Death On The Gambia

Set in 1939, Death on the Gambia follows a tramp riverboat as it sails along the River Gambia in Africa. Aboard are a curious mixture of passengers - a big game hunter, a missionary, a doctor, a journalist, an archaeologist and more. All of the passengers have secrets, and the journey will be one to remember…

Death on the Gambia 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.

Basic information

  • Number of players: 8 to 11
  • Setting: A riverboat on the River Gambia in 1939.
  • Time to run: 3.5 hours (including setup and debrief - actual game lasts for about 2.5 hours)
  • Space Requirements: Large-ish room
  • Author: Steve Hatherley
  • Publisher: Freeform Games, price £20

Cast of Death on the Gambia

  • Jane Carter: an American journalist working for the Gambia Tribune.
  • Dexter Fairchild: an intrepid big game hunter from England.
  • Captain Sam Ironheart: Captain of the Christabel.
  • Katanga: a native of Gambia and First Mate aboard the Christabel.
  • Joey Keene: one of Gambia’s finest detectives.
  • Connor McDouglas: a rugged Scottish archaeologist, adventurer and finder of antiquities.
  • Marie Renard: a famous French artist.
  • Gabe Schwartz: a brilliant German doctor bringing aid to the peoples of the jungle.
  • Caroline Tanner: an English widow seeing the world.
  • Alex Thomas: chief buyer for the Happy Peanut Spread Company.
  • Vic Townhill: an English missionary bringing the word of God to the peoples of the jungle.


It is some years now since I purchased and ran this game for my friends, but the quality of the writing, hand outs and the clear and concise instructions are first rate. A fine murder mystery style game, with great dramatic potential, it was a joy to run. Highly recommended. Five Stars! CJR

  • Reviewer: Petter Olsen, additional comments by Michaela Aschan
  • GM: Fred Larsen
  • Michaela's role in game: Caroline Tanner
  • Petter's role in game: Vic Townhill
  • Venue: Fairly big private house in Tromsoe, Norway (our regular venue)
  • Game played: Easter 2008
  • Participants: 11
  • Michaela's rating: 4 (of 5)
  • Petter's rating: 4 (of 5)
  • Our experience: Great fun was had by all in our annual easter larp. This time we were on a riverboat on the River Gambia in 1939, with several personal and political plotlines crossing. The game was run single-handedly by a first time GM (but experienced player), and it worked well. The game instructions were clear and easy to follow, although some of the mechanics involving some of the items were a bit confusing, at least to the players involved. One slight weakness in this game (in common with many other games we've played) is that having information about the value or workings of things/items is less useful than it may seem, as no-one can verify the information and your fellow players will expect everyone to lie. We managed to get some use out of some of the items, but not by any means all. This was perhaps due to unfortunate casting; some players are more comfortable than others with items and related 'puzzles', it is important that they are assigned to the roles where this is a factor. Also the mechanic related to shooting and killing people, while completely justified in this setting, is difficult to get 'right' (we have found this in almost all games we have played where this mechanic exists). If you want to shoot someone and you know that there's a fair chance that they'll escape at least to begin with, you have to line up a whole sequence of gunmen so that if one fails, the next one can take over immediately. While this optimizes your chances of meeting the goal (in this case killing the person in question), it does not optimize the overall gaming experience; the whole situation becomes quite unrealistic. As is often the case, the inter-player interactions were what made the game fun and memorable. We're still unsure whether the GM did this on purpose, and in another group it might have backfired badly, but in our group the romantic relationship between real-life mother and teenage son was hilarious to watch. Personally I had a very good time, and without spoling the game I will just say that I had great fun and success convincing my enemies to believe that I was their closest friend and best ally. This obviously backfired though, as my actual friends and allies were convinced they could not trust me (which they could have done, honestly!). We recommended this as a light and easy-to-run game, but make sure that the players who get special items and mechanics know how to use them (best send out in advance), and that they are motivated for doing so.
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