All posts by Strider

The Lounge — A new “Mafia” game

There’s a rather interesting new edition of Mafia on Kickstarter right now, called “The Lounge”.  Some very nice artwork, and an interesting new design.

The Kickstarter project ends in just 72 hours, and they’re not yet up to their goal — so if you’re interested, go make a pledge and help make it happen!

Here’s the description from the project:

The air is thick with the sounds of hearty laughter, glasses cheerily clinking, soft music for dancing, intermittent conversation, growing paranoia, and wild accusations. In this lounge, the Mafia and the town’s protectors are squaring off in secret. Nobody knows enough to tell either group apart from the ordinary citizens enjoying a drink and a night out but everybody knows that no one will be safe until one of the sides is through. Suddenly, the officers walk into the center of the room. One of them, with a few doughnut crumbs on his shirt, speaks up to the crowd: “Alright, lets get this underway. Please step forward if you have evidence that anyone present is involved with the Mafia.”

The Lounge is an exciting social deduction game based on the extremely popular Mafia and Werewolf games. In it, you play the role of one of the members of a town. You could be in the Mafia, and want to gain power in the town by eliminating anyone who stands in your way. You could be one of those townspeople, attempting to rid your beloved city of all dangerous and malicious folks. Or, you could have your own goals, and be one of the several different 3rd party roles present in this game.

How to organize a lynching

I’ve seen a number of different “trial” variations in Werewolf over the years., and over time I’ve developed a system that I think works pretty well.

The original method I learned (playing at Gen Con in 2010) is for players to point directly at a player with one hand (the accusation) and raise the other hand straight up (the vote).  Only if both of these are done at the same time does it count as a “vote to lynch”.  (Note: I’ve recently come to understand that this is a midwestern thing — I had thought it more universal….)  The advantage of this system is that it is fast.  You may have some players voting for Alan and others for Brian simultaneously.  But it has a number of problems — most dominant of which is that it’s hard to moderate.  Sit 18 people in a circle and have everybody point at somebody.  Wait… is that guy pointing at Chuck or Denice sitting next to him?  Hold on… I think Fred just moved his hand — who’s he pointing at now???

Out of necessity (preservation of my own sanity) I decided to move to a more formal “trial” system.  In my game, the word “accuse” is a key word with specific meaning.  If somebody says “I accuse <name>”, I will announce that there has been an accusation and ask if anybody Seconds the accusation.  If somebody else says “I second”, it goes to trial.

Now, again, there are a lot of ways to run the trial, but ultimately it ends in a formal vote.  Originally, I allowed the discussion to continue, but basically set a time limit before the vote.  But this ended up too chaotic — as people would accuse and second with no expectation that they actually have to stop talking long enough to vote.

So after a while I changed it a bit — after somebody Seconds, I made it so that only the Accuser and the Accused may speak.  This introduced an interesting dynamic into the game, as a player could actually use Accusations strategically to silence discussion.  There are also some players  — usually, but not always, inexperienced — who just can’t help themselves, and second the moment somebody accuses.  It can be hard to distinguish those two types of player apart — is this guy just not thinking, or is he acting kind of werewolfy by shutting down the discussion?  Of course if you use an Accusation this way you need either a sucker or an accomplice to Second it.  Hmmm….

More recently I’ve played with other variations, such as loosening up the “no discussion” rule enough to allow brief comments or questions, after the Accuser and Accused have their say.  But I’m careful with this — I keep it very brief and then get on with the vote.  Even more recently I’ve tested it out going the other direction and closing down discussion even more:  once somebody is Accused and Seconded, only the Accused may speak. This way, if you want to lynch somebody, you have to make your argument before you formally accuse them.  I’m not sure if this method is better or not, but it seems promising so far.

Finally, the vote itself.  Different people use different methods, from the two-arm gesture mentioned before to a simple thumbs up/thumbs down.  I do a three count, and on three, people voting to lynch raise their arm up high — “String ’em up!”.  I’m fairly strict about no stragglers — you raise your hand on three or it doesn’t count, and I will actually announce that I’m not counting so-and-so’s vote because it was too slow.

I like this method on two fronts:  First it’s easier to moderate.  It’s very easy to count the upraised arms quickly rather than looking for everybody’s hand to see where their thumb is.  It’s also better information for the players, as it’s easier for them to clearly recognize who voted which way.  It also prevents somebody from quietly changing their vote after they see which way it went — that arm is either obviously up or it’s not.  Again, I could see dropping the “no stragglers” rule — I like the clean vote, but it allows an extra strategy for the werewolves (and a behavior for the villagers to spot) to “jump on the bandwagon” and join a vote that’s going a certain way.

In the end, if the vote is over half the village, it’s a lynching.  Night falls immediately after a confirmed lynch, and the village goes to sleep.

A conversation with Ted Alspach

I went to Gen Con last week, and while I was there I had one or two conversations with Ted Alspach — the man behind Ultimate Werewolf. I’ve seen most of the various published versions of the Werewolf game, and his Ultimate set really sets the standard for versatility and usability.

We discussed a few things, and I got a few interesting bits of information from him that I thought worth sharing. The biggest to me was that I asked him about the Dracula character and how he uses it. I’ve never really used it, but I played in a game where it was used, and it was one of the most remarkable games I’ve ever played. Everyone was incredibly paranoid about Dracula’s brides — so much so that toward the end of the game the one remaining werewolf actually outed himself so that he could work openly with the Villagers to get Dracula!

Ted actually cleared up something I’d misunderstood about using Dracula, and that is that the brides know they are brides. Ted was surprised at my story of the cooperative werewolf, but he said that having the brides know who they are — but not how many others there are — means that they will sometimes declare themselves brides and nominate themselves for lynching in order to prevent a Dracula win. They really don’t want to die, but at the same time they don’t want the village to lose, so sometimes a player will sacrifice himself. It creates an unusual dynamic at any rate, and I definitely think I’ll start using this character more often.

Another topic was the Ghost. I’ve tried this character a few times, and quickly decided that it was far too powerful — so powerful that it was a game-breaker. Seems Ted and I came up with very different but effective solutions. What I did was create a new character called the Medium. So now the Ghost doesn’t communicate with the entire village, he simply communicates with the Medium. This makes the Medium more on par with the Seer — a Villager who knows things, but like the Seer usually can’t come right out and declare it.

Ted’s approach was different. At the end of the first night the ghost writes down a word for the moderator, and then the moderator reveals the word one letter at a time each morning. The difference is that originally the Ghost got to choose a letter each morning, and as Ted explained, that can lead to massive meta-gaming as the players give the Ghost detailed instructions as to what letter to say — basically creating an ad hoc code for the Ghost to use that will reveal far more than the character was intended for. By having the Ghost supply a word to be revealed over several nights, it limits the Villagers’ ability to use the Ghost this way.

I like my solution a bit more, actually, as it allows the Ghost character a bit more interaction and decision making over time; but Ted certainly solved the problem. But I definitely have to try his way of playing Dracula.

This was the second time I’ve met Ted, and I recommend talking to him if you’re at an event he’s attending. He’s especially happy to see you if you present a Kickstarter box for him to sign. 😉

Welcome to my humble village

Good evening, villager.

Werewolf Central is my new home for discussion of the social Deduction game know as Werewolf, a.k.a. Mafia.  Although I’ll primarily focus on various incarnations of Werewolf, I imagine things may also turn to other social deduction games, such as The Resistance, Are You The Traitor?, and others.

Are you ready to get started?  I am.  Welcome, and I hope you decide to stay a while.