“Last night, there was an attempted murder. Josh went out for a walk, tripped on an invisible cable wire, and fell into an electrocution trap. But instead of dying, the doctor found him and saved him last night.”
These were the kinds of strange stories, growing stranger and stranger each round, I grew excited about hearing, and sometimes saying, during a favorite game of mine: Mafia. It was often our go-to game for youth retreats, nights in a hotel room with friends during conferences or competitions, or a night of fun following football games.
Mafia is a social deduction party game divided into two teams: the civilians and the mafia. Each player is given a role to be kept in secret throughout the game’s play. Most people receive the role of civilian, who have no special actions. Roles with actions include doctor, sheriff, and the members of the mafia. Each “night,” a moderator asks players to “go to sleep.” Throughout the night, the moderator will walk through waking up the mafia so they can determine who to “hit,” then the doctor for who to save, and finally the sheriff for who to investigate. This routine continues until either the civilians have rooted out and killed off the mafia, or until the mafia members kill off the civilians. Playing requires skills of cunning lies, sharp deducing, and a keen awareness of body language.
For this girl who loved reading Nancy Drew and Sherlock Holmes, it’s no wonder why I loved playing this game in high school and college.
Last winter, before the pandemic halted get-togethers, I attended a retreat with a group of friends. At this moment, my memories of playing Mafia, which had been long forgotten, were resurrected by playing a new game very similar to Mafia: Werewolf.
In this game, the werewolves are akin to the mafia, the villagers are akin to the civilians, the witch is akin to the doctor, though she also includes the ability to kill another player using a potion, and the fox is akin to the sheriff, but without as specific deducing abilities. But where these games diverge is how Werewolf adds new roles to the fun. Whereas in Mafia, you have a greater likelihood of having a “non-performative role,” meaning your job as a civilian is to let the battle play out overnight and then help deduce who might be what roles. The new roles included in Werewolf offer a much better experience for all, and a more intriguing game.
Some of those more intriguing roles include:
Wild child: picks another player at the beginning of the game and inherits their role.
Cupid: chooses two players, whether they are a villager or werewolf or any other role, to be bonded. Those two players must try to keep the other alive, because if one dies, the other does, too.
Two Sisters: a role for two people, regardless of actual gender. The role doesn’t come with any powers, but it does allow for vouching of the other player and also silent communication between the two players.
Hunter: If this player is killed off, this player can kill any player with their “dying breath.”
Roles like these allow for a more active game play for those in the “villager” section at night, and certainly a more unique and fun game play during the daytime as villagers try to oust the werewolves and the werewolves try to oust the villagers without letting on they are, in fact, a werewolf. Because there are more roles, there are more nuances to consider in deduction.
There are various versions of this game made by various companies, including Werewolves of Miller’s Hollow, Ultimate Werewolf, and Ultimate Werewolf’s shorter version called One Night Werewolf. The version I described is Werewolves of Miller’s Hollow, but other versions are similar. One Night Werewolf is a shortened “one-night” version of the game, but can be played with an app and without a moderator. These games are best played with a minimum of five actual players, not including a moderator, and is almost unlimited with expansion packs.
Now that restrictions are being lifted for in-person gatherings, and the weather is getting warmer, this game is the perfect party game to celebrate being able to get together without having to be close together.