday Burglary, which we then played through with the family.

The Birthday Burglary is the fifth game in the Holiday Hijinks series of small, eighteen card, escape room in a box experiences from Grand Gamers Guild.

Disclosure: Thanks to Marc from Grand Gamers Guild for dropping off review copies of a bunch of these Holiday Hijinks games when passing through Windsor. No other compensation was provided. Links in this post may be affiliate links. As an Amazon associate we earn from qualifying purchases.


All about The Birthday Burglary

The Birthday Burglary is the fifth game in the Holiday Hijinks series of escape-room-in-a-box games by Jonathan Chaffer, who also did the card art. It features package artwork and design by Josh Cappel and was published in 2022 by Grand Gamers Guild.

If you’ve been paying attention you may have noticed that we just reviewed another one of these Holiday Hijinks games a couple of weeks back, The Independence Incident.

That was number two in the series and this is number five. No, we aren’t holding out on you. We haven’t played any of the other games in the series yet due to the fact that each is themed around a holiday and we are waiting for the right moment to play each one. Plus, each of these is a totally stand alone game. They don’t need to be played in any particular order and are just numbered in the order that they were published.

The Birthday Burglary features a one hour timer, though it may take your group longer than that. While the packaging states that this is a game for one or more players, Board Game Geek suggests a maximum of four players and that it plays best with only three. I can’t really argue with those numbers.

Where BGG does seem to be a bit off is with the recommended age of thirteen plus. I didn’t find anything in this particular puzzle that wasn’t family friendly. Even younger kids should enjoy this one, as long as they have a bit of help from someone older.

The back of The Birthday Burglary from Grand Gamers Guild

As with all of the Holiday Hijinks games, you are going to need access to the web to play this game. The way these games manage to work while only consisting of eighteen cards is that most of the information is provided online. You will be interacting with the page for the game to input your answers, read the ongoing story, and get hints, as well as doing research for any of the puzzles you don’t already know the needed info.

As for component quality, I haven’t bothered to do unboxing videos for any of these Holiday Hijinks games as they are a puzzle based experience that can only be played once and we don’t want to spoil anything. Plus there really isn’t much to show off. You get a card holder with instructions on the back of it and in that is an eighteen card deck of cards of pretty typical quality.

 

How do you play The Birthday Burglary?

Trying to figure out the puzzle on one of the cards from The Birthday Burglary an escape room in a box from Grand Gamers GuildEach of the Holiday Hijinks games, plays rather differently but all start the same. To begin The Birthday Burglary, you read the instructions, scan the QR code on the inside of the card holder, and head to the game’s webpage. There you will get a short intro telling you your goal and how to get started. You then start the timer, flip over the first card, and go.

What you end up doing next is very different from what we saw in The Independence Incident. That game featured a linear set of puzzles based on US history. The Birthday Burglary feels quite different. Most of the cards in this game show you scenes and then give you the ability to look at and interact with the various objects you see in these scenes.

The Birthday Burglary Online Component

Very quickly you begin accumulating a number of objects. Each of these can be used either on their own, with other objects, or with things in the scene cards. What this leads to is more of a point and click adventure style of experience, which I found gave more of a physical escape room feel.

The gameplay in The Birthday Burglary reminded me quite a bit of the Coded Chronicles games that we reviewed in the past and which my family really enjoyed.

Along with figuring out what to use with what you will also find some puzzles to solve, and there are a good mix of different types. Some we found harder than others, but thankfully there is a hint system.

Along with hints, you can also find information that you may need to solve the puzzles that the players may not know. This is all on The Birthday Burglary webpage. For example, the information section for this game contains a number of common cyphers like Pigpen, ASCII, Number Substitution, and Morse code.

You continue interacting with things and solving puzzles until you enter your final answer on the website and win the game. You are then presented with a final score out of five which is based on how long your group took and how many hints you needed to get there.

Each of the Holiday Hijinks games has a difficulty level, and this one is listed as the easiest with a rating of one out of three.

 

Who should consider picking up The Birthday Burglary?

