Court in the Act

(5 customer reviews)


Court in the Act is a historical murder mystery game set at England’s royal court for 13 to 21 guests and one or two hosts. Walter Raleigh, Queen Elizabeth I, William Shakespeare, and many others, try to solve the murder of the Archbishop of Canterbury. Written by Mo Holkar. Recommended for ages 18+.


Court in the Act is a murder mystery game for 13 to 21 guests and one or two hosts. It is set at the court of Queen Elizabeth I of England, in the time of Shakespeare. Download the free introductory pdf file.

Court in the Act is an evening of revelry, intrigue, and murder! Your guests will be in the middle of the action, and it will be up to them to wheel and deal to get what they want. Will they achieve their goals, keep their secrets hidden, and survive Court in the Act?

“I bought Court in the Act to play with my Shakespeare class (the students were 12–18) – it was a very fancy affair. We just did it today. It was AWESOME. Everyone came in costume and had a blast. They were begging me to do it again!”
Susan Taylor, California, United States

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The Court of St James’s Palace, London, in the reign of Queen Elizabeth I. All present have but lately arrived from the Royal premier of Master Shakespeare’s latest rib-tickling comedy, Two Ladies of Venice. Now, the Queen makes merry and entertains her courtiers, guests, would-be husbands, and envoys from foreign powers, with a sumptuous banquet.

But while all prepare to feast and frolic, dark clouds gather, the sound of war-drums is heard in the distance – and that dear old man the Archbishop of Canterbury, who surely had never an enemy in the world, is found brutally murdered!

At Court in the Act you will discover the following:

  • Who murdered the Archbishop of Canterbury?
  • Why must Queen Elizabeth never marry?
  • Who wrote Shakespeare’s plays?
  • What is the secret of Dr John Dee’s magical powers?
  • … and can England be saved from defeat by the Spanish Armada?

Find out in Court in the Act!

Court in the Act lasts for about four hours and is suited to an evening. It is often played over a meal – a finger buffet if possible, to allow guests to circulate and talk in private.

“I use Court in the Act with students who are not able to go on our 8th grade Washington D.C. Trip. We have played it for three years now, and each year is different but amazing. The kids get involved and do a great job. They love being able to participate in something special that other kids don’t do! Plus it ties in to our reading of ‘Much Ado about Nothing’. Thanks for the great product! ”
Shannyn Hanlon, United States

No combat, no poison.
No combat, no poison.

The free introductory pdf file contains an introduction to the game, a cast list of all the characters, and a copy of the Prologue.

Cast of characters

  • Elizabeth, named Gloriana, a Queen
  • Mary, Queen of Scots, a Dethroned Monarch
  • Philippe of France, a Junior Prince
  • His Eminence Diego Menendez de Aviles, Cardinal of Seville
  • His Grace Andrew Prim, Archbishop of York
  • Robert Deveraux, Earl of Essex, a Gallant and Peer of the Realm
  • Señor Juan Futin da Greve, Ambassador of the King of Spain
  • Sir Francis Walsingham, close adviser to the Queen
  • Sir Walter Raleigh, an Explorer
  • Sir Francis Drake, a most Daring sailor and Champion Bowler
  • Lady Catherine Northwood, lady-in-waiting upon Her Majesty
  • Lord Canning, military counsellor to the Queen
  • General FitzBacon, a commander of Irish mercenaries and moss-troopers
  • Signor Pico della Mirandola, a Philosopher of Venice
  • Doctor John Dee, Adept and Magus
  • Master Chris. Marlowe, an established play-writer
  • Master Wm. Shakespeare, an Actor of some new-found fame
  • Master Edward Kelley, an Associate of Doctor Dee
  • Mistress Jane Dee, Wife to Doctor Dee
  • Mistress Nagel, a serving-wench
  • Hobbs, a servant

Court in the Act is for 13 to 21 guests:

  • 13 guests (6 male, 5 female, 2 any)
  • 14 guests (6 male, 6 female, 2 any)
  • 15 guests (7 male, 6 female, 2 any)
  • 16 guests (8 male, 6 female, 2 any)
  • 17 guests (9 male, 6 female, 2 any)
  • 18 guests (10 male, 6 female, 2 any)
  • 19 guests (11 male, 6 female, 2 any)
  • 20 guests (10 male, 7 female, 3 any)
  • 21 guests (11 male, 7 female, 3 any)

(But note that if you don’t have the right gender mix, that’s absolutely fine — people playing cross-gender is very much in keeping with the spirit of Shakespeare’s plays, on which this game is based.)

You also need one or two hosts, to organize the party and ensure everything runs smoothly. (We recommend two hosts, particularly if this is your first Freeform Games murder mystery party.)

How Freeform Games murder mystery games work

Court in the Act is unlike other murder mystery games. Although the game starts with a murder, each character has several goals they must try to accomplish. While they may want to solve the murder, Court in the Act contains plenty of other plots and secrets to keep everyone busy. Court in the Act isn’t scripted, and lets the players decide how to achieve their goals and thwart their enemies.

“Court in the Act was amazing! We made so much food but everyone forgot to eat because they were so in to the game. We used our balcony for ‘private conversations’. Very few of my guests had played a murder mystery game before but the ones who had agreed that this was a way better, more interactive set up.”
Jo Dixon, Canada

On the evening of the game the guests are met by the organizer, the Chamberlain of the Court of St James.

They then receive their detailed backgrounds – including dark secrets, objectives, and money. When everyone has arrived the Chamberlain announces that, despite the recent tragic events, dinner will now be served. The fun then begins as everyone questions, bribes, and blackmails each other. As the evening progresses they may even try to murder one another!

Finally, the game concludes and everyone finds out how they did, and what secrets everyone else was concealing.

Recommended for ages 18+

We recommend Court in the Act for those aged 18+, as it includes plotlines around extra-marital affairs, and an illegitimate child, in the characters’ background.

Extra characters

Sometimes you have too many guests and need more characters. So most games have free extra characters (written by us or previous hosts) included in the download when you purchase the game.

  • ‘Ginger’ Roberts – freelance reporter in search of the Big Story. (Any)
    (by Freeform Games)
  • Carlos Santiago – Assistant to the Spanish Ambassador (M)
    (by Pam Hoffmann and Jeremy Gustafson)
  • Syrino Foreal – Cardinal’s under-secretary (M)
    (by Pam Hoffmann and Jeremy Gustafson)

Please note that we haven’t always tested these – and they may not tie in exactly with our games.

“Thank you for a great site, fantastic games, good service and very quick reply. Keep up the good work.” Ole Martin Brodwall, Norway

Cast Iron Guarantee

We offer a Cast Iron Guarantee on all our murder mystery games. If you’re not completely satisfied with Court in the Act then please let us know within 30 days and we will refund you. See our full terms and conditions, and our refund policy.

Trouble downloading? If you have trouble downloading the game files, please first check your spam folder. If you still can’t find the download email, drop us a line at with the name of the game and the email address you used to purchase it, and we’ll resend it.

5 reviews for Court in the Act

  1. Anthony (verified owner)

    I ran this for my wife’s birthday weekend for 15 guests in total. The suggested timings worked perfectly. In the debrief after the end, the players couldn’t believe it had been 3 and a half hours!
    I was a little confused about some of the items, but the format is flexible enough that I could just make it up. This is the second of these that I have done (the first I did as a player), and it is so well designed, the way it just gets the players straight into character, giving them very clear objectives, relationships and characterisation. Highly recommended.

  2. Petter Olsen (store manager)

    We’ve played roughly 10 of your games, and Court in the Act was one of the best. We like it when there’s something unique and memorable about the game, like resolving the Spanish invasion at the end. And plenty of opportunity for dressing up!

