In this article, we will cover all you need to know about escape games at home : from creating your very own to hosting them perfectly every time. This ultimate guide to escape rooms at home will hold your hand every step of the way so you can have a great experience every time.
Let’s start with the basics : Escape game 101
Escape games are an extremely popular type of game where as a team, you have to solve a series of a puzzle to succeed under a time limit of usually 60 minutes. The better games have a great story line that keeps you hooked and fun puzzles that will test your creative thinking just at the right level. And you will find both children and adult dedicated games. And they are popular with everyone from gamers who enjoy the challenge to newcomers who are looking for an original experience : there are an estimated 50 000 escape game rooms worldwide. Originally, these escape games were played in dedicated rooms where in most stories, you had to physically escape that room to win. Most larger cities will boast some great escape rooms that provide amazing immersive experiences for a group of friends to try out. You can check out some great escape rooms near you with this handy site. These usually make for a great evening with friends or great team building day out with colleagues. But as this genre grows in popularity, many are looking to replicate that experience at a fraction of the cost in the comfort of their own homes. These have been particularly popular for adults looking for an original hosting occasion or family looking to host play dates and birthday parties with a twist. Welcome to the fun world of at-home escape games.
Should you create your own Escape Game at home ?
There are many good occasions to surprise friends and family with a bespoke escape game that fits the occasion perfectly : bachelorette party, wedding, family get-together, weekends away, friends game night or kids birthday party. It is an exciting project to do but will require patience, creativity and skill. It is likely to be a bit harder than you imagine but it doesn't mean you can’t successfully create your own DIY escape room at-home. We will share with you all the steps to make your first escape game a great success. Equally, if you don’t have the time or energy just select one of the read-made many options out there that will suit your group. If you have children and want to play as a family or host a birthday party then check out our fun escape games and skip straight to hosting tips.
Steps to creating a Do-It-Yourself (DIY) Escape Game
Step 1 : Know your audience and start small.
First, really think about who you are doing this for as this will be key to make the game work for them. Is there a big age difference between players ? Any children in the group means you will have to pay special attention to ensure the game will work for them both in theme and difficulty of puzzles. Are some players more experienced in puzzles or escape rooms than others ? What theme is likely to appeal to most of them ? Then don’t get too ambitious on your first game length : you could create a short adventure of 20 minutes or so with 3 simple puzzles and that would be absolutely perfect. We wouldn't recommend going for a full 60 minutes on your first attempt. It's better to have a short fun experience than one that overstays its welcome.
Step 2 : Choose a fun theme
Ok, this is definitely a fun bit. You could inspire yourself from some of the most popular themes in the genre currently [Include key stats]. Books, films and series can also make a great source of inspiration : what would a Peaky Blinders, Back To The Future or Mary Poppins escape game look like ? And make sure you get creative and give it a fun twist so it stands out and motivates players to solve the challenge. Can you summarise the challenge in a sentence ? Some examples :
- Post apocalyptic : You wake up inside an empty hospital with no memory of the past with a strange suitcase next to you.
- Children's magic forest adventure : your group of friends have all been turned into tiny green gnomes by the evil forest sorcerer who holds you prisoner in his mushroom dungeons.
- Here is another theme idea from one of our family games as an example :
Step 3 : Map your story
Now you have your theme and the challenge. You need to let your imagination run wild. Do some research online to get as many ideas linked to your theme as possible. What are the props, characters and locations that you would want your story to cover ? What is the overarching storyline that will allow your players to succeed ? A great way to build your story for an escape game is to build a simple storyboard that represents each key moment of your game like the introduction, each puzzle and final resolution. Once you have the storyboard broken down in key litte challenges, map out what are the key items, characters and location your players will encounter using post-its. That way you can refine key elements of your story until you are happy. Make sure the ending makes sense and is fun enough for players to resolve.
Step 4 : Create the puzzles
Most escape games are made up of a series of puzzles that players will need to solve in sequence. The best puzzles both use coherent themes and mechanics linked to your story. So as an example, if you find yourself in the kitchen of the great forest sorcerer, a good puzzle could be to find the recipe to create a healing potion using different ingredients by performing a word search on a grid. Many good ideas of riddles and puzzles can also be found online but be sure to make them work for your story and adapt them.
