How to Host a Murder: The Chicago Caper

How to Host a Murder party game

Ready for an evening of dinner and murder?

Last night we had a few couples over for dinner and murder.

Well, no one was actually murdered in our home last night, but we did have a very fun time playing How to Host a Murder: The Chicago Caper.

The How to Host a Murder games are a series of games that hit the game scene in the 1980′s. They’re murder-mystery, role-playing games where players take on the roles of potential murder suspects. Everyone arrives dressed, and in character, for a fun night of intrigue and accusations.

The few times we’ve played a How to Host a Murder game, we’ve had a great time. And last night was no exception.

How to Play How to Host a Murder games
How to Host a Murder games are fairly simple to understand and play. However, because it’s essentially a role-playing game, there tends to be some trepidation at diving in – both for the hosts and the players.

How to Host a Murder party game

How to Host a Murder game components.

The game comes with almost everything you need to set the stage for the night. It includes a Host Guide book, character bios, character player manuals, secret clues (such as evidence and/or maps), invitations, name tags, a cassette tape (yes, it’s an older game), and even a sample menu plan. I say “almost” everything only because it leaves the food and attire up to the players.

That’s right, it’s up to all the players to get into character. And that starts with the attire.

The brief biographies of each character include suggestions for the type of attire for that character. When you send out the invitations to the guests, you’ll want to include the bios so the guests can properly prepare for the evening.

Once all the guest have arrived, the game begins.

How to Host a Murder party game

One of the Player Manuals and the Facts of the Case.

Everyone gets their name tag and character player manual and turns to the first page. The host then reads through the brief rules of the game (such as no lying) and the scene to set the stage.

Players then turn the page to read their personal Dossier – which includes information that they may not want to reveal – and take turns introducing themselves to the group.

Then the host plays the tape (or CD if a newer game version), which gives the details of the case at hand, and Round One begins.

For each of the 4 rounds, players turn to the next page and read 2 sets of information. The first set is information they’ll try to conceal. The second set of information contains things they’ll need to reveal during the round.

After the Round Four, everyone names the character they believe to be the murderer and how it was done.

Once all the guesses are in, players hand their manual to the person on their left. Then everyone turns to the last page – the Solution – and take turns reading aloud the solution of that character, beginning with Solution #1. (Players don’t reveal what number they have until the appropriate turn.)

And of course, the dinner courses are served and devoured throughout all the pleasant/revealing/accusatory rounds of conversation.

The Chicago Caper

How to Host a Murder party game

The suspicious guests have arrived.

When I got a copy of How to Host a Murder: The Chicago Caper earlier this year at SaltCon, I had intended it for a game that our teen sons could play for a date night with friends. However, with Halloween approaching and not having had a couples game night for a long time, we figured now was the best time to just play it ourselves.

So we confirmed the dates, selected the roles for each guest, sent out the invitations, and went costume shopping.

And like with so many other costume needs, hitting a donation/thrift center is a great way to go.

The Chicago Caper roles include a district attorney, a club singer, a club owner, a bootlegger, a driver, a baseball pitcher, a reporter, and a deal broker – all with something shady to hide.

How to Host a Murder party game

Plenty of discussion continues between dinner courses.

Since we don’t live near Chicago, it’s not easy to get Chicago Deep Dish pizza, so we got as close as we could with stuffed pizza for the main dish and sparkling cider.

Without spoiling the plot, let’s just say that similar to other How to Host a Murder games, everyone is suspect, has a motive, and an opportunity (or two). And even though we have our own dossier and character background info, we find out a lot about ourselves from other players.

It’s fun watching the surprised expressions when accusations are thrown about and players have to come up with answers that they may not yet even know the details about themselves.

Fun stuff.

Can the whole family enjoy How to Host a Murder?
While the theme of murder may not sound wonderful, the light-hearted nature of the game and getting dressed up and in character with friends, is a lot of fun.

When we told our kids what our dinner gathering of friends was about, they said, “Oh, like a live game of Clue.”

And that’s a pretty good description.

Clue is an extremely popular family board game, and it too centers around the theme of murder. Yet, have you ever thought of it as being a morbid game? We haven’t.

Instead we think of Clue as a fun family deduction game.

But with the name “Murder” in the actual game title, How to Host a Murder may be off-putting. And we completely understand that.

And you’re right that How to Host a Murder games are not for the whole family.

How to Host a Murder party game

The District Attorney is a bit surprised when he hears what others say he was up to.

The first concern of ours with The Chicago Caper was regarding the content. Was there going to be salacious content that we wouldn’t want our teenage boys and their dates exposed to? Playing with other couples gave us a great opportunity to find out exactly what was in the game.

