Monthly Archives: January 2020

Prizes Galore!

One of our customers, Kelly from Michigan, has told us of the numerous prizes she uses when she hosts our games. Except where noted, the awards are voted on by the players themselves and tallied at the end of the game.

“We usually try to get all the ballots in by mid-game, but since few obey, we accept them until we have votes tallied. You guys are right, it is a great way to wrap of the evening. People enjoy getting them, and the cost is minimal.”

The Reality is Murder - a Freeform Games murder mystery game

The Reality is Murder

Kelly does vary the awards depending on the games, but these are the awards that she told us about.

Best Dressed (“We used do best male and best female – now we are gender neutral and do the top three.”)

Best Acting (“Again we use do best male and best female, but we are gender neutral and do the top three.”)

Random Award (The person who added something to make the night more fun.)

Most Outrageous Player

Too nice to be a killer

Slimiest Suspect

Biggest Ham (Chosen by the photographer who they thought was the most fun when taking pictures.)

Best Accent

Biggest Badass (Used in A Speakeasy Murder.)

Best Dancer (“During Lei’d to Rest we had a mid-game hula contest.”)

Staff Awards: The party hosts chose winners for these two. You can use the most number of nominations from the other players across the other awards, or player who got the most points (see Keeping Score), or any other method you want.

Best Newbie

Best in Show!

Freeform Games in 2019

We’re mid-way through January so it’s time to look back and see how the last twelve months have been. I don’t like to do this in December, because the year isn’t fully over and we haven’t tallied all the sales.

Death on the Gambia - Murder Mystery Game

Death on the Gambia

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

2019 continued to build on the success of 2018, at least in terms of sales. We sold 13% more games compared to 2018 – and we’ve doubled our sales since 2014. However, we’re taking that as 2013 and 2014 were low points: we’re only 38% up on 2011.

(The difference is down to Google. If I remember correctly, there was an algorithm change in 2013 that hurt us badly compared to the previous years. A reminder of how vulnerable we are to factors outside of our control.)

Best selling games

Our best selling games for the year were Way out West, followed by A Will to Murder and A Speakeasy Murder. So the same as last year.

Overall our top three games accounted for 27% of our sales (again similar to last year).

Way out West - a Freeform Games murder mystery game

Way out West

Returning customers accounted for about 20% of our sales. I’m not sure how to interpret that. If I had to speculate, I can think of several reasons:

  • Our games are only occasional purchases – few people host lots of murder mystery parties.
  • Returning customers may use a different email address to purchase their next game.
  • 80% of our customers don’t like our games enough to purchase another. (I hope this isn’t the case!)

Given that most of our feedback is extremely positive* (we get a lot of great feedback as you can see on our stories page) and only a few requests for refunds (usually because our games are more complicated than expected), I suspect that the low number of return customers is simply due to the relative infrequency of our games.

*And we’re much more likely to hear about positive experiences over average ones.

We’ve sold more German-language games this year than ever before – and that’s thanks to our wonderful affiliate Simone and her website Krimispiele-Seite.

Bundle of Holding repeated their 2017 murder mystery game offer, with eight of our games bundled together.

We also appeared in a video!

New and updated games

Christmas Lies - a Freeform Games murder mystery game

At the start of November Mo suggested that we create a Christmas-themed version of Hollywood Lies. The new game is called Christmas Lies and it took me the rest of the month to create so that it was ready for December (but not really soon enough to make much of an impact on our Christmas sales – at least not this year).

We also added to our site three games originally published by Peaky Games and aimed at more experienced groups: Small Town Folk, Best of the Wurst and The Day the Music Died. The games are structured similarly to our games (in that all the characters have a background with conflicting goals) but they don’t include a murder.

Death on the Rocks - a Freeform Games murder mystery game

Death on the Rocks

What about our plans for 2019?

We set ourselves a few goals for 2019. How did we do?

  • Improve our website: This year we did a few minor tweaks and added lots of customer photos and stories, but didn’t get to the larger changes that I’d hoped we would make.
  • Publish The Food is to Die For and Murder on the Istanbul Express. For the second year running this didn’t happen. Fingers crossed for 2020.
  • Update Under the Big Top or Happy Birthday RJ. I flipped a coin and started to update Under the Big Top. Unfortunately I didn’t get it finished, so that’s one to complete in 2020.
  • Improve our use of Facebook: While I’m not sure we’ve completely mastered Facebook (and I find the interface for businesses utterly atrocious), we have posted regularly and kept up engagement. It certainly seems that many of our customers now contact us for support through our Facebook page. If you want to keep up with the latest Freeform Games news, our Facebook page is the first place we post it (followed by the blog, and then we issue a newsletter when we have a bit more content).

So not so good – the only real achievement was improving our use of Facebook.

But what have we done instead? Well, it’s been a mix of things. Most of our time has been spent on customer support – with the increased sales brings more queries that need answering. Plus we’ve had a few queries from potential partners that have taken up time. And added to that we’ve not had a great year health-wise, and haven’t had as much capacity as usual.

The Reality is Murder - a Freeform Games murder mystery game

The Reality is Murder

Goals for 2020

So these are our goals for 2020 – broadly more of the same.

Improve our website: This is an eternal promise – our website is key to our business and so we’re always looking to improve it.

Publish The Food is to Die For and Murder on the Istanbul Express: Hopefully. At least one of them….

Finish updating Under the Big Top: This has stalled slightly, and I need to pick it back up and get it done.

TL;DR

Overall, 2019 was a great success for Freeform Games, and we’re hoping for a good 2020.

A Heroic Death - a Freeform Games murder mystery game

A Heroic Death

Alternate Pickpocket rules

One of our customers, Rob from Canada, wrote to tell us about a variant for our pickpocket rules that he used.

Watch out – there’s a pickpocket about!

Here’s the text that he prepared for those with the pickpocket skill:

Your character has the Pickpocket ability. Your ability card shows what you can pickpocket and how many attempts you have during the game. Beware! Some characters have the ability to investigate pickpocket crimes, and even dispense justice if a crime is proven!

When you want to use your ability, you will need to do three things:

  1. Complete a Pickpocket Use slip.
  2. Place a sticker somewhere on your victim’s body.
  3. Show the host your ability card and give them the Pickpocket Use slip, telling them where on the target you placed the sticker (such as left shoulder, right heel, purse, etc.)

The host will seek out your target as soon as possible. If the sticker is no longer there, then you may have been discovered by your target or another character who saw you place the sticker. Other players have not been told what the sticker means, but you had better watch your back as they may become suspicious!

If the sticker is still there, the host will advise the target they’ve been pickpocketed and will search through their items, retrieving either the target item (if they have it) or some other random item. The host will then (as discreetly as possible) remove the sticker from the target and transfer the stolen item to you.

Stickers and Pickpocket Use slips will be found in your character envelope which you’ll get at the start of the game.

Rob is using our rules for Investigating Pickpocketing Crimes, which you can find here.

If this sounds slighting familiar, it’s because we talked (briefly) about using stickers for pickpocketing previously, back in 2014. But this is a much more detailed explanation of how that works.

Note: Depending on your players, you may need to consider whether using stickers needs their consent first. If so, then we recommend using our standard non-contact pickpocket rules.