I planned a murder mystery for my husband’s 30th birthday and it was fun, but hard to execute. Here are some tips that I learned through research and trial/error.
Send out an invite. You need a very specific amount of people for this party. You can either choose a game (see below) and invite only the required number of people OR you can invite who you want and see what games match with how many guests you have. If you do the first option, you can invite additional people to fill in the missing spots. You can’t un-invite guests.
Choose a game! After you have the guest list solidified, it’s time to pick a game. It’s hard! After a lot of research, I decided to go with Freeform games and chose Snow Business. I really liked it! Everything was easy to understand and it’s at the beginner level. I also chose this one based on the setting/props needed. I wanted something that was easy to set up and easy for people to dress up in. This game takes place at a Snow Chalet in the French Alps.
Assign Characters. The game you choose should give you information on each character and handouts for each person. I chose characters based on people’s real personalities. Obviously, if there’s a death scene or something crazy – choose an outgoing person, etc. I sent them each an email with their character worksheets and the rules. Then I printed out all of that stuff, their props and anything else they need and put it all into a colored folder. I coordinated the colors to the different families (there were three separate families in our game). Make sure each person has a name tag.
Get Props/Decorations. The game provides props that you can print out, but I opted to buy real ones. This could get expensive depending on what game you choose. I also got some decorations to liven up the snow chalet vibe – French flags, snow flakes for the windows, stuff like that.
–Dead body outline
Get in Host Mode. Most games require you to be a host and not participate in the game. I did find a few that let you be in the game, but it seemed really overwhelming. Being the host was super fun though because you get to interact with all the guests. You know all the secrets! And you get to direct how game play goes. I walked around and made sure everyone had drinks at all times and served food as well. You definitely need snacks/dinner. I don’t recommend doing a sit down dinner because people will want to walk around and mingle. Plus it’ll waste a lot of time.
Our game took about three hours. I tried to keep wrapping it up after two, but everyone wanted to keep playing! You can gauge what to do if you see people getting bored. I got mini champagnes for “best actor”, “best detective”, etc., since there could be more than one person that solves the mystery correctly.
Overall, I would say its A LOT of prep work and planning, but it was worth it. Definitely a different way to spend an evening/throw a birthday party.