The House of Riddles is part of the Exit series of board games. It’s the second of these escape room in a box board games from Thames & KOSMOS that my wife and I have tried.
This play-once game is rated at a difficulty of 2, whereas the last one we played was rated at 3.5 and was much harder.
Disclosure: Some links in this post are affiliate links. As an Amazon affiliate, I earn from qualifying purchases. Using these links doesn’t cost you anything extra and it helps support this blog and our podcast. Thames & KOSMOS provided me with a review copy of The House of Riddles.
This was our second experience with the very popular EXIT series of games.
The two of us had a rather good time with that first game and since then I have included the EXIT series in many of our two-player game recommendation articles. If you are curious to know more of our initial thoughts with these escape room games check out my EXIT: The Game – The Secret Lab review.
What you get with EXIT: The House Of Riddles.
Exit: The Game – The House of Riddles was designed by Inka and Markus Brand. It features art by Silvia Christoph and Michaela Kienle. It was published in 2017 by Thames & KOSMOS. Playtime is listed as 45-90 minutes and it is designed to play one to four players, while being best at two. I personally do not recommend playing it with only one (see below for why).
The contents of The House of Riddles is very similar to The Secret Lab, the other EXIT game we’ve played. You get a short instruction booklet. Another booklet that you are warned not to open, four different stacks of cards and some interesting “unusual items”.
The unusual items in this particular set included a thin punch board that had a strange black shape and a thin magnifying glass with a slot cut out of the glass part. There was also a small blue wooden ball.
The instructions are written so that you read them as you play the game for the first time. It starts off with the setup: your group has arrived at The House of Riddles where you are to meet three detectives. Each has set up a puzzle room for you to make your way through before meeting up with them at the end. To get through these rooms you need to solve ten riddles.
Setup here is identical to The Secret Lab. You split the cards into stacks based on their backs, being sure not to shuffle. One stack is comprised of Riddle Cards, another stack are the Answer Cards that go with those Riddle Cards. Then there are ten stacks of clue cards, each with three cards in them (one for each of the ten riddles). This particular game also includes a stack of black backed cards that you put aside with the rest of the unusual objects.
To play the game you start the timer and open the first page of the book. On that first page, you should easily find the first clue card you need to draw. Between this clue card and the book, you need to figure out something to do that will give you a three digit code.
Once you have the code you enter it into the code wheel under the symbol shown on the riddle card to get a number. That number indicates the card you draw from the Answer deck and it will let you know if you were wrong. If you have the correct answer the card you draw from the Answer deck will lead you to another card that should unlock the next part of the puzzle.
Continue until you have solved all ten puzzles. Then stop the clock, get your reward and figure out your final score.
If at any time you are stuck you can flip over the clue cards. There is a set of three clues for each puzzle, the first only indicates what items you need to solve the puzzle. This is useful to make sure you didn’t miss something obvious. The second clue gives a subtle hint and the third gives you the answer.
Your final score is based on the total time you took and the number of clue cards you used.
How does The House of Riddles, an EXIT game, play with two players?
One of the things that took us the longest while playing our first EXIT game, The Secret Lab, was getting to understand the basic system. When first starting that boxed set we had no clue what to expect. One major difference between that EXIT game and EXIT: The House of Riddles is that in House of Riddles you are meant to go through the booklet one page at a time, you don’t turn the page or look ahead until you have solved the current riddle.
In The Secret Lab, there is no such restriction on looking through the book. So we found ourselves flipping through everything looking at all kinds of interesting artwork and puzzles, not knowing where to start. It wasn’t until we had gotten through the first few puzzles that we realized it was all about finding the right coloured beakers and what order they went in. Once we discovered that things flowed much more quickly.
We started off The House of Riddles already understanding what format the riddles and answers would take and that greatly helped us get up and going quickly. We immediately knew what we were looking for and the first puzzle made it very obvious how to get that information.
This trend continued as we completed puzzles, drew more cards and flipped through the book. Most of the puzzles in The House of Riddles were very straight forward. Not only was it obvious what we were looking for but also where to find that information. Of the ten puzzles, only two of us gave us any pause or really made us have to stop and think.
