My mother-in-law loves puzzles and mysteries, so we’ve been bringing over various murder mystery and escape room in a box style games to her place to play as a family. The most recent game we brought over was Blackbrim 1876 from Puzzling Pursuits.
Blackbrim 1876 is a puzzle based, escape room in a box game that’s split over two parts and features multiple puzzles that are independent from each other and can therefore be worked on independently.
Disclosure: We have to thank Puzzling Pursuits for sending us a review copy of this puzzle box. Links in this post may be affiliate links. As an Amazon associate we earn from qualifying purchases.
What exactly is Blackbrim 1876?
Blackbrim 1876 is an escape room in a box style puzzle game first published in 2020 by Puzzling Pursuits. It is designed to be played by one to six players (more if you don’t mind pairing up for some puzzles), ages fourteen and up. The game is broken into two parts with each half taking an hour or two to complete. We personally found the first half to be much quicker than the second with our total time close to three hours.
This box is also part one of a trilogy that tells a concurrent story. This first installment has an MSRP of $60 USD and is available directly from Puzzling Pursuits, where you can often find it on sale.
In Blackbrim 1876 you are a private detective in Victorian England who has received a package from the local police department. The package indicates that the entire police force has been kidnapped and are being held hostage. It’s up to you to save them by solving the various puzzles left behind by the kidnapper.
This is an escape room style puzzle game and not a murder mystery game. There is no case to solve here, just a series of puzzles to figure out. In addition, access to the internet is required both to assist in solving some of the puzzles as well as for entering your solutions and progressing the story.
For a spoiler free look at what you get inside this escape room in a box check out our Blackbrim 1876 Unboxing Video on YouTube.
When I recorded that video I wasn’t sure exactly how much information it was safe to share. I have since learned that you can’t really spoil anything in this game, and seeing the components you get with this game isn’t going to give anything away.
Inside the Blackbrim 1876 box, you will find a small instructional pamphlet that explains how the game is meant to be played. Under that, you will find two rather large folders, one for each chapter in the game. Upon opening the first folder you will find a wax sealed envelope that introduces you to the story and the other materials needed to solve the first chapter. Once you complete the first chapter you are instructed to open the second folder which is filled with even more stuff.
The quality of the contents of both envelopes is excellent, though everything is paper based. You aren’t going to find any strings, balls, marbles, small skulls or any of the other do-dads we’ve seen in other escape room style games. That said you will find a wide variety of paper based things, including a menu, card discs, post cards, art prints, and more.
My copy of the game also had a small problem. Our box included two copies of a newspaper clipping when it was meant to only have one. Due to this, I recommend checking the contents of the box and comparing them to the inventory list on the website indicated in the instructions. While the extra paper didn’t ruin our experience in any way it did cause us to waste quite a bit of time trying to find differences between the two clippings, which were actually identical.
Many of the components in the game are made to be written on and there is one component that is meant to be folded. Personally, with liberal use of tracing and scrap paper, we were able to complete the game while leaving it in a replayable state, but I think the average group is going to want to use the bits as intended and that would make this game a single use product.
Component wise we were rather impressed by what you get in this box and the amount of gameplay you get for the price, even if you can only play it once.
How Blackbrim 1876 is played:
One great thing about escape room style games is that there isn’t really any prep work. You just gather a group of players, sit down and open the box and discover it together. We personally played through Blackbrim 1876 with five players from three generations with ages from twelve to sixty-nine.
The instructions explain how the game works very clearly and will point you to a website, one that I suggest having open the entire time you are playing. This is all web based, there’s no app to download and it won’t matter exactly what device you are using to get to it.
You then crack open the letter and which will set up the story and get you started.
At this point, you will have five different puzzles to solve each of which is completely independent from the other, except for the fact that you will be using the answers to these puzzles to solve a final meta-puzzle.
What this means is that different people can work on different puzzles at the same time. Players can work together to solve a puzzle, or players can swap puzzles if they get stuck.
Once you have figured out an answer to a puzzle you enter it on the webpage and confirm if your answer is correct. If you get stumped you can also get clues for any of the puzzles.
There are multiple clues for each puzzle, each of which gives a bit more information away. As soon as you get stuck at all I encourage you to check that first clue. All it does is make sure that you have what you need to solve the puzzle. This is how we figured out we had a duplicate newsletter. There’s no reason not to use this clue, it’s mainly there as a quality assurance to make sure your copy of the game is complete and you don’t waste time trying to figure out a puzzle that’s impossible due to a production issue.
As each puzzle is independent, after you have confirmed your answer on the web, you can basically put that puzzle away. You won’t need anything from it again.
After you solve the initial five puzzles you will have to combine your answers to get a final solution which again you enter on the webpage. You will then be instructed to move on to part two.
While you can do one long marathon session and move right on to part two, I recommend packing everything up and saving part two for another session.
Part two plays the same as part one but has six different puzzles instead of five. These puzzles are presented in a very different way from the first half, all of them are more involved with more components. They are still all independent from each other and again solving the final puzzle will require the answers from all six puzzles.
Once you correctly guess the final puzzle you get a bit of a story and are then invited to pick up part two.
It’s worth noting that this box did include a complete story that stands on its own. While you may end up wanting more it won’t be because you were left with a cliffhanger or anything like that.
