Murder as a Party Game

Murder as a Party Game

And all you need is a deck of cards.

Margie Pignataro © 2016 Gifts for Card Players

I adore murder mysteries. I especially love locked room mysteries in a vast upper class country house during a torrential snow storm during the Christmas holidays. There’s nothing cozier than the idea of a group of disparate people analyzing one another and sizing each other up as a potential murderer. It’s horror in its most mild form, because the threat is pointed, focused, intelligent, and sanitary. It doesn’t want to kill everyone, only one person who probably deserves to be taken out anyway. This isn’t about gallons of blood and entrails being thrown about by a psychopath enacting an elaborate psychic ritual of abuse. It’s organized and clever and, dare I use the word, posh.

This is something that is quite attainable as a party game for adults. And all you need is a deck of cards.

Of course, if you want to stage your own party murder, this can be as elaborate as you wish. You can pick a period (1930s England a la Agatha Christie would be a fun one), and have your guests come in costume. It could also be more fantasy based, sci fi perhaps, or with a specific theme: dress as your favorite movie murderer or Harry Potter character, for example.

Now you need a deck of cards. Remove all jokers, kings, and aces. Then return one king and ace to the deck. Deal out all the cards evenly to your guests (it doesn’t matter how many cards each person gets). The person who has the Ace is the Murderer. The person with the King is the Detective. The Murderer does not reveal him or herself.

Now here’s the part where it can get crazy, especially if your guests have been drinking. Turn out the lights and let everyone wander around in the dark. The Murderer then selects a victim and “murders” them by tagging them, grabbing them, telling them they’re dead, etc.

The victim screams. The murderer can leave a “signature” (such as filling the mouth of the victim with popcorn, for example), take a souvenir, or arrange the body in some position that is bizarre.

After the scream, the lights go on and the Detective attempts to figure out who the Murderer is. The Detective can ask questions of the other guests, get help from guests who may have insight, decode any bizarre evidence left behind.

The Detective can also interview the corpse: how did they die, what were the wounds, etc., but the corpse cannot reveal the identity.

If the Detective gets killed, then someone with a Queen can become the Detective. If the Queens are all murdered, then it continues down the line of the cards, moving to Jacks, Tens, Nines, and so on. This continues until the Detective discovers the Murderer or everyone is dead.

I highly recommend that this game occurs in a room with no breakable objects and lots of room to roam around. It’s best if the murderer doesn’t simply grab their victim immediately, but lets the guest wait and wander in the dark in fear. Then the victim should scream as loudly and piercingly as possible, to intensify the impact. I have a large background in theater, and therefore I let myself imagine the most spectacular effects possible. Even if it might be to the expense of the nerves of my guests.

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