Selvårv Stigård and Geoffrey Globus
4 - 9
Everyone loves a good murder. Except… maybe not the murdered… or like their family. But everyone else! Especially if you happen to have a few rooms full of world class detectives, all of whom are suspects. The murder Mystery narratives have seen a wide berth of offerings in the game world. From Clue, being the most notable and accessible, to How to Host a Murder, an engrossing theater like simulation. Social deduction games in general have been enjoying a great many offerings, but often sacrifice immersion at the cost of convenience. And therein lies the need for a game like Death of the Party.
In Death of the Party, players are all members of a dinner party in which the host has been murdered. What’s even more apparent is that someone at the party is the culprit. Players are assigned two envelopes and a lanyard. One envelope has an identity, letting them know if they are one of the potential killers or just an innocent party goer/detective as well as providing them with some helpful tools. The other envelope is their persona which will be full of the specific character that they are representing as well as paraphernalia and clues that they may drop if they’re the murderer. The game is played setup in two or three rooms. Yep! To add to the immersion a pivotal part of the game is that multiple rooms are used. One of these rooms will have the body, where at the very start of the game everyone closes their eyes and the killer(s) plant clues.
On any given round, people in a particular room will pick up a drink card, each of which has a number on the other side, and in ascending order may start interrogating one another or taking from the lockbox in the room. Players have to use their wit and deduction to determine why someone wouldn’t show them a pivotal piece of information that might clear their name or choose who to trust with what information. Players are free to mingle, which can lead to, of course, more murders! Should a player find themselves in bad company they run the risk of being killed. The way that this happens is that a murderer, with weapon and a clue to drop in hand, sneaks up behind their victim and touches them on the back. If they are caught in the act, the would-be-victim has a chance to defend themselves if they have a weapon of their own, potentially killing the murderer on their own! But convincing the investigators that’s what happened may be difficult. When a murder happens the game pauses for a long enough time to gather the investigators. They may ask the victim questions, but the victim can only answer with cards. Accusations can then be made which will be brought to a vote. If someone is voted to be a murderer, they are placed under house arrest. Being under house arrest is a lot like being dead in that you are really no longer an active part of the game, but you’re free to watch things unfold. Play continues until the murderers match the number of innocents or until it is voted that all the murderers are either dead or under house arrest.
Now, if that sounds like a lot, it’s because it is. Unfortunately that’s only the tip of the iceberg, at least for the host of this deadly little party. What at first sounds like an easy to set up social deduction game quickly becomes a test or organizational skills. Each player has two envelopes full of cards as well as a lanyard. Each room has a number of cards to be set out as well as lockboxes to be set up. This all has to be done before you begin explaining the game, and while it initially doesn’t sound that daunting, I found it borderline overwhelming trying to keep track of everything. Granted, the way this is designed allows you to do most of the legwork ahead of time, which means those that don’t have to set up the game may not even notice this hiccup. But I guarantee you will. Aside from that there are some fiddly bits to this game, in particular the timing of certain events and just how things play out. Conveniently the ruling on if you forgot something is just to drop it and continue play. This is the best option, but unfortunately with a good number of things to remember, it could be pretty detrimental to one of the players. Which sucks, particularly because player elimination is part of the game. Now, the reason all of this is so complicated is because this is a pretty interesting idea. Allow me to explain.
The theme is really strong with this game. Everything from the artwork to the characters is brilliant homage to the detective genre. As a particularly cool mechanic, the game comes with lanyards for each player to proudly display their persona. It’s not only a cool little aesthetic thing, but extremely functional as you can see the types of clues a particular player COULD drop. The usage of multiple rooms is unique as well, making this feel more like an event than a quick little deduction game. It’s these types of touches that propel the feeling of Death of the Party into an interesting little sub-category that holds a lot of potential for the gaming world. I love the fact that we’re seeing games that are trying something new, and this does that in a pretty daring fashion. It’s certainly not without it’s drawbacks, but if you’re able to look at the objections I had and think it may be something you’d like to try, then this would be well worth looking into. It’s resettable like any board game, but it offers the flair of a mystery dinner night in a far more convenient package that you could play more often and not just use it once and give it to the thrift store. As I said, this is a bold direction for a game to take, for better or worse.