Murder at Sea

Set in 1914 at the outbreak of the first World War, Murder at Sea is set aboard the American cruise liner, the Libertania, is in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean when its Captain is murdered…

Murder at Sea is published by Freeform Games and is one of their freeform-style murder mystery games. It has been designed for people who don't normally play freeforms and contains full instructions for play.

(Note - *Murder at Sea* used to be called *All at Sea*. See here for more details.)

Basic information

  • Number of players: 16 to 33
  • Setting: The American cruise liner Libertainia in 1914
  • Time to run: 3.5 hours (including setup and debrief - actual game lasts for about 2.5 hours)
  • Space Requirements: Large room
  • Author: Chris Boote
  • Publisher: Freeform Games, price £30

Cast of All at Sea

The Crew

  • First Officer Daniel Warren, 35. American. Extremely competent First Officer, well liked by the crew and expected to be given command of a ship as soon as possible. Reports to the Captain.
  • Second Officer David Whitworth, 47. English. Reliable and competent officer, previously sailed with the Royal Merchant Navy. Reports to the First Officer.
  • Third Officer Christina Younger, 36. American. The highest placed woman in the Cruise Line and has sacrificed her personal life for her career. She has won grudging admiration from even her male colleagues. Reports to the Second Officer.*
  • Chief Engineer Brynneth Cawdra, 54. Welsh. An absolute genius with the mechanical and engineering operation of the ship, can coax more out of the engines than any other man alive. Reports to the First Officer.
  • Engineer Reiner Tanhauser, 34. German. A fine engineer who speaks perfect English and thus may be suitable for promotion to another ship. Reports to the Chief Engineer.
  • Entertainments Officer Vic Hammerstein, 49. American. Regularly signs up famous names for cruises, always provides lavish entertainment spectaculars for passengers. Reports to the First Officer.
  • Master Chef Blaise de Richelieu, 50. French. Highly temperamental culinary genius, signed on by Hammerstein at great expense. This is de Richelieu’s first voyage aboard the Libertania, and so far the cuisine is not up to expectations. Reports to the Third Officer.
  • Chief Purser Chris Gamble, 33. American. Keeps a tight rein on the stewards and stewardesses, always impeccably neat and tidy. Reports to the Second Officer.
  • Cocktail Stewardess Julilia Morteblanca, 25. Italian. Previously worked in the Waldorf Astoria in New York, as America's first professional female cocktail mixer. Reports to the Chief Purser.
  • Cabin Stewardess Catherine New, 18. English. Only recently joined the Libertainia, but already seems to know everything about anything on board the ship. Reports to the Chief Purser.
  • Cabin Stewardess Cynthia Petal, 32. Has been working aboard liners for half of her life, and is competent and well liked by crew and passengers. Reports to the Chief Purser.
  • Trainee Steward Eric Lassiter, 20. Scottish. Training to be a steward. Reports to the Chief Purser.
  • Cabaret Singer Jennifer Floreste, 41. American. Previously appearing at the London Palladium, a world famous singer who is also on her last voyage with the Cruise Line. Reports to the Entertainments Officer.
  • Ship's Padre Patrick Malloy, 55. Irish. Although a Catholic, administers to the spiritual needs of all passengers, regardless of their religion. Reports to the First Officer.

