One Headache to Rule Them All

Going on an adventure? Might want to grab an extra bottle of Tylenol before you step off the Shire! We tested the “Lord of the Rings: Shadows Over Middle-earth” escape room by Exit the Game…and it didn’t quite work out for our merry gang!

“Shadows Over Middle-earth” retails for around $20 on sites like Amazon. It’s manufactured by Kosmos, intended for ages 10+, takes 1-4 players, purports to be just above novice level, and takes an estimated 1-2 hours to complete.The box was promising, and included the oh-so-iconic Ring of Power.

Our game testers were Katie, an intrepid 11 year-old nephew of a colleague, and Daniel our summer intern (who sportingly posed in Gandalf gear for this post).

Daniel authored today’s game review, but I’ll preface it by saying – this escape room was much harder then the box suggested. From the adjoining room, I could hear groans, growls, and wizardly exclamations of frustration from the questers. Also, our game was missing a crucial peace at the very end, so it ended up as more a frustrating headache then triumphant quest. As demonstrated by Daniel/Gandalf…

Daniel’s review is below, but don’t miss his interview at the end of this post! Take it away Daniel!


The “Shadows Over Middle-earth” escape room takes the player on an arduous adventure through Middle-earth in hopes of finding and destroying the ring of power, an enchanted band of gold that gives its wielder an unlimited source of power. Gandalf the Grey has enlisted the help of any person brave enough to embark on this dangerous journey to help Frodo and his band of Hobbits find Sauron’s ring and destroy it once and for all.

While the minimum age listed on the box is ten, purchasers should be aware that the skill-level demanded by Gandalf aligns more with a minimum age of fifteen. In addition, this particular escape game is a level two on a scale from novice to expert. It should be noted that while the difficulty is marked as a level two, these brave adventurers felt that it was at least a level four as it expected a high knowledge of riddle and puzzle solving.

This adventure-packed activity includes multiple game pieces, riddle cards, a map, a decoder, and a riddle book. Some materials must be cut, so be sure to have those handy Hobbit shears on hand. Similarly, it is important to note that while these adventurers were brave enough to overcome any obstacle, a missing game piece proved to be a formidable challenge, so make sure to check the box for all listed items before beginning.

While traversing through the enchanted forests and hills of Middle-earth, some adventures may need a helping hand as some riddles can surely sway them off their quest. Fear not, Gandalf has given any brave soul a chance to ask for help! Simply enlist his assistance by picking up a help card and Gandalf will be sure to provide you with more information that will help you solve these crucial riddles. Overall, these courageous participants feel that from one to five stars, this enthralling game earned a solid three stars for its ingenuity and creativeness.

Now, fearless warrior, go out and embark on the journey of a lifetime! Take these tips to help you along the way, but beware, Sauron’s power grows stronger by the minute! Are you ready?


After the quest, we caught up with non-Gandalf Daniel to ask him a little about himself and his experience with us this summer. We have enjoyed having him SO much. His energy and enthusiasm are legendary, as are his scholarly skills. From curating an upcoming #ColorOurCollections, to rolling up his sleeves at story time, Daniel is absolutely brilliant and excels in everything he does. It was truly honor to work with him.

Hi! Tell us a little about yourself!

Hey everyone! My name is Daniel Dias, but you can call me Dan! I am a rising junior at Rutgers University, New Brunswick where I study history and minor in religion. I adore history and it has certainly become something of a passion of mine, whether it be local or world history, the past is something that deeply intrigues me! When I’m not thinking about lost civilizations or what George Washington ate for breakfast that one time in 1778, I enjoy traveling, riding my bike, hanging out with friends, and playing music. I am a Low Brass section leader in the Rutgers Marching Scarlet Knights which is such an incredible experience!

Outside of my hobbies and extra-curricular activities, I work as a Youth Suicide Prevention Associate for the New Jersey chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics. I want to make a difference in the world wherever I can, and I have found that if you’re passionate about anything, you can always help people and leave your community and the world a much better place!

Growing up, what was your experience with libraries?

Growing up, I actually didn’t go to the library that often, if ever. It isn’t something that I would like to admit, but I honestly didn’t. I was extremely fortunate to have an array of books in my house, so I didn’t need to utilize my town’s resources that much. However, when I’d travel with my parents, visiting foreign libraries became sort of a hobby of ours and thus, my fascination with diverse approaches to library sciences began. Libraries are a place where every child should go to. They inspire, captivate, and open our minds to the world!

What are you most eager to experience in your internship this summer?

I’d first like to mention how incredibly grateful I am to have been granted access into a world only few really get to see. The knowledge that I have gained in such a short time here at Princeton has already begun to shape my perceptions and broaden my horizons into a field that intrigues me so much. What an honor it is to work in the same space that accomplished professionals work in and what a privilege it is to be able to study in the same library where some of the greatest minds on earth have.

