Werewolf: The base game
It has been several years ago that I first played a game called
Werewolf. It's a party game which is typically
played with a large group of players (11 or more), and uses a number of interesting elements.
One of these is a role playing element, in that there is a game master leading the game, and there are all kinds of roles with all kinds of special abilities & powers. There is also a bluffing and deduction element in the game: You try to figure out which player has which role, so you know to which group they belong, and so you know... who to kill!
Globally speaking, there are 2 groups of players in the game of Werewolf: the Villagers, and the Werewolves. The Villagers win when they have killed all Werewolves, and the Werewolves win when their number is equal to (or greater than) the number of Villagers still alive in the game. The catch? At the start of the game each player is secretly assigned a role. And for most players that is the only role of which they know for sure which player has it: which role all of the other players have, is anybody's guess. What's more: any player can claim to possess just about any role they want, as no player is allowed to show his or her role card to (in)validate this claim. Only the game moderator knows for sure who is who.
The game alternates between day and night phases. During the night phase, the players go to 'sleep' (i.e. close their eyes). Generally speaking, the Werewolves will choose 1 victim each night (which will usually be an innocent Villager), and all players - both Villagers and Werewolves - will nominate 1 player to be executed during the day phase. As said: generally speaking, because there are numerous roles (and sometimes: event cards) which can change this process in all kinds of ways. But this is what it basically boils down to.
The game of Werewolf has its origins in a public domain game called
Mafia. In this game, there are not 2 but 3 groups fighting each other, but the basic mechanism of the
game is the same as that of Werewolf.
Since then, a number of commercial Werewolf games have been published. The most well-known one is Werewolves of Miller's Hollow, for which already two expansions have been released. Generally speaking, the advantage of playing with a commercial version of Werewolf is that they contain nicely printed (and often beautifully illustrated) role cards. Quite often they will also contain numerous additional role cards, sometimes also a set of event cards, a comprehensive manual for the game moderator, and the like.
There are a number of games which bear a (strong) resemblance to the game mechanics of Werewof, but are also
different in one or more ways.
The game Die Kutschfahrt zur Teufelsburg is a good example of such a game. Here players also have hidden roles, and all try to separate friend from foe. The exchange of objects plays a prominent role in this process, as well as fights between characters.
Two other titles which share the hidden role mechanic, as well as the use of a voting system & a continuous search for who is an imposter, are The Resistance and Battlestar Galactica. A big plus of The Resistance is that it has no player elimination. However, an important minus of the game (to me) is that it has less theming and less of a role playing vibe than Werewolf, and it is much more a deduction game than it is a bluffing game (making it feel more abstract and less immersive). On top of the mechanism of hidden roles, the game of Battlestar Galactica has added a second layer which is almost a board game in its own right. In this extra layer, fending off Cylon attacks & using the special powers and privileges of each character, play an important role.
The game of Werewolf itself (in your flavour of choice) is guaranteed to be full of intrigue and suspense.
That's because apart from the standard roles of Villager and Werewolf there exist a whole
range of additional roles.
In just about any version of the game (especially the commercial ones) you can be sure to find roles such as The Seer (who will choose one player each night, for which the game moderator will indicate if this is a Werewolf or not), a Bodyguard / Wolfsbane Villager(who can choose a player each night to be protected from being killed by the Werewolves), and Cupid (who will choose 2 players to become lovers, meaning one can only survive as long as the other is still alive). All players with these roles are part of the Villagers team, and count as such for the victory conditions of that group.
But there are also roles which are on the Werewolves' side, and which win if the Werewolves win. An example of such a role is The Sorcerer (in essence the dark counterpart of the The Seer). To make things more complicated, some of these roles, when investigated by a role like The Seer, will be said to be a "Werewolf", when they really aren't!
And then there are some roles of which it is not immediately clear to which of the two groups they belong, as well as roles which form groups of their own (such as The Werehamster, who will choose a victim each night too, and that victim may very well be a Werewolf!).
When teaching the game to a new group of players, I will usually start with a set which contains the roles of Villagers, The Seer and
Werewolves only. In that way, the players will not be overwhelmed by the game. Especially the players which get the Werewolf role will have to
learn how to hide among the Villagers. On the other hand, the Villagers will have to learn to look for "tells" (i.e. body language, slips of
the tongue) which can clue them in on which player has which role.
After a few rounds of play, you will usually see that players start to get the hang of it, and will begin to develop all kinds of tactics. These can range from saying as little as possible (regardless of the role that they have received) to being very vocal and playing aggressively (once again: regardless of the current role). The most daring of players will even go so far as to claim a role which they do not really possess (which is a viable strategy, as in the game you can claim and state just about anything, but never are you allowed to show your actual role card). You will also see that players will start to get better and better at figuring out what must have happened, and what this means for who has which role.
Personally, my favourite role is to be the game moderator. An important reason for that is that I am not that good at bluffing, but even more importantly: I find it just plain fun to fascilitate a game. Knowing who has which roles and then observing how each player chooses to play never gets boring to me. Also, moderating the game, as well as coming up with new ways to announce the start of a new day & revealing who has died that night - I just like it all a lot!
As you need at least 8-9 players for a standard game of Werewolf, but preferably around 13-15 players to really get things going, I do not get to play the game as often as I'd want to. With that being said, up until now all groups which I have introduced to the game have been very enthousiastic about it!