  3. Christina Wu (store manager)

    I decided to have a murder mystery party for my 18th birthday. I chose Court in the Act because I’m really into the Renaissance era.
    I’m so glad I came across Freeform Games! My guests had so much fun – they said it was the best party they’ve ever been to!!
    Everyone dressed up (especially my Queen Elizabeth!) At first, everyone had a hard time starting out, but after an hour, everyone was talking to each other.
    Not all of my friends knew each other, but the party was a success nonetheless!
    We served Maggiano’s Little Italy catering instead of English food, which was a bit odd… haha!
    But that didn’t stop my friends from acting all “English”.
    Overall, the party was a huge success!! THANK YOU, FREEFORM GAMES!!!

  4. Gemma King (store manager)

    I hosted Court in the Act for my 18th birthday party, and it went down a storm. I was initially apprehensive that a large group of teenagers used to discos and the like might find the idea a little silly and geekish, and not want to get involved, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. I have never seen some of my friends as excited as they were when they opened their invitations.
    I’ll admit that I ended up having to play around with the storylines a little – some of the characters weren’t quite as gender-neutral as they were supposed to be, and I had an excess of girls, but this actually proved useful as I could tailor the event to the guests I had. I also wrote an extra, purposely non-taxing, character for a particularly shy guest, who by the end of the night got so into it that he was awarded a prize for the Most Outrageous Death!
    I had so many compliments for coming up with a unique way to celebrate my 18th that it was unreal. Even my college teachers were jealous that they couldn’t come! I would definitely recommend this kind of party to others – they are great fun to host, and they get everyone involved. Inhibitions usually disappear within half an hour, and it’s great if you have friends that don’t all know each other very well, as I do.
    Thank you very, very much for a wonderful evening. I hope to run another night like this one very soon.

  5. Elise (store manager)

    I hosted Court in the Act for my 18th birthday party last year and it went amazingly well. We all dressed in costume – to varying degrees – and it was a great icebreaker for people who didn’t know each other well or at all. Everyone’s character allowed for so much interaction.
    "At the end we gave prizes – bags of Ye Olde English chocolate coins – for various categories. These included best dressed, best speech, best deceit, best acting, best characterisation, and of course, the best death scene – we accidentally killed Shakespeare. Oops.
    "Anyway, it was a great success and everyone loved it – even the people who were most apprehensive at the beginning. One of the people there has just called me to find out your site – they’re going to do one for their birthday too!

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Q & A

How soon will I get my game? asked on 23 October 2021

You can download your game immediately after making your purchase. We will also send you an email message containing a download link and password so you can download your game later.

answered on 22 October 2021 store manager
(0) (0)
Where's my password? asked on 21 October 2021

Please check your email (including your junk folder). If you're sure you haven't received it, then please get in touch. It helps us if you tell us when you purchased the game and what email address you used.

answered on 20 October 2021 store manager
(0) (0)
How do freeform murder mystery games work? asked on 19 October 2021

Most of our games have an impartial host who organizes the party. Hosts don't solve the murder with everyone else – they have already read the game and instead watch the game unfolding.

Guests use their wits and negotiate, scheme, and plot with other guests to get what they want. Nobody needs to learn complicated backgrounds or memorize lines – character backgrounds are little more than a side or two of paper – which can be kept to hand for reference during the game.

answered on 18 October 2021 store manager
(0) (0)
Have you got any games for beginners? asked on 17 October 2021

Yes! If this is your first time hosting a Freeform Games murder mystery, we suggest choosing one of our more straightforward games. Click here for our 'games for beginners' page.

answered on 16 October 2021 store manager
(0) (0)
Do you have any games suitable for all-male or all-female groups? asked on 15 October 2021

Yes! We have several games where all the characters are ungendered and can be played by anyone. Click here to see our ungendered games.

answered on 14 October 2021 store manager
(0) (0)

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