In 2022 we discovered just how much we enjoy puzzle based games, from escape room in a box style games to murder mystery puzzles. Right at the end of the year, I had the pleasure of checking out a different kind of puzzle, two Escape Boxes from Escape Welt.
We got to check out the House of the Dragon and the Fort Knox Box wooden puzzle boxes and even used one of them to “wrap” one of our kids’ Christmas gifts.
Disclosure: Thank you Escape Welt for sending us review copies of these two puzzle boxes. Links in this post may be affiliate links. As an Amazon associate we earn from qualifying purchases.
EDIT: This review was updated on January 24th 2023. In the original review, I thought that my copy of The House of the Dragon included a spelling error, information I had heard from another reviewer. I have since learned that this production issue has been fixed by Escape Welt, and that both my copy and all future copies have been corrected.
I apologize to our readers/listeners and to Escape Welt for not double checking my copy of the puzzle and for including incorrect information in the original review.
What are the Escape Welt “Escape Boxes”?
Earlier last month, at the end of 2022, Escape Welt, a wooden puzzle company from Germany, sent us a few of their puzzles to check out. These included two “Escape Boxes”. With their pitch, they explained that these were escape room style puzzles created by owners of popular physical escape rooms in Leipzig, Germany. The two puzzles we got were House of the Dragon and Fort Knox Box.
Both of these puzzle boxes are made out of laser cut birch and come fully-assembled. Each of them was originally funded through Kickstarter as separate projects and both are now available through retail, including online stores like Amazon. Over at Escape Welt’s website, they have a list price of about $100 US.
While that does seem rather high, since starting to work with Escape Welt I’ve been on their site many times and it seems like they may be running a permanent sale. Right now both of these boxes are marked down 50% off, making them each $49.99, which is a much more reasonable price.
I was going to save this for the end of the review but since we are talking cost, for the entire month of January (and potentially longer) you can save an additional 10% off on anything you purchase from Escape Welt using our special code BELLHOP. Yes, this does stack with the existing 50% off deal.
The goal of these puzzle boxes is to get them open and discover what’s inside. Once you’ve solved the puzzle you end up with a very cool gift box that you can then gift to someone else or a cool looking wooden display piece to showcase in your home. These boxes would also go great on a coffee or end table, tempting guests to pick them up and fiddle with them.
For a look at exactly what you get with these puzzles check out our Escape Welt unboxing videos on YouTube. We have both a House Of the Dragon Unboxing and a Fort Knox Box Unboxing.
In addition to the wooden puzzle boxes themselves, you also get a card signed by the person who assembled your box and a small multi-language booklet with a fictional story about where the box came from. What you won’t find here are any instructions on exactly what to do, where to start, or how to solve these puzzles. Just figuring out what to do next is part of the puzzle.
Both boxes I received were very solid, rather beautifully made, well assembled, and extremely engaging. Each featured multiple things that can be twisted, pushed, pulled, slid, spun, opened, and more.
One important thing to note when playing with these puzzles is that you don’t want to force anything. While the birch they are made of is quite strong, these puzzles aren’t meant to be solved by force and if you apply too much force you could break them.
To get inside each Escape Welt Escape Box you must puzzle through multiple steps, all of which can be figured out through logic and deduction. While it is possible to force some of the puzzles by trying every possible combination and you may be able to solve aspects of the puzzle by looking at things like how different parts react when you move other pieces, there is a logical solution for each step. While safe cracking solutions may work, that’s not how these puzzles are intended to be solved.
House of the Dragon Review
The House of the Dragon Escape Box from Escape Welt has an Asian theme featuring a pagoda with various dragon designs on it as well as a number of Japanese words. There are a set of doors on one side of the box, which you are trying to open by figuring out the multi-step puzzle.
As noted already there’s really nothing here to indicate where to start and we found ourselves poking and prodding and trying to pull and twist various things for quite a while. It was at least fifteen minutes before we figured out how to really do anything with this box. While this may sound like a bad thing it was surprisingly quite fun just fiddling around for so long and eventually having a eureka moment.
With this first box, I found myself playing around with it for a bit, then Deanna would pick it up and fiddle with it, then we would get together and compare notes. The next day my kids got involved and managed to figure out the next step from where we had gotten stuck. It wasn’t until a day after that, when we all sat down as a family, that we were able to finally solve the puzzle and open the doors.
Escape Welt claims these puzzles should take sixty to eighty minutes. I would say it took us maybe three to four hours split over three days. That didn’t feel too long as this isn’t really the type of puzzle that members of my family are familiar with.
I have a feeling that things would go much quicker for someone who enjoys and plays with these styles of puzzles more often. I saw at least one YouTube video where a puzzle pro solved this box in under twenty minutes.
Part of what took so long for us to solve this puzzle is that there was a bit that we got completely stuck on and ended up basically having to brute force to solve. We got past that part through trial and error and not by figuring out the proper solution. After we had completed the puzzle I looked up the proper solution (in the YouTube video I just mentioned).
Despite the fact this puzzle contains Japanese words on it, you don’t need to know Japanese to solve this box. All the info you need is right there on the puzzle.
I did learn that the original version of this puzzle did contain two of what I would consider spelling errors. Both a reversed letter and a word with an extra S on it. Both of these errors were identified and fixed by the time I got my copy of House of the Dragon, so I don’t think this will be a problem for anyone who picks up one of these puzzles now.
My only really disappointment with this puzzle was the final prize. I’m not going to give away exactly what was inside this box here, but I will say it didn’t feel like much of a reward.
Now what I did love about this puzzle box is that once you know the solution, it is very easy to put everything back together. And once it’s back together, now that you know the solution you can open the box extremely quickly, which is great if you do plan to use it as a gift box.
