Murder Mystery Theater
Board game, Game Design, Verbal Design, Roleplaying
No board game disappointed me like Clue. A game that promised a murder mystery of surprises and finger pointing, and instead gave us a mathematical process of elimination.
I felt incensed to make the Clue I expected. So I did.
Murder Mystery Theater is a party game for 5 to 12 players that takes the theme of Clue and turns it into a 30 minute fiasco about deception and social deduction with limited information, interpretation, and theory of mind.
I designed, playtested, and illustrated this game as a passion project.
All players, except one, are given identity, room, and item cards. These players are the suspects. Meanwhile, the card-less player is the ghost. This player knows the murder, the room, and the weapon, and must communicate it to the good guys.
But communication is limited. Using verbal design, I deliberately chose objects and rooms with shared contextual trappings. If the ghost gives a one word clue, like “burns,” it must apply to multiple cards at the table and never implicate just one person. The result isn’t fact, but interpretation of facts. Which leads to the next step.
One player is the murderer. Using deception, they can influence the interpretation of these facts pinning the ghost’s clues on other suspects. It’s up to the ghost and the suspects to beat these limitations and still find the murderer before the game ends.
I user tested this game 56 times over the course of 9 months. Over that time the game transformed completely from components to game design.
Design and Art Direction by sheer force of will.