Werewolves (also known as Mafia)

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This is a game where two teams - the villagers and the werewolves - use teamwork to develop stratagies and outwit each other. The werewolves (who keep their identity secret – and can lie if suspected) try to 'kill' all of the villagers (one each ‘night’), before the villagers can work out who the werewolves are and imprison or 'kill' them (during the ‘daytime’). The game alternates between days and nights until the last person or a team succeeds.  The villagers' aim is to have a villager as the last person standing; the werewolves' aim is that a werewolf survives to the end.

The game works best with 10-20 people plus a narrator who facilitates the game and tells the story. It can be played just sitting in a circle or around a campfire and usually takes about 30 minutes or so.

This game may sound quite violent given that the aim is to 'kill' other characters. However, this isn’t the point of it – it’s primarily a mystery role-play strategy game. It’s up to the narrator how you ‘dress it up’ – you can downplay the deaths and omit gory details if you like! The game is essentially about learning about each other and how to negotiate, think creatively, understand body language, work as a team and strategise. Debrief after the game so the group can reflect on this.

Note: this game can be played as 'Werewolves' or 'Mafia', with similar characters (but with different names). This explanation uses the 'Werewolves' names, but lists the alternative 'Mafia' characters at the end.

What you need:

Pieces of paper (one per person), pen and a hat.

Duration:

30 minutes plus.

What to do:

Prepare the pieces of paper before the start of play: for a group of 12, write ‘werewolf’ on 2 pieces, ‘seer’ on 1 piece and ‘villager’ on the rest. If there are more than about 12 players, make 3 werewolves, a seer 1 and a seer 2 (who will open their eyes and investigate players at separate times so they don’t know each other). Fold up the pieces of paper and put them into the hat. Each person picks out a character, reads who they are and then keeps it secret. Then the game begins and the narrator (you) talks the characters through each stage – starting with the first ‘night’.

Night
First you set the scene by saying:

  • “Night-time falls in the sleepy village of.....(all close their eyes, except you – the narrator), but there are two werewolves in our midst, who are hungry and wanting to kill”

You then ask:

  • “Would the werewolves silently identify themselves, by opening their eyes” (they both open their eyes, and see who each other is. Everyone else must keep their eyes tightly shut!)
  • ”Would the werewolves choose a victim” (they both non-verbally agree, and point together at another player to be their ‘victim’)
  • “Would the werewolves close their eyes”
  • ”Would the seer open their eyes” (The seer is on the side of the villagers and is allowed to ask you about the roles of others in the group, one per night)
  • “Would the seer point at someone they would like to investigate” (you saw who the werewolves are and so you answer with a thumbs up if the person the seer is investigating is a werewolf, or a thumbs down if they are a villager)
  • “Would the seer close their eyes”
  • “Morning time, everyone open your eyes, and awakens – except......., who has had their throat ripped out in the night!”

Day

The group then needs to discuss who they think the werewolves are. Of course, the villagers had their eyes shut the whole time and so won’t know much, but individuals may have suspicions or clues; for example, “X is very quiet”, “I thought I felt a rustling to my right at night time”, “Y is quick to accuse”. One member of the townsfolk may have information: the seer, who is on the side of the villagers, but they can choose whether or not to reveal their information. They are at risk of being the next ‘victim’ if they seem to know too much or openly admit to being the seer, but may do so for the greater good of the village. But it’s not simple; a werewolf could also claim to be the seer, to divert suspicion away from them or towards another, and to gain the trust of the villagers.

During the discussion the Venturers will be watching and listening carefully to each other. At the end of the ‘day’ the village needs to decide who they suspect the most of being a werewolf. To make this decision it can help to have a vote after the discussion. The accused gets a chance to make a speech to defend themselves, but if no-one changes their mind they are 'killed' (or 'imprisoned' if you prefer to avoid capital punishment). The villagers have either successfully got rid of a werewolf or have wrongly 'killed' an innocent villager, in which case they are now two villagers down – the one that was bitten, and the one that was wrongly accused.

Night-time then falls again, and you repeat the process over and over, until either all the werewolves have been 'killed' or all the villagers have died.

Extra tips

It’s up to you whether players reveal their roles once they’ve been killed. It can be a little simpler to start playing with roles being revealed, so that the villagers know whether they’ve got the werewolves or not. The game can be harder, but more atmospheric and tense if the villagers don’t know which side is close to winning.

A good narrator will craft the story in their mind, making deaths dramatic, while commenting on the discussion through the day, with remarks such as “it seems like the town are leaning towards Tom and Bridie but is there a conspiracy afoot?!”.

It is worth evaluating the balance of werewolves to villagers in your game. For example, if you find that the werewolf team keeps losing then you can alter the balance next time by adding another werewolf. The players often get a feel for this during the game.

It can boring to be out (‘dead’), so you could use the rule that dead villagers can continue to play as ghosts, as long as they keep their eyes shut at night. Werewolves and seer(s) know too much about the identities of others and need to just observe when they are dead.

To make the game more complicated, introduce more characters.

Roles

  • Villager: The majority of players. Some villagers will also have additional roles (see below) but they are all on the same side against the werewolves/mafia.
  • Werewolf/Mafia: roughly 1 to every 5 villagers. Increase the number of werewolves/mafia if the group is too quick at catching them. Their aim is to remain anonymous and 'kill' all the villagers before they are caught.
  • Seer/Detective: a villager with an additional role. There is usually one seer/detective in the game who has the chance to 'investigate' one player each night (until they have been killed). If they discover who the werewolves/mafia are, they can chose to remain silent, reveal their identity and knowledge, or share their suspicions more subtley. With a larger group, try playing with two seers/detectives who open their eyes at separate times.
  • Healer/Doctor: a villager with an additional role. Add in a healer/doctor to the game for more variety. This character can identify someone to save each night (this can be themself). If the person they chose has also been selected by the werewolves/mafia during the same 'night', on that occasion they are protected and no one dies.
  • Cupids/Lovers: a pair of players with an additional role. They're picked at random - so they could be villagers or werewolves/mafia - or one of each. They open their eyes during the first night to identify themselves to each other and must then attempt to keep each other alive during the game. If one cupid/lover is killed, either by the werewolves/mafia or by the villagers, the other cupid/lover must die too. Note: if the healer/doctor saves a cupid/lover, their broken hearted partner is also healed, but NOT if either is a werewolf/mafia. Play with more than one pair of cupids/lovers for further complication!