Box Puzzle 2023

My friends frequently travel once a year to in a large group, this time I thought rather than just contribute traditional party games, I thought it would be worth creating a puzzle with a prize inside. I intentionally waited until the second day to surprise them.

This was what I came up with, a physical box with a QR code on the front that took you to the website to start the box puzzle. No other instruction was given, however inside you could see the smaller box and a wrapped envelope (containing lock-pick tools for the padlocks on the outside of the smaller box).

The physical box contained a wrapped prize which when you eventually unwrapped was a box of Cadbury Heros to share.

The boxes were transparent from B&M with holes drilled in the lids for the locks.

Online Aspect

The QR code took you to a website, 99% of the players used their mobile for all of the puzzle but a few opted for their laptop when working on a few rounds. The web page presented the rules, which were,

  • You must complete all online activities until you can access the box
  • Destructive entry into the physical box is not allowed
  • You may use online tools and websites
  • Reverse engineering the website is not allowed
  • Access the box to win

The initial code could be found on a painting used in a previous game we had played.

box puzzle website rules

The website had 5 rounds, each round revealed the next and completing all the rounds showed how to unlock the box,

box puzzle website index of puzzles
box puzzle final page

Reception and Improvements

Here are my observations of how the puzzle went,

  • Initially the box was extremely interesting, the QR code and website was very interesting to everyone when placed on the coffee table after a long day.
  • The QR code and website was very accessible and being mobile first during development definitely paid off. There were zero technical or usability issues.
  • The structure of the website was easy to follow, however I provided a facility to skip ahead on the main page if others got the solution, but this facility was never used because people completed the puzzles by entering the solutions.
  • Allowing online tools made the first puzzle too easy, it was completed in less than 30 seconds. I could have made this harder or prevented online tools from solving the puzzle.
  • The second and final (fifth) puzzle was audio based, which meant the music playing had to stop, which disrupted the flow a bit. Audio challenges should be easy or not require silence as these did (a Morse code challenge and audio file to decode an image).
  • The maze challenge provided the right amount of problem solving, the overall challenge wasn’t too difficult and could be completed by online tools, but still required the human to work out the solution. Similar approaches should be applied in future.
  • The physical box could only be handled by one person at a time, and took considerable time to complete a lock, lock-picking is also a difficult skill to master, in the end one person completed three of the four locks due to group apathy. I think in future it would be better if the physical box had no physical obstructions once the online part is completed and instead the box opened magically as part of completing the online section, although there is obvious cost to such an approach.
  • The website was completed in a week, which was a considerable crunch.

Overall, the box puzzle was a success, and next time will be better.

Notes for Next Time

  • Consider making the first puzzle more challenging or preventing online tools from solving it too quickly.
  • Make audio-based challenges easier or design them in a way that does not require silence.
  • Explore ways to allow multiple people to engage with the physical box simultaneously or eliminate physical obstructions once the online part is completed

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