Join me for a spoiler free look at The Independence Incident the second game in the Holiday Hijinks series of escape room in a box style games from Grand Gamers Guild.
This eighteen card puzzle is set on, and meant to be played on or around, the Fourth Of July. Seeing as we’re all Canadian, we thought this would be an interesting game to review for us. Read on to find out how it went.
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.
|Prefer video? Here is a link to the segment from our podcast episode where we reviewed this game. I use the show notes to compose these written reviews. The content and talking points are the same, but if you prefer to watch or listen instead of reading, you can head over here: VIDEO Holiday Hijinks: The Independence Incident game review on YouTube
Learn about The Independence Incident
The Independence Incident was designed by Jonathan Chaffer who also did all the artwork and graphic design for the cards in the game. He is the designer behind the entire Holiday Hijinks line of escape room in a box games. Joshua Cappel was responsible for the box design and artwork on the box itself.
The game is intended for one to four players and is a timed puzzle experience with the best score requiring you to beat it in under an hour. This is the second in a series of small box, eighteen card, puzzle games each with a holiday theme. All of these Holiday Hijinks games are published by Grand Gamers Guild with this particular one having come out in 2021.
There is no age suggestion listed on these games and the content is family friendly. Due to the theme of this particular Holiday Hijinks game, Independence Day in the United States, knowledge of American history will help a lot, but is not necessary.
All of the information required to solve the puzzles can be found on the game’s webpage, which is required to use in order to even play the game.
The way the entire Holiday Hijinks system works with only eighteen cards in each set is because of this website. There’s no app to download but you do get a QR code to scan which brings you to a page listing all the games in the series.
The Independence Incident comes in a small four fold card holder that contains instructions and a stack of eighteen double sided cards, which you shouldn’t look through or shuffle. That’s it, that’s the entire game and all of its components.
I really appreciate just how small this game is. It could almost fit in a wallet and the pack they come in is resealable. This is great for when you are done with the game as you could definitely pass this one along, as you don’t destroy anything while playing.
Once your group finishes with The Independence Incident you can easily pass it on to another group to play through.
How is The Independence Incident played?
The best way to learn how to play The Independence Incident is to just dive in. Each of these Holiday Hijinks games plays a bit differently. In this case, you read off the inside of the card holder which will have you open up the webpage. There you select The Independence Incident and tell it when you are ready to start. This starts the timer.
From here you will flip over card one and read it. It presents your first puzzle which you will solve as a group. You then enter your answer online. If you are right it, the story will progress and you will draw the next card (which may not be the next one in numerical order). That card will present you with a new puzzle. You continue drawing cards and solving puzzles until you get to the end.
The cards end up telling a National Treasure type of story with puzzles based on American history, historical artifacts, and The Fourth of July.
Many of the puzzles will test your knowledge of American history and for those of you who aren’t brushed up on the founding fathers, all of the information you need can be found on the game’s webpage under the “information” button.
There you will find things like Morse Code, Alpha Bravo Charlie, Patriotic Songs, The Declaration of Independence and more. Interestingly, not all of these things will be needed to solve the puzzle.
All of this is found on the game’s page. You won’t need to Google anything here.
In addition to using the web to enter your answer and do research, you will also find a highly detailed step by step clue system. This is similar to what we’ve seen in other escape room style games where the initial clues just make sure you have everything you need on hand. Progressive hints each give more and more information up to and including giving you the final solution for each puzzle.
As you play through the game, you continue solving puzzle after puzzle until you get to the final solution.
Then you are given a score out of five based on how long you took and how many clues you used.
At that point, you can compare your score with others who’ve played the game, pack it back up, and give it to someone else to go through.
Who will enjoy The Independence Incident and is it limited to people from the U.S.?
My biggest question before we sat down to play The Independence Incident was just how well it would play with my family, a group of Canadians. I would say things went both better and worse than I expected.
As far as things being a bit worse than I thought, the puzzles here are all American history based puzzles requiring you to know things like patriotic American songs. My family lives in Windsor, Ontario, a border city, and we all grew up watching American TV. Schoolhouse Rock and other bits of U.S. educational programming were common place and I’m pretty sure we know more American history than most of Canada. Even with that background, we all found that our American knowledge was lacking when it came to this game.
Now what made this okay, and why things went better than expected, is that not having that knowledge didn’t actually matter as far as being able to finish the puzzles in The Independence Incident. All of the information we needed was there on the game’s online page and was pretty easy to find.
This meant that when we figured out what we were looking at on a card was an American patriotic song, we just went and looked through the online list of them and used that to figure out what to do next. I found it especially nice that all of this information was in one place. Other escape room games we’ve played in the past, required us to do similar research but through Google searches, which could be rather frustrating. With this game, there was no chance of going to the wrong place or getting incorrect information.
In the end, our group of five Canadians ranging in age from thirteen to sixty-eight managed to get a score of 4.5 out of 5. We did have to use quite a few hints but never had to look up a final answer. By the time we finished, we were over the one hour time limit by about thirty minutes.
Most of that extra time was spent doing research on the games webpage and I think someone born and raised in the US would have blown past some of the puzzles that required us to do research.
We played our game with five players which may have been too many. The Independence Incident packaging says for one or more players, but Board Game Geek lists this as a four player game, at the most, which seems accurate.
The problem with higher player counts is that the puzzles in The Independence Indicent are presented in linear order, one puzzle at a time. This doesn’t really let you split up the work in any way. You are all working on one puzzle at a time.
To me, it felt like the game would be best with at least two players, that way you get two different points of view, and would also work well with a third player for another set of eyes. With more than three you are going to end up having players sitting there while other parts of the group solve a puzzle without them.
Overall we found Holiday Hijinks #2, The Independence Incident to be a very solid puzzle experience. Despite having a rating of three out of three for difficulty we never felt completely lost and we never had to look up a final answer. This made us feel rather smart, especially as Canadians playing a U.S. themed game. I think that feeling of triumph is always a good thing to find in an escape room in a box style game like this.
What I think impressed me the most, was just how much puzzle this game managed to fit into only eighteen cards. I’ve completed big box escape room games that had fewer things to solve at triple the cost. That said, what you won’t find here are any cool props, trinkets to fiddle with, or things to assemble like as you can often find in some of the more expensive, bigger, puzzle games.
The fact that this game and the rest of the games in the Holiday Hijinks series are tied to specific holidays is an added bonus to me. These games become a great activity for your friends or family to do to celebrate various holidays, in this case, the Fourth of July.
If you are a puzzle game fan I can’t see any reason not to pick up at least some of the games in this series.
While I can see other Canadians and Non-Americans skipping this particular Holiday Hijinks game, I think most people are going to enjoy a short escape room experience with their partner on Valentine’s Day, as part of someone’s birthday celebrations or as a way to celebrate the start of Spring on Groundhog Day.
All of these Holiday Hijinks games, including The Independence Incident, have a very reasonable MSRP of only $10.99 each.
If that somehow seems like too much, you can get them even cheaper if you are willing to print your own copies by purchasing the Print and Play versions direct from Grand Gamers Guild.