In this article we are here to help those debating whether it really would be a good idea to invite a few friends around for an evening of murder, mystery, dinner and drinks, or, would it be a complete disaster?
The following tips and insight into how to play a homespun murder mystery should give you most of the information you need.
So, how many can play, a minimum of six people can take part, although, personally, we feel that at least eight is the ideal number of guests for a really good evening. Some of the games are designed around much larger parties of people, twenty or more. However , it is unlikely, I would have thought, that anyone would want to invite this many guests into their own home. Even if you do live in a mansion, would you really want to organise a three-course meal of this magnitude? Staff would be required.
Then we come to the question of who to invite.
Call on the friends or family you feel the most comfortable with to make up the numbers.
With regards to whom among that group would be only too happy to don, what might be thought, a fairly daft outfit, affect a silly accent and let go of their inhibitions, well... this can turn out to be something of a surprise. Friends you have always thought of as rather quiet and shy might amaze you on the big night. In fact, in our experience, it is often the quiet ones who really come out on the thespian closet and approach their chosen role with unexpected gusto, revealing an ability to show off that you would not have believed.
You then need to consider which game to choose and which character to allocate to each guest.
Get boxed in my opinion. 'Murder a la Care' or 'Inspector McClue ' are by far the best. Outside of the box you are informed of how many people the game is for and a brief run down of the characters. Inside the box you have party planners with the game rules, recipe, music and even decoration suggestions. These are only suggestions and there is no need to be too rigid in this respect, just have fun with the food and decorations. Also included are the character booklets with roles and background information, party invitations for each character and an individual script for each person so that as the evening progresses characters can challenge each other and clues to 'who dun it' begin to unravel. Whoever had done it will only find out that they did towards the very end of their own personal script. They will at this latter stage of the game be secretly informed of their murderous status in bold print. 'You are the murderer' will appear near the final page and from that point on they can simply lie through their teeth. I have turned out to be the murderer a number of times and it's great when you discover that you're the culprit. You can then just sit back with a warm smug glow and an unexpected feeling of pride that you turned out to be capable of such a thing. ( My friend Rene longs for this role but, as yet, it has evaded her and she can only live on in the hope that in one of our future games she will be the chosen one ).
It is absolutely vital that the host and guests do not under any circumstances read any of the scripts. If anyone finds out who the murderer is, or the murderer finds out who he or she is, prior to the end of the game, it's all rather pointless!
Your game will usually come with either a tape,CD of DVD to play at intervals throughout the evening. As a marker and pause point during your three-course meal, the audio media adds a great deal to the atmosphere and humour of the evening.
The shift in the murder mystery game market today is towards the downloadable rather than boxed versions. We have tried a couple of the downloadable games out and they are nowhere near as good. It's great for the seller of the game as, basically, you pay around £15 to as much as £30, for a game requiring a small saplings worth of A4 to print, and that cost is all yours. Once printed, you have to sort out all the different characters, chop up pages and staple stuff together. These games lack all the feel, fun and structure of the boxes.
Should you be a really serious gamer and have to be, 'a winner', you might not enjoy a murder mystery that much. It's all just good fun. It's best to approach the evening without a unquashable desire to be the one who ultimately unravels the script and exposes the culprit. By all means try, and give it your best shot. That is, after all, the point. However, I warn you. By the time you have had the suggested cocktail at the beginning of the evening, quaffed down the equivalent to a carafe of wine and followed the desert with a large liqueur, everything can go rather hazy. To play well you need to concentrate on the scripts. Personally, about half way through the meal my attention tends to drift and the cleverly embedded clues are rather wasted on me. My reserve tactic is to look for clues in others body language, facial expressions and just make a guess at who might be guilty. A stab in the dark, you might say, or probably you wouldn't, because it would be an attempt at a pretty awful pun.
The script is there to help expose the murderer. In between taking prompted turns at reading out your part you just add lib and portray your character as best you can.
Once you have all reached the end of the booklets it is time to sit around and all guess who you believe to be the suspect. The winners are obviously those who guess right. There are no prizes for winning, literally, just that good feeling that comes from being right.
Once all the tension of guessing who amongst you is a murderer it's time to give your characters free range. Ideally, you should be mildly tipsy by now.
Here in The Kitschin, unless at least one too many cocktails has been consumed, unless everyone has started ripping off each other's wigs and hats ( we tend to draw the line at the ripping off of clothes ) to try on, and unless the idea of heading out to the pub in your daft garb hasn't been suggested, it has all somehow been too tame. These things should really happen for it to go down in dinner party history as 'one of the good ones'.
That's all there is to it really. Here's wishing you bon chance with your first murder mystery party.
Break a leg!