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Even though social deduction games like Mafia (aka Werewolf) have been around since 1986, they have really flourished in the past few years. A good social deduction game definitely works the same parts of the brain that being on stage does. If you’re a traitor you have to practice control of your body language while convincing people of your innocence. If you’re innocent, you have to react to other player actions to see who is the traitor. We’ve chosen a few game that are newer to the social deduction genre for those readers whose copies of The Resistance, Ultimate Werewolf and Battlestar Galactica might be worn down with all the accusations of betrayal.
The team behind Cards Against Humanity isn’t known for shying away from being topical or controversial. When they kickstarted Secret Hitler last year, the world seemed like a much different place. The game splits the players into two secret teams: the Liberals and the Fascists. Each round, the group must vote on whether to enact liberal or fascist policies into being. Fascist policies make finding out who the fascists are easier…but they also push the game toward a win for the Fascists if they can get their secret Hitler in power as Chancellor. Groups unafraid to mix politics with play will find one of the critically-acclaimed social deduction games a great fit for their table.
Donner Dinner Party
The historical Donner Party was a tragic tale of the cost of colonialism as a set of pioneers were forced into cannibalism to survive a brutal winter. The Donner Dinner Party spins this historical event in a lighthearted manner (our copy came with a promotional branded wet nap) but still offers a short burst of what makes social deduction games so much fun. Everyone has to contribute something to the group meal deck that’s shuffled up and revealed before the elimination vote. If there’s enough food for the party, the elimination vote is skipped for the round. If not, someone’s cooking for dinner. It doesn’t take long for the Western accents to come out and for optional ghost rules to change things in a slightly supernatural direction.
Spies and secret identities seem to go hand in hand. It’s a little shocking a game like Secrets hasn’t come out sooner, but this game saw its big release at Gen Con 50. This collaboration between Eric Lang and Bruno Faidutti sets up players as CIA spies, KGB agents or a lone Hippie player trying to recruit valuable personnel for their side of the war. Except the defectors can change the state of the game by letting players look at loyalty cards, change cards on unsuspecting spies and shake up the game. A player might think they are helping Mother Russia when they are helping valuable defectors jet off to the U.S.A. What makes a game about trust more challenging? Wondering if you can even trust yourself.
A Fake Artist Goes To New York
A newer variation on the deduction game came out in 2015 when games like Spyfall made things a lot more difficult for the traitor by having them try to fit in to the group without giving context to what everyone else was talking about. Oink Games adds in a heaping helping of Telestrations to this idea with the game A Fake Artist Goes to New York. Everyone gets a subject to draw except for one player, who must get what the subject is based on the single lines of the picture everyone else draws. Everyone contributes to the same picture, but the different colored markers remind everyone who contributed. Will the fake artist reveal themselves because everyone else was drawing a cat they were drawing a camel?
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What is your favorite secret role game? Let us know in the comments.
Feature Image Credits: Goat Wolf and Cabbage, Asmodee, Chronicle Books, Oink Games
Rob Wieland is an author, game designer and professional nerd. He writes about kaiju, Jedi, gangsters, elves, Vulcans and sometimes all of them at the same time. His blog is here, his Twitter is here and his meat body can be found in scenic Milwaukee, WI.