A Heroic Death as a Spanish Exam

Melissa Midcap uses our murder mystery games for her Spanish exam finals! She writes:

“I used Una Muerte Heróica (A Heroic Death) as my upper level Spanish exam a month ago. The students had been studying crime and justice so it was a great choice for a game to use as their exam.

“Since it’s a small cast, I had to run a lunch and a dinner. It was crazy but it worked. Unfortunately for the heroes, both times a villain won.

“I’m probably the only teacher who has students excited about the final exam!”

We asked how the exams were graded.

“As for how I grade the exam, I include other components like watching a relevant movie in Spanish, and writing an essay the week after from the perspective of their character. I have to get parental permission since the exam is being held on a Saturday and not in the school building.

“I did a presentation at a conference a few years back about this and a lot of teachers thought it was really cool. I also have vocabulary pages that I have created for the units to go with the games.

“We spend about 2 weeks in class doing activities relevant to the theme. This gets them even more excited for the game and gives them plenty of practice with the necessary vocabulary.

“A funny question that I get from students every year is that they are worried that if they get killed in the game they will fail the exam. I always have to reassure them that I am basing their grade on their Spanish skills, not whether or not they win the game. Which is a pretty good thing because last year I think I had five dead bodies by the end of the pirate game!”

Murder mystery games for beginners

Ready to host your first murder mystery party? Looking for a murder mystery games for beginners?

We’ve crafted our games so anyone can host, no matter your level of experience. But if you’re new to the mystery scene, you might prefer to start with one of our simpler games to get the hang of things.

Click here to explore our murder mystery games for beginners.

Keep it simple, keep it fun

Our murder mystery games for beginners pack all the excitement without the complexity of our more advanced options. You won’t need to worry about intricate rules on combat, poison, or arrests.

If you’re looking for an example, download our free version of Way Out West, a classic Wild West adventure.

A Will to Murder was the first murder mystery game I’ve hosted and the first one that my group of friends have ever played so not only did we not know what to expect but it was also a learning experience. Despite that, it was a GREAT night of fun!! The night wasn’t even over and some of us were talking about doing another one.” Denise Knebel, United States

Tips for new hosts

Here’s how you can ensure your first murder mystery party is a hit:

Three players in costume for a murder mystery game

Pick a manageable party size

A smaller party is easier to manage, especially if you’re flying solo as the host. Aim for 10 to 12 guests for a smooth experience.

Give yourself enough time

Preparation is key. We suggest buying your murder mystery game at least six weeks in advance. This gives you ample time to understand the game, assign roles, and arrange your venue.

Get a co-host

A co-host is a game-changer. They can help with logistics and food, letting you focus on keeping the game running smoothly. It’s the easiest way to lighten the load.

Test out some rules

Consider testing these rules beforehand if you’re using a game with extra mechanics like combat. You could even invite a few players for a mini practice session to ensure everyone is on the same page.

Find answers to your questions

Check out our common questions page if you still need help. We’ve compiled answers to the most frequently asked questions to make your job easier.

And we have more hints and tips here.

Host a great murder mystery party!

With these tips in mind, you’re ready to host an unforgettable murder mystery party.

“Just wanted to tell you how great last night was. We put on Dazzled To Death (the first Murder Mystery I’ve ever hosted!) and it was fantastic! Everyone said how much they loved it and it was a huge success. At first my guests didn’t know what was going on but they soon got into the swing of things! We made photographs to hang on the wall, family tree, family portrait and a lovely buffet. It seems as though the general consensus is to do one again but everyone wants me to do one sooner rather than later! So who knows I might be writing to you again around Christmas & New Year with the next story! I highly recommend to people to give Dazzled To Death a go because it was excellent! Thanks a lot Freeform Games!” Nick Eccles, United Kingdom

Casino Fatale in Portugal

Filipe Tavares in Portugal told us about Casino Fatale, which he hosted for his scout group. (We suggest Casino Fatale is suitable for ages 18+, but Filipe and he was happy the scouts could manage it.)

Filipe says: “It’s been a couple of weeks since I hosted Casino Fatale with my scout group, and I want to give you some feedback.

“As before, with Way out West, everyone seemed very excited and enjoyed it a lot. I asked some of them which game they liked most, and they said that Casino Fatale worked better.