Another aspect that made The House of Riddles easier than The Secret Lab is that each puzzle was self-contained. You got one puzzle, you solved it, you put the cards and stuff aside and you moved on to the next one. Our last EXIT game experience was not like this. When we played The Secret Lab, we were working on two or three different puzzles at a time and had the added difficulty of having to try to figure out what cards and images went with what riddle.
One downfall of this is that with only one puzzle being able to be done at a time you couldn’t split the work. Both of us were always trying to solve the same thing together. Now working together is great, as we get to double the brainpower, but with a group larger than two I could see some of the players feeling left out here. This is especially true as there aren’t multiple copies of things to pass around.
I would almost say that this particular EXIT game would be great with one player but there is one puzzle that specifically requires at least two people. I don’t want to spoil anything but I would say there is a charades style element that I can’t see being easy at all to solve if someone was playing this solo. I actually think that the box shouldn’t even say one to four players, it should say two to four.
Final thoughts on EXIT: The Game – The House of Riddles.
Overall we had fun with The House of Riddles but we did find it too easy. We never really felt challenged. For all but two of the puzzles the second we flipped over the Riddle card we knew exactly what we had to do. Now when comparing The House of Riddles to The Secret Lab one should keep in mind that it only has a difficulty rating of 2/5 whereas The Secret Lab is a 3.5/5, so it makes sense that we found this game easier.
Deanna and I managed to finish the game in about 45 minutes and I would say that a good chunk of that time, probably at least ten minutes, was spent on me cutting things out.
That is worth noting, in case people are not aware of it. To play this board game you need to write-on, fold, cut and basically destroy your copy of the game. So not only is the game only playable once, you cannot share it or sell it to someone else after the fact.
While I guess it would be possible to not do any cutting, there is one particular puzzle that I think would be almost impossible without it. You may be able to avoid this destruction by photocopying a couple of pages.
I do have to admit that I personally thought the end game reward to be a really cool touch, but, I’m sorry to say that both Deanna and I found The House of Riddles to be somewhat unfulfilling overall. I’m personally glad that this was a review copy and that we did not pay full price.
On a more positive note, I do think this is a much better entry point to the EXIT series of games than The Secret Lab. It was much more obvious about what you are looking for right from the start. It compartmentalizes each puzzle and only presents you with the information you need to solve just that one riddle before presenting the next one.
Due to this onboarding, I also think that this makes this particular EXIT game more accessible to families, kids and non-gamers. Due to the clarity of the puzzles, in retrospect, I wish we had played this one with one or both of our daughters.
At this point, if you have yet to try an EXIT game I recommend you check out the series and I think The House of Riddles is a great entry point. If you’ve played some EXIT games before, I would only suggest this box if you have had difficulty with sets that are rated as difficult as The Secret Lab or easier.
A note on the KOSMOS App for the EXIT: The Game series
One thing we did differently for this EXIT game play was to try out the KOSMOS Helper App. This app features several things to support a wide variety of KOSMOS games. There is a separate app for each of the EXIT games including EXIT: The House of Riddles.
The House of Riddles app includes two things. First is a tutorial and the second is a themed timer.
The House of Riddles Tutorial seemed excellent, at first. It basically replaces the rulebook from the box and introduces you to the game you are about to play and explains in detail how to play it.
This is great for visual learners and also added some nice atmosphere to the story behind the game. There’s a problem though: that story didn’t match what was in the box.
The story in the app had you travelling alone to a castle, just to explore. Confusingly, un another part of the app version of the story it mentioned looking for three detectives named Justice, Peter and Bob. The story in the rulebook included with the game, which matched the story on the actual cards and game book, instead had us heading to a house to meet three detectives named Sandra, Mario and Tom.
Now I have no clue what happened here or why things didn’t match up but we found it rather confusing. However, the app is still good for learning how to play the game, you just have to ignore the entire story part of it.
The timer portion of the app worked fine. It’s themed to the game and includes some interesting ambience and sound effects. It also works out your score at the end of the game when you finish and lets you share that on social media, which I found cool.
What EXIT games have you played? Which is the one that you found the most difficult?