At long last, we’ve finally completed Puzzle Boat 2! What started as an afternoon session with our whole team working together at the same time turned into a full month of nonstop puzzling that occupied every discretionary moment I can find.
Taking a step back- Puzzle Boat is an online contest from Panda Magazine in the vein of the MIT Puzzle Hunt. The contest is run annually, with Puzzle Boat 7 being the most recent, but older contests can be purchased and played at any time.
Puzzle Boat 2 had more than 100 puzzles with a robust series of final puzzles combining the answers from all the other puzzles we solved. The shortest puzzles took about 30 minutes, and the longest took us hours; sometimes it took hours of exploration to even find how to start a puzzle. The game offers a limited amount of hints to get past blockers or hurdles.
More than 100 puzzles, more than 30 minutes each… If you’re doing the math, you can see why this was such a challenge to work through over the course of a month. It was a burden, but it was also a puzzler’s paradise. It pulled me away from writing and other hobbies, but at the same time, I definitely wasn’t unhappy to have so many puzzles to work on.
The puzzles are a little different than players might expect. I had worked through one MIT Puzzle Hunt puzzle during Mind Gamers Discovery Lab so I had a little taste, but these challenges are unique. The puzzles never tell the solver exactly what to do- you might start with a photo, gibberish text, grid, or some other template you need to untangle with no instruction.
It really helps to have a team. Our main team was made up of three individuals, and I don’t know what I would have done without either of the others. Some puzzles are focused on trivia and references, some focus on crossword-like vocabulary, some focus on numbers… you get the idea. We had three members on our team, and we would have welcomed five more happily.
We will definitely be giving Puzzle Boat 3 a go next, but for now, I’m going to appreciate having some discretionary time again, spending more time on writing and creative projects.