Parties with a Twist of Murder!
Parties with a Twist of Murder!
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Host a Murder Mystery Dinner Party or Party

10 Steps for Hosting the Perfect Home-Based Murder Mystery

Games by Number of Players:

A mix of different murder mystery evenings held in peoples' homes
Home-hosted murder mystery parties

Our murder mysteries are easy to run for both first-time and experienced hosts. Follow our step-by-step instructions for hosting the perfect murder mystery dinner party in your own home or in a venue of your choice. (Please see separate instructions if you want to host a virtual party.)

These instructions are the same for hosting small dinner parties (6-10 players) or medium-sized parties (10-14 players). They cover everything you need to do. Each game also has its own instructions tailored both to the theme and to the number of characters you have chosen. For example, see Host Instructions for "Murder in the Wild West", 6-8 Players.

Any queries, please contact us by email or phone. We're always happy to help.

When playing our games, most of the host's work is done before the dinner party or party. This means that, on the night, you can relax and enjoy the evening. In fact, we have designed our murder mystery games to be easy to run so that you as the host can play a character alongside your guests.

Your host duties, such as they are, are indicated in everybody's party booklet so you don't need to keep referring to your host instructions.

A: Host Actions Before Purchasing the Murder Mystery

Step 1 Decide a Theme and Agree a Date

1.1 Decide a Theme

We have a good number of murder mysteries to choose from. Within each game, the Characters tabs in the Story and Characters section tells you how many female, male and gender neutral guests you will need for each sized version (6-8, 8-10, 10-12 and 12-14 players). It also gives you a good idea as to the type of role each character will play. It is a good idea to check this before contacting friends so that you can invite the appropriate mix of people. Note that not all of our games are available for larger numbers of players.

1.2 Agree a Date

We suggest that you contact friends and family before purchasing to see who is available on the dates you are considering so that you can buy the appropriate game size for your group. For larger parties in particular, diaries can clash.

A note on purchase timescales: we have had some hosts buy games on the day of the party and happily run them a few hours later. Ideally, however, we would suggest buying games several weeks in advance to allow your guests time to sort their costumes and to allow yourself time to do the pre-party work. (See section B.) If you wish to invite a large number of guests, then it is a good idea to check their availability 1-3 months in advance before diaries get booked up. (When we run our test parties, we have found that we need to contact friends at least 1-2 months in advance with a list of dates when we are available; giving people 3 months' notice means that people are more likely to be available.)

Step 2 Purchase the Game for the Appropriate Number of Players

Don't forget to include yourself as one of the players! If you have friends or family who may not be able to attend, we suggest that you assign them the role of an optional character.

Files are available for download immediately after purchase.

B: Host Actions Before the Dinner Party

The key to a good party is good planning. We find it is best to get as much as possible done before the day of your party so that, on the night, you can relax and enjoy the murder mystery alongside your guests.

Step 3 Allocate Guests to Characters

The game's Host Instruction booklet has three pages dedicated to helping you assign the right guest to the right character. To make things easier, the characters are divided into essential female, essential male, essential gender-neutral and optional gender-neutral characters. The character description and the sample dialogue give you a flavour of each character. The Casting Notes section contains a few spoilers of secret relationships that will be revealed within rounds 1-3 but they can be useful to decide who plays opposite whom.

Note: gender neutral suspects are fun to play but will have no flirting involved. They can therefore be good roles to give teenagers and those who may not be happy with flirting.

Note: Some hosts like to arrange the characters so that one half of a couple flirts with the other half of the couple. However, as the suggested dialogue is fairly mild, we find it can be more fun to mix couples up. The choice is yours.

Step 4 Send Invitations and Pre-Party Booklets

We suggest that you send these to guests several weeks in advance of your party so that guests have time to sort their costumes. However, some hosts run impromptu gatherings at short notice and guests then tend to simply adapt what they have in their wardrobes.

Regardless of whether you are running your game well in the future or on the day, we do suggest that you send invitations and Pre-Party Booklets to guests in advance so that they can familiarise themselves with the mystery's themes and characters.

