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Subject: Murder Mystery Games rss

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Brent Mair
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I've played a number of Murder Games by a handful of companies and I've had a great time. These include How to Host a Murder games by Decipher, Murder a la Carte, and a number of other companies.

I'm a bit surprised by the lack of ratings for these games. Do most geeks not play them? Why or why not?

For those that have played, what made the experience the most enjoying for you? What did the company or companies get right.

And what did they get wrong? What needs to be fixed?

And for those of you that haven't played them, why not?
 
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Randy Cox
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Spielguy wrote:
I've played a number of Murder Games by a handful of companies and I've had a great time. These include How to Host a Murder games by Decipher, Murder a la Carte, and a number of other companies.

I'm a bit surprised by the lack of ratings for these games. Do most geeks not play them? Why or why not?


I think it's the RPG crossover issue. It seems that a lot of people (not myself) who play these games think of them as role playing games. If that's correct, then I wouldn't expect to see many ratings for them here on a non-RPG site. Personally, to me they're just great social gaming opportunities and they're more deduction than RPG (as in 98% deduction game to 2% role playing).

Quote:
For those that have played, what made the experience the most enjoying for you? What did the company or companies get right.
And what did they get wrong? What needs to be fixed?


The How to Host a Murder franchise seems to get just about everything right. The story lines are fun and the deduction is OK (some are really tough, others not, but that's not the best part of the game). Also, the How to Host line and Evening of Murder line have the best suggestions for planning a meal around the event--which is essential. For me, the event (dinner in courses plus the cooperative solving of the puzzle) is the thing. Without dinner, what's the point?

The University Games line ("Murder/Mustery Party") are the worst, I believe. The whodunnit's are too simple and include activities that have promise (like, solving a strange coded message) and then have nothing to do with the actual crime.

The old Jamie Swise (later Milton Bradley) line is very much like How to Host, only more streamlined. Just three clues per round and you physically tear them off and put them on the table where others can review them later. But some of these are a bit on the risque side for most people's tastes (check out that Fabrege Egg one).

And the Mysteries by Vincent line looks interesting, especially since it's essentially desktop published. No recordings (good). No props (good). Just lots and lots of text (also good). However, the one we played ran on forever and had far, far, far too many "I just found a scrap of paper in the hall..." clues.

All in all, there's good and bad in all of them. I sometimes like and sometimes loathe the scripted dialogue in the Murder a la Carte line and really don't like their optional characters sometimes being vital to solving the puzzle. In short, other than Decipher, there's not near perfect producer of these sorts of games yet.

Note: the worst of the worst is Spy Ring by TSR and I've yet to try the Alfred Hitchcock one or the Murder to Go set, but that one seems far too RPGish for my tastes.
 
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Spielguy wrote:

And for those of you that haven't played them, why not?


I think the primary thing that keeps me from purchasing one, is that you can only play it once. I've never tried one so the "risk" is too high. I don't want to spend that much money on a game I can only play once and may not like.

But saying that... a friend of mine has one sitting in her room, and since she still lives with her parents will probably never host it, so we have thought about combining forces (she host the murder, I host the dinner). But as of now, we just havn't sat down and tried to plan it.

Maybe after trying it, I'll be willing to spend money on some of the other ones.
 
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Matt Spence
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I've played quite a few of the "How to Host a Murder" games.
My group found them to be a good time.
As far as problems, we did not really experience any.
At first it was awkward for the non RPG friends to get into it but with the help of a little wine, things went fine.

I might recommend that the players get there scripts in advance, if possible. It makes for more fun if they already have a "feel" for their character, and therefore enhances gameplay.
I would recommend that someone listen to the tape/cd just to make sure that there are no problems with it.
We have used these as intros to a game night of Clue/Kill Dr. Lucky etc

Have fun
 
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Brent Mair
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Interesting comments so far. Thank you.

I find the RPG comments interesting. I never have thought about this as role playing but I do consider these games acting, and most people have a small flare for that. Not everyone though. My wife is much more comfortable watching then participating.

I wanted to answer my own questions. Things they do right:

They sometimes have a good mystery. This varies from game to game and company to company, but many of the mysteries are enjoyable.

Good fun out of the box. The games allow 6-8 people to have fun together for 2-4 hours.

Problems:

They can only be played once.

Most require a fixed number of people and an equal number of men and women. This is hard to adapt to if someone cancels or runs late.

Sometimes the killer doesn't know they are the killer until the end of the game. That means the player sometimes gives false info or misleads when they don't intend to.
 
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Walt
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I haven't played any of the How to Host games. I think beyond RPG sentiments, a lot of people wouldn't like to be the murderer.

I found Mystery at the Abbey very disappointing, with no real deduction, unlike Timbuktu.

The best mystery game I've played is Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective. The original game had about ten mysteries--which indeed are not repeatable--but two expansion packs were published. Additionally, Gumshoe was published using similar mechanics, but 1930s style.

Scotland Yard is, perhaps, a better attempt at a mystery game, but I found it very poorly balanced--supposedly balance is ok with maximum players (5?).

Part of the lack of these games is probably that mysteries, as a fiction genre, are not particularly popular just now. Far more emphasis is on the CSI style "police procedural" which is quite a different genre.
 
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Randy Cox
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Spielguy wrote:
I find the RPG comments interesting. I never have thought about this as role playing but I do consider these games acting, and most people have a small flare for that.

Very interesting observation. While I've only barely thought of murder parties as RPGs, I've never, ever thought of it as acting. Only one or two people I know enjoy "hamming it up" and only those one or two would ever be caught dead on a stage. Most people I know do not like acting at all.

Quote:
Problems:

They can only be played once.

Until Melsana mentioned it, I had forgotten about this. Since it's rare for me to play any game more than once every several years (kid and party games being exceptions), I just don't think much about multi-use of games. Sure, there are some games I do play more than once every three years, but they're rare. And they don't accumulate nearly as many player-hours as one single session of a murder mystery party. Of course, since I have about 75 unplayed murder mystery party games in the house, I could run through all of them and forget the solutions to the earlier ones.

Quote:
Most require a fixed number of people and an equal number of men and women. This is hard to adapt to if someone cancels or runs late.

I agree about the fixed number, but we've never had a problem with the genders. We just let a man read the role of a woman or a woman read the book a male character. It's really no different to find out that you had an affair with your [real life] brother than it is to find out you had an affair with your [real life] sister-in-law, after all.

Quote:
Sometimes the killer doesn't know they are the killer until the end of the game. That means the player sometimes gives false info or misleads when they don't intend to.

This is an interesting one. I can see the up side of MMPs where the murderer doesn't know at all (keeps them from "coming clean" and ending the suspense prematurely) and I can see the up side of having them know from the get-go (a stealthy player can do a lot to confuse the other detectives). Most, though, let the murderer know only in the final round and then allow them to lie to get out of a jam, which seems to work the best, I think.
 
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