Escape rooms have become a popular form of entertainment, challenging participants to solve puzzles and unlock mysteries within a limited time frame. One of the most intriguing elements of these immersive experiences is the use of ciphers, cryptographic codes that players must decipher to progress through the game.

In this article, we delve into the fascinating world of types of ciphers and explore the different types of ciphers commonly encountered in escape rooms.

Substitution Types of Ciphers

Caesar Cipher

This classic type of cipher involves shifting each letter of the alphabet by a fixed number of positions. For example, in a Caesar cipher with a shift of 3, “A” becomes “D,” “B” becomes “E,” and so on. Players might encounter messages encoded in Caesar ciphers and need to determine the correct shift to decode them.

Atbash Cipher

In this type of cipher, the alphabet is reversed, so “A” becomes “Z,” “B” becomes “Y,” and so forth. It’s a simple yet effective way to obscure messages, often used in early levels of escape rooms.

Transposition Types Ciphers

Rail Fence Cipher

This is one of the top types of ciphers that involves writing the message in a zigzag pattern across multiple lines and then reading it in a different order to reveal the hidden message. For instance, writing “HELLO WORLD” in a rail fence pattern with a depth of 3 would result in “H L O R” on the first line, “E L W D” on the second line, and “L O” on the third line. Rearranging these letters yields the decoded message.

Columnar Transposition Cipher

Here, the message is written into a grid of a certain width, and then the columns are rearranged according to a predetermined key. Players may need to figure out the correct column order based on clues within the escape room.

Polyalphabetic Types of Ciphers

Vigenère Cipher

This is one of the most popular types of ciphers that uses a keyword to determine multiple shifts in the encryption process, making it more complex than simple substitution ciphers. Players often encounter Vigenère ciphers in escape rooms and must identify the keyword to decrypt the message.

Autokey Cipher

Similar to the Vigenère type of this cipher, the autokey cipher uses a keyword, but in this case, the keyword is concatenated with the plaintext itself to create the cipher text. Solving this type of cipher involves both identifying the keyword and reversing the encryption process.

Symbol Ciphers

Morse Code

While not strictly a type of cipher, Morse code is a symbolic communication system that assigns dots and dashes to letters and numbers. Escape rooms may incorporate Morse code puzzles where players need to translate sequences of dots and dashes into letters to reveal clues or instructions.

Semaphore Code

Another symbolic system, semaphore uses flags or visual signals to represent letters or words. Players might encounter semaphore messages in escape rooms and must understand the flag positions to decipher the encoded information.

Numeric Ciphers

Binary Code

In this digital type of cipher, letters and symbols are represented using combinations of 0s and 1s. Players may need to convert binary code into text or vice versa to progress in the escape room.


ASCII (American Standard Code for Information Interchange) assigns numeric values to characters, allowing them to be represented in binary form. Some escape rooms feature ASCII art puzzles where players must decode images or messages using ASCII codes.

Historical Ciphers

Playfair Cipher

Developed in the 19th century, the Playfair type of cipher uses a 5×5 grid of letters and a keyword to encrypt messages. Players may come across Playfair ciphers in historically themed escape rooms and must decipher the grid to reveal the hidden message.

Enigma Machine

Although more complex, some advanced escape rooms may feature replicas or simulations of the famous Enigma machine used during World War II. Players must understand how the Enigma machine worked to decrypt messages and solve puzzles.

Keyword Ciphers

Keyword Shift Cipher

Similar to the Caesar types of ciphers, this cipher uses a keyword to determine the shifting of letters in the alphabet. The keyword dictates the number of positions each letter is shifted, providing a more secure form of encryption.

Polygraphic Ciphers

Playfair Cipher

While mentioned earlier, it’s worth noting that the Playfair cipher is a polygraphic cipher as it enciphers pairs of letters instead of single letters. This adds an extra layer of complexity to the decryption process.

Fractional Ciphers 

Fractionated Morse Cipher

Combining elements of Morse code and fractionation, this type of cipher represents letters with both dots and dashes as well as binary fractions. Decoding messages in this cipher requires understanding both Morse code and binary conversion.

Homophonic Ciphers

Homophonic Substitution Cipher

In this type of cipher, each plaintext letter can be replaced with multiple cipher symbols, increasing the possible variations and making it more challenging to crack without the correct decoding key.

Polygraphic Substitution Ciphers

Polybius Square

This type of cipher uses a 5×5 grid where each cell contains a combination of a letter and a number. Pairs of letters and numbers are used to encode messages, with each pair representing a unique character.

Route Ciphers

Route Transposition Cipher

Involving rearranging characters or words based on specific routes or paths, route ciphers require players to decipher the correct order of elements to reveal the message.

Homophonic Substitution Ciphers

Grille Cipher

This is one of the most common types of ciphers that involves a grid with certain cells cut out, creating holes through which specific letters or symbols are visible. Placing the grille over the encrypted text reveals the hidden message.

Polygraphic Homophonic Ciphers


Used during World War I, this cipher combines fractionation with a Polybius square, resulting in a complex grid where each letter is represented by a pair of symbols. Decryption involves reconstructing the grid and applying the correct keys.

Bifid Cipher

This is one of the top types of ciphers that first converts letters into numbers using a Polybius square and then rearranges the numbers to create the ciphertext. Decryption requires reversing this process and reconstructing the original message.


What is the best cipher for escape rooms?

Caeser Ciphers are one of the easiest ciphers to make and are really engaging in an escape party.

What type of code is used in escape rooms?

Indexing is the most common type of code/cipher that you’ll find in an escape room.

How many types of escape rooms are there?

Linear, Non-Linear, Mixed, Scavenger Hunt, and Red Herring.

Do escape rooms use Morse code?

Sometimes you must use morse code or a substitution cipher, like A=1, B=2, etc.


All the different types of ciphers present their own challenges and require a different approach to decryption. Escape room enthusiasts often find these cryptographic puzzles to be both intellectually stimulating and immensely satisfying to solve. Whether it’s cracking a simple Caesar cipher or unraveling the intricate layers of a Vigenère cipher, the thrill of deciphering codes adds an exciting dimension to the escape room experience.

The use of various types of ciphers adds depth and complexity to escape rooms, engaging players in a thrilling quest to unlock secrets and escape within the allotted time. From classic substitution ciphers to historical encryption methods, the world of ciphers in escape rooms offers a rich tapestry of challenges for puzzle enthusiasts to explore and conquer.