As for the puzzles, they really run the gamut from logic puzzles, ciphers, and codes, to pattern recognition, physical manipulation of objects, perception and more.
One thing to be aware of is that your group will most likely need to do some outside of the game research to solve some of the puzzles.
What you won’t find in this game is a timer or final score. Unlike many other escape room in a box style games, Blackbrim 1876 is just about working together and having fun solving puzzles without the stress of trying to solve everything under time constraints or trying to get the highest score possible.
How does Blackbrim 1876 compare to other escape room in a box experiences?
When I first read the premise for Blackbrim 1876 I was expecting more of a murder mystery game. I was expecting something more like The Maplebooke Case from Hidden Games or Escape Mail where you are solving some puzzles but the main drive is solving the mystery. That’s not what Blackbrim 1876 is at all. While there’s a story here, it’s a pretty simple one and really only exists to give a theme to tie the various puzzles together.
This is very much a puzzle box featuring thirteen different puzzles, five in the first chapter with its solution and six in the second chapter along with the final solution. This is the main thing I think people need to know before picking up this game.
What I loved about this format is the way each of the puzzles in each chapter were completely independent of each other. I loved the fact that the five of us each got to pick a puzzle to try out and work out on our own and how that evolved into us asking each other for help.
Along with this, I was surprised by just how often another set of eyes and another brain helped to solve any of the puzzles we were stuck on. In the first chapter it worked out that some of us got our puzzles on our own, we teamed up for some others, and in the end, all five of us worked together to solve the final puzzle. That made the feeling of teamwork and accomplishment really strong.
Due to this format, we didn’t see people arguing over who got to do what. I didn’t have to stop my kids from fighting over who got to look at what card first and who got to read what. At no point did I have to hear “But I didn’t even get to see it!” or “When can I have a turn using the app?” We each just did our own thing and then worked together when needed to solve the harder parts.
The puzzles themselves were all interesting and quite different from each other. Some we were able to get right away, solving them in minutes, while others took much longer to figure out. We did end up having to use some clues in the second chapter, but we never had to go so far as to look up an answer.
Speaking of looking things up, that leads me to my one complaint. While playing this game you are going to have to test your Google skills. I don’t think there’s going to be a group out there that is going to be able to get through some of the puzzles in Blackbrim 1876 without some outside research.
Now the game is clear about this right from the start and I knew it was coming but I found having to use modern technology really broke any sense of immersion this game had. I’m pretty sure the Victorian investigator you are meant to be playing as doesn’t have an iPad with them.
Now I guess you could say the things we had to look up may have been common knowledge of the time or easily researched things by heading to say a library, but it still felt like it broke the theming.
I have a couple of suggestions for anyone playing Blackbrim 1876. The first is to have the webpage open and use it liberally. Check the first clues the moment you are the least bit stuck. The first set of clues doesn’t give you any answers and only makes sure you have what you need to solve the puzzles.
My second suggestion is to remember that Google Lens is your friend and using it is much easier than trying to find the right words to search.
Finally, remember this game is set in England and some knowledge of the country is going to be required to solve a couple of the puzzles. If your group doesn’t have that knowledge don’t be afraid to do some online research.
I also wouldn’t recommend this game as a solo experience. What really made Blackbrim 1876 shine for us was the fact there were five of us working on those five puzzles in the first chapter. Having six puzzles in the second half wasn’t a problem either as the first person to solve a puzzle just grabbed the leftover one. Over the entire game, we found that the most common reason for getting stuck was either missing something or heading down the wrong path. Having someone else to bounce ideas off of and to provide a different perspective was key for us being able to solve this game. I do not think the game would be as enjoyable as a solo experience and think in this case the more players you have the better. I can even see playing with seven or eight and having people team up from the start to work on individual puzzles.
Overall my family found Blackbrim 1876 to be one of the most enjoyable escape room in a box experiences we’ve played so far (and we’re racking up quite the pile of completed games in this genre!). We loved the fact that the puzzles in this game were independent of each other which allowed us to us divide and conquer the game. This gave everyone a feeling of control and agency while still leaving room to work together when we needed help. The puzzle mix was interesting and just challenging enough to keep us engaged without getting too frustrated.
If you’ve got a group of friends and/or family that love solving puzzles you can’t really go wrong with picking up Blackbrim 1876. Compared to any of the other escape room games we’ve played thus far, this was the best multi-player puzzle solving experience we’ve had.
However, if you are looking for a solo puzzle experience I think there are better options out there. I really feel that playing through Blackbrim 1876 is best as a group experience.
You should probably also look elsewhere if you are hoping for a mystery to solve. This isn’t a murder mystery dinner party kind of game or a cold case files follow the clues and solve the crime kind of game. Blackbrim 1876‘s publisher, Puzzling Pursuits, is aptly named. This game is 100% about solving puzzles.
My family really did have a great time playing through Blackbrim 1876 and we were all left wanting more.
I’m tempted to pick up the other two games in this trilogy. However Puzzling Pursuits also sent us La Famiglia, another escape room in a box experience, this time set in 1929 Chicago, and I think we’re going to play through that game first. Keep an eye out here for my thoughts on that once we get it played.