‘The Hunt for the Golden Book’ Advent(ure) Calendar

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Santa Claus’ golden book has been stolen! Not only will this ruin Christmas, but it’s also a huge data breach. Can you track down the book before it’s too late?

What Is The Hunt for the Golden Book?

Exit: The Game – Advent Calendar: The Hunt for the Golden Book (yes, the full title is a mouthful) is a puzzle adventure game for 1 or more players, ages 10 and up, and takes 24 days to play. (Okay, not 24 full days, but it’s an advent calendar so you get one puzzle a day, and each puzzle varies in length, depending on how long it takes you to figure out the answer.) It retails for $49.95 and is available in stores and online (though it is temporarily out of stock from Thames & Kosmos directly).

The Hunt for the Golden Book was designed by Inka and Markus Brand and published by Thames & Kosmos, with illustrations by Florian Biege and a cover illustration by Martin Hoffman. The story was written by Lena Ollefs. It was originally published in 2021 in German, with the English translation released this year.

The Hunt for the Golden Book components
The Hunt for the Golden Book components. Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

The Hunt for the Golden Book Components

Given the nature of this game—it’s an advent calendar where you open one door per day and find what’s inside—I can’t really show you all of the components without spoilers. Here’s what you see before opening any doors:

  • Advent Calendar box
  • Instruction and Help book
  • Story book
  • Decoder table

The box itself is quite large, divided into 24 sections with flaps to open. Each flap shows three symbols and a lock. Notably, only one flap has a numbered open lock for “1,” and all the rest are locked and blank. The background has an illustration of a snowy mountain village. My daughter also noticed that not all of the flaps are cut the same way—some open in different directions, and there’s even one with a round flap instead of the rectangular door.

The Hunt for the Golden Book 1st December story page
The story page for the first day. Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

The instruction book and the story book are both top-bound, with perforations so you can tear out each page. The instructions themselves are only 6 pages, and the rest of that booklet is hints for each day. The story book starts with a lengthier prologue, but then each day has its own sheet with a bit of a story and sometimes some other features.

The Hunt for the Golden Book decoder table
The decoder table leads you to the next day’s door. Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

You’ll need to cut the three colored strips and assemble the decoder table. Each day’s puzzle will give you a three-digit code, which you enter into the table, and then flip over to check if you’re right—more on this later! It’s a clever little system for self-checking without giving away the correct answer if you’re wrong.

Other than that, I can tell you that there are various bits hidden behind the doors. Often there are riddle cards that are the small Euro-sized cards, either with text or more illustrations on them. There are also cardboard bits to punch out (fairly thin, more like a thick cardstock) and… more? We got started before Advent season so I’d be able to review it, but we haven’t completed it yet so there’s plenty I haven’t seen yet. I will tell you that when you shake the box, it jingles.

One fun feature is that the interior of the box is also illustrated. The story itself has you moving from door to door and describes the scene that you discover—which is then found inside the little box when you lift the flap. Often, the illustration inside includes important details that you’ll need for solving the day’s puzzle.

How to Play The Hunt for the Golden Book

This isn’t your typical game, so I won’t give you the usual review breakdown. You will want to read the instructions ahead of time, but the only setup required is cutting and assembling the decoder. The prologue is a little bit longer so you’ll want to allow some time to read that together, and you could even do that before December 1st.

On each day, you tear out the story page for that day and read it, and then open the flap and try to solve the puzzle. If you’ve played any of the other escape room-style games, you’ll know that there are a variety of types of puzzles included, with wordplay, visual observation, physical puzzles, logic puzzles, and so on. Particular to Exit: The Game titles is that you may need to use the components themselves in creative ways: I’ve seen puzzles that require the use of the box itself, folding and cutting things, and so on. The instructions note that you should not throw anything away until you’re completely done with the game, because you never know what you might need later.

The answer to each puzzle is a 3-digit number. You enter the code in the decoder table and then flip the table over. On the back of the table, you’ll see directional arrows and symbols. (There are three of each color showing, but you just refer to the center column.) Starting at the current day’s door, you follow the directional arrows until you reach another door. If you go off the side of the box, you have the wrong code for sure. Otherwise, compare the symbols on the door you reached with the symbols on the decoder table. If they match, you were correct and solved the puzzle—write the next day’s number on this door. Otherwise, you made a mistake and you need to work on the puzzle again.

The Hunt for the Golden Book incorrect code illustration
This code is incorrect. Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

In my photo above, I’ve put in an incorrect code for Day 1. It instructs me to move northwest, then south, then southeast. This puts me at a door with circle-hexagon-circle, but the decoder table says moon-L-diamond. This must be the incorrect code. (Note that you can’t simply find the correct door by looking for “moon-L-diamond” because the symbols for the correct answer will be different as well.)

The Hunt for the Golden Book hint book
Each hint page has two levels of hints, and then the solution. Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

If you get stuck, you can get a hint from the help book. Turn to the correct day, and fold up the bottom portion of the page to read the hint. If you need more help, you fold up another section, and if you’re entirely stuck you can lift the rest of the page to see the solution.

That’s it! You make your way through the various puzzles, and hopefully, by December 24th you’ll retrieve the golden book and save Christmas.

Why You Should Play The Hunt for the Golden Book

My family and I have really enjoyed many different escape room and mystery-solving games over the years. We all really love working on puzzles and riddles, though it can be a little hard to share the riddles sometimes. While we do celebrate Advent and Christmas, we haven’t typically had any Advent calendars, so this has been a fun (albeit early) experience, getting to open a door each day and finding out what’s inside. Of course, unlike the ones where you get a toy or a chocolate, this one is more about the story and experience each day rather than the physical object itself, which is usually quite simple.

The story can be a bit silly, but it leans into that silliness. In the prologue, there’s a mention of the CDPO (Christmas Data Protection Ordinance), a reference to the GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation), and we all agreed that if Santa kept everyone’s contact info and Christmas wishes in a physical book, then that would indeed be a huge security flaw.

The system is pretty cool—I like the way that the decoder table works so that if you get the riddle wrong the first time, you don’t just see the correct answer when you go to check it, and you get another chance to try it again. I also like that this has a more family-friendly storyline than some of the other Exit games, which tend to lean toward a bit of spine-tingling and danger. It’s clear that this one is intended for younger audiences, which is nice—my 9-year-old has usually joined us for our escape room sessions, but there have been some storylines that weren’t quite as enjoyable for her.

Of course, it’s also up to you whether you want to work through this calendar over the course of 24 days, or if you’re going to sit down and plow through several days at a time. I’m playing it with my family, so we can just do one a day, but if you wanted to play this with a gaming group, it may be difficult to commit to meeting every day (and during December!) for a session, so I wouldn’t be surprised if some people decide to work through it in a few batches at a time.

I’m excited to finish out the rest of this calendar with my family in the coming weeks. Obviously, the story is very much about Christmas and Santa Claus, so if that’s not part of your traditions and celebrations, you may not be as interested in this particular plot. (Last year’s calendar, The Mystery of the Ice Caves, has a less explicitly Christmas-themed story, from what I’ve read.) However, if you like the idea of a puzzle-a-day Advent Calendar and you enjoy (somewhat corny) Christmas stories, you should join The Hunt for the Golden Book!

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Disclosure: GeekDad received a copy of this game for review purposes.

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