Overall, House of the Dragon was the better looking of the two boxes we got and the one I would most like to re-gift due to how cool it would look if put on display.
I fully plan to pass on my copy to someone else for the right occasion, putting something cool inside for them to find.
Fort Knox Box Review
The Fort Knox Box looks like a hexagonal vault, an actual safe ready to be cracked open. While it’s not as pretty as the House of the Dragon box we appreciated that it looked like a puzzle.
My wife noted that this puzzle was more intuitive right from the start and had logical starting points. That alone made her enjoy it more than the more abstract puzzle we checked out first.
There are lot more levers and dials on this puzzle box than on House of the Dragon, and the puzzle still required multiple different steps to complete, but those steps were more logical in their presentation.
One of the puzzles on the Fort Knox Box ended up being solved more by luck by most members of my family. What I didn’t mind about this was that it was easy to figure out where the proper answer was after figuring out what you had done.
There was also one puzzle that we solved by using some brute force techniques. While we were able to eliminate some options the final solution was discovered by trying each of the remaining options until we found one that worked. For this particular part of the puzzle, I ended up heading online to see what we were supposed to do and was amused to find other people had the same problem. In the end, though there is a logical way to solve this puzzle. However, it’s not at all intuitive and I suspect many people end up solving it the way we did.
My one complaint about the Fort Knox Box is that there is a specific part of the puzzle that you have to pull out that is very snug.
As noted above these puzzles are made of birch and while the boxes are rather solidly constructed, birch isn’t a very strong wood. You don’t want to accidentally damage your puzzle by applying too much force. In this particular case, none of us were willing to apply enough force to get this particular part to pop out as it was meant to.
The only reason I was able to get past this is that I looked up a solution and thankfully this particular step was early in that solution so I was able to get past this step and still have fun trying to figure out the rest of the puzzle. What I will note here for those who own or buy this puzzle is that yes one of the things on the bottom should come out without having to do anything else to the puzzle.
Except for this one minor quibble, the Fort Knox Box was fun to play around with and got solved by my family much quicker than the House of the Dragon. We all found that this puzzle felt more logical and had a more logical sense of progression. It felt like every time someone picked it up they figured out something new, another step.
The Fort Knox Box was a more rewarding experience than House of the Dragon. That said the end prize still left something to be desired.
Overall the Fort Knox Box was the better of the two Escape Welt puzzles we tried. You could instantly tell it was a puzzle to be solved. There was some pretty clear indication as to where to start and the eventual solution made sense when you figured it out.
We actually ended up re-using this particular puzzle box on Christmas morning. I solved it myself on Christmas Eve, slipped one of our gifts for the kids inside, re-set the puzzle, and left it under the tree.
While my kids were a bit frustrated with the box at first they kept returning to it throughout the day and by the end of the day, they had solved it and were happily playing with what we had hidden inside (pro tip: the box is just the right size to hold a cartridge for a Switch game).
Final Thoughts on Escape Welt Escape Boxes
Looking at the puzzles that Escape Welt sent us, House of the Dragon and Fort Knox Box, I’m pretty impressed.
I wasn’t sure what to expect when I agreed to check these out and I ended up having far more fun than I expected with both of these boxes. Everyone in my family was surprised by just how much fun these puzzle boxes are to fiddle with.
We honestly couldn’t put them down. The kids were passing them back and forth, my wife and I were taking turns, and even my mom was offering suggestions on what we should try next.
I think it’s fair to say that for a couple of days there my family was obsessed with these escape boxes from Escape Welt.
Now that we are done with them we’ve all been trying to decide what to do with them next. We fully plan to use them to house future gifts but need to find the right person who will enjoy these kinds of puzzles and small enough gifts to fit inside.
I do have a pretty big concern about these boxes and that is the price.
While these are nice solid boxes and I’m very impressed by the engineering work done to create such things, I don’t think the full price listed on Escape Welt’s webpage is justified.
At this point, it seems like they are constantly on sale. You can also find their puzzles on sites like Amazon. There they are listed at prices that are lower than the full suggested price on Escape Welt’s page, which I found odd.
It seems it’s worth shopping around to find the best deal, though do remember you get an extra 10% off at Escape Welt using our BELLHOP code.
Personally, I’m glad I got to check these two puzzles out, but these were review copies. While we weren’t compensated in any other way we did get these puzzles for free. I fully acknowledge that for some the high price point, artificially inflated or not, could be a big turn off.
I do think that people who like this kind of fiddly, physical, puzzle will be drawn to these boxes and I like the fact that these would also make great knick-knacks or conversation pieces. They can also make fantastic gift boxes as long as you have a pretty small gift to fit inside them. The cost here is better justified if you think of these as a two-in-one purchase, a puzzle to solve as well as a gift to give to someone else who can then pass it on to someone else.
If you personally love puzzles and you’ve got the money to spare you will probably have fun with these boxes. They aren’t easy and there’s lots of very cool engineering going on here. Of the two we got to play with, my family did have more fun with the Fort Knox Box but we did enjoy both puzzles.
If you do decide to pick up one of these puzzles direct from Escape Welt, remember you can save 10% if you use the special code BELLHOP.
These Escape Boxes from Escape Welt were a totally new experience for me and my family. They were very different from the other puzzle style games we’ve grown to enjoy over the last couple of years. These definitely seem like the kind of games where you get better at doing them once you have a bit of experience with them.
I’m glad we got to check out House of the Dragon and Fort Knox Box, and am looking forward to tormenting our game group with them after the holidays. I wonder how long it will take our friends Tori and Kat to get the doors of the House of the Dragon open?
Do you enjoy these types of physical puzzles? We’re interested in checking out more of them and would love some recommendations. Let us know what you think we should check out next in the comments below!