Making of Aunt Edna’s Heirlooms Game

September 11, 2021


Earlier this year I made a table-top escape-room-in-a-box style game for friends and family to play. I've gotten some questions about how I put it together.

Don't read this post if you plan to play the game, because there are spoilers!

After playing some table-top escape room style games, I wanted to make my own. As a graphic designer, I think I have an advantage over most game designers because the images were not a separate process for me. The icons and the puzzles were devised simultaneously. I wanted to minimize red-herrings and test the puzzles well on real subjects. I wanted players to immediately know they got the right answer (no gobbledygook code answers). I wanted everything to have a tactile component. Since I was not planning to mass-manufacture this game, I could have lovely, real physical materials. I thought a crotchety old-lady theme would be funny and easier to achieve with goodwill and eBay. It has since been pointed out to me that old ladies are actually not the most fun of themes, so my second game is Tiki Themed. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

  • First, I had the idea of many puzzles that would all fill-in a master sheet that would eventually let you solve the grand final ending. This seemed like an organized way to structure the game.
  • I made a spread sheet of proverbs and phrases. I decided the messages should follow a theme, and thought that bad-advice about living a boring life would be a funny theme for a old-lady. I ranked the proverbs by letter count, because some puzzles required short answers (so that they wouldn't get too tedious). Where as other puzzles were more 'instant reveal' and I thought they could handle the longer character-count.
  • I wanted it to be easily shippable to family and friends in other states. The hook-and-loop straps that make the box easily re-sealable are from amazon.
  • The lawyer letter head is the same fake-lawyer company that I made up a few years ago to send a fun package to my brother pretending to be found objects from a long-lost ancestors.
  • The safety deposit box came from a bank that was being torn down, and Sector67 (the Makerspace of which I am a member) was given permission to take anything useful from the building the day before the wrecking ball came.
  • I designed the fake-cross-stich pattern on the tea towel and had it printed at Zazzle.
  • The lighter came from eBay with it's original insert, which worked.  However, it turns out traditional lighters can't really be stored on their sides or upside down for long periods of time, so the lighter would always be empty when it arrived for the next player.  My friend Jim told me that zippo sells butane torch inserts for antique lighters so that they work more reliably.
  • The pen-ink that disappears with heat is just a PILOT FriXion Clicker Erasable Pen.  I think my husband bought the pens at Target.  FYI: You can make the ink come back if you put it in the freezer.
  • The wooden cat puzzle box came from goodwill and was missing that final wooden peg that holds it closed.  That was how I got the idea to add a stick with the colored stripes as the 'key' to both he box and the puzzle inside.
  • The potpourri are all cut-up sticks and bits of dried flowers I found around the house, with scented oils I already owned dripped in.  That way I can also replenish the smell with more oil as needed.
  • The commemorative spoons came from various listings on eBay. I had already worked out the letters I needed, so I knew was cities I was searching for.
  • The compact mirror came from eBay.  I originally had a second transparency inside the compartment of the mirror that had to be overlaid on the framed photo before you could read the text. However, this proved too tricky in my subject tests.  The original mirror in the antique compact was aged and cloudy, and made it too hard to read the reflected text.  My neighbor Eunice helped cut a new piece of mirror to size so that the image would be bright and readable again.
  • Both cardinal images and the frog image are photos I took in our backyard.
  • The Christmas Story decoder pin was purchased here.
  • The men's knickknacks came from eBay and our own junk at home.
  • My husband, Jeremy, crocheted the blue pot holder.
  • The cat photo is of our pet, Janie, and both frames are from goodwill.
  • The blue domino pieces were from eBay and are intended to be used for those toppling domino displays. I printed stickers which I stuck on there.
  • The TV guide came from eBay.  It's only from 1995, but it's amazing how dated some of the articles are.
  • The newspaper clipping is printed on my home printer on to this paper.
  • The first pencil case I got had a built-in lock.  However, the quality was terrible and the set-combination would shift unexpectedly. That was a terrible experience for my early testers! I decided to rely on a separate pencil case and better quality lock instead.
  • The anodized aluminum tags, pink paper cut-outs, and wooden ruler were cut by Chris Meyer at Sector67 (I could not cut them myself because it was during pandemic lockdown and our makerspace was closed).  The paper cut outs were then laminated using a professional laminating machine at Sector67.
  • The final lock box is an interesting device, I'm not sure what other people use it for. I thought it had an important look, as if it really could contain diamonds.
  • Of course I drew all the icons, logos, tea pots, etc. in Adobe Illustrator. I used effects to make the lines look like they were drawn with pen.
  • For the hints webpage, I used Brizy plugin for WordPress. Brizy doesn't let you put images in the top part of an accordion element, or in the middle of text. So, I wrote some Javascript coding in the Header and Footer Scripts Plugin for WordPress. In Brizy, I could just type [IconCodePhrase0] and then the code would replace that with a certain image.
// This function replaces short codes with images for the Aunt Edna game and for some reason absolutely needs to be the first thing in this FOOTER script section
function AuntEdnaIconReplace() {
var AuntEdnaIconList = [[]];
AuntEdnaIconList[0] = ["[IconCodePhrase0]", "<img class='AuntEdnaIcon0' 
AuntEdnaIconList[1] = ["[IconCodePhrase1]", "<img class='AuntEdnaIcon' 
AuntEdnaIconList[2] = ["[IconCodePhrase2]", "<img class='AuntEdnaIcon' 

var findIconShortCode, repl;
var page = document.body.innerHTML;
for (var i=0; i<AuntEdnaIconList.length; i++) {
findIconShortCode = AuntEdnaIconList[i][0];
repl = AuntEdnaIconList[i][1];
while (page.indexOf(findIconShortCode) >= 0) {
var positionOfShortCode = page.indexOf(findIconShortCode);
var shortCodeLength = findIconShortCode.length;
page = page.substr(0,positionOfShortCode) + repl + page.substr(positionOfShortCode+shortCodeLength);
document.body.innerHTML = page;
//Run only if we are on a page relevant to this so that we don't slow down the whole site
if (window.location.href.indexOf('auntedna') > 0) {

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