This particular game centers on Chicago rival gangs of bootleggers, gamblers, night club proprietors. So you can imagine why we might pause.

I’m happy to report that the game can be played without diving into such paths.

No one in our group drinks alcohol or gambles (or are lounge singers), but we had a great time with plenty of laughter as we played our various roles.

The game provides some information about what happens amongst the characters, but the rest is left up to the players to fill-in. So you can embellish as much as you want and take it the direction you’d like along the way.

What we enjoy about How to Host a Murder games
We’re not big role-playing game players. But we definitely enjoyed getting together with friends for a little bit of light character fun for The Chicago Caper.

How to Host a Murder party game

Ernie G. Ambler looks a little shady to me.

Playing around Halloween time is awesome. Costume ideas are already in the air as parents and kids plan out what they’ll be for Halloween. Now I don’t have to worry because I’ve got a fresh costume with my argyle socks, sweater, and cap.

All of the names of characters in the game are very creative and tie in well to the theme. For example, the District Attorney S. Treighton Harrow, Molly M. Awbster, and Ernie G. Ambler were all part of the fun.

The toughest part of the game is trying to think on your feet with creative responses. With the big game rule of “no lying”, it’s sometimes hard to expound on something you’re cornered on, because you may not yet know the real answer. Of course, that’s also a lot of the fun seeing what someone will come up with and then catching them on it later and squirming.

The one major downside to the How to Host a Murder games are the single-play limit. Once you know the outcome, the draw just isn’t there to play again.

Sure you could play it with a different group of friends, but a lot of the fun will be missing for you if you already know the solution.

Which makes a How to Host a Murder game a great game for game trades. That’s how I got our copy of The Chicago Caper. And that’s most likely what I’ll trade away for another game at SaltCon next year.

Final Thoughts
If you haven’t tried a How to Host a Murder game before, we suggest you give it a shot.

Even if the thought of acting or role-playing scares you, when you’re among friends, it can be a lot of fun.

Who knows which or when, but we’re sure to play another How to Host a Murder game when the opportunity strikes.

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Called to Serve!

LDS Missionary

Trevor finds out where he’ll be serving as a missionary.

We’re so excited today that we can’t help but share our happy family news…

(It’s not a post about games today. So if that’s what you’re after, feel free to skip this one about family events.)

Our oldest son Trevor has been called to serve a church mission in New Jersey, USA, Spanish speaking!

This year we’ve written a couple times about the changing family dynamics as kids start to leave home. It’s a new and exciting time in our family.

The first to leave is always a new experience. Even though Trevor left for a semester at college recently, we’ve been able to see him often for family activities or college football game days. But leaving on a 2 year mission is a different story altogether.

Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.
Mark 16:15

LDS Missionary

The world guessing board.

Missionaries are one of the more recognized characteristics of our faith – The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (often referred to as Mormons). Many people are familiar with seeing two young men in white shirts, ties, and name tags. With more than 83,000 LDS missionaries currently serving around the world, you may have seen them as well.

Without going into too much detail, for those less familiar, here’s a quick overview of LDS missionary work:
First and foremost, missionaries take the message of the gospel of Jesus Christ into all the world. They spend 100% of their time focused on sharing the blessing of the gospel with others. This involves gospel study and teaching as well as humanitarian and community service.

LDS Missionary

No one guessed where he’s going – New Jersey, USA!

Missionaries serve on a volunteer basis and pay their own way (or with help of family, friends, and other church members). Young men and women spend many years preparing to serve as missionaries. And it’s been great helping and watching Trevor prepare himself for this great opportunity.

It also means we won’t see our missionary son for 2 whole years!

Of course we’ll stay in contact. But it will be through one-a-week emails (or letters) and twice-a-year phone calls (Christmas and Mother’s Day).

Fun with Family and Friends

LDS Missionary

Trevor and Mom enjoying the moment.

So last night we had a gathering of family, friends, and neighbors to open Trevor’s missionary call (packet) and find out where he’s been asked to serve.

Everyone that came (and those that texted in beforehand) got to guess where in the world he’d go. The person that guessed closest would even win a gift card – donated by grandma. (I guess that could officially count as a game.)

It was a fantastic night.

And all the support is wonderful to feel.

He’s super excited.

We all are.

Having served as a missionary myself, I know that amazing experiences are headed Trevor’s way. And I’m super excited for both he and the people he’ll meet and get to love on his mission.

Congratulations Trevor!


More information on LDS missionaries and their preparation, assignments, and daily routines can be found here:

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints – Missionary Work

Wikipedia – LDS Missionary


Timeline: Americana – putting history in order

Timeline: Americana card game

Timeline: Americana is another great Timeline card game.

