I was taught this game at the World Boardgaming Championships. I was told
it was based on an earlier game called Mafia. The person running
the game was experimenting with a new character type (a priest). I don't
think the rules for the priest added much to the game (the priest got to
kill one wolf that tried to kill him), and have incorporated
what I think is a better way to play the priest in these rules.
- You need someone willing to moderate the game. This person is typically
referred to as the Gamemaster or GM.
- You need a bunch of players. The game won't really work with less than
5 players, though more might be needed for a good game. You can play with
lots of people. I played with 20 players and the game worked fine.
- You need table space for the players. They should be sitting around
a table, so that they all have a clear view of each other and can easily
talk to each other.
- You need a way to randomize who gets to play what type of character
so that only each person knows what type they are. A deck of standard
playing cards will work well for this.
- The players should take their places around the table.
- The GM should decide on the number of wolves in the game. You want
to pick a number of wolves so that each side has about a 50% chance
of winning. The players do not need to be told the exact number of
- The GM should make a deck of cards using a Queen for the Seer, a King
for the Priest, as many Jacks as there are wolves and as many spot cards
as there are normal villagers. The total number of cards should match
the number of players.
- The GM should deal the cards face down to each player. Players should
look at the cards. Players may not show the cards to other players.
Note that the GM will not know who is who yet, but will find out during the
first turn's night.
- The GM should start the game off going into the first turn's night. A
good idea is to describe some setting before having the players go to
sleep. This might include rumors of Werewolves or a peaceful setting to
contrast with the first night's murder.
All of the steps below should be followed every day. Don't let the players
know the Seer (or Priest) is dead by skipping their nightly action.
- The GM announces that the players are to go to sleep. All players still
in the game must close their eyes. It is a good idea to lean back rather
than forward as less movement is needed when waking up. (Though I did find
this was harder on my neck.)
- The GM announces that the wolves should wake up. The wolf players should
open their eyes and look around while not making any noise to tip off other
players. They should make it clear to the other wolves and the GM that they
are a wolf.
- The GM announces that the wolves should pick a victim (even if there
aren't any wolves left). Normally the wolves will then, with gestures, pick
someone to kill off. They may not kill off another wolf during their night
turn. If they can't agree, then the GM should pick
a victim for them (normally using one of the wolