Games to Play at Mystery Camps

By Christine Bartsch
Variety of magnifying glasses on table.

Intrigue and investigation are necessities for any mystery camp experience, and you can incorporate these aspects into variations of almost any theatre improvisation game. By playing the following games, campers will hone observation and detection skills while providing mysterious fun to go along with the traditional camp experience. These detective-themed games incorporate well into the larger mystery camp experience.

Who? What? When? Where? Why?

Who, What, When, Where, Why, also called W5, requires a team of campers to draw random characters (who), plot (what), time period (when), location (where), and character motivation (why) from a hat. This random draw will result in odd and intellectually challenging combinations that the campers must work together to develop into a mystery scene to perform for their fellow campers.

For example, the random draw might result in a story that must contain thieves planting a garden during WWII on a canoe in order to destroy the world. To add a level of difficulty and a competition option to the game, challenge campers to come up with a mystery that will stump the other teams. Whichever team creates the mystery that cannot be solved, or takes the greatest amount of time to be solved, wins.

What's Different?

Test the recall abilities and powers of observation of campers as they examine minute changes in each other's appearances. Two campers dress up in costumes and accessories from a provided wardrobe. After carefully observing each other for two minutes, the campers then turn back to back and alter five elements of their costumes by adding, removing or repositioning items. The players then take turns guessing which elements were changed. The player with the most correct guesses wins.

Crime & Criminal

A complex twist on the What's Different recall game played in teams, Crime & Criminal challenges teams of costumed campers to stage human tableaus that tell tales of mystery for their opponents to observe. The team captain serves as narrator, setting the stage by sharing the story her team has developed while the team moves into position and freezes as a life-sized still life. The opposing team has two minutes to wander among their frozen competitors to absorb the details of the scene. The opposing team leaves as the tableau is re-staged to capture a second frozen moment, just after a crime has occurred in the staged scene. The opposing team returns to walk among their frozen opponents to detect what crime has been committed and who committed it.

For example, a camper is wearing a diamond necklace in the first tableau. In the second, the diamond necklace is no longer around her neck, but sticking slightly out of the pocket of another camper. The team that solves the crime and catches the criminal in the shortest amount of time wins.

About the Author

A former art instructor, high school counselor and party planner, Christine Bartsch writes fashion, travel, interior design, education and entertainment content. Bartsch earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts in communications/psychology/fine arts from Wisconsin Lutheran College and a creative writing Master of Fine Arts from Spalding University. She's written scripts for film/television productions and worked as the senior writer at a video game company.