Tag Archives: Court in the Act

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.

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.

Curse of the Pharaoh in Australia

Kellie Rose in Australia told us about her recent Curse of the Pharaoh party:

I sent in a story almost 15 years ago as we had done Court in the Act for my 21st. Since then I did Davy Jones’ Locker for my 30th and now Curse of the Pharaoh for my 35th, and I am still hooked all these years later!

This time around we had a whole new cast of people playing, and everyone had a blast enjoying Egyptian finger food like falafels and koftas, and scheming all night long. In the end, many of us were foiled in our goals, but I think we enjoyed it nonetheless.

Super looking forward to the next one!!

And here’s are photos from Kellie’s Court in the Act:

Click here to learn more about Curse of the Pharaoh.

Click here to learn more about Court in the Act.

Curse of the Pharaoh is also available in German as Der Fluch des Pharao.

Court in the Act is also available in French as La Reine est en Danger.

Our games by year…

Following on from our birthday post last month, I thought it would be interesting to show when we published each game. I’ve excluded translations to keep things simple…

2001

2002

2003

2004

2005

2006

2007

2009

2010

2011

2012

2013

2014

2015

2018

2019

  • Christmas Lies (the festive version of Hollywood Lies) by Steve Hatherley

2020

2021

2022

2023

One of the things that amazes me is how my memory has changed everything. I think of A Speakeasy Murder as one of our newer games, but it’s now over seven years old! And was it really in 2009 when we published The Karma Club?

Adding characters to Court in the Act

We were recently asked by Pam, one of our customers:

I’m getting ready to run Court in the Act in three weeks time. I was just sending out character assignments tonight, and realized I accidentally listed Sir Walter Raleigh twice in my list, so I have two different people down to play him! My cast list/assignments is full, and I already have Ginger Roberts assigned as a character.

I recall seeing somewhere that sometimes folks have made a role a ‘twin’ (two people play the same person), but before I go that route, I was just wondering if you happen to have any ‘extra’ characters floating around for this mystery that I can try out?! Or any other ideas you may have for me? Unfortunately I don’t have time to create an additional character role myself.

Our response:

It’s easy to make these kinds of casting slips! I’m sorry to say that we don’t have any more extra characters for Court in the Act, unfortunately — no-one has ever sent anything in for this particular game.

The simplest type of character to introduce at short notice would be another servant / lowly person — because it’s easier to explain the presence of someone like that than it is another important noble. They could be focused on information gathering / brokering — perhaps acting as an informal agent for one of the powers. Perhaps a secret Catholic? And some sort of interpersonal rivalry/affection/romance plotlines going on with Hobbs and Nagel? And they could maybe have information incriminating the murderer, as they are a little hard to identify at present.

Otherwise if you do decide to go down the ‘twin’ route (which means that the character’s are virtually identical in terms of goals and much of the background), that is of course very much in keeping with the Shakespearean theme — a twin Raleigh could be an interesting twist and cause a lot of fun.

Here are a few articles covering adding extra characters:

New extra characters for Court in the Act

We must have inspired Pam because then a couple of weeks later she sent us two additional characters for Court in the Act that she had written with her co-host Jeremy. We’ve now made them available for download when you buy the game files:

  • Carlos Santiago – Assistant to the Spanish Ambassador (M)
  • Syrino Foreal – Cardinal’s under-secretary (M)