Tip: when sending out the invitations, we ask if anyone has any food allergies or dislikes. (This helps us to plan our menu.) For major characters, we also include a polite note that "your character is essential for the evening to run". (This makes guests realise that it is important that they do attend the party!)

Tip: a few days before the party, we send out a second email with the menu and a friendly "we look forward to seeing you" reminder. We also include a polite "please arrive promptly" note.

Note: Pre-Party Booklets are short, snappy and easy to digest. They fit on two sides of A4 / letter paper. Many customers have told us that they appreciate this advance information as it means that there is less to take in and assimilate on the night.

Note: each character has their own Pre-Party Booklet. Booklets give the character bio, costume suggestions, suggested catchphrases and mannerisms and that all important character secret. They also give an easy-to-read summary of the main themes of the evening in the form of bite-sized newspaper articles. The back page has the character's Initial Mingling instructions.

Sample Party Invitation and Pre-Party Booklet
Party Invitation and sample Pre-Party Booklet for "Murder at Horror Castle". Brief snippets of information are attractively laid out on the front page; suspects are divided into helpful groupings for ease of understanding.

Step 5 Printing and General Party Organisation

5.1 Printing

We suggest that you do the remainder of the printing several days or a week or so in advance of your gathering so that there is less to do on the day.

You will need to print:

  • Party Booklets for each major character and for the optional characters (if included)
  • Clues

You may also optionally print:

  • Name tags
  • Award certificates for the best solution, best actor, best costume and for best food (if guests bring a dish); depending on the size of your party, you may want to print two of some awards (for example, best male costume and best female costume).
  • Duplicate map and notepad sheet - one per guest. (This serves as rough paper for notes but also lets guests see the map on page 3 of their Party Booklets without having to flip back and forwards to it.)
  • Place cards and menu card (for the dinner table).
  • Decoration printouts.
  • Duplicate Pre-Party Booklets if playing the Initial Mingling - then you are not caught out if someone forgets to bring their booklet.

It is a good idea to check that you know how to play your audio introduction.

5.2 General Party Organisation

You will also wish to consider where to hold your murder mystery. If you run the (optional) Initial Mingling, then this works best in a room where guests have got space to mingle and talk with other guests; if you only have one room, then consider allowing guests to also use your hall and kitchen for the mingling. The main party can be run with guests sitting round a dining table; alternatively, you can play the game in a living area and then eat in the dining area. The choice is yours.

It may be a good idea to allocate an "investigation space" where guests can put clues after they have been read. This can be something simple such as a coffee table or a sideboard. This "investigation space" allows guests to reread the clues should they wish to do so.

Step 6 Optional: Decorations, Food, Music and Your Costume

You do not need to use themed decorations, food or music, or even have a themed costume for yourself; some hosts just print the games and run with them. However, we know from our own experience - and from customer feedback - that these details can all combine to make your murder mystery one that guests will talk about and remember for a long time.

6.1 Decorations

Each murder mystery gives detailed suggestions for themed decorations. Each game also gives an extensive decoration pack with themed printouts that can easily be used to decorate your home.

Tip: use the extensive set of printouts provided with each game to easily set the scene for your guests. To make the printouts stand out and look more impressive, consider mounting them on cardboard covered with a theme-appropriate material. For example, for "Murder in the Wild West", we covered cardboard with red table napkins to turn A4 (letter-sized) printouts into an eye-catching display.

Tip: if you just with to use a few token decorations that you already have, then group these decorations together into clusters to make them look more eye-catching.

Tip: we find it is best to sort out the decorations several days in advance so that there is less to do on the day.

6.2 Food

Each murder mystery comes with a large selection of themed food ideas that can be largely prepared in advance.

Some hosts provide a themed meal in-between the game rounds:

  • Rounds 1 and 2 and then the starters.
  • Rounds 3 and 4 and then the main course.
  • Rounds 5 and 6, the Accusations and the Whodunnit round and then dessert and coffee.

