Ghost Ship Murder Mysteries – Space Smugglers [Review]

Mighty good shindig.

Location:  at home

Date Played: June 29, 2019

Team size: requires exactly 8

Duration: about 90 minutes

Price: $40 per player

Ticketing: Private

REA Reaction

Ghost Ship docked in our home once again and put on an incredible murder mystery for us and 6 of our friends.

A group photo.

We deceived and deduced our way through a shockingly expansive game world that merged elements of popular science fiction including Firefly, Battlestar Galactica, Blade Runner, and Star Wars. It was a ton of fun to interact with one another as these characters.

It’s my opinion that Ghost Ship Murder Mysteries are among the most under-appreciated immersive experiences in New York City. Some of this reputation is that they aren’t broadly known. Among folks who have heard of them, however, I believe there is an underlying assumption that murder mystery games are generally junk. While most are, this was the exception.

I have zero interest in doing another boxed murder mystery; they are awful. However, I can’t get enough of Ghost Ship. I am incredibly eager to play their Murder In The West Wing soon.

If you have a group of friends who aren’t too cool to do a little roleplaying, I highly recommend bringing Ghost Ship Murder Mysteries into your home.

Lindsay posing with a strange item, David photobombs in a Jayne hat and holding a wooden cooking spoon.

Who is this for?

  • Story seekers
  • Sci-fi fans
  • Aspiring detectives
  • Any experience level

Why play?

  • Ghost Ship does nearly all of the work of setting up and facilitating a high quality murder mystery
  • A story with depth that enables players to explore their characters and the world
  • Masterful facilitation that doesn’t step on toes and doesn’t let people fall out of the game

Story

In a galaxy torn by war between the dominant Regime and the rebellious Coalition, Captain Jay’s crew didn’t have a side; they were just trying to get by. To make some money, they took a few passengers aboard. Deep in space, a member of the crew had gone missing… and so our mystery began.

Mike Anderson dressed as a jedi, in a heated conversation with Therea and someone off camera.
“At me you will come, bro.”

Setting

Ghost Ship co-founder Dylan Zwickel surveyed us about our guests and cast each of them into 1 of 8 different roles based on how we answered. Some roles were more involved for more eager players; some roles weren’t demanding at all.

We each received a secret email with a little backstory about our character. We chose the extent to which we wanted to costume for the experience.

Dylan came to our home an hour before the game, hid items, and set everything up. We told her which rooms, closets, cabinets, and drawers were out of bounds, and she marked them appropriately.

Once our guests arrived, she introduced the story and things rolled on from there.

9 character envelopes, each with a different name on it.
I was Ezra. I had a whole lot of fun playing Ezra.

Gameplay

Ghost Ship Murder Mysteries’ Space Smugglers was a murder mystery game with a variable level of difficulty. Your group could commit as much or as little as desired. Last time we invited a group of people with mixed levels of interest and it worked very well. This time, we only invited people who we knew would commit and it took on a life of its own.

Core gameplay revolved around role-playing, searching, deception, and deduction.

Lisa and Theresa looking dubious in a conversation.

Analysis

➕ Ghost Ship Murder Mysteries created a robust world for us to explore and treated us like adults. We were able to dive deep or wade in the shallow waters as we each desired.

➕ The story mixed overt elements of Firefly, Battlestar Galactica, Blade Runner, and Star Wars. No knowledge of any of these was required, but those who got the references weren’t disappointed.

➖ There were more factions than we were expecting. It was difficult for us to connect with any of these because we didn’t really know their politics and motives. A little more world-building would have rounded this out.

➕ Dylan was a master of light-touch facilitation. She played a role on the ship that made it easy for her to converse with any other character and used that to spice things up or help a player who needed a nudge in the right direction.

Theresa's cyborg arm
Some of us got more serious about our costumes than others.

➖ The role distribution of 5 crew and 3 passengers was imbalanced. This stilted the politics of the game a little too much.

➕ Ghost Ship Murder Mysteries worked some clever game mechanics into the experience. These were generally low key and continued to put the focus on the interpersonal interactions of the experience.

➖ There were some mechanics that we never really had a grasp of.

➕ In our game, the killer got away with the crime. We chose wrong. It truly didn’t diminish the experience because we had so much fun on the journey. (That said, the killer was quite proud.)

➕/➖ We loved the ending of the story… and we felt that there was a little room to improve the delivery of said ending.

➕ The Space Smugglers never dragged for us. Not once.

➖ We would have appreciated some costume suggestions or ideas (both easy and complex).

Space Smugglers was a ton of fun, reasonably priced, and vastly superior to any boxed play-at-home murder mystery. We’re eager to play again.

Tips For Visiting

  • This can be played in a small space. A larger space is better but not necessary.
  • It’s a good idea to tidy up your home before hosting.
  • A little bit of alcohol goes a long way in terms of loosening people up.
  • It’s fine to invite people who aren’t outgoing, but don’t invite people who are too cool to play.

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

Disclosure: Ghost Ship Murder Mysteries provided media discounted tickets for this game.

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