Earlier this week we shared our lists of great 5-player card games and board games. One of those lists was “Quick” 5-Player Card Games – games that can be played in less than 15 minutes. And included in that list is “Timeline” – a fun game about putting history in order.

One of the things we didn’t mention in our original review of Timeline is that there are multiple editions of the game.

And Asmodee recently released a new card set in the series, Timeline: Americana, that’s specific to America’s history and pop culture – adding another fun challenge to the Timeline series.

How well do you know your American pop culture events?

Which came first:

  • “The Twilight Zone” premiers on television or the first skateboard is sold?
  • Opening of the Guggenheim Museum or the Opening of the Pentagon?
  • M&M’s Candy first sold or Barbie’s first appearance?
  • Founding of the city of Hollywood or the Process for making peanut butter patented?

I’m sure you’d love to know the answers, but we’re not going to spill those beans.
Read more »


Great 5-Player Board Games

A few weeks ago we received a message from a mother asking for card game and board game suggestions for her family of 5.

Mamma Mia!

Fun and quick 5-player family card game.

“We are looking for fun, quick games to play as part of family home evening. Like everyone, we have a lot of commitments so sometimes we don’t start until late. But I would like to end it with a fun game. Our children are 2 boys, 12 and 15, and a 14 year old girl. What is your favorite, QUICK (15-20 min or less), board or card game?”

The question seemed perfectly timed because our family is recently down to 5 family members at home as well – with children ranging in age from 11 to 16.

While responding to her request, I realized it would make a great list for readers worldwide.

There are many great card games and board games that are well suited for 4 players. But what about 5 players?

Here are our lists of great games for 5 players.
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For Sale – Property flipping fun for everyone

For Sale card game

For Sale is a fun family card game.

Are your kids great investors?
Do they like to buy low and sell high?
Can they flip a property for a great profit?

The great news is that your kids don’t have to know anything about investing or Real Estate to enjoy playing For Sale.

Sure, the theme of this family card game is about buying and selling property, but that doesn’t mean it’s a boring, number crunching exercise.

Instead, For Sale is a great family card game that’s simple to understand and fun to play.

See all about it in Brooke’s short video review of For Sale.

Can everyone in the family enjoy For Sale?
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Gaming helps Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals

HeroAd_03_300x600_V4This year I, dad, am joining in the Extra Life event and I’d love your support!

I’ve been intrigued by the Extra Life charity event and written about it in years past. But this year I’m diving in!

It’s no Ice Bucket challenge, so you won’t see a video of me dumping water on me head.

Instead it’s a drive to help Children’s Miracle Network hospitals. All the money raised for Extra Life 2014 will go directly to a Children’s Miracle Network Hospital.

I’ve selected Primary Children’s Hospital in Salt Lake City.

We have a number of friends whose lives have been blessed because of the tremendous care their children, and they, received at Primary Children’s Hospital. We’re excited to pledge our support to the hospital.

What is Extra Life?

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Coup – a fun, quick, bluffing game

Coup card game

Coup – Fun and quick bluffing game.

A new game has hit the top of Trevor’s favorite games list – Coup.

But Trevor isn’t the only one. Brooke loves Coup too!

I think it’s because it has such a similar feel to The Resistance – another one of Brooke’s favorite games. It’s also published by the same company, Indie Boards and Cards, and references The Resistance in the flavor text of the game rules.

It’s a game full of bluffing, guessing, eliminating other players, trying to be the last one standing, and it can be played in under 10 minutes – leaving plenty of time for multiple rematches.

Because you’ll definitely want to play again.

Brooke tells you all about it in her video review of Coup.

Can the whole family enjoy Coup?
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Are you quick enough for Ratuki?

Ratuki card game box

Ratuki is a fast-paced, race to collect the most cards.

Card games are a favorite pastime of many families the world over.

Imagine a nice, leisurely, Norman Rockwell type setting with family members kicking back, holding their hand of cards, taking turns, and visiting the night away.

Of course, if you’re imagining a leisurely game of taking turns, then you’re not imagining a game of Ratuki.

Because Ratuki is anything but leisurely.

Ratuki is a fast-paced, race for cards.

How to play Ratuki
Ratuki is extremely simple to play.

It’s all about being quick to place and collect cards. The more you collect, the more points you get. And the first player to 100 points (over several rounds) wins the game.

Ratuki consists of 175 cards – 35 in each colored set (red, blue, yellow, orange, green) – that are numbered from 1 to 5. Players race to place their cards on piles in the center of the table in ascending order (1 to 5) and collect the pile if they place the top card (#5 or a wild).

Since there’s no taking turns in Ratuki, players play simultaneously as fast as they can to get rid of their cards.

Very simple.

But there’s a catch…
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