A few ideas for dealing with last minute guest cancellations

Flaky guests are always a problem. Sometimes they go down sick, sometimes their cat dies suddenly, sometimes they just can’t make it due to snow – but when you’ve got a murder mystery dinner party booked and they fail to show up – what can you do?

If it’s one of ours – give us a call – as we deal with this sort of thing every week. And if we’ve got 24 hours notice we can usually ease your headaches. But if it’s not one of ours… you can hardly ring up Amazon and ask them… so what CAN you do?

1) Firstly – take a look at the game. Is it structured with “extras”. Some games have optional characters and if you think you have flaky guests – then assign yourself, or them to these parts, as that way if they’re not there, they were optional anyway and the game will work without them. If you’ve already assigned characters and that isn’t an option – look at the list and see if there is anyone similar to the characters missing and see if you can recast one of your optional guests back into a main role.

2) If you have no optional characters and don’t want to know who did it before the guests, then your only real option is to find a substitute. This needn’t be another guest. (After all there aren’t many people you can invite at short notice without making them feel really “un-special”/ “after thoughts” / “didn’t want originallys” but if you have someone who doesn’t take offense easily… ask them – it always works better with a person in place.)

If you can’t think of an also ran – then try one of these:

  • Get someone to play two roles. This works really well if you have some comedians in the group – notify them in advance and get them to bring a prop for each character they’re playing. Put two seats at the table so they can switch between chairs and get them to play both roles.
  • Use a puppet. as above – but with a puppet. We know of someone who used an emu once as they had a last minute drop out. Apparently it went down really well.
  • Just take it in turns to read out questions and answers from the booklet and read out the scripted lines. It doesn’t matter who does the reading, so long as the information that character had get’s heard.

3) If you don’t mind finding out who has committed the crime, then start looking through the game materials.

  • Firstly – find the solution. Check that the missing guest isn’t the murderer! if they are – you really have no option but to recast them.
  • If they aren’t, then look through the missing person’s booklet. Do they impart any critical information? Could this be given to someone else? or does it not matter if their answers are lost entirely? If the latter, then simply cut the questions they have for other people out of their booklet / information pack, find the questions for them in the other guests information and stick the questions over the questions related to the missing character. If the former, its more complicated as you’ll need to redistribute answers as well. (confused? Ring us. We don’t mind helping you out when you get stuck, even if it’s not one of our games. Though we obviously don’t have all the answers if that’s the case!! But we might be able to guide you through how to do it.)
  • Then use a bit of correction fluid and ensure that whoever usually speaks after them speaks after the person before. And if you can transfer the lines, or create a linking line to ensure a seamless flow – then do that too.
  • Finally, if your game has scripted dialogue – then use correction fluid and amend everyone’s booklets so someone else reads their lines. Alternatively just ask someone to read those lines as they crop up.

Simple? No. it isn’t. Which is why we’d usually suggest option 1 or 2 with any game but our own.

With our own games however – if you get stuck and we have notice – we do all the faffing about so you don’t have to.


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Flexible and fun!

We contacted Red-Herring-Games for a party for a special occasion. Why going to restaurants to eat is the preferred activity to mark milestones is beyond me and my friends.   The choice of mystery was obvious, looking at the options from New Zealand on the web Red Herring stuck out from the international options.  A quick look at the site and games showed subtlety as well a range of choices.  The numbers you could have for each evening was important,  Red Herring had scaling options a good range of scenarios but most importantly were Jo and team being flexible, responsive and helpful.

Rachel McWilliam, Arts Development Officer, Lincs Inspire

Thank you Red Herring Games for the marvellous 'Murder!  Cargo Connections?' event that you organised for us as part of Museums at Night at the Fishing Heritage Centre in Grimsby. The whole evening went so well and was brilliant fun.  I know from all the feedback that our visitors had a fantastic time. It was really good working with you and I have no doubt that we will do again in the not too distant future.  

A. Nonymous (council employee)

I would like to thank you and your colleague for helping contribute towards our successful conference last month.  Everyone really seemed to enjoy the evening and it was rewarding that so many delegates were able to participate in addition to the main "Actors".  Our conference evaluation froms included the following comments:
  • "Enjoyed the evening entertainment!"
  • The evening entertainment was great and the confusion made it great fun!"
With thanks and best wishes.

Sarah Spencer (Cleethorpes Chronicle)

I had no idea what to expect before purchasing a ticket for Old, New, Borrowed, Blue, which was being staged at a nearby hotel, and feared it might involve taking part in some way. However thankfully for me no acting was necessary, just some amateur sleuthing. "Wedding guests" of which I was one, were called upon to move from room to room in the hotel in groups, questioning a number of possible murderers with the aim of solving the mystery of the dead bridegroom. The interviewees were really fun characters and gave us all some good laughs. Of course they all had motives and it was a case of identifying the shiftiest. The wedding theme was particularly good, as it fitted well with the venue, the buffet that was part of the evening (with a wedding cake in the middle) and the fact that everyone had been able to dress up to fit in without going to the trouble of fancy dress. I didn't think I had enough "evidence" to actually accuse anyone but later regretted not even writing down my first guess as it wouldn't have been too far off the mark. The evening was great fun and everyone seemed to enjoy it and take part. I would definitely recommend Old, New, Borrowed, Blue as good for getting even reluctant or first-time mystery party-goers involved.  

Alan Young (Personal Touch Mortgages)

What a cracking nights entertainment! We don't get out much nowadays with 2 kids and this was exactly what we were looking for in a good night out. Lots of fun with tongue firmly in cheek and everyone kept guessing whodunnit right to the very end. Would definitely attend another!!!!!  


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