Western Murder Mystery Party

6.5 Overall
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Western Murder Mystery Party

  • Played September 2017
  • New York, NY

  • 120 minutes
  • exactly 10 players
  • $40 per guest (Student/Artist Price: $30)
  • For more mature audiences

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Ghost Ship Murder Mysteries hosts murder mystery parties in New York and Boston. There are different themes available each requiring a set number of people to play the game. Our team played the Western which is set up for exactly ten people in a saloon at the time of the gold rush.

The party concept is based around the premise that one of the participants hosts the party at their home, while Ghost Ship Murder Mysteries provides the murder mystery, which is perfect for individuals who want a boost in entertainment but don’t want the hassle of coordinating.

The set-up is simple: The participants are emailed directions a couple of days prior to the murder mystery party and given brief and basic instructions on how to play. Also, every participant receives an individual email with the name of their assigned character, a basic background story and secrets that character might have (You will also get this information again at the party so no need to learn everything by heart). Keep in mind that as the party host/organizer you have to provide Ghost Ship Murder Mysteries with a list of all the people attending as well as assigning the roles with at least first and second choice approximately one week prior to the actual event. This can turn out to be a bit of a guessing game, if you do not know every participant personally. It is also possible to indicate which of your guests might be uncomfortable with being the murderer. This leaves the possibility for spoiling it a little for you, if people suspect a participant as the murderer when you know you marked them as being uncomfortable with it.

Everything you need for this party is brought to the host’s apartment by Ghost Ship Murder Mysteries. They will hide additional clues in the apartment, mark which rooms are off limits, even provide you with cocktails (or mocktails if you prefer those) and background music that fits the theme. Once the game begins, participants are given a run down by Dylan, the game coordinator who is present for the entire game. The run-down is straightforward and situates the context of the game sufficiently. As we played, Dylan took the role of a supporting character who we could pull aside any time if we had any questions during the game. This built-in safety net enhanced the experience, kept everyone involved, and moved the plot along when needed.

Regarding the game components, everything was in good condition. We were handed out an envelope containing cards with information about our characters and a name tag to put on. Some of the cards would also include additional information about some other character(s) and instructions for what to do with this additional information. For example, a card would tell you to share the information about a specific character with at least three other people. This mechanic makes sure that the information is spread and should ultimately lead to the conviction of the murderer.

Except for some card games there were very few game components besides these information cards. We would have appreciated if there had been some kind of props that would have added a visual identifier to the different characters, e.g. toy weapons, sheriff’s badge etc. Since this mystery is set up for five women, two men, and three people of any gender, it is possible to gender cross which made it kind of hard to remember at times which role and gender a participant was playing. For the additional clues hidden in the apartment, they were all in good condition, too. The only complaint here would be one specific clue with very hard to read handwriting and that it is a little unlikely that participants would start going through the host’s stuff unless the game coordinator specifically suggests that such behavior is permitted.

For actually solving the mystery, we found that playing with ten people makes it hard to follow everything that is going on. A major element of the game requires participants to read through carefully constructed secret character cards that move the story along, and also compare their knowledge from the cards against the additional clues that are in play. All of this provided a lot of information, but was at times hard to process. We also felt like a lot of information was lost along the way as well as false information unintentionally added by the participants. There are four rounds where the clues are replenished for each character which added fun new levels to the game. The game ends after the fourth round where the participants are gathered together to discuss, deliberate, accuse, and compare notes to find out who the murderer might be.

What was a bit frustrating for us was the fact that we did not even consider the actual murderer as such. The motive felt like it was not the strongest one and could have been more compelling. Though we want to acknowledge that depending on how the information is spread among the participants the outcome of this murder mystery party could have been different.

If all the participants dive in, this Western mystery has great immersive potential. The music and drinks made us feel like being in an actual saloon. The characters are well chosen, interesting and fit the theme perfectly. Also, for most of us the emails received prior to the party helped to prepare and already get to know our background stories. For some of us these could have been more straightforward though, while others would have preferred more details regarding the specific character’s past to flesh out an understanding of the characters as a person – such as where they are from or connections between different characters. During the party, there was definitely a lot of confusion going on and a lot was left open to interpretation. However, Ghost Ship Murder Mysteries encourages “to lie, cheat, steal […], and gossip like your life depends on it”. All the confusion and miscommunication seemed to be part of the game and contributed to our immersion as this is what actually happens when you throw ten people into one room/apartment.

Overall, we really enjoyed this murder mystery party, although it was more like a social event than a deduction game. It was fun to go into character and allows a range of participants with different skill and immersion tolerances to dive in (or dip their toes) as little or as much as they like. It is an interesting activity on the whole and a safe bet that members of your party who embrace the spirit of the game will have a good time.

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