This game review is for the Murder Mystery Party Game: Murder on the Grill. It is a dinner party game for 6 to 8 adults.
When I was a young teen, my family had a murder mystery party; it was very elaborate with unbelievable costumes. The kids were not allowed to take part in the game so it remained a mystery to us. But it looked like so much fun that I’ve always remembered it.
Fast forward to the present and I still wanted to host one. I was all set to host one when the pandemic hit: no house guests allowed. Certainly not eight!
Months later, I was on my first shopping trip in months when I found A Murder on the Grill. On the grill? That meant it was outside. The player count was 6 to 8. If we let the kids play (ours are old enough and watch enough murder mysteries on TV to not be fazed by a murder) then we would only be short two players. One other family. And with no board to hover over or cards to pass, it meant it was the perfect game to play while social distancing. Perfect indeed.
In a Murder on the Grill, Tom is having a backyard BBQ in July 1959. When a thunderstorm breaks out, all the guests head inside–leaving Tom outside alone and vulnerable for a murder to attack.
The game comes with everything you need to host a great party. Invitations, character booklets, secret clues, name tags, a party planner and a CD.
The characters were lots of fun.
There’s Johny, a mechanic who works for Tom.
Chubby Cheddar, Tom’s best friend.
Bobby Sox, the 1958 hula-hoop champion and Tom’s little sister.
Barby Q the divorcee who lives next door.
Ivan Spudnik, the Russian rocket scientist.
Tiara Diamond, Tom’s fiancée and beauty queen.
The best part of this mystery (okay there were lots of best parts) was that there were two optional characters. As there are only seven of us this was great. Most mystery parties are for eight. There are some that have only six, which would work for us too with some changes.
In the long-ago mystery, my family had too many invites for characters, so they created characters with names and rolls to meet the theme of that party. Although, we could have done this too, it was nice not to have to. Plus, the extra character had her own book with her own lines.
We used the character of Peggy Sue, the gossip columnist. She arrives late to the party and is not a suspect, but she does have information and questions.
So, we set the date and time with a family we’re close with and eagerly waited for the day.
Now, part of the fun is really getting into character and setting the mood. The game comes costume suggestions, music lists, a menu and even a grocery shopping list! We dug around and found some 50’s CDs that we had. The kids heard some of these songs for the first time.
But the most important part of the prep is the costumes! Back when I was a kid, there was great effort in costume prep and much shopping done. But, here in 2020 and the pandemic, we decided just to use what we had, and it would be good enough. Boy was it good enough! It’s always amazing what you can find for costumes if you’re willing to be creative. We used printouts to make a science lab coat and a poodle skirt. A folding comb filled in for a switch blade. A twiny winy yellow polka dot bikini was drawn on an old white t-shirt. We had so much fun with this!
When it came to the actual game, we were lucky enough to be able to play while sitting around the camp fire in our friend’s backyard.
The booklets for each character have a mix of dialogue to read and then a list of questions and defenses. The questions and defences are written in the third person which was a little hard to get use to. I believe this is done so you can make it your own and act out the scene. Both a challenge and a lot of fun. Some of us got wrapped in our characters it was hard to figure out what was ad-libbed!
The game also comes with a CD that helps set the scene, gives a summary after each part and in the end, gives the solution to the mystery and announces who the murder is and gives the motive. (No spoilers!)
The game is supposed to take three hours, but as it is supposed to be played as you eat and we ate ahead of time, we figured it would be faster. But with laughter time, ad-libbing and bathroom breaks, it took longer than we thought it would and it came in around the three hour mark. We had to dig out the flashlights to finish.
Were we able to figure it out? I’d like to say yes and some of us guessed correctly, but there was a twist we didn’t see coming. Should we have been able to figure it out? Looking back, there were clues leading us to it.
The mystery is very well written and keeps you thinking right through to the end. Most of us started the game thinking that it was our character who did it based on our hidden information.
The murderer does know by the end that they are the guilty party. This made guessing a little work for this player.
Things we liked
There were several clever play on words. Also, because it was set in the 1950s, there were terms we hadn’t heard in a really long time. We also really liked the optional characters; it took the pressure off of finding someone else or having someone without a role.
Things we didn’t like
We felt a little rushed at the end. I picked up on a clue but didn’t have time to think it through. This is our own fault for not believing the time play on the box, starting late and not wanting to be eaten alive by mosquitoes.
Overall, A Murder on the Grill is an enjoyable game that is perfect to play in the backyard while social distancing. The more you put into it (the prep, the costumes) the better. Although it is recommended for adults only, our teens and almost teen had a blast with the whole experience. I would recommend A Murder on the Grill Mystery Party game. I would say make room on you Family Game Shelf for this one, but as it is a one time play game I’m going to change it to make room in your Family Game Time for a Murder on the Grill. And then pass the game on to someone else.
Pros: good social distancing activity, CD answer made for no spoilers, well written
Cons: game play took longer than expected, hard to get use to switching point of view in the beginning
Mom: acting skills, improv, history