Tag Archives: Krimispiele-Seite

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.

A Heroic Death – in Zimbabwe

Lorraine Shaw sent us some photographs of her A Heroic Death murder mystery party.

She writes: “We had an awesome evening playing A Heroic Death! It was my daughter’s 17th birthday party. This is the 3rd freeform game we’ve played and we love them (we are in Zimbabwe). Such fun for everyone!”

It looks like they are having lots of fun!

A Heroic Death is also available in German as Ein heldenhafter Tod.

Way out West party photos

Laura Breeding recently told us about her Way out West party:

“We have enjoyed sharing murder mystery games with family and friends in the past, but our guests have made comments about having to read all night with box games – and one said maybe we can find a western!

“I went on the hunt for a western and found your Way out West, which allowed us to interact with another to create a production, versus the scripting in other mysteries. This murder took place not only in a western scene but at the silver dollar saloon and we had just added a bar to our home which was a great fit for our rowdy bunch who really immerse themselves in the role they’ve been casted for. There were challenges, moments of passion and excitement, swindling, dealings, an arrest tor two, and even a shootout at high noon! Our bunch had an amazing time on this murder mystery night – I will continue to do our murder mystery hosting through this company!

“I do recommend sending character details ahead of time, if your murder mystery, guests are used to either box murder mysteries, or never played at all.”

Great ideas for costumes and decor here!

Click here to learn more about Way out West.

Way out West is also available in German and in French (as La Ruée vers Cactusville).

Way out West photos

Rachel Foyst recently told us about her Way out West party:

“We played Way out West as a fundraising event for our son’s trip to Europe with other youth at our church. It was a fabulous time! We used all 27 available characters and there were plenty of townsfolk who came as spectators. We were surprised how quickly the characters jumped into action. There was plenty of drama and everyone got into their characters! We followed the recommended timeline in the instructions for planning, which was very helpful. Folks at our church are already talking about which we’ll do next! Thank you for creating such an interactive, fun game.”

The jail got lots of use, as you can see…

Click here to learn more about Way out West.

Way out West is also available in German and in French (as La Ruée vers Cactusville).


Way out West party photos from Alex

In 2017 Alex sent us their Way out West party photos – enjoy.

(Some of our pages of party photos are getting long and unwieldy, so we are moving some photos to the blog. Way out West, as our most popular game, is one of the worst culprits, so as an ongoing project we’re moving some old photos to their own blog page.)

Group photo of everyone playing Way out West – photo by Alex

Hand-crafted game materials

Alex also created hand-crafted game materials (character books and so on) for Way out West, as shown below:

Click here to learn more about Way out West.

Way out West is also available in German and in French (as La Ruée vers Cactusville).

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.

A Heroic Death for Christmas

Debbie Townsend sent us her A Heroic Death photos which she hosted for a Christmas family gathering in a Welsh manor.

She used both the adults and the children’s version of A Heroic Death and writes, “It was a fantastic evening’s entertainment, some really competitive players. Children loved being involved too. No-one guessed who the murderer was. Thank you so much!”

Click here to learn more about A Heroic Death.

A Heroic Death is also available in German as Ein heldenhafter Tod.

A Speakeasy Murder for charity

Sönke Busch of Lympselon Krimi Events recently used Mord in der Flüsterkneipe (the German translation of A Speakeasy Murder) recently raised over €3,000 for the Weisser Ring (White Ring weisser-ring.de) charity that supports crime victims in Germany.

Sönke writes:

“We bring complete strangers with different backgrounds, pasts, political and worldly views, sexual identification and lifestyles to the same table and stand for cosmopolitanism and tolerance with our Krimi Dinners.

“Since in every Krimi Dinner a person comes to harm and during the dinner the whole thing is seen from a playful point of view and laughed about and is also the reason for the merry get-together, we want to remind you that reality is different.

“Victims of violence and other crimes have experiences that we do not wish on anyone. These experiences are sometimes difficult to deal with and inflict not only psychological but also material damage on the victim and their relatives.

“This year, as in the last four years, we would like to remind people of the reality and do something good. That is why we are again organizing a crime dinner for a good cause. We have chosen the Weisser Ring E.V as a donation target and would like to support their work. The full-time and volunteer helpers there do great work. The volunteers sacrifice their free time to help others in explosive life situations. I was there myself and talked to the local association in Mainz to find out about their work. In a nice conversation, all my questions were answered and I have a good feeling about the work of the Weisser Ring.

“This year we collected 3000 Euros for Weisser Ring by auctioning and raffling donated games, crime dinners and other things.”

German and French Translations

Mord in der Flüsterkneipe is available from our partner at Die Besten Familienspiele.

And Drame à Chicago is the French translation of A Speakeasy Murder, available at FranceMurder.

Click here to learn more about A Speakeasy Murder.

A Speakeasy Murder is also available in French (as Drame à Chicago) and German (as Mord in der Flüsterkneipe)


Looking back: 20 years on

Twenty years ago, on 9th October 2001, Freeform Games was incorporated.

So that’s the day we celebrate as our birthday.

We made our first sale ten weeks later, on 17th December.

In 2001…

There was no iPhone, iPad, Facebook or Twitter. Google was three years old, and Amazon was nothing like the behemoth it is now. And Microsoft’s Internet Explorer 5 was the most common internet browser.

Payment over the Internet was relatively novel when we started, so we still accepted checks/ cheques. Not that checks have been popular – we’ve processed fewer than ten checks in 20 years.

Our first game was Death on the Gambia. It was initially more complicated: combat was fiddlier, you could catch river fever, and each character had a success or failure epilogue depending on how the player felt they did. We’ve simplified our games since then to make them easier to run.

In our early games, some characters had more abilities than others. In our more recent games, everyone has just three abilities.

Over time, we’ve improved our games’ layout to make them easier to run and play. We’re also more consistent with our look and feel so that when you buy a Freeform Games murder mystery game, you know what you’re getting. (Although we still have a backlog of games to update into the latest format.)

Foreign-language games

We live in the UK, and we initially expected that most of our customers would be here and in other English-speaking countries. But it quickly became clear that offering downloadable PDFs instead of physical games meant that people from all over the world would be keen to join the party.

We’ve had customers in 84 countries (at least—PayPal doesn’t always tell us where a customer is based). However, about two-thirds of our customers come from the USA—by far our biggest market.

We offered our first translated murder mystery in 2003 (Tod auf dem Gambia – a German translation of Death on the Gambia), and we offer 13 translated games. We now have two partners, Die Besten Familienspiele in Germany and FranceMurder in France.

Curse of the Pharaoh – played in New Zealand

Challenges

The last 20 years have not been without their challenges.

Our biggest challenge has undoubtedly been the pandemic, where our sales dropped off a cliff in March 2020. However, as we reported in January, things have been picking up ever since and hopefully will continue to improve as we learn to live with coronavirus.

Other challenges have included unreliable web hosts (in one case causing us to lose a week’s traffic in October, our busiest period) and changes to Google’s algorithm.

We get most of our traffic from Google, and as they have been trying to weed out low-quality sites from their search results, we have occasionally been affected by those changes. But as you might expect, we only remember the changes that affect us negatively – we don’t remember the good changes!

Murder on the Istanbul Express – our latest game

20 years old

We had no idea that 20 years later we would still be running Freeform Games, with over 30 games to our name.

But we’re happy we are – and here’s to the next 20 years!