Virtual Versus Face-to-Face Murder Mystery Games

Posted by Dr. Bon Blossman on Oct 11th 2020

Virtual Versus Face-to-Face Murder Mystery Games

The following breaks down our traditional, in-person murder mystery games to our new virtual format.

Storyline: the storylines are along the same, traditional lines. However, some of the virtual games might incorporate the actual experience of being virtual into the game. 

Overall format: The traditional (in-person) games have a mingling, clue based design with a scripted solution round. Most of these games will claim a player-victim, which we know to be the preferred format.  The virtual games are more scripted (with exceptions), and less directed clues, as you cannot mingle about and speak to individual players. It's more of an open forum where players take turns presenting dialogue and clues.  All virtual games have a group challenge in rounds one and two, where only some of the in-person games will have a group challenge. 

Optional pre-game round: This is the same in both types of games. 

Length of gameplay: Given the nature of the format, the virtual game will take less time, so the parties run 1.5 to 2 hours in length. The in-person game average runs 2 to 2.5 hours.  Albeit in both formats, there are optional activities you can do to lengthen the experience and add to the fun. 

Optimal number of players: We have found that in-person games have an optimal number of 8-15 players. You can expand to 200+ players with expandable teams (non-suspect/secondary players), which works great. With suspect roles, we don't typically go over 50 (with exceptions), as it just becomes too much to filter through. With a video chat, the optimal number of 'character/suspect' roles is 6-8 players, with the rest being spectators. We offer expansion packs with most games that expand to 15-18 characters, as we tested them and it worked. However, we caution that adding these extra characters does add to chaos a bit. That is why the newer expansion packs don't add suspects but rather add players with a character role in the game. We suggest you add them with caution!  We have found that the number of spectators playing along doesn't affect the game - as long as you minimize their input along the way and keep the focus on the characters. 

Information for each player: Both formats have a pre-game site where the players can read about the others, watch a game trailer video, read the synopsis, get costume links, and sometimes more. Both formats have a pre-game round. For the actual gameplay, the information for in-person games are given in three rounds of clue cards during the game. These clue cards need to either be printed and prepared by the host or by our staff, in a boxed kit called a party pack.  Virtual games have character packets that are emailed to the players before the game. They are only allowed to view certain pages prior to the big event. The game is designed so that it might give them an advantage in the mystery itself if they were to view the packet in advance, but no one character packet can spoil the game entirely. Hopefully, you don't have cheaters in your game, but if so - it's going to be okay - the host is the only one with the solution PDF and video. :)  We do not suggest allowing your players to view the entire packet before playing the game. This is not for playhouse theater - it's a game meant to give a  memorable experience. It's okay that they get information as they go along. We expect there to be a few awkward lags while people read things for the next round - that's okay! 

Host instructions: The host instructions for the downloaded in-person game is given in one PDF file along with the rest of the game materials. The game is in one file is for the hosts who wish to send it to UPS or another print shop to have it all printed. This keeps you from having to send multiple files to the print shop, as undoubtedly, you would skip one or more and then be in a pickle.  With a party pack, you get a bound booklet and a game-specific sheet that explains how the game differs from the norm.  A virtual game has a separate PDF file for instructions. 

Player instructions: Player instructions are included with the host instructions, and the host reads them to the group. Player instructions for non-murder games are also included with the host instructions and read to the group. Player instructions for virtual murder games are given via a video that the host plays before starting the game. 

Required game videos: Only a few of our in-person games have required videos. The clue cards do a good job of building the story through interaction between players and the redundancy of clues being presented in a mingling format. Most of our virtual games will have required videos for each round to play to push along the story. We assume since you are playing virtually, you'll have access to Wi-Fi, so the videos will be available for download, on YouTube, on Vimeo, and the Your Mystery Party website. You're also given a back-up transcript if all else fails. 

Requirements outside of the game: Nothing is required outside of the game itself with our traditional format unless specified. For example, our Last Will & Testament of Roland Kingsley requires you to play videos. With the virtual design, you're required to have access to a video chat platform of your choice. We only provide game materials, and you are responsible for how to connect with your guests online.  You'll need internet access - not only for the video chat (i.e., Zoom) but also for the videos if you choose to stream from YouTube, Your Mystery Party, or Vimeo. 

Printed materials: With the traditional design, you need to print the kit or get the boxed kit prepared by our staff.  With the virtual format - no printing is required.  However, if a player doesn't have two devices to use during the game, they might want to print their packet.  It's best to use one device (PC, laptop, etc.) for your video chat and the other for viewing your PDF file. Some games might expect you to look things up on the internet, as well. 

Name tags: Name tags are included in the traditional format. They are not included with virtual, as you can label your chat box with your name. 

Mystery investigation cards: There are printable sheets with the in-person game, cool detective cardstock cards with the boxed set, and virtual -  ask your players to get a notebook/scratch paper to take notes during the game. They will likely be seated at a desk/counter, so they can easily access it whenever it's needed. 

Forensic report (when included): With traditional games, when there is a forensic report - it's in the download for you to print/prepare or in the boxed kit in a labeled envelope.  The virtual games will have the forensic report in the character packet, usually in round two. The players are not to view it until it's time.  There are warning pages in the PDF packet that tell them not to progress in the file until they are instructed to do so. 

Solution presentation: In the traditional, in-person games, the players will take turns presenting a scripted dialogue to the group. The murderer will go last, as directed by the order on the cards.  This builds suspense during the reveal.  With virtual games, because the players have their packets before the game, we didn't want to give them critical information that could spoil the game - to avoid cheaters and accidents.  One person knowing the solution in advance can spoil the game. Therefore, we have a separate answer key that the host has on their account. They are not to open this file until the end of the game. Also, most virtual games will have a solution video they can play - but the key is there to answer any questions afterward. 

Bonus activities: Both versions of murder mystery parties will have some optional bonus games. We have found it's a fun way to mix up the evening and keep the energy high. The in-person games are just like traditional party games, whereas the virtual bonus games will be suited for a virtual format. Albeit, you could play them all at home, as well.

Menu suggestions:  Only the traditional format will have menu instructions. However, if you are playing a virtual game at home and would like some suggestions -  email us, and we'll be happy to give you some!