When I was in Junior High, I remember going to a birthday party where we all had different roles and we pretended to solve a murder. We dressed up and my friend’s mom made a themed meal. It was so much fun! I want my kids to have experiences like this. Motivated by this memory I went searching for a “party in a box.” This led me to the Hunt a Killer murder mystery box sets. Apparently, it is a subscription you can do for bigger mysteries, but they also have some individual, pre-packaged mysteries-in-a-box that just take a couple of hours. So far we have done two and are loving them!
Nancy Drew Hunt a Killer Details
Product: Mystery at Magnolia Gardens
Company: Hunt a Killer
Recommended Age Range: Box says 14 and up. However, if you are willing to play with your kids, it is appropriate for anyone who can read. You can even find ways to include your youngest children if you read all the material aloud.
Price Range: ~$30
Amazon Product Page (Affiliate Link)
We actually did not start with this game. When I discovered the Hunt a Killer line of party boxes, I first chose Death at the Dive Bar, because it is considered “Light” instead of “Medium” and is only supposed to take 45-60 minutes instead of 60-90 minutes. It also said 13+ instead of 14+. I figured we would start off as easy as we could since we didn’t know how hard it would be. Some elements of this first game we played were not as kid-appropriate. For example, 2 of the suspects were having an affair. However, since I’m okay with having those conversations with my kids, I am glad we started with the easier version. It took us about 90 minutes to complete and we didn’t have to look at any of the hints.
For this Nancy Drew version, we tried to let the kids do as much as possible, so it took a couple of hours. Also, in order to not have it take longer than 2 hours, we did end up looking at a couple of the hints provided online. I’m not sure we would have gotten those without the hints, but the website was very helpful. First, it gives you a little hint. Then progressively bigger hints. Eventually, if you want to just know the solution, you can see the solution for just one part of the whole puzzle.
The solutions involved decoding ciphers and looking through reference material to determine alibis and motives. We had to find the passcode to open a locked box. We reassembled ripped-up papers. I think the older kids (12 and nearly 10) enjoyed this more than the younger kids (5 and 7), but everyone shouted out ideas and worked to solve these puzzles.
The one downside of these boxes is that they cost about $30 which is comparable to the price of a board game. Essentially, they have zero replay value. As someone with an overflowing game closet, personally, I don’t mind passing these games on to other families when we are done. Since they are a bit costly, we saved both of the boxes we have done for special occasions. The first one we did on New Year’s Day. The second one we did to fill an evening at an AirBNB during a family vacation. Both experiences left us with positive memories.
All-in-all, I think these Hunt a Killer boxes are an enjoyable way to bond as a family. They don’t take an extraordinary amount of time and involve no prep work. They are fun, exciting, and memorable. I only wish there were more of these smaller boxes as I’m not yet ready to commit to one of the much bigger subscription kits!