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The Kickstarter to End All Maze of Games Kickstarters

In 1897, Colleen and Samuel Quaice discovered a mysterious book in the Upper Wolverhampton Bibliothèque. As soon as the two siblings opened the book, the skeletal Gatekeeper emerged and pulled the pair into The Maze of Games. In 2014, readers discovered copies of The Maze of Games, documenting the sibling’s passage through that labyrinth. Readers were tasked with squaring off against each of the puzzles the Quaices faced along the way, with every solve unlocking the next page of the story. This “interactive puzzle novel” format added a welcome twist to the gamebook genre without infringing on the litigious Choose Your Own Adventure franchise’s intellectual property.

After four long years, the first group of readers successfully completed The Maze of Games‘ puzzles, finally freeing the Quaice siblings and unlocking one final Maze of Games Kickstarter campaign, The Maze of Games Omnibus and Escape Room Experience. The campaign allows backers to obtain an in-universe answer key, as well as a chance to buy in for the full experience, with components including a soundtrack composed by Austin Wintory, an audiobook narrated by Wil Wheaton, a radio show, and even a Maze of Games themed escape room in Seattle.

How Exactly Does The Maze of Games Work?

The Maze of Games prologue starts off like a traditional book, with a brief introduction to the Quaices and their plight. Once the pair encounter the Gatekeeper, they are charged with solving an initial puzzle to gain entry to the Castle Maze. The Maze of Games is themed around a deck of cards, with each suit representing a “chapter” of the story.

With standard Choose Your Own Adventure novels, players are given multiple choices. However, The Maze of Games only has one correct pathway through its pages, determined by the four mazes contained within. Figuring the optimal path through each maze will provide each chapter’s intended reading (and solving) order, with each suit getting increasingly difficult.

Even readers tackling the book alone should be able to make it through the initial Castle Maze of Diamonds…it’s the Cloud Maze of Spades and its final meta-puzzle that had readers confounded for the past four years. Lone Shark Games even released The Theseus Guide to the Final Maze, a chapbook that offered hints to see Colleen and Samuel through to the finish with yet another series of puzzles. And while audio-inclined readers couldn’t solve the Maze of Games audiobook, Wil Wheaton’s acting quickly made the audio edition my preferred way of experiencing the story, showing off an impressive range as he embodies the host of helpful (and somewhat less-than helpful) characters the siblings encounter along the way. Conveniently, the audiobook comes in “solved” and “unsolved” ordering, so listeners can appreciate the narrative in the style of their choosing.

The Maze of Games wiki has hints for every puzzle (including the final challenge) to nudge readers on to the solutions should they find themselves stuck. What Lone Shark Games’ 2019 Maze of Games Kickstarter campaign is adding to the mix is The Keymaster’s Tome, a reproduction of the journal the Quaice siblings might have used to navigate The Maze of Games, with “answers, conversations, and tidbits hand-written in the margins”. The campaign also introduces an audio recording of The Theseus Guide to the Final Maze and a radio play, The Gatekeeper’s Variety Hour, featuring both musical and puzzle guests.

The Maze of Games: Now a Physical Escape Room?
Readers of the newest edition of Puzzlecraft may already be familiar with the concept of a Maze of Games-themed escape room, as Gaby Weidling used the idea to illustrate the process of escape room development in the book. Lone Shark Games partnered with Epic Team Adventures to transform that idea into a reality, with a themed escape room in Seattle that opens up…today, March 14th. The room’s construction is a bit atypical for escape rooms, with four different rooms all making use of the same space. As with all Maze of Games productions with an audio component, Wil Wheaton is reprising his role to narrate the escape room.

All backers who contribute $15 or more will receive a $35 discount code for the room in which Selinker and Weidling find themselves trapped. Which brings us to the Kickstarter campaign.