“I sent the characters the week before so everyone could prepare their costume and study their character. I think it’s much better this way. The problem is if someone with a critical character ends up not attending the game due to a last-minute issue, so I had two extra participants, one male and one female, ready to get in the game if needed.”

He had two autistic players, so cast them in assistant roles that meant they could get guidance from the others. According to Filipe, “They didn’t really play the game as the others did, but I think they were happy.”

Filipe continues, “I use theme music to create the mood in our activities, so I had James Bond soundtracks for opening and all events that required to get the group together.

“I set up casino tables and opened them at the start of the game. I thought the first minutes were the best time for the players to experience the casino games since nothing really happened in the game except for each one secret agenda.

“I replaced the casino chips tokens with play-money euro banknotes and they could use the money to buy casino chips. You advise not to do that, but I limited the casino bets to just 1 euro, so they couldn’t win or lose much money. I think it worked well, and the bills were very realistic.

“One of my colleagues spent the whole day preparing the food! We were casino staff serving the food to the guests on trays, just like a real casino. We set up a bar with bottles of Martini, rum, vodka and so on – but filled with iced tea, Coke, Sprite and other soft drinks.

“As I had to pass messages to the secret agents without the others seeing, I hid them in specific places out of sight. I agreed with them on a special secret phrase to let them know whenever a new message was available.

“In Way out West, the sheriff could arrest people, and I found a bit strange that the police couldn’t do the same in Casino Fatale. So I told them to carry out their investigation and if they found enough evidence by the end of the game, they would arrest the criminals.

“As you can see, it was really hard work but it was worth it. I love both themes, Western and James Bond, and I really enjoyed preparing this.”

(By the way, we didn’t include arrests in Casino Fatale because it’s not in keeping with the James Bond idiom for secret agents to be at risk of arrest by the local police. In Way out West, on the other hand, malefactors being arrested by the sheriff and then being broken out of jail is very much part of the genre.)

Click here to learn more about Casino Fatale.

Jubensha script murder games

I hadn’t heard of Jubensha until a few days ago, but Jubensha script murder games are a kind of Chinese murder mystery game – and they’re huge!

Here’s the video that introduced them to me. (You don’t need to watch the whole thing – the first five or ten minutes give you a pretty good idea of what jubensha involves.)

If you’ve watched that, you’re probably thinking the same thing I am: Jubensha script murder games are just like Freeform Games murder mystery games.

There’s a murder to solve, but there are other things to do as well. Everyone has their own character, it’s unscripted, and it’s up to everyone how they try to achieve their goals. Plus there’s an independent person running the game.

Freeform jubensha?

There are three big differences that I can see:

  • First, while there are now lots of boxed products you can purchase (albeit in Chinese), it seemed they started in jubensha rooms – a kind of cross between one of our games and an escape room.
  • Second, we design our games for a wide range of players. If the video is anything to go by, most Jubensha script murder games are for six players. (We only have a couple of games that small.)
  • Third, the murder is more structured in jubensha than in our games. (Some characters in our games may not be interested in the murder at all.)

Social mixing

One point the video makes is how good jubensha is at introducing people who don’t know each other. I’m not great in large groups where I don’t know people, but that’s never been a problem in this kind of game, as you’re given plenty to talk about.

Jubensha-adjacent

I think our games are probably Jubensha-adjacent. There are a lot of similarities – and if you think you might enjoy Jubensha, you’d probably enjoy one of our games.

So if you’re looking for a Jubensha-adjacent game, here are some suggestions:

A Will to Murder: A 1930s murder mystery game for 6 to 9 guests and a host. Set in an English country house, the patriarch of a wealthy family is dead – who murdered him? And who will inherit his fortune? Recommended for ages 18+.

Murder on the Istanbul Express: A 1914 murder mystery game set aboard the luxurious Istanbul Express for 7 to 11 guests and one host. Characters include the train crew, merchants, inventors – and spies! Recommended for ages 12+.

Dazzled to Death: A 1948 murder mystery game for 12 to 15 guests and a host. Blackmail, theft and betrayal a glittering Massachusetts cocktail party. (Includes, free of charge, a Christmas version.) Recommended for ages 15+.

Or see our full list of games here.

