Monthly Archives: January 2016

For some reason I just love it when I meet a young person who’s really good at werewolf. Even better is when a little kid can outwit their own parents.

The flipside is parents using their mommy/daddy powers for evil.  “Oh, now you don’t think Mommy’s a werewolf, do you???”  <– actual quote that determined a game-deciding vote.

In Defense of Vanillagers

Plain vanilla Villagers.  A staple of any good Werewolf game.  In fact, no matter how much many people love special roles, it’s difficult to impossible to play Werewolf without them. Rather than being the “boring” part of a game, I would suggest that they’re what make the game the most interesting.

Ted Alspach wrote an interesting article about how, not only do you need plain villagers, but the cards need to be all the same:

After all, I thought, why should everyone have the same picture of a villager on their card? It turns out, because giving each player a different picture of a villager breaks the game! It only took a single play of the game… to figure this out: one person said “my villager is a girl with a green apron” and suddenly everyone was describing the unique villager on their card. Except the werewolves, who were pretty much screwed.

In other words, having plain Villagers gives the Werewolves a place to hide.  I’ve moderated a game or two where somebody begged me to do an “all Specials” setup, and I did it.  In every such case, that person immediately started the game by insisting that everyone should “out” themselves by identifying who they are.  Lynch anyone who refuses, or any people claiming a duplicate role.  Werewolf goes from a subtle and rather sophisticated game about reading people, and becomes a rather simplistic logic puzzle.

The other disadvantage, to me, is that if you use too many special roles, it distracts from the “social” aspect of the social deduction. Rather than interacting with people and trying to get a feel for their reactions — the subtle heart of the game — people start to rely too much on their “powers”.  If you ever make it out to Gen Con, you’ll find large numbers of people playing Werewolf all through the night, and they play almost exclusively bare-bones games with Villagers, Werewolves, and a Seer.  While I do like a few Specials in games I run, I can definitely see the appeal of playing a “pure” game — especially if you have good players.  Even when I do run specials in games, I tend to use mostly “low magic” roles, such as the Hunter, rather than a lot of the spellcaster-type roles.

At some point in the course of running Werewolf at small conventions (which I do often), the phrase “plain vanilla Villagers” comes up a lot.  After a while I adopted the term “Vanillagers” — a coinage of my own that has spread to some extent to the local Werewolf scene through players who have played in my game.  Beyond the touch of humor, I like it because it lends a small bit of personality to the “boring” part of the game.  I’ll consider it a victory when I hear the term coming from somebody who has not played in my game — when it has made its way out into the world, travelled a bit, and made it back to me from another direction.

So here’s to Vanillagers.  Not only a core part of the game, but a vital part of its foundation.  We couldn’t play without them.  So the next time you draw that “boring” card, remember that you make the game work.

Werewolves of Miller’s Hollow: The Village

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m generally a fan of Ted Alspach’s Ultimate Werewolf. It’s my favorite of the many published varieties of Werewolf/Mafia out there.  At the same time, I’ve never been shy about stealing ideas from other games.  I collect Werewolf varieties, and will borrow interesting mechanics if I think it adds something.

One of those games that I find interesting is The Werewolves of Miller’s Hollow.  I generally like the style of the artwork, and they have some interesting characters. The thing I do NOT like about this version is that the cards don’t have any text on them, and the artwork is highly stylized. To my mind, this is a recipe for confusion, and there’s nothing worse than a game getting messed up because a player doesn’t understand what role he is.  (And by the nature of the game, if there is such confusion, it’s very difficult for players to ask for clarification without giving themselves away.   (I think the publisher does this for the international market — all they need to do is swap out the rulebook to sell the product in other languages.)

Nonetheless, I’ve borrowed mechanics from Miller’s Hollow for my Werewolf game.  Once in a while I pull out a subset of the “New Moon” event cards and throw them in.  It’s a nice change of pace.  But recently I got a copy of The Village, and I have to say I’m intrigued by the public role mechanic it brings to the game.

There are “buildings” that certain people live in, which grant them powers.  For example, the Lord lives in the Manor House, and he has the once-per-game ability to grant a reprieve to a person who is about to be lynched (after the vote).  That player is publicly known to be the Lord, and if he dies, somebody else moves in to the Manor and gains that role.  Of course, that person also has a secret role, and could also be the Seer, or a Werewolf, a plain Villager, etc.

I’ve never used these rules before, and I think it will be interesting to see what happens.  Will Werewolves quickly kill the special roles?  Or will doing so reveal the werewolves? The fact that if a player dies, his public role can be filled by a new player also adds an interesting twist to the proceedings.

The actual game pieces are rather small, as the game assumes you’re playing around a table.  I’ll be printing out large copies of the images and laminating them. I’m also adding the name of each building to the graphic, to avoid the aforementioned issues related to a lack of labels.

I’ll be running some games this weekend at a board game event I’m going to.  I can’t wait to see how The Village plays.

Have any of you used this mechanic before?  What do you think?