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How to host a virtual mystery party for a large group.

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We are rolling up on the holiday season, and your brain is switching into party planning mode. But with the pandemic lurking around, you must prepare for the worst. Should you skip the in-person bash this year and go virtual? That is a difficult decision, as the future is uncertain at this point in time. If you do decide to host your event on video chat but have a ton of folks on your guest list - what do you do? 

I'll tell you what: take advantage of the hard work our staff and beta testing group has done in spring of 2020. If you have ten or fewer players - it's easy. Select one of these virtual games.  I'm releasing at least two per month, so if you don't find a theme you want - check back with us. 

If you  have more than ten players, these are my five main points of advice for you, based upon my experience, listening to host feedback, and of course, my hundreds of beta testing groups that have so graciously helped us out during the pandemic. 

KEEP THE PLAYERS WITH CHARACTER ROLES MINIMAL

Did I release games with over ten players? Yes, we tested games with expansion packs that extend up to 16 player roles. The beta feedback came from hosts who had played multiple virtual games back-to-back, so their opinions are gold. The general view was the optimal number of players in a character role is six to eight with a max of 10. But - that having a small expansion pack to 15/16 more character roles does work - it's just not optimal.  They also tested guests playing along without roles, and that worked great. 

ASSIGN THE REMAINING PLAYERS AS SPECTATOR PLAYERS

A recent addition to the virtual games is to include a spectator file (games with expansion packs have the spectator file with the expansion pack purchase). These play-along players are not suspects nor named characters. They will have a PDF file resembling a character packet that explains the game and their role and keeps up with the pagination of the character packets, so when you tell them to view page 7, they'll be viewing the same type of page. They will have challenge materials just like the other players for ease of playing along. For example, Who Whacked a Mole has many detectives working the case in the storyline. Therefore, the extra players are detectives.  In the Creeps, Haunts, & Murder game, they are ghosts in the haunted mansion.  It works. It's the best option for you to have a large group on a video chat playing a mystery party.  These spectator roles go to the pre-game site, but do not engage in pre-game tasks.  

GIVE ALL PLAYERS ACCESS TO THE PRE-GAME SITE

This host instructions tell you to send your players to the free pre-game site before the party. If you have a bunch of players in secondary roles, you should still encourage access to the pre-game site at Your Mystery Party so they can watch the game trailer, review the character bios, and the synopsis (albeit the last two items might also be in their packet).  This will reduce pre-game chaos once everyone logs into the video chat.

GIVE ALL PLAYERS ACCESS TO THE PLAYER INSTRUCTION VIDEO IN ADVANCE OF THE GAME

This host instructions tell you to wait and play the player instruction video to start the game. However, with a large group - you want to minimize 'quiet time' while watching an instructional video, as they can start to grow impatient - unlike an intimate group. Therefore, get the player instruction video out of the way before the participants log into the video chat. Again, you want your group to know the deal and get ready to play to avoid any chaos. 

MAKE IT MANDATORY FOR THE PEOPLE IN THE CHARACTER ROLES TO WEAR COSTUMES AND DECORATE THEIR BACKDROP

The worst possible scenario is that the players in the character roles look like everyone else. Make it obvious that they are the ones who are the focal point. Zoom has a virtual backdrop option, as well. Ensure these players are familiar with how to video chat and have good lighting.  Lighting should be in front of their face, not from behind, or they'll be a shadow.  Also, have them include their character name on their chat box (if the platform has the function), and instruct the spectators not to put a name on their boxes.

I hope this advice will guide you in the right direction regarding your decisions for a large virtual party this season. If you have any further questions, the staff of My Mystery Party is always willing to assist you. Your success is our success! I wish you a happy and blessed holiday season. 

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