Want to entertain some friends in a creative, inexpensive but completely fun way? Why not try a murder mystery game some night?

Murder mystery games can be a delightful way to spend time with friends whether you are a college student struggling with a tiny budget or an accomplished host with countless parties to your credit.

There are enough murder mystery games on the market today to suit just about every taste. You can buy boxed sets or downloadable games, print your own materials, invite your guests and then let the fun begin. The guests get name tags and character background information, and then they can take off, improvising their way through dialogue as key clues are revealed during the evening.

Some games use physical or paper props or clues that you can hide around the house, which gets guests moving and mingling with each other. You also can play music from the game s setting or time period to enhance the overall atmosphere.

The types of games you can buy vary widely, and, for some groups, a clean version with no discussion of drugs, extra marital affairs and the like might be the best way to go. These often are a big hit with singles and church groups.

Many games are murder mystery dinner events. These involve different courses of a meal that you eat between segments of the mystery. An inventive host can decorate the place to mimic the setting or the era in which the murder occurred, and serve food and drinks to fit the situation.

The best game companies offer menu suggestions, although if you are on a really tight budget or have little time to cook, you can simply offer snacks and something to drink at intervals during the game. Another cost-saving tip is to make it a potluck, which again goes nicely with church groups, singles groups and community organizations, whose members are often accustomed to bringing food to gatherings.

Some games make it easy for you as the host to play a role, while others keep you busy as a facilitator. A clear and comprehensive host guide is essential, especially if there is any chance that the denouement might be accidentally revealed before the game ends.

Great game companies also offer tips for creating costumes and even links to places to buy them. If you give guests enough time before your party, they can usually ferret something out of a closet at home, check a second-hand store or borrow from a friend so they have the necessary finery to fit the occasion.

Fabric stores often are good place to find items to spice up what guests already own to make an inexpensive costume. Buy some sparkly ribbon, add a feather and you ve got a flapper s headband. You also can fashion 1920s gangster shoe spats out of felt, elastic, studs and glue.

Be prepared for a rousing good time after you have decided which of the murder mystery party games to buy. Your incredibly shy college roommate may turn out to have a flair for drama that you never suspected. You also might be surprised to find your next-door neighbor is highly skilled at speaking with an accent. Who knows? This might be the start of something entirely new and wonderfully fun for you and your friends.

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