The Passengers

  • Sir Rory Canter, Baronet, 54. Rumoured to be the richest man in Great Britain, but with no heir as yet.
  • Lady Isabelle Canter, 33. Young and pretty wife of Sir Rory, was previously an actress and ballet dancer.
  • Jeremiah Finkelstein, Industrial Businessman, 61. Owner of several large American manufacturing concerns, as well as the first aircraft factory outside of Europe.
  • Rachel Finkelstein, Jeremiah's wife and business partner, 58. While her husband deals with the industrial side of their business, Rachel is renowned for her financial acumen.
  • PJ Nichols, Entertainer and Singer, 27. Although predominantly a Music Hall singer and entertainer, PJ has recently returned from Hollywood, after 'trying out' for several of the main studios.
  • Clark Ridgeway, PJ’s Manager, 35. Accompanies PJ everywhere. Has arranged several stupendously successful shows and tours for her in the past.
  • Gilbert Ryce, American Secretary of State, 68. Ageing friend of the President, ideally suited for his present position, which requires tact and diplomacy.
  • Wilma Drew, Ryce's assistant, 32. Gilbert Ryce’s assistant in the American State Department, always smooth and unruffled.
  • Sir Ranulph Royston, British Minister of War, 63. A widower, Sir Ranulph is one of the government's most educated ministers. His wife was killed in a riding accident shortly before he sailed for America at the beginning of the year.
  • Elizabeth James, Sir Ranulph's Daughter, 19. Accompanying her father abroad for the first time since her mother's death. Elizabeth is divorcing her husband after he had an affair.
  • Maximillian von Grafenberg, German Procurement Minister, 47. Has been in America for the last year, and is now returning to Germany to join the new government.
  • Armin Oberhausen, Maximillian's assistant, 39. Armin is ambitious and some say fancies the Maximillian’s job.
  • Sasha Alexandrovich Ilyatkin, Russian Minister, 45. Sasha was in New York to sign several new trade agreements with the American Government.
  • Eldon Dumlop II, American socialite, 47. Thoroughly disreputable and stinking rich American. Heir to the Dumlop rubber fortune. Has kept himself to himself for most of the voyage.
  • Candice Dumlop, American socialite and Eldon’s wife, 21. Very glamorous and flirtatious rich American.
  • Marie Hati, French journalist, 40. Very glamorous and pushy. Works for Le Monde, mostly writing passionate columns demanding equal rights for women, and haranguing the government to spend more on military hospitals and retirement homes for wounded soldiers.
  • Albert Wiggins, English travel writer, 20. Quiet, reserved, well mannered and well informed. Often seen making notes about things during the journey.
  • Lou Noble, American journalist, 41. Hardly welcome company in the first class of a ship like this, Lou has been responsible for America’s most accurate and bitchy society gossip column for the last three years.
  • Aggie Marbles, amateur sleuth


  • Reviewer: Petter Olsen, additional comments by Michaela Aschan
  • GM: Joern Weines, with some help from experienced players
  • Michaela's role in game: Marie Hati
  • Petter's role in game: Eldon Dumlop II (also co-organizer)
  • Venue: Fairly big private house in Tromsoe, Norway (our regular venue)
  • Game played: October 8th 2005
  • Participants: 28
  • Michaela's rating: 4+ (of 5)
  • Petter's rating: 5- (of 5)
  • Our experience: This is one of our favourite of the larger games, possible to run with one GM only which is important for our group. The theme was very clear, and we had a real feeling of actually being on a boat in mid-Atlantic in 1914 (this was also partly due to the excellent decorating job done by the hostess). A minor quibble was that in our game at least there wasn't too much plot-based interaction between the crew and the passengers, but in a way that only made the game more realistic. The members of the crew were wheeling, dealing and blackmailing to try to become the new captain, and the outcome in our game was probably fairly untypical, but great fun to watch. The rest of us also had more than enough plot and interaction to start us off with. The murder mystery part of the game worked very well (enhanced by the fact that the novice player who played the murderer did a spectacular job in establishing the motive), and in the end only one group guessed the whole story, and who the culprit was. Casting was, as always, the key to the whole thing and it is important to ascertain that there is a match between the goal of the character and the goal of the person, especially if very public performance is required. I had a great time in a fairly peripheral role; at one time my real life wife and my game wife were plotting to kill me, and I was saved by my ex (and this still hasn't been forgiven btw.), but as always it is important to remind everyone, beginners in particular, not to be limited by their character sheets. Despite reminding people of this, some of our players were a bit miffed that major goals for them were completely unattainable as it was in practise possible for one person to decide the outcome, and they really had no leverage over this person. These are fairly minor objections though; when members of our group get together this is one of the games about which we reminisce the most. Small final note: Forget 2.5 hours playing time, at least if you have many first-timers participating. We met up at 19.00, started playing at around 19.30, had an in-character meal during the evening, but it was midnight before we finished the game and started the debriefing. Also, I really wouldn't have liked to do this in one large room only; we must have used at least 5.
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