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A Return to Puzzlecraft, Just in Time for Gen Con

Starting in 2004, puzzle designers Mike Selinker and Thomas Snyder wrote a column on puzzle design for Games Magazine called “Puzzlecraft”. In 2013, the pair condensed a decade of commentary and learnings from the column into a book, the ambitiously titled Puzzlecraft: The Ultimate Guide on How to Construct Every Kind of Puzzle. The book was intended to serve as a resource for aspiring puzzlemakers, passing down guidelines for designing elegant puzzles. As Selinker explains in the book’s introduction, “Whether you’re making puzzles to publish online or befuddle your family or educate your students, you should find what you need [in Puzzlecraft]. If you master everything we talk about, you’ll be on your way to being a puzzlemaker.” The spiral-bound book’s 192 pages lived up to that promise, detailing over 70 different puzzle variations through solvable examples of each type, guidelines to help new puzzlemakers construct those puzzles, and offering italicized hints and color commentary along the way. The only problem was, when you sell a book of puzzles to fans of the genre, they’re going to write in the books. So when Puzzlecraft‘s limited print run was exhausted, obtaining a used copy became a costly endeavor. When Puzzlecraft was initially released, it retailed for $9.99. When I finally got my hands on a copy on the used books market, I ended up spending $65.

No one has to pay that much for puzzling wisdom again, since Lone Shark Games just announced the book’s return, on the eve of Gen Con 2018. The new version of Puzzlecraft has been updated to feature a new forward by Wait, Wait… Don’t Tell Me‘s Peter Sagal and over 20 new puzzle types, with a focus on ARG-adjacent puzzle types like interactive fiction, escape rooms, puzzle rallies, and videogame puzzles. The alternate reality gaming section of the book has also received an update, adding a miniature alternate reality game to the book. As one of the book’s italicized flavortext hints reads,

To build our ARG, first we had to figure out how a book could become a springboard for an ARG puzzle. Once we had that, we came up with the parts necessary to make that work. I’d tell you more, but This Is Not A Game.

When reached for comment, Puzzlecraft developer Gaby Weidling cryptically responded, “all I’ll say is that it’s our smallest ARG ever!”Puzzlecraft is available for pre-order at the Lone Shark Games store for $29.95 for the book, or $15 for the PDF. And if you’re reading this article after August 15th, you should absolutely do that. Otherwise, there’s an even better option.

To celebrate the book’s release and support the Girls Make Games and Girls Who Code charities, Lone Shark Games partnered with a collection of game designer friends to release the Game Design & Puzzlecraft Humble Bundle, a series of game design books. For $8, aspiring puzzle fans can have a Humble Bundle exclusive edition of the newly expanded Puzzlecraft, along with 10 other books that provide different perspectives on game design like . For $15, newly released “DLC”editions of Puzzlecraft and The Kobold Guide to Board Game Design are unlocked. For Puzzlecraft, the DLC takes the form of a 400 page digital tome of Selinker and Snyder’s first drafts of Puzzlecraft articles for Games Magazine that served as inspiration for the reference book. For The Kobold Guide to Board Game Design, readers are treated to a sneak preview of the book’s 2019 update, featuring essays from Bruno Faidutti, Chad Brown, and Mike Selinker. The Humble Bundle also comes with a 20% off coupon for the Lone Shark Games Store, in case a print copy of the book is what you’re looking for.

If only for its skill at exposing readers to the depth and variety of puzzle types available, Puzzlecraft is an essential text for puzzle solvers and makers alike, and the book’s re-release has made that recommendation an accessible one, at a price that’s hard to beat. Now about that embedded alternate reality game…

To get started, check out the Game Design & Puzzlecraft Humble Bundle for downloadable copies of Puzzlecraft, and the Lone Shark Games store to pre-order its print release. The full list of books included in the Humble Bundle are included below.

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The Solution to Cards Against Humanity’s Puzzling Obsession with Bullshit

cah-hawaii2

Images of the Reddit expedition to Hawaii 2 courtesy of Pewwer42

Shortly after Christmas, a group of Redditors met up, planning on making the trek to an uninhabited island near Lake Saint George Park in Maine. Previous expeditions to the island confirmed the presence of a wooden shed containing a massive safe at the southern tip of the island: but without the six digit passcode to unlock it, the safe’s contents remained a mystery. Finally, after almost a month of poring over websites, YouTube videos, and physical mailings, community members felt fairly confident they had the passcode that would unveil the safe’s contents.

All this, because of a bit of Holiday Bullshit.

A Little Bullshit Backstory

For this year’s Black Friday promotion, Cards Against Humanity made headlines by removing their popular card game from the market, and replacing it with Black Friday Bullshit – for $6, the company would mail its customers literal bullshit in a box. No more, and no less. At the same time, the company was promoting a separate dose of bullshit for the holidays. While the Black Friday Bullshit promotion was perfectly clear in what it was offering, Cards Against Humanity’s Ten Days or Whatever of Kwanzaa promotion at HolidayBullshit.com provided almost no guidance about what it would deliver: only that, for $15, the company would send ten mailings containing…just about anything.

