What social deduction games like Werewolf tell us about ourselves


I just started playing Battlestar Galactica… still talking about the last game that finished three days ago.

If you think the board games run deep in analysis, you should see how dedicated forum based games get. Where everything you ever say is always visible and referenced and an in game day will last for weeks.

One of my favourites in this genre of games is <a href=http://www.amazon.com/Da-Vinci-DVC-9100-BANG/dp/B001RU7UNW/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1415720242&sr=8-1&keywords=bang">Bang, with the twist that only one role is known ( the Sheriff) and the others are either loyal deputies or members of the bandit gang. A fun game that captures the feel of a Sergio Leone western.

But the main thing to remember about games like this is that they really only work with enough players to develop tangled dynamics, and my best memories are with up to ten people, so that the end round becomes a sort of spectator sport, with the “killed” players end up biting their nails almost as much as the survivors. Then again, the games I had been in left more time for role playing, for throwing accusations back and forth.


As a huge fan of board games and a new dad with budgeted social time, I’ve started to notice some things about myself.

  1. I hate games with more than a page or two of rules.
  2. I hate games where you know that you’ve lost before you end.
  3. I hate games with significant downtime between turns.
  4. I hate obvious randomness. (Or “swingy” randomness) - But I love push-your-luck… so… I’m “complicated”
  5. I love games that leave people talking about it later.

Social deduction games are the best thing to happen to me. I’m only reasonably outgoing, but something about the “I can obviously not drink the wine in front of YOU” debate that even the simplest social deduction game brings out really resonates with me.

See also:

I hate games like Mafia/Werewolf… I find the results to be entirely random to my eye. I just play it flat because, well, these are the latest trend in “icebreakers” and I’m definitely a bit of an Aspie. The games I’ve been in have been 50/50 affairs, but it’s incomprehensible to me… people lying about stuff and making up justifications to lynch this or that person.

It’s total bullshit and I can’t stand it.

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I’d agree that playing with unknown people is more random feeling… but the second game! Oh man, the magic of introducing Werewolf is not the first playthrough. It’s when the room of strangers recaps what went on and people file away who lied and who told the truth and who led the lynch mobs and so on… and then they take that knowledge into a second game and WHAM, they’re playing a much deeper game.

Bang is ok, but there is a definite positional disadvantage to being to the sheriff’s right, as that person often gets killed before their first turn in a 6-8 player game.

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A correction: Andrew Plotkin did not come upon Werewolf and document it as he found it. He witnessed Mafia being played at a puzzle convention, re-themed it himself to be about werewolves, and then released the rules on the early web.

Source: http://www.eblong.com/zarf/werewolf.html#history

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