Monthly Archives: December 2013

3 tips for a successful Christmas murder mystery party!

First choose the right game!

Our best-selling mystery at this time of year is of course The Night before Christmas. This game, set in a high-class New England family’s hunting lodge, is for 12–15 guests and a host, and we also have 5 free extra characters that you can add in if you need more.

Of course, The Night before Christmas isn’t just for the 24th December – it works well at any time in the run-up to the big day. But if you’re organizing your party after Christmas itself, then you want Dazzled to Death instead! This is basically exactly the same game, but with the specific Christmas theming removed.

Or if you don’t have that many guests, check out Snow Business, our other winter-themed murder mystery – this one is for 10–12 guests, and it’s set in a ski chalet with another murderous family get-together.

Second, pick the right music!

You want something appropriately festive, but also suiting the period. The Night before Christmas is set in the 1950s, so Bing Crosby’s White Christmas, Judy Garland’s Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas, and other classics like Let it Snow!, Jingle Bells, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Santa Baby and Sleigh Ride are absolutely perfect.
Snow Business is set in the present day, but in a cheesy Alpine resort, so a selection of more modern Christmas songs would be great – Last Christmas, Do They Know It’s Christmas, All I Want for Christmas is You, Fairytale of New York – that sort of thing. With some Euro dance music mixed in!

Third, serve the right food and drink!

We always recommend our games are accompanied with finger food rather than a sit-down meal, and Christmas nibbles are ideal for this. Here’s a great list of simple but delicious recipes from the BBC, and here are some more ambitious and impressive canape recipes from taste.com. And here kidspot.com has some terrific dessert ideas for afterwards!

As for drink, there’s the traditional punch (alcoholic or not), mulled wine, eggnog, and hot chocolate. Here’s a good mixture of those together with some festive cocktails, from the BBC again. And eatingwell.com has a great selection here of non-alcoholic drinks, for everyone to enjoy!

The other important tip is: get planning well in advance! We recommend starting two weeks beforehand, ideally. If you don’t have that long, that’s OK, but you’ll have to be organized: don’t leave it to the last minute before printing out the character booklets!

We at Freeform Games will be on duty throughout the holiday period, here to answer your inquries and help with any problems. But if you follow these tips, everything should go just fine and you and your guests will have a terrific and murderous Christmas party! Do please let us know how it goes…

Bryant and May and the Invisible Code

It may seem a bit of a surprise, given that I write, edit and publish murder mystery party games, but I read very little crime fiction. I don’t really enjoy them, and I don’t find them that useful as inspiration because in our games, the murder is often just one of many different plotlines. Also, in crime fiction the murder plot is often so difficult to unpick that we couldn’t write our games that way. In our games, we can’t rely on the brilliant detective solving the mystery – everyone has to have a fair chance.

Bryant and May and the Invisible CodeSo I read very little crime fiction. I don’t even watch that much crime drama on television.

I make an exception for Christopher Fowler’s Bryant and May series, though. Arthur Bryant and John May are a pair of elderly, decrepit senior detectives well past their retirement date. I’ve just finished Bryant and May and the Invisible Code, the 10th in the Bryant and May series (although they appear in a number of Fowler’s other novels as well).

Bryant and May head up the Peculiar Crimes Unit (PCU), a much-maligned unit that the Home Office would love to shut down – except for the PCU’s incredible success rate at solving strange crimes that nobody else can solve. John May is procedural and proper, while the Arthur Bryant eschews traditional detection methods and consults with witches, occultists and other fringe characters.

Arthur Bryant is possibly my favourite fictional character: blunt, eccentric, erudite, rude, esoteric – and often laugh-out-loud funny. John May is Bryant’s straight man, and while the rest of the PCU team have their moments, none are as memorable as Bryant.

In The Invisible Code, the PCU are investigating yet another bizarre murder and become embroiled in a sinister conspiracy of silence concerning key government figures. And I’m not going to say more than that, because I don’t want to spoil it for anyone.

Each of the books can be read on their own, but there’s a definite sense of time in the later books (from White Corridor onwards) as the PCU relocate to new offices and new characters are introduced.

If you’re interested in reading more, I wouldn’t start with the first in the series, Full Dark HouseFull Dark House chronicles Bryant and May’s first meeting during the London Blitz, but to enjoy it fully you really need to know who the characters are in the first place, as it recreates the Blitz through flashbacks.

So instead, I suggest starting with the second book, The Water Room. The Water Room is quite bizarre, and definitely my favourite of the series – if you don’t like The Water Room then you probably won’t like the rest. I’d then follow that up with Seventy Seven Clocks (third in the series), before returning to Full Dark House.

So as Christmas approaches, you might want to put this on your Christmas list.

Steve Hatherley