Fans of the company had some idea of what they might expect by using the previous year’s Holiday Bullshit mailings as guidance: a handful of exclusive and personalized Cards Against Humanity cards, a miniaturized prototype of a game, a few comics, maybe a charitable donation to a worthy cause. But for the most part, $15 purchased the ability to find a surprise waiting in the mailbox for a few days…alongside access to an expansive puzzle hunt that promised to be bigger than the last.

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Entering Maze of Games’ Victorian-Era Puzzle Adventure

mazeofgamesHidden within the storied halls of the Upper Wolverhampton Library in Victorian-era England, a musty book lies in wait, ready to entrap the first hapless souls to peer into its pages. While Colleen and Samuel Quaice fall victim to The Maze of Games, it’s up to you, the reader, to lead the two children home by solving a series of puzzles presented by the book’s enigmatic skeletal guardian, the Gatekeeper.

The Maze of Games is a full-length puzzle novel that follows the adventures of the Quaice siblings as they make their way through the Gatekeeper’s labyrinth. While traditional Choose Your Own Adventure novels direct readers through branching narratives through a series of choices, The Maze of Games‘s “solve your own adventure” format directs readers through the experience through the same series of puzzles facing the Quaices. Solving the puzzle unlocks the page number of the next narrative installment. Illustrated by Magic: The Gathering illustrator Pete Venters, the book is designed to look and feel like a book from the Victorian Era.

The puzzle adventure’s author Mike Selinker launched a Kickstarter campaign for The Maze of Games last month seeking $16,000 to fund the project. To date, the project has drawn in over $109,000 in pledges, with an ebook/iDevice edition available to $20 donors and a hardcover edition available for $50. As an added perk, Selinker has arranged for the Gatekeeper to lock a series of famous puzzle designers in cages until they agree to contribute a Victorian-era puzzle to the Conundrucopia, a bonus set of puzzles in The Maze of Games. At set Kickstarter milestones, the puzzle designers are set free from their cages and put to work. The list of confirmed puzzlers is an impressive one that reflects the variety of puzzles contained outside the Conundrucopia. Innovators in the space including ambigram pioneer Scott Kim, 74-time Jeopardy champion Ken Jennings, Perplex City puzzle designer Eric Harshbarger, Puzzazz founder Roy Leban, and Duck Konundrum inventor Dan Katz have all spent their time locked up by the Gatekeeper, with more to follow.

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Strong Arm Your Way into the Ring of Dishonor: Q&A with Master Thief Mike Selinker

As previously reported on ARGNet, Wired magazine and Lone Shark Games have created a special “Underworld Exposed” issue to delight and confound puzzle-solvers and would-be thieves eager to join the nefarious Ring of Dishonor, a special place for the craftiest of puzzlers. Frustrated by the secret ciphers hidden in the magazine, available both in print and on the iPad, I cornered master puzzle-maker and president of Lone Shark Games, Mike Selinker.

Let’s see if he’ll crack under the interrogation lamp:
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Lone Shark Games and Wired Want You to Join Their Ring of Dishonor

In this month’s Wired, Lone Shark Games is presenting a unique challenge to puzzlers, techies, and . . . thugs? Promising “A Guided Tour of the Dark Side,” this special “Underworld Exposed” issue includes fascinating articles about real-world crime and other things hidden from plain sight. Along these lines, the magazine, available both in print and for the iPad, contains secret codes that, when deciphered, will provide an email address. When contacted at a certain time and date, Decode will confer upon you a most dubious honor and a place in the ultra-secret puzzling society, the Ring of Dishonor.

The Ring of Dishonor is a darker, scarier version of Decode’s regularly featured Ring of Honor puzzles. How do you get started on your criminal puzzle-solving career? Check out this trailhead puzzle, involving the now-extinct language used by Chinese women to communicate without being watched. Using this puzzle as a launching pad, nine other secret languages are being revealed in quiz form at Decode to supplement the print magazine (iPad readers have all the secret languages available already). Somehow, through the magazine, these secret languages will bring enthusiastic seekers “behind the door,” so to speak, if they’ve got the puzzle-solving chops to figure it all out.

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