Welcome to the coronavirus lockdown issue of our occasional newsletter!. In this issue we talk about beating those lockdown blues by:
Our new online video chat murder mystery party game Reunion with Death!
Our thoughts about how to host our regular games online
Mo and Steve
Thanks to the coronavirus pandemic, many of us are in lockdown at the moment, and not able to meet up for parties.
But that needn't stop you having a great time with a murder mystery game with your friends!
We've developed a brand new game that's especially designed to be played online – Reunion with Death. In this game, the characters themselves are locked down, trying to find out which of them committed the murder, communicating with each other via video and text chat – so it's a perfect match to the way that you and your guests will be playing it!
It's the 15-year high-school reunion, in smallish-town America. Former students are gathering in the town's main hotel, ahead of the big party tonight. But one of them, former prom queen Mikolette Lukanis, has been found murdered!
Everyone is locked in their individual hotel rooms, pending a full police investigation – the only way they can communicate is using the hotel’s video system. High-school rivalries will re-emerge, old grudges and secrets will surface: along with a heady mix of present-day envy, betrayal, and lust.
Restock the minibar, put on your complementary terrycloth slippers, hang out the 'Do Not Disturb' sign, and join the alumni of Holborrow High as they prepare for their reunion with death!
Reunion with Death is for 6–9 players (and one host as usual). It costs $29.99 (or £20.00) and has been written to be played online in lockdown, using video chat. We’ve included detailed instructions for using Google Hangouts, but you can use any system that you are familiar with.
Just click here to find out all about it!
At the moment, Reunion with Death is the only game that we've designed specifically for online play. But our regular games can also be played online, with a bit of adaptation and flexibility.
We identified a few things that you'll need to consider:
Whatever video chat system you use, you need to allow people to break off into different rooms/channels for one-on-one private conversations – not always talking together as the whole group.
Make sure that everyone has checked that they can connect, and tested out their video, in advance of the party start time. We learned the hard way that it can be frustrating if all of the other guests are ready and waiting for that one person who's only just now starting to install the software…
Our games include item cards that represent important objects in the game (like the murder weapon, and various clues). In normal play, these can be passed around and exchanged between players. You'll need to manage that online somehow – it can be done by having a separate little file for each item, which players can attach to conversations with each other – or by the host keeping a central register of 'who currently has which item' and updating it as players tell them that they've passed something on.
Some of our games include rules for combat, eg. in our Western games there can be gunfights. These are done using rock-paper-scissors, so they can be managed online, but it can be kind of fiddly and time-consuming. You might decide to disallow such combat.
Timetable wise, we've found that online games can be run to the same sort of schedule as when everyone's together. The delays caused by the technology are pretty much balanced by the way that people tend to get to grips with the plotlines more quickly, with less social chit-chat.
Here's where you can read about Mariana's online party with the murderous O'Leary family: https://www.freeformgames.com/blog/going-online-murder-mystery-games-in-a-worldwide-pandemic/
She concludes: “All in all a huge success. Two people left talking about doing another one.”
And here's how Paul and his guests solved the mystery of Zeke Calhoun's killing: https://www.freeformgames.com/blog/lockdown-way-out-west/
Paul says: “During these times of forced separation and growing isolation your game provided a great excuse to gather the family together for an evening that everyone thoroughly enjoyed and greatly appreciated. We will be purchasing another of the games shortly.”
Huge thanks to Mariana and to Paul for sharing these details with us!
If you've run an online murder mystery party yourself, please do let us know! – we'd love to hear about how it went.