Designing a murder mystery is one thing, but turning it into a living board game is entirely different matter. But there’s a lot more to board games than just rolling dice and moving meeples. We had to develop a strategy to help our audience navigate Foul Play and come up with the best strategy to win the game and solve the crime. And with two solutions possible, a strong game is important. Below, we’ll talk about the design for the board game portion of our 23rd Master Mystery Production.
PLAYING YOUR CARDS RIGHT: The Making of Foul Play (Part 2)
So how do you design a giant murder mystery board game with life-sized suspects and larger than life drama? First of all, we knew we wanted the classic game CLUE to serve as our muse. That gave us an easy to identify game mechanic. How we use game mechanics for Master Mystery Productions is as means of relaying information to our guests. How do we give them the clues? For Foul Play, we started with the basic mechanic of game cards specially designed to feature locations, weapons, and–in our own twist–one of the seven deadly sins which will relate to a specific suspect. We will scatter cards around the store for guests to find to help eliminate the possibilities, just like in CLUE.
By locating these cards, guests can eliminate the possibility from their specially designed game sheet included in their program. For instance, if you discover in the store the Gluttony card, the Belt card, and the Front Desk card, you’ll know the crime wasn’t committed at the Front Desk with the Belt and by the suspect who represents Gluttony. You’ll be able to ascertain which suspect corresponds to which sin by interrogating the suspects themselves.
Part of the interactive fun will be the interrogation of the suspects. Arranged almost like a round of speed dating, a group of guests will rotate from one suspect to the next to ask questions. They will receive a certain time window to ask their questions. We will signal the guests when it is time to move to the next “station.” Each suspect will be standing visibly on a special checkerboard marked with colored footprints, designed by Skeleton Key and Diamond Mask Winner Janis Kunz, that match their specific character color. This will make it easier to find where they are. Of course, the audience has the freedom to move about as they wish and can choose not to ask questions or rotate suspects at all. But be warned, we have encouraged our sinister suspects to lie, shift blame, point fingers, and evade questions.
But there’s another way we’re choosing to share information. After all, our solution is not just whodunit, where, and with what. It’s also why. To help narrow down those four key points, we’re introducing an element of luck, like any classic board game whether it’s a roll of the dice or the luck of the draw. For our purposes, we’re retrofitting a prize wheel used at Red Rock Books (appropriately rainbow-colored, pictured above) to make it into a giant spinner, like those in board games such as Life and Twister. Guests can try their luck to spin the wheel to earn additional clues and documents such as suspect transcripts, additional game cards, motive files, etc.
Our love of tabletop games, classic or otherwise, extends beyond just the mechanics of the actual show. Our set decoration, helmed by the brilliant Janis Kunz with support from Valerie Rutherford, is inspired by numerous classic game pieces and tropes such as giant dice, life-size playing cards, large chess pieces, and those tell-tale footprints. We are transforming Red Rock Books into a gaming wonderland. In the end, guests will be able to narrow down the options and fill out their ballots on whodunit, where, with what, and why. Most accurate answer wins the game!
So that’s the game, but what about the meeples? Who will play our versions of Colonel Mustard and Miss Scarlet and Professor Plum? Who are the sneaky suspects playing this dangerous game? Look no further than our next blog post where the cast comes to life to tell us their secrets in Color Me Intrigued: The Making of Foul Play (Part 3)!
And don’t forget your tickets to Foul Play, on sale now at Red Rock Books. We open in exactly one week! See you there!
–Master Mystery Productions