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How to Host a Murder: Roman Ruins» Forums » Reviews

Subject: Short review rss

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Sebastiaan Benders
Netherlands
Amersfoort
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Well, guys,

since most of these 'how to host a murder' (htham) games don't have a review written for them, I thought I'd try my hand at one and give some remarks on the game.

Let me say that the best thing about htham is the fact that everyone plays a character and dresses up for the part. If you need an excuse to buy a cool costume and wear it, htham is it! Find someone who has the reputation of at least being a decent cook, con them into joining your group and get some drinks (preferably in the style of the game) and rest assured you will have a great evening!

The game itself comes with invitations for your guests, a host manual with some suggestions for a menu, a player manual for each player, a CD with background music and some spare items such as a clue for each player and a map of the scene, etc. All materials are decent, although quite sober.

The invitation includes a (too) short description of the scene and a list of the characters with a small description and costume suggestion. Passing out the rolls to your friends beforehand can lead to some moments of hilarity as they find out they play a priest of the blue oyster, the queen of the nile or a senator known for his 3-day lasting oration "It's my party and I'll be stoic if I want to".

The game works in 4 rounds. In each round, the player learns some secret things about themselves and some things that they have to share with others. For instance "I saw player X at the harbor yesterday, but what could she be doing there?" and so on.

There are a few problems with this:
- there are way too many comments people have to make. Eight players times four comments each lead to about 32 comments. You lose oversight (which might be the intention of the game makers).
- almost all comments you have to make are accusatory in nature. They are even written like that, which can sometimes be quite funny. However, you feel that the entire game the only thing you do is accuse other players.
- you don't really know too much about your character, and this I find the largest loss of the game. You learn more and more about yourself throughout the game, but it is not really enough and it would be fun to really be able to play your character more freely, knowing everything you know right from the off. The most annoying thing is when you are accused of something "why did your order a lion for your temple?" when you have no idea that you are even using lions, and you only learn the next round why you bought a lion.

Make a note that with meals in between the rounds, you will be entertained for roughly 4 hours.

At the end of the game you have to make an accusation. I've played this game twice with two different groups, and no one ever found who did it. I won't say much more, but let me say that from the way the comments go back and forth, you pretty much suspect everyone and it's - sadly - not easy to rule folks out. If you have some weaker players, they may not let their storylines come to life, leaving you with a "huh?" feeling when the solution is read. Like, "why didn't I know about this or that?" and then it turns out that one of the 100+ comments contained a hint in the direction that no one bothered to pick up.

In the end, all of us were left with a disappointing feeling about the game - although it does have its own merits and fun parts - but with a great feeling about the evening in general.

Cheers,

Cal
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Matthew Jensen
United States
Perry
NY
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Thanks for sharing your impressions. I've enjoyed several How To Host a Murder evenings and have personally felt that the liberty of being able to create your own character is part of the attractive part of these games. That said, its not for everyone.

If you do want one that has more character depth and you are into Sci-Fi then I would recommend trying the Star Trek version of How to Host a Murder. You step in to the roles of the celebrated cast (except Picard, he's the narrator) and try to discover what the problem is. Yes, everyone is still suspect until the very end but its fun because you have the backgroud of knowing how the characters would generally react to some of the situations. We had Worf and Riker up at arms over Deanna Troi in our session seemed so in place with the series.

Anyway, thanks again for a good review.
 
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Simon Perkins
United States
Boulder
Colorado
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We just played this game last weekend and I have to say that I agree with just about all of Sebastiaan's observations on the mechanics of this game. As the host of the party, I tried to get people to analyze individual revelations to see what we could deduce, instead of always simply racing onto the next accusation. However, given that 99% of the facts are red herrings, this didn't help any of us solve the mystery directly. In the end, two players did pick the criminal, but only by using the cunning strategy of choosing the least likely candidate...

Having said that, we all had a fabulous time! Really, I think the point of these games is to allow a bunch of people to dress up in costumes and play some over the top characters with interesting backgrounds. The main purpose of all those facts in the players booklets is simply to provide material that players can use to challenge other players and to give their own characters something to talk about, and to create an enjoyable sense of confusion.

I've played 4-5 of these Decipher games now and they all pretty much follow the same design. Decipher's strategy is to create a game that is more or less foolproof precisely by being so random. Nobody has any chance of working out the mystery before the end of the game; there are no deduction puzzles that players might get stuck on and fail to progress; and the host can play as one of the players since they have no special role.

They're always fun, but I have to admit that they do often leave me wanting something a little deeper that retains the fun. It seems to be that there is a niche for a similar game with a little more structure and progression, perhaps where the host has to take on more of a gamemaster role. Maybe the game could be structured as a series of puzzles that have to be solved in order to progress, but with the gamemaster able to prompt or encourage players where they're not getting it. Or perhaps just reducing the number of different threads in the game would enable more of a deductive path to be followed.

Everytime I play one of these things, although I really enjoy them, it makes me want to go out and write something better myself. Other people must have felt the same way, so anybody know of such a game out there?

Cheers,

Sy
 
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Piero
Italy
Florence
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Quote:
They're always fun, but I have to admit that they do often leave me wanting something a little deeper that retains the fun. It seems to be that there is a niche for a similar game with a little more structure and progression, perhaps where the host has to take on more of a gamemaster role. Maybe the game could be structured as a series of puzzles that have to be solved in order to progress, but with the gamemaster able to prompt or encourage players where they're not getting it. Or perhaps just reducing the number of different threads in the game would enable more of a deductive path to be followed.

You're speaking about a very well structured LARP, with character interaction and a very good Keeper.
Maybe too much for the casual group of non-gamers.
 
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JayneD Dark
Russia
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I bought this game when I was home in Melbourne last summer. I had to take it out of the box as I am currently living in Moscow and wanted to bring it back with me. I somehow managed to lose the Host Guidebook. Is there any way of getting a copy of this in say the next week or so?
 
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