Ghost Ship Murder Mysteries – Western [Review]

Howdy stranger.

Location: at home (either New York City or Boston area)

Date played: July 30, 2017

Team size: 10; 5 Women, 2 Men, 3 Any Gender

Duration: 90-150 minutes

Price: $40 per guest, $30 per guest student/artist

Story & setting

Eleven folks from all walks of life found themselves in the same Old West saloon right after a murder was committed.

Ghost Ship’s Western was not an escape room. It was an Agatha Christie-esque murder mystery game filled with tawdry scandal, plot twists, and betrayal… and all acted out by our friends in our small apartment.

Ghost Ship's logo of a ghostly white galleon set against a black background.
I really like that logo.

Ghost Ship co-founder Dylan Zwickel surveyed us about our friends, assigned roles, sent each person their backstory, and then showed up at our home in character bearing 3 large pitchers of mixed drinks. She set up everything for us.

All we had to do was clean up our home and get into character.

Interaction

The game proceeded over the course of 3 acts. It concluded with a vote to decide whodunit and send them to the gallows.

Each person was given a backstory, a secret, and an objective. From there, the game was a fairly free-form improv experience. Dylan played a character within the game. She provided information to each character at critical times as well as approached players who were struggling to engage, bringing them back into the narrative.

There was also a searching component. During the setup, Dylan hid evidence in our home.

Standouts

The story was engaging. Every character had their own arc and each person was consequential to the narrative.

The gathering of our friends post-game. Each person's costume has varied level of detail.
Sadly some of the best costumes are hidden. We may not have thought this photo through.

The mystery was complex. In the end, we “hanged” the actual killer, but only by a plurality. Not everyone had gathered enough evidence or made the proper connections to conclude what had actually happened.

Ghost Ship kept the backstory lean and manageable for all players.

Dylan’s role facilitated the gameplay effectively without breaking the narrative. The player-gamemaster helped pace the game and keep everyone engaged.

The included mixed drinks were pretty damn fantastic. We’d bought liquor to serve and forgot to even take it out.

As a couple who regularly hosts stuff, it was amazing to not have to worry about the logistics of running the game.

Our apartment is now incredibly clean because we had to make every room presentable for gameplay. I’m not sure that this is really a standout of Western, but it was a great byproduct.

Ghost Ship had a simple series of indicators to mark things and spaces in our home as out of play.

We had a fantastic time. Ghost Ship’s Western is a game where you get out of it what you put into it…

Shortcomings

Our friends who struggled with the roleplaying aspect of Western still had fun, but absolutely didn’t get the same level of enjoyment.

On that note, the person who was the killer in our group truly did not want that role, but was stuck with it. There were other people in our group who would have embraced being the killer, but this individual would have had a lot more fun without having to lie. Ghost Ship could easily fix this by emailing every participant a one question survey: “Would you feel comfortable being the killer and lying to your friends for a couple of hours? Y/N.”

Most of the characters had some level of history with at least one other character and were frequently confused when they learned something about themselves from another player. Ghost Ship did a great job of keeping the backstory lean, but a little more detail could smooth out some of the “Oh… I didn’t know that we did that together” moments that made many of our friends break character.

The searching component got a little strange because all of the items were hidden in our bedroom. This meant that Lisa and I were the only ones who were truly comfortable rummaging. I found things just because I could easily recognize what was out of place.

Should I play Ghost Ship Murder Mysteries’ Western?

We’ve hosted boxed murder mysteries in the past and been disappointed in them. Ghost Ship’s Western did not suffer from the many flaws and shoddy storytelling of those boxed games.

Western was a fun engaging game that gave each participant the freedom to make their character their own.

$40 per player felt more than fair for a multi-hour experience, including great drinks, all of which was delivered to our door.

Since each character is important, it’s key to gather a group of people who are ready and eager to be their characters. There is no passive play in Ghost Ship. Additionally, the game requires exactly 10 players. Remind your friends that flakiness is weakness of character. If someone bails last minute, you’re screwed.

We had a ton of fun playing Western and would eagerly invite Ghost Ship to dock in our home in the future.

Book your session with Ghost Ship Murder Mysteries’ Western, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Full disclosure: Ghost Ship Murder Mysteries comped our tickets for this game.

 

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