My wife has always been a bit of a crime junky. She recently fell in love with the Crime Junkie podcast. While she binged, I heard about a company called Hunt A Killer. They sell murder mysteries in a box for armchair investigators to solve at home. Think of it as a similar exercise to an escape room, but all done in your own home.
Their main product is a series of six boxes delivered once a month. That seemed like way too much of an investment for something I wasn't sure we'd enjoy doing together. Then I found out that they actually have a few standalone boxes, and so I ordered Death at the Dive Bar.
Be aware from the start: This isn't a board game. It's a mystery in a box that you solve once and then are done with.
We absolutely loved it, and I want more folks to check it out. So, I'm going to do my best to tell you why this was so much fun without giving anything away.
The Mystery to be Solved
When you first open the box for Death at a Dive Bar, you'll just find a bunch of random stuff. This isn't really a game, so there's no board or pieces to setup, just stuff. An instruction manual gives you a brief introduction to the concept of true crime. This ensures that you're familiar with concepts like means, motive, and opportunity. After that, we read a letter from a detective agency that had recruited us to help solve the murder of a bartender.
Everything else in the box was pieces of evidence. Going through all of these items one at a time was part of the charm. Therefore, I'm not going to tell you what any of them were. Instead, I'll say that I was incredibly impressed at how well Hunt A Killer does at making it feel like this is actually a bunch of stuff someone gathered, rather than a manufactured “game”. Each item was interesting and unique, even down to different types of items being printed on different types of paper.
Oh, there was one other thing in the box besides the introduction and the evidence: a sealed envelope with the solution to the mystery.
Sleuthing Through Clues
My wife and I ended up laying out everything in the box in front of us, and grabbed a legal pad to take notes on. Then, we took turns grabbing a random piece of evidence. We'd inspect it, read through it out loud, and talk about how it might connect to other things we'd already checked out. Then we slowly started piecing together a timeline of how we thought everything fit together.
We started the game over dinner one night since the box said it should only take an hour. I'm not sure if we were thick or just meticulous, but it ended up taking us about 3 hours spread over two nights to really feel like we had a good, solid answer. I'm glad it worked out that way, though. We ended up bouncing ideas back and forth throughout the day until we were able to sit down and finish it. Having all of the evidence pieces floating around in the back of my mind that day was a really fun thing to muse on.
With baited breath, we opened up that sealed solution envelope and.. It turns out we were right! We had figured out who did it and why. Again, I don't want to give anything away. However, even the way that the solution was confirmed in the sealed envelope was charming and impressive.
The Final Verdict
We really loved working through Death at the Dive Bar. It was a wonderful way for us to do something together for a few nights as a “stuck at home with a one year old during a global pandemic date night”. In fact, we loved it so much that as soon as we finished it we went and signed up for the bigger, six month long story arc, and should be getting our first box of that in soon!
If you're a fan of puzzle-solving and true crime, I really can't recommend Death at the Dive Bar from Hunt a Killer highly enough. It's got fun puzzles to solve and an interesting story about a small town. It makes for a relatively cheap way to spend an evening with folks you live with.
Once you are hooked, there's the standard subscription story you can sign up for, an official Blair Witch-themed horror subscription, and a bunch of other larger “premium” boxes that all are based on different themes.
This is a new hobby for me so I am nowhere near an expert. However, I loved Death at the Dive Bar. I swear this review is not in any way sponsored, I am just absolutely hooked!
Geek to Geek Rating: 5 out of 5
And here's a nice bonus, it's pretty dang easy to put everything back together when you finish the box. Ours is currently packaged up and ready to send to one of our friends. Now they can try to solve the murder, too!