Use a random method to secretly appoint an ‘assassin.’
The assassin’s weapon of choice is a wink of their eye.
The assassin’s ultimate goal is to eliminate everyone in the group as quickly as possible, by winking discretely at each person.
The rest of the group aims to catch the assassin doing their dirty work.
Over the course of several minutes, everyone mingles and greets one another as they pass with a smile and a look in the eye as often as possible.
When an individual catches a wink from the assassin, they must wait at least five seconds (as they continue to mingle) before dying a histrionic death and removing themselves from the action.
The assassin is not obliged to wink at everyone they greet.
If someone suspects who the assassin is, they may raise their hand and shout “I ACCUSE.” At this point, everyone stops mingling and waits for a second person to raise their hand as a seconder. If a second accuser does not appear, the game continues.
If an accuser attracts the interest of a seconder, on your count of “1, 2, 3” each accuser must point directly to who they believe to be the assassin. This will cause one of three results:
– If they point at different people, regardless if one of them is correct, they are both eliminated.
– If they both point at the wrong person, they are both eliminated.
– If they both point at the (correct) assassin, the game will end.
No one is permitted to communicate or otherwise indicate to others who they believe may be the assassin.
Play continues until either everyone is eliminated, or two people make a successful accusation.
Play several rounds, randomly appointing a new assassin with each round.
How To Play Narrative
Gather your group around you, and whisper to the huddle that “…THERE IS AN ASSASSIN AMONGST US!” Amid the shock and horror of the news, describe that not even the assassin knows that they are the assassin… yet!
Use a random method to secretly appoint an ‘assassin,’ or if you’re out of ideas, take a look at some of the fun methods described in Appointing A Secret Person.
Next, explain to everyone that the assassin’s weapon of choice is a wink of their eye. Not a blink, not a twitch, but a fair-dinkum how-ya-going wink.
At this point, invite everyone to just mingle in the space provided, and instruct them to greet every person they pass with a smile and a look in the eye as often as possible.
Note, two objectives will now be hard at work – one, the assassin will be secretly winking away to ‘eliminate’ the group one person at a time, and two, everyone else will be hoping to catch the assassin ‘red-handed’ and make an accusation to end their awful trade.
A few rules will benefit the interactions, while also adding some order to this carnage:
A person who has just been winked at by the assassin should wait at least five seconds before dying a histrionic death. The ‘dead’ may lie in situ, or simply crawl off to the side;
The assassin is not obliged to wink at everyone they greet; indeed, this would be a good, deceptive strategy;
If one of the living suspects who the assassin is, they may raise their hand and announce “I ACCUSE.” At this point, you should ask everyone to freeze and seek a seconder. If no one else volunteers to make an accusation, the game continues (but maybe for not much longer for the accuser!!)
If an accuser attracts the interest of a seconder, on your count of “1, 2, 3” each accuser must point directly to who they believe to be the assassin. If they both point at different people, regardless if one of them is correct, they both die on the spot. If they both point at the wrong person, the same fate awaits them. Only if they both point at the (correct) assassin will the game end.
No one may communicate or otherwise indicate to others who they believe to be the assassin.
This tragic tale will continue to play out until either everyone dies, or two people make a successful accusation.
Play several rounds, randomly appointing a new assassin with each round.
Practical Leadership Tips
Clearly, if you work within a ‘zero-tolerance’ environment in regards to violence, then a game called Wink Murder may not be for you or your group. You could, however, re-frame the assassin as Cupid shooting their arrow into the heart of others, who when pierced, fall to the ground swooning in love. This is akin to one of the variations below (see Variations tab.)
This exercise, when sequenced correctly, never fails to produce long choruses of laughter from my groups. It’s an ideal community building/evening program game, which is only ever intended to be fun, and not glorify violence in any way. Again, if you just heard yourself say ‘I disagree’ then I’d suggest this game is not for you.
You could consider playing this game with less than 20 people, but it may lack the necessary energy and length to make it sufficiently FUNN.
The rules for making an accusation are very important, so don’t water these down. There has to be a consequence for making an accusation, otherwise, there’ll be too many of them, and the assassin will find it difficult to ‘win.’
Observe your group closely in the first round or two, and offer feedback about what would work better as each round progresses. For example, I frequently have to remind people to wait the full five seconds before they commence their death throes, ie dying at the feet of the assassin is not useful.
Encourage people who have just ‘died’ to creep off to the side of the action so as not to be stepped on by the living. Besides, watching the assassin at work from the sidelines, not to mention the paranoid looks on the remaining individuals, is priceless.
Ummm, just in case it’s not obvious, anyone who has just been ‘hit’ by the assassin cannot raise their hand to make an accusation.
As the last few people start to circle each other in the middle, remind everyone to continue to look others in the eyes as they pass each other.
Be sure to invite lots of sharing at the conclusion of a round, regardless of how it ends – both from the assassin and his or her targets. These stories always stimulate a lot of communal joy.
You could integrate Wink Murder as part of a well-designed SEL program to develop your group’s ability to manage their emotions, thoughts and behaviours effectively in different situations and to achieve goals.
Specifically, this activity offers opportunities to explore and practice the following social & interpersonal skills:
Identifying Personal, Cultural & Linguistic Assets
Anticipating & Evaluating the Consequences of One’s Actions
Promoting Personal & Collective Well-Being
You can learn more about SEL and how it can support character education here.
Health & Wellness Programming
There is no specific health & wellness perspective to this activity other than promoting the benefits to one’s wellbeing of enjoying a thrilling mystery.
In a small way, you could argue that the focus required to successfully pick up on the social cues of others to correctly read and navigate certain behaviours may speak to the benefits of developing mindful and emotional intelligence competencies. That is to say, the more a person is attuned to the nuances of certain behaviours, the more likely they may be able to discern who is a murderer or not.
If you can think of more explicit ways in which Wink Murder could be purposefully integrated into a health and wellness program, please leave a comment at the base of this page.
Secret Handshake: Everyone mingles and shakes hands as they greet one another. The assassin shakes hands in a peculiar way, eg with index finger pointed forward and pressing/rubbing the wrist of their hand-shaking partner.
Kiss of Death: The assassin directs a subtle kiss of their pursed lips to those he or she wishes to eliminate. Once kissed, people swoon to their death with a giant exasperated sigh as if falling deeply in love.
The Plague: Applied to any Wink Murder variation, invite people as they collapse to the ground to reach out and touch any one or more people around them, to cause these people to be eliminated as well. Suggest that the initial victim try hard not to spread the plague to the assassin – otherwise, it will make for a very, very long game.
Whodunnit: Take a look at Bang, You’re Dead to play another fun whodunnit group game.
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Useful Framing Ideas
Who would have thought that being eliminated would be so much fun…
We all know people in our lives who are very good at keeping a ‘poker face.’ Their expressions communicate nothing about their thoughts nor their intentions. This is very clever, and no doubt, very useful in card games like poker. This skill will also be very useful in this next exercise for one very special person – an assassin…
Reflection Tips & Strategies
Coupled with one or more reflection strategies, here are some sample questions you could use to process your group’s experience after playing this thoroughly engaging, elimination game:
Was it difficult to identify the assassin? Why or why not?
As the assassin, did you manage to conceal your intentions successfully? How?
What subtle changes did you notice in someone to make you think they could be an assassin?
Where else in our lives do we learn a lot of valuable information from subtle changes in behaviour or expressions?
The inspiration for Wink Murder, and many more large group elimination games, was sourced from the following publication: