How to Play Murder in the Dark

By James Holloway
A close-up of a boy winking one eye.

The traditional party game Murder in the Dark tests players' skills of stealth and observation. One player takes on the role of a murderer, trying to kill as many of the other players as possible before being caught. There are several different versions of the game, each with slightly different rules.

Wink Murder

Choose one player to be the murderer. You can do this using a randomizer such as a deck of cards, or have a referee choose the murderer while the other players have their eyes closed.

Circulate around the room. Players move about, talking or interacting normally. The murderer player kills by making eye contact with his victims and winking.

Once the murderer has winked at a victim, the victim continues walking and moving around while counting to five. At the end of the count, the victim "dies" in a theatrical manner.

When a player believes she knows the identity of the murderer, she calls out the name of the suspect. In larger games, the accuser may have to call for someone else to second the accusation.

Check to see whether the accusation is correct. If it is, the murderer is caught and the game ends. If not, the accuser or accusers fall dead and the game continues.

Detective Variant

Choose one player at the start of the game to be the detective. This player is the only one who can make accusations.

Decide whether the detective's identity should be public or secret. Both variations of the game exist. If the detective's identity is secret, the game automatically ends when he is killed.

Stop play for a moment when a victim is "killed." By asking questions of the other players and examining the places where the victims fell, the detective must try to identify the murderer. If he can't, play continues and another player will "die." If the detective himself has been "killed," this is his only chance to guess the murderer's identity.

Playing in the Dark

Turn the lights out before the game begins. Obviously, it won't be possible to tell whether someone is winking in the dark, so choose another way to indicate a murder. The killer might tap his victim on the shoulder, for instance.

Leave the lights off until one of the other players bumps into the body of a victim in the dark. The player should shout out that there has been a murder. At this point, the lights come back on.

Try to figure out the identity of the killer by talking to other players or viewing the location of the "body." Whether you're using a detective variant or allowing any player to make an accusation, this version is much more difficult because of the limited information available.

Warning

Be careful when playing in the dark -- you don't want a player stepping on a victim by accident.

About the Author

Dr James Holloway has been writing about games, geek culture and whisky since 1995. A former editor of "Archaeological Review from Cambridge," he has also written for Fortean Times, Fantasy Flight Games and The Unspeakable Oath. A graduate of Cambridge University, Holloway runs the blog Gonzo History Gaming.