Some examples of puzzles to consider and don’t hesitate to combine them :
Decipher a message : most common one with many variants. Replace each symbol or letter with a new letter to spell out the message.
Find keys, objects or parts of the puzzle : Hide key objects that all together will give the answer for that puzzle like pieces of a puzzle. This is a great way to keep the game dynamic and get everyone moving.
Use props and locks : Make it more immersive with old suitcases, locks and relevant objects for your story that become part of the puzzle.
Find hidden message : within an article or a wider message, a few key words or numbers will be required to unlock this puzzle. Another example is a reverse message that can be read using a mirror.
Logic or Maths riddle : yep, usually this features strongly in escape games. Again, make sure these make sense with your story so they don't feel too random.
Meta puzzle : finally, a great way to wrap up our escape game is to ensure the last puzzle uses lots of clues from all the previous puzzles. That way it can only be solved by having finished all other puzzles. For example, if each puzzle gives you before a part of a key, then the final puzzle will require you to reconstruct the final key to unlock the door and escape in time.
Step 5 : Test, test, test
Ok, well done for making it this far. Now you can’t wait to get your friends to play the game. But before you do, don’t forget the most important step. You MUST test your escape game a few times before to make sure it is fun. All games will require multiple rounds of tweaks and changes to ensure they work well so don’t expect that you get it right the first time. Start by imagining yourself in your players shoes with no previous background of the game : does the story all make sense ? Do the puzzles seem achievable ? Get some family or friends to trial it and give you honest feedback on what works and what could be improved. Well done, you are now ready to host your amazing first DIY escape game at home
Hosting your Escape Game at Home
You have either created your first adventure or you have purchased an escape game to play at home that you think your players will like. If you are hosting very soon, then don't panic : go for print at home escape games you can download instantly. Check out our super family friendly adventures here that kids will love. Here are our 4 tips to become a great host.
Tip #1 : Tease the game with an invitation to remember
The fun really starts here. Get everyone in the mood for your game by announcing the theme through a fun invitation. Tease the theme and challenge ahead. Why not get everyone to dress-up as well. Our games come with a range of immersive invitations you can use to really dial up the theme. Otherwise, you can find lots of good templates online if you run out of ideas.
Tip #2 : Set-up & decorate
Read the instructions carefully to set-up the game properly. It usually involves preparing a few items, hiding a few clues and defining your play area and which parts of the house are off limits. We know this can be daunting so we have super easy to follow set-up guides and video with a maximum of 20 minutes of preparation. If you have more than 4 players, you may need to print multiple copies of the games and run different groups of 4 players each so everyone can get involved in solving the puzzles. The first group to finish will win the game.
And don't forget to decorate according to your theme. The more creative the more immersive. Just look up some ideas on pinterest or Google and you will be amazed at how creative some hosts are. Finally lighting also is a great way to set the mood. Maybe certain rooms can be pitch black except for a small light for maximum dramatic effect.
Tip #3 : Get ready to play
As you host, your role as a gamemaster is very important during the game. It is your job to ensure the story unfolds correctly and that everyone has fun during the experience. This will likely involve explaining the game objective, reading out parts of the story, clues and timekeeping. Have fun and embrace the role. Even better dress up, do silly voices if needed and make your players really immersed in the game. They will love it.
Also, we recommend launching a relevant soundtrack during the game.
Each of our escape games come with a simple one page guide for the game master to help run the game smoothly as well as an immersive soundtrack and timer for each game.
Finally don't forget to make sure everyone is having fun and involved. You could give the younger players a role throughout (ie. reading out the next clue or message; checking the countdown etc.).
Tip #4 : Celebrate the achievement
This is it. As the clock counts down with just a few seconds left, your players scream with joy as they finally finish the game. There is no doubt, your players have solved the case or escaped more or less on time. Now is the time to celebrate the achievement big time ! Take fun selfies of your players at the end and feed your troops well. It is the perfect time to tuck in to that birthday cake for example.