Le Pharaon Maudit

France Murder, our French partner has just published Le Pharaon Maudit, a translation of Curse of the Pharaoh.

Le Pharaon Maudit is a murder mystery game for 7 to 19 guests and is set at an archaeological dig in Egypt in the 1890s.

There’s also an introductory video on along with photos of the playtest, both on Facebook.

Click here to learn more about Le Pharaon Maudit.

A Will to Murder – photos

Terence Smith’s sent us photos of his A Will to Murder party.

He writes: A Will to Murder, like all the games I’ve hosted, was wonderfully put together and everyone vastly enjoyed the different plots and twists that occurred throughout the game.”

(Terence later went on to write Murder on the Dancefloor for us.)

A Will to Murder is available in French as Le Dernier Testament and in German as Letzter Wille Mord.

Freeform Games’ review of 2023

2023 was Freeform Games’ most successful year in sales since we started in 2001. Growth has continued strongly since the end of the pandemic, and our sales have finally beaten our pre-pandemic best.

We’ve been doing these reviews since 2013 – you can read them here.

Best-selling games

Our best-selling games for 2023 were Way out West, A Speakeasy Murder, and Casino Fatale.
These three, along with Murder on the Istanbul Express and A Will to Murder, are consistently our best-selling games.

As for our French and German partners:

FranceMurder’s bestsellers were Réunion Mortelle (Reunion with Death), Istanbul Express (Murder on the Istanbul Express), and Mort à Venise (Death in Venice)

Die Besten Familienspiel’s bestsellers were Mord in der Flüsterkneipe (A Speakeasy Murder), Hollywoods Lügen (Hollywood Lies), and Eiskalte Geschäfte (Snow Business)

Neither partner has our entire range of games, but it’s striking how little overlap exists between them (and us). Our perennial bestseller, Way out West, doesn’t feature at all – but most of our customers are American, so I guess that’s not surprising.

New and updated murder mystery games

We published two games in 2023: The Roswell Incident (a 1947 alien-themed game for 10-13 players set in Roswell, New Mexico) and A Purrfect Murder (a modern game for 9-12 players set at a cat-fancy show).

We also updated Davy Jones’ Locker and Way out West to our current format.

(We also removed our Way out West book from sale on Amazon. It didn’t sell, so it wasn’t worth maintaining.)

Last year’s goals

We set ourselves a few goals in 2023:

Improve our website: We made a massive change by moving to WooCommerce for our shop. So now our online store looks much like other stores rather than the bespoke store we had previously. This has three benefits – it should feel like a more familiar online shopping experience for customers (particularly new customers), it is easier for us to maintain, and it has addressed many of the niggly issues we had with downloads going missing under the old system.

We also started putting more customer stories and photos onto our blog rather than just on the game stories page. That means the stories stand out better, and the stories pages will be quicker to load (they were getting rather long and slow).

We’ve also paid for dedicated server bandwidth, so our site should respond more quickly than it used to.

So, a clear success.

Updated games: We updated Way out West and Davy Jones’ Locker. That was everything we planned to do, so that was a success.

New games: We published A Purrfect Murder (as planned) and The Roswell Incident (which wasn’t). So we over-delivered there.

Shine light on our French and German language partners: We’ve been linking to them more on the blog, and I’ve included them in our review above. Maybe we could have done more, so perhaps a partial success.

With three clear successes (and one partial success), we achieved everything we intended to do in 2023 and perhaps a bit more.

Plans for next year

Cover to the Court in the Act murder mystery game

Improve our website: This is always a work in progress, but we need to let the shop settle in and sort out any teething problems that may arise. We will also move more photos across to the blog.

Updated games: Court in the Act is the last game still in the old format, so we will update this year.

New games: We’ve got a couple of games in the early stages of preparation, but nothing we want to commit to right now.

Summary

2023 was an excellent year for us. Hopefully, the changes we’ve made to the shop have given us a good foundation for 2024.

Davy Jones’ Locker photos

Lorraine Shaw recently ran our Davy Jones’ Locker murder mystery game.

She writes: “Thank you Mo and Steve for another rip-roaring success! The teenagers loved Davy Jones’ Locker – everyone really got into their roles. We are so grateful for these games as the teens can have fun without consuming alcohol/drugs! All booze bottles were filled with iced-tea!”

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