Gateway Games: Social Deduction GamesDecember 11, 2018
Gateway Games is a series of articles aimed at helping you find the games that are right for you. Today, I’m going to talk about social deduction games.
Social deduction games are also often referred to as hidden role games and fall into the genre of party games. These games are fantastic for parties because they can usually support large groups of players and are so focused on real-life conversations.
Each player is assigned a secret role and must follow the rules of that particular role. Generally, there are a small group of “baddies” and the rest of the players are the “townsfolk”. The two teams compete to defeat each other before their identities are found. The central mechanic of the game is to use deductive reasoning, but these games also require bluffing skills, negotiating skills, and a little bit of role-playing. These games are primarily focused on socializing as the core gameplay.
The original social deduction game created was Mafia, in which players could use any kind of cards (including a standard deck of playing cards) to assign roles. Now, the genre has exploded into a variety of games around the same idea. While the original version required one player to take on the role of the moderator some of the more recent games have found interesting ways to allow all players to participate in the actual gameplay.
If you like this genre, there are many similar games to try. I am going to name a few that are good for jumping into the genre and testing out some different forms.
The Werewolves of Miller’s Hollow
The Werewolves of Miller’s Hollow is as close to the original game that you can get in card game form. For your first try of playing the game, I highly recommend sticking to the recommendations listed on page 10 of the rule cards. This version includes a small percent of werewolves (2-4 depending on playgroup size), one fortune teller, and the rest of the players will be basic townsfolk. Be sure that you have the right number of werewolves for the number of players so that the difficulty is set properly. It’s also important to have the moderator be someone who is very familiar with the rules. Once you have played the game a couple of times, try implementing the different roles to see what styles you like. From there, you can be as creative as you want to be!
Made by the same people who created Cards Against Humanity, Secret Hitler is a very flavorful, satirical social deduction game with some interesting changes. The two teams are liberals and fascists, and one player is Hitler. Players work together to pass policies in a very innovative way, leaving it in the hands of two players that change every round – the President and the Chancellor. These roles are determined by a group election each round. In order to win, the Liberals must pass five liberal policies and find and defeat Hitler before the Fascists either pass six fascist policies or three fascist policies and elect Hitler as President.
Love Letter is a much quicker, simpler take on social deduction games. Thematically, you are competing for the love of the princess. The gameplay for Love Letter revolves around a deck of cards full of the different identities, each with a different number. If you have the highest number, you win if you survive until the deck is depleted. However, the higher valued cards are most likely to get targeted by the lower cards’ abilities to knock players out of the game. Each turn, you draw one card (bringing your hand size to 2) and play one card, so your hidden role constantly has the potential to change. The downside is that it can only be played with 2-4 players.
I hope you can find a social deduction game that is fun for you!