The birthday girl reading the instructions for The Birthday Burglary

We played The Birthday Burglary on my daughter’s birthday and it went pretty well. Having already completed one Holiday Hijinks game as a family we were able to dive right in. We were already used to the format and how to interact with the online portion.

What surprised us was just how different the style of puzzles are between The Birthday Burglary and The Independence Incident. This new escape room in a box had a very different vibe and feel. Our first Holiday Hijinks game felt like playing through an interactive story where we were solving puzzles to progress the plot. The Birthday Burglary, on the other hand, felt more like an exploration adventure.

We also expected this game to be easier than the last one, as it had a difficulty rating of one out of three, (as opposed to three out of three for The Independence Incident).

Well, we didn’t find this one very easy at all. There were a couple of puzzles that had us completely stuck for quite some time and we even had to resort to hints when we got stuck.

One upside of this, as someone reviewing the game, is that I discovered that there’s a neat function on the games page where if you take too long before entering the next answer the hint button will start to flash. It’s a good reminder to actually use hints when you get stuck.

Finding The Birthday Burglary to be more difficult than expected.

Using hints is the key to not getting frustrated in many escape-room-in-a-box style games. The hint system here is very well done, not spoiling anything. There are multiple levels of hints for each card with each level just giving you a little bit more information and only giving you the final solution if you ask for it.

We managed to get four and a half out of five stars and finished in just a bit over an hour, even with getting stuck a couple of times.

What this really shows is just how hard it can be to set a difficulty level for a game like this. It’s very subjective and based on who’s playing and what they know. Sean put it well during our podcast where we reviewed this game by saying, “I think of crosswords, where an ‘easy’ puzzle for some people may be tough for a crossword regular, if they aren’t up on, for instance, current pop culture.”

Gwen working on a puzzle in The Birthday Burglary

One thing we all found to be better in The Birthday Burglary was how it accommodated more players. We played with five players and were happy to find that there were some puzzles that could be worked on concurrently. This mean that we could split into teams and each group could focus on a different puzzle.

I thought that was especially appropriate for a Birthday themed game that would likely get broken out at a birthday party. That said, this game isn’t designed for high player counts and is still best with a smaller group.

Sticking with the theme of birthday parties, I love that I now have a birthday themed game in my collection. For some reason, special occasions like birthdays are often a forgotten theme in hobby board games. While there are a number of silly party games out there that people tend to play on birthdays, especially ones for little kids, I can’t readily think of another specifically birthday themed board game.

 

While we all enjoyed The Birthday Burglary I can’t help comparing it to The Independence Incident and for whatever reason we just had more fun with the first one we played. What impresses me the most though, about both games, is how different each one is.

Our final score in The Birthday Burglary was 4.5 out of 5 presents

Both of these puzzle games are by the same designer and they both only use eighteen cards, but each feels like a very different game and experience. This just makes me want to try out even more games in the Holiday Hijinks series and see how the rest of the games compare.

In the end, I can’t help but recommend The Birthday Burglary for anyone who enjoys puzzle style games and escape-room-in-a-box experiences. Especially because of the way this particular game feels even more like an escape room than the last one we played. The low price point, portability, and ability to jump right in, are all hard to pass up for fans of this type of game.

I also think that The Birthday Burglary makes a perfect gift. That’s what I did with my copy, and it went over really well.

As a gift, this game could also be a great way to test the waters and see if a friend, family member, or fellow gamer would enjoy this style of game. The Birthday Burglary may be the perfect first step into the larger world of puzzle games and escape rooms in a box.

If you aren’t into puzzles and prefer pushing cubes, battling armies, and rolling dice, I can’t see this game winning you over. That said can’t beat the price point if you just want to try this style of game out. You also have the option of printing your own copy for half the price of the retail version.

 

I can’t help but be impressed by the amount of puzzle punch you get in such a small package with these Holiday Hijinks games. I’m even more impressed by how the two we’ve gotten to play are so very different from each other.

Both of those things combined have me really excited to try out more games in the series.

The next one you can expect us to review is the latest Holiday Hijinks game, The Turkey Trial, since Canadian Thanksgiving is coming up in October.

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