Others provide a buffet before or after the game - or after round 3.

Hosts who don't like cooking sometimes ask guests to bring a themed dish (or a murder mystery dish) and then put these together into a potluck buffet; in this case, there is an optional Best Food Award that you can give. Other hosts order in a takeaway and then play the game after this.

We have found that friends are so pleased to be invited that many offer to bring a dessert or starter!

Important: whatever option you decide on, we strongly suggest that you choose food that can be prepared largely in advance so that you do not hold up the party with long absences in the kitchen. It is also a good idea to shop in advance. (We buy freezable and non-perishable items a week before a test party leaving just a quick shop for salad items to be done the day before.)

Tip: if serving a three-course dinner between rounds, we find that the evening works best if we serve a cold starter and pudding and a hot main course that can be prepared ahead of schedule and then simply reheated between rounds.

Tip: choose vegetables that are quick to cook such as peas or julienne carrots. If you boil the kettle at the end of the starters, this saves time when cooking the vegetables. Alternatively, choose vegetables such as spiced red cabbage that are prepared the day before and then reheated on the night.

Tip: don't forget to chill drinks in advance.

6.3 Music

Set the mood for your party with music to greet your guests as they arrive; continue this by playing this music as guests complete the Accusation Sheets. Each game gives a list of possible songs.

6.4 Your Costume

Costumes definitely add to the fun of the evening. Some guests buy an outfit; others adapt what they have in their wardrobe.

Desserts for "Murder at Horror Castle" party
Desserts for "Murder at Horror Castle" party

C: Host Actions During the Party

Step 7 Greet Guests, Optional Initial Mingling and Group Photo

7.1 Overview

Some hosts ask guests to arive in character and to begin the (optional) Initial Mingling as soon as the first guest arrives. In this case, ensure that everyone has been instructed to arrive promptly and:

ask the character mentioned in the Host Instructions to arrive a few minutes early so that they can hand out name tags, take coats and serve drinks,

have the group photo after the Initial Mingling.

Other hosts prefer to allow everyone to chat and grab a drink before the Initial Mingling. This can be useful if one or more of your guests is likely to arrive slightly late but it can feel slightly forced to suddenly announce that the mingling is beginning. In this case:

hand out name tags, take coats and offer drinks as soon as guests arrive; as an ice breaker, it is a good idea to introduce people as their character. For example, "this is Lady Ivy, your fiancé for the evening!"

have the group photo and then start the Initial Mingling.

7.2 Optional Initial Mingling

This can be a useful way to allow guests to become familiar with the major themes of the evening and with the other characters before the main murder mystery begins. Some people really enjoy mingling and scheming to achieve their personal objectives; others prefer the security of the round-based flexible scripts. If your party is unlikely to enjoy the Initial Mingling, then feel free to skip it as it is a fun introduction that does not advance the main plotlines.

Guest instructions for the Initial Mingling are in their Pre-Party Booklets.

Please do keep an eye on the time - no matter how much fun guests are having, we suggest limiting this part of the evening to 10-20 minutes.

7.3 Group Photo

We suggest you take your group photos at the start of the evening before people start discarding wigs and removing jackets etc.

7.4 Give Guests Their Party Booklets

Give each guest their individual Party Booklet. Where guests have clues to read, you can either give them the clues at this stage or else keep them to one side and give them out as needed to ensure that clues to not get mislaid.

Step 8 Read Game Instructions and Play Audio Solution

The instructions are found on pages 4 and 5 of everyone's Party Booklets. To help everyone assimilate these instructions, we tend to ask for two volunteers to read alternate paragraphs aloud.

At the end of page 5 of the Party Booklets, after the instructions, there is a large prompt for the host to play the audio introduction. If there are any problems, there is a backup printed version in the Host Instructions folder (zip 1). However, we suggest you do use this audio if possible as we have paid for professional voiceover artists to set the scene and also use background music and audio sounds to maintain interest.

