Tag Archives: Davy Jones' Locker

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.

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!”

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is DavyJonesLocker-LS01-1024x577.jpg

Updating Davy Jones’ Locker and Way out West

Our ongoing project to update our games to our latest format continues with Davy Jones’ Locker and Way out West.

Davy Jones’ Locker

We completed this earlier in the year but forgot to mention it here on our blog.

Davy Jones’ Locker is our shipboard game of pirates in the Caribbean. The Libra is sailing from Tortuga to Florida – but with so many scoundrels aboard, it will be an eventful journey.

Apart from updating it into the new format (and correcting the odd typo), Davy Jones’ Locker hasn’t changed as a result of this update.

Way out West

Way out West is our best-selling game set in the Old West in 1884. The railroad is coming to the sleepy town of Cactus Gulch and brings trouble with it.

While we’ve not changed the plots or characters, we’ve simplified how we present Way out West. Previously, Way out West came in two versions – a version for adults and a version for kids. The kids’ version was the same as the adults’ but with references to elements like saloon girls removed (they’re now waitresses).

We’ve combined the two versions – there’s just a family-friendly version now. It’s the same game with the same plots and characters, but it’s now easier to include younger players as everyone is using the same version.

We have also now folded the expansion pack into the main game – so there’s no need to buy the expansion pack if you have more than 14 guests coming.

Getting updated copies

If you have an older copy of Davy Jones’ Locker or Way out West, you can get the updated versions by using the download instructions you received when you first bought the games.

Looking back at 2022

2022 felt like the pandemic was finally behind us. While COVID-19 is still around, it’s not the terror it once was, and the world (or at least, our part of it) is on the road to recovery.

From our perspective, that means people are gathering in groups – and where there are gatherings, there are murder mystery parties!

The recovery that started in 2021 continued in 2022, and it looks as if 2023 could be one of our best years ever.
We’ve been doing these reviews since 2013 – you can read them all here.

Best-selling games

Our best-selling games for 2022 were Way out West, Murder on the Istanbul Express, and A Speakeasy Murder.

Way out West

That’s a change from previous years, where A Will to Murder and Casino Fatale have usually been in the top three (they’re now in the top 5). Murder on the Istanbul Express was published in 2021, and we’re pleased it has been selling so well.

New and updated murder mystery games

We published one new game in 2022, Vanished in Vegas by Jennifer Vals.

We also updated Curse of the Pharaoh and Happy Birthday RJ to our current format.

An unusual side project

We were contacted by a Houston-based organisation looking for a steampunk-themed game for over 100 people. This was a one-off commission, and they were looking for a different style of game than our usual heavily-plotted murder mysteries. So we wrote a game involving rival families, secret societies, pirates and map exploration.

Last year’s goals

We set ourselves a few goals in 2020:

Improve our website – expand the game themes and bring a little animation to the book covers: While we added a little animation to the book covers (a slight zoom when you hover over them), we didn’t do as much with themes as we were hoping. We made some improvements, but only some. Maybe in 2023.

We also made numerous small changes to the website – such as adding icons so visitors can easily see which games have combat or poisoning.

Resolve the payment process glitches: These continued throughout 2022, unfortunately. Something about the Paypal payment process results in some emails ending up in spam filters. However, we made another change just before Christmas, which seems to have made a big improvement.

Continue to work on new games: We hadn’t expected to publish Vanished in Vegas and were delighted it came out ahead of programme.

Run games online: Steve ran Reunion with Death online in 2022 – he also ran Murder on the Istanbul Express offline at a games convention.

Reunion with Death – online

Change the focus of our two online games and promote them as games the host can play: We have now done this and now promote Reunion with Death and Death in Venice as games you can host and play.

So overall a successful year. We didn’t quite do everything we wanted to, but we did most of it and sometimes did more.

Plans for next year

Improve our website: Always a work in progress. We have no specific plans for this year, but it would be remarkable if we didn’t improve the website in lots of small ways.

Updated games: We’re currently updating Davy Jones’ Locker to the latest format, and then Way out West will be on the list.

New games: With a bit of luck and a fair wind, A Purrfect Murder (dark goings-on at a cat show) will be our next game.

Shine light on our French and German language partners: We have two partners who have translated many of our games in French and German: FranceMurder and Krimispiele-Seite. When appropriate, we will mention them more in our posts.

Wrapping up

2022 represented a welcome recovery after the pandemic. It was a good year for us; hopefully, we can build on it for 2023.

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?