This $15 murder mystery game brought me and my friends hours of fun on my birthday

Collage of people playing Murder Mystery Party with the game box and pamphlets 4x3
I bought the “Death By Chocolate” murder mystery game from University Games and had so much fun playing it for my birthday.

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  • Murder mystery games are popular party activities and great for Halloween.
  • Our two-hour-long Death by Chocolate game was filled with good backstories and lots of accusations.
  • If I could change the game, I would let the murderer know their role earlier.

I spent my birthday accusing my closest friends of murder over chocolate and cheese – and can’t recommend the experience highly enough.

Wanting to do something more special than a simple dinner or drinks, I thought about a murder mystery party with a handful of good friends. Murder Mystery games can vary in price, intensity, and overall format, but all involve a group of participants getting enough information on other party-goers to piece together fictitious murder.

Death by Chocolate (small)

I’d heard good things about University Games from a friend who’d played the Slice of Murder game. Her experience stood out from other sets that I’d heard of because of the detailed instructions (from what dinner to serve and where each guest should sit) and the audio that accompanied their game.


Prepping the murder mystery game and dinner

A week and a half before my birthday, I ordered the Death by Chocolate game and booked an Airbnb that sleeps seven – a quick train ride away from my apartment to set the scene for the big mystery dinner.

The living room of an Airbnb in lower manhattan
Our Airbnb and soon-to-be-spot for our murder mystery dinner.

The invitations for the party in the box (which I decided to send out virtually) gave a quick blurb of each character so that I was able to assign the game out without spoiling anything for myself.

Everything included in the University Games murder mystery box, including name tags, invitations, and several other pieces of paper, laid out
The box came with invitations, name tags for each character, booklets that helped everyone move the story along the night off, secret clues, and a “Party Planner” pamphlet that the host could read through without finding out who committed the crime.

In this particular game, the names were based on well-known characters and people, like Billy Bonka (in keeping with the chocolate theme of the game) or Sigmund Fraud, so just hearing them without the descriptions gave a pretty good idea of who the character would be and which friend to assign to each one.

Image of a table set up with charcuterie and pamphlets
The Party Planner booklet also gave us a suggested menu, though the quail egg dip that required 49 quail eggs seemed a little extreme for us (we opted for a charcuterie board instead).

The food and character assignments weren’t the only prep we needed for the game night. Everyone showed up in costume, and some people even came prepared with their characters’ accents which made the night even more festive and entertaining. I’d thrifted my beauty queen look earlier in the day, and got some fake cigarettes and tape to make a body imprint on the floor.

Group photo of eight people dressed up in costume in a living room
My friends and I all in costume and ready to play our murder mystery dinner game.


Playing the game

The game itself starts off by going to a link to a video included in the party planner’s booklet, which we watched from a friend’s phone. After the introductory video, the characters read lines of dialogue before we get into the free-range part of the discussion.

There are things listed that each character should bring up before the end of the round and new facts that they must disclose about themselves if asked and then challenged.

A collage of murder mystery game participants reading from their pamphlets
The game only needs six characters but has parts for up to eight. For the flow of the game, I’m glad I had all the characters around the table to make the storyline flow better, rather than having someone read the updates on characters not there.

In the story, only a few of the characters knew each other before the crime, so I enjoyed that my friends around the table didn’t all know each other, either – it gave the game more authenticity and worked as a great ice breaker. However, the game relies on players being incredibly confrontational to identify a murderer, so making sure everyone is comfortable enough to really question each other makes the game more fun.

The new facts throughout the game mean that in each round, there are new top suspects and lots of important and distracting information to sort through. The Death by Chocolate storyline did a good job of giving every character a motive, suspicious backstory, or believable opportunity to be the killer.

Murder Mystery Characters standing in a room with steamers and a table
No one is allowed to lie about their backstories unless they’re told they are the killer, but players are encouraged to only give away what they are asked directly about.

I liked that new information came out every round to keep the game moving along, but as in most murder mystery games, there were a couple of times when we didn’t know enough about our characters to answer some of the questions we were asked before that information was even revealed to us.

Most notably, the murderer only finds out they’re the killer in the last round, so there wasn’t much opportunity for them to come up with a fake backstory after so much had been discovered about them already.

The game ends with accusations where each character says who they think the killer or killers were before the video tells us what really happened. Not everyone guessed correctly, but by the end, the majority of us were able to put the pieces together about who we thought could have done it and why.

Forcing everyone to explain who they thought was the killer, see who had picked up on what details, and get in one last accusation was a really fun way to end the night.


The bottom line

Seven people in costume sitting around a table

Despite my few notes about the game, I loved the premise, red herrings, and outlandishness of the experience. Since I can’t play the Death by Chocolate mystery again, I’ve already given the game to a friend who couldn’t make it for my birthday – and can’t wait to play another University Games murder mystery dinner for my next one.

Death by Chocolate (button)

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