With that being said, I am very eager to experience connections with professionals who, in large part, are the best in their field. I want to learn from them and their experiences in hopes of truly understanding the importance of the work they do on a daily basis and how that fits into the larger picture of scholarly research. Accessioning, cataloging, preserving, conserving…these are all words that are associated with archives and special collections, but I want to get to know the faces behind that. I am eager to challenge myself and hopefully think and act as critically as they do.

What’s next for you?

After this incredible experience comes to an end, I will be enduring the heat during band camp, where the Marching Scarlet Knights will be preparing for an incredible season which will culminate with us marching in this year’s Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade! I will also be continuing my studies in history and am fortunate to say that I will be conducting research again with the Scarlet & Black Research Center at Rutgers. In addition, I will be continuing my work on the mental health front as well as my volunteering at the Woodbridge Public Library, an institution that I owe my gratitude and success to as they have truly enabled me to pursue my passion for historical research and archival sciences. Other than that, I’ll just be running around like usual, eager to get to work!

What are Dr. Dana and Katie REALLY like?

I can honestly say that I have never had the privilege of working with a more dynamic and creative team as Dr. Dana and Katie. In my short time with them, I have seen their ingenuity, wittiness, and craziness create truly spectacular projects for their young patrons. To say that they have such big hearts full of love for every child who comes into the Cotsen Gallery would be a massive understatement. They truly put the time and effort into creating an unforgettable experience for each child! Just be careful, don’t let Katie’s Lego sets or Dr. Dana’s Taylor Swift poncho fool you, they can talk anybody into dressing up like any character, especially me as Gandalf! You should have heard my conversation with my parents after they asked me how my day was! So, if you’re ever visiting Princeton and happen to hear loud noises or laughter coming from the library, don’t be scared for it is only the two coolest people at work!


Awwwwww! Come back to the library anytime Daniel…you’re family now!

Blog update! Everyone is now referring to Daniel as “Dandolf.” AWESOME.

Fortune at Your Fingertips

Needing some answers? No problem! We tested this set of Mystical Fortune Teller pencils offered by Snifty. Yes, for a mere $10, you have the opportunity for 10 unique answers to your most burning queries.

The pencils appear solid black, but when you ask your question and rub them, the answer slowly appears (along with some mystical stars and moon graphics!). It did take a fair amount of rubbing to get the message to appear, so be a bit patient and persistent!

Eventually, the message fades back to its original state. The packaging also warns you not to put the pencils in direct sunlight. So of COURSE I ran outside and did that very thing. The pencils are essentially heat activated – so the hot sun made the messages appear. I also accidentally left them in my hot car and the same thing happened.

I gave these pencils to my 12 year-old and she LOVED them and shared them with her friends. Lots of questions and giggles going on. These would be great in a gift basket, goody bag, prize bin, mystery party, or magic program. They are fun, and I definitely recommended them!

Survival of the LOUDEST

Librarians aren’t classically considered the loud type, but we found a squad of very willing ones to test drive “Really Loud Librarians,” a hilarious word association board game from the company that brought you Exploding Kittens. Spoiler alert: we had FUN!

The game is available for $20 both online through the company and Target. So I swung by the toy section on my weekly grocery run to pick one up.

The box contains a game board, pieces, category cards, and a timer. It looks very snazzy and I absolutely love the font the designers used. Very librarily.

The object of the game is to split into two teams (Team Gertrude Birdwhistle and Team Wilfred Dankworth, respectfully). Taking turns, each team draws a category card and circles the board until the timer runs out, shouting words that fit in that certain category, all of which must start with the matching letter on the game board. An example catagory would be “Desserts,” and the words as you progress around the board might be chocolate, flan, licorice, pie, sundae, tart, etc. The first team to reach 12 points wins.

Really Loud Librarians is for ages 8+ and two or more people can play at a time. So we rounded up some talented Princeton University librarians. We put on our toughest game faces, choose our field names, and got ready to (very) competitively categorize things.

Well, this was a total blast. It’s amazing how your mind can go blank when the timer is running out and you’re trying to think of a kitchen appliance that starts with “C.” There was a lot of laughter, cheering, good-natured ribbing, suspenseful moments, and yes…it got LOUD.

Some of the card categories are hard though! One team might get “Colors,” and then the next gets “Phone Apps.” That’s a tough category! You’ll need to access the board during your turn, so make sure to play on a small to mid-size table. It also gets a little difficult to keep track of your laps, so we suggest one person act as MC to count laps, turn the timer, and step in to decide whether what you shouted out is a qualifying word.

Also…and this might just be us…but whoever played Team Wilfred always won. Probably a fluke, but if you’re reading this and taking the game to a party, it might just give you an magical edge.

Really Loud Librarians was fun, lively, easy to play, and just an all around good time. Highly recommended!


Special thanks to librarians Neggin Keshavarzian, Beth Kushner, Hilary Murusmith, and Amy Vo for lending their extraordinary word-smithing abilities!