Author Archives: Steve Hatherley

Steve Hatherley

About Steve Hatherley

Steve is one half of Freeform Games and wrote Death on the Gambia, The Roswell Incident, Hollywood Lies (and its seasonal variants Halloween Lies and Christmas Lies). He has edited many, many others. He lives in Yorkshire, England with his wife, daughter and dog.

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 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 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.


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), I think 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.


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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Vanished in Vegas party photos

Melissa Midcap hosted Vanished in Vegas back in August.

She writes: “My husband (assistant host) ran a blackjack table while he wasn’t doing anything. He suggests having some extra cash incorporated into the game to do something like this and let the players actually win something. To settle duels, we had players roll some big fuzzy dice.”

Vanished in Vegas is also available in French as Nuit Blanche à Las Vegas.