Sample high-energy audio introduction to set the mood and start your party with a swing - audio taken from the Murder in the Wild West mystery

--- Party Rounds ---

With the Exception of Serving Food, You Can Now Play a Role and Enjoy the Game, Just Like Any Other Guest

Step 9 Conclude the Party: Accusations, Optional Whodunnit Round, Audio Solution and Awards

9.1 Accusations

At the end of round 6, one character's Party Booklet will prompt them to ask everyone to complete the Accusation Sheet. (The Accusation Sheet is on the next page of the Party Booklet.)

The Accusation Sheet is where guests write down who they think the murderer/s is or are, what the motives are and what the evidence is.

The Accusation Sheet also has a section where guests vote for the best costume, acting and (if relevant) food.

9.2 Optional Whodunnit Round

If you are short of time, you can skip this round. However, it allows each guest to say why they cannot be guilty and to clear up a few red herrings that the final short Audio Solution does not cover. At the same time, guests can ham up their roles one final time. This round is often made more fun by a surprise "proposal" or two, as well as by the odd optional opportunities for song, dance or shootouts.

9.3 Audio Solution

At the end of the Whodunnit round, on page 15 of the Party Booklet, everyone can see the large prompt that the Audio Solution will be played. This means that, if you forget to play the audio, your guests can remind you. Again, if there are issues with playing the audio, a printed backup can be found in the Host Instructions zip.

9.4 Award Certificates

The easiest way to determine who has won an award, is simply to ask for a show of hands.

Some hosts use the Award Certificates supplied with the game; others provide an award trophy or a small present that is theme-appropriate. For example, for the Swinging Sixties, we suggest that hosts might like to offer a box of After Eights to winners as these were launched in 1962.

Step 10 Serve Dessert and Coffee and Relax

Once the main party has finished, this is the ideal time to relax with dessert and coffee or cocktails.

Desserts for "Murder at Horror Castle" party
Desserts for "Murder at Horror Castle" party

Our Murder Mysteries

Murder in the Swinging Sixties

Murder in the Swinging Sixties

Players: 6 - 8, 8 - 10, 10 - 12, 12- 14

Age: Adults, most teens 13+

View Mystery
Cover image for our pirate murder msytery game

Pirates Plunder and Murder

Players: 6 - 8, 8 - 10, 10 - 12, 12- 14

Age: Adults, most teens 13+

View Mystery
1920s' speakeasy murder mystery party

Murder in a 1920s' Speakeasy

Players: 6 - 8, 8 - 10, 10 - 12, 12- 14

Age: Adults, most teens 13+

View Mystery
Murder in the Naughty Nineties

Murder in the Naughty Nineties

Players: 6 - 8, 8 - 10, 10 - 12, 12- 14

Age: Adults, older teens

View Mystery
Murder at the 70s Disco Party

Murder at the 70s Disco Party

Players: 6 - 8, 8 - 10

Age: Adults, most teens 13+

View Mystery
Murder in the Wild West

Murder in the Wild West

Players: 6 - 8, 8 - 10

Age: Adults, most teens 13+

View Mystery
Murder at Horror Castle

Murder at Horror Castle

Players: 6 - 8, 8 - 10, 10-12, 12-14

Age: Adults, most teens 14+

View Mystery
Murder at the Christmas Party

Murder at the Christmas Party

Players: 6 - 8, 8 - 10, 10 - 12

Age: Adults, most teens 13+

View Mystery
Is Santa Slayed? - a family-friendly Chistmas mystery

Is Santa Slayed?

Players: 6 - 8, 8 - 10, 10-12, 12-14

Age: 11+ - Adult, Family-friendly

View Mystery

A Customer Review

Ashley Barbier's "Murder in the Naughty Nineties" party
Ashley Barbier's "Murder in the Naughty Nineties" party

"What a great experience. Thank you so much; it was fun to be the host and be able to play not knowing who the murderer was. Easy steps to follow to prepare and play the game. We were a group of 6 and had a blast; lots of laughs and giggles trying to figure out who the murderer was."

Ashley Barbier's review of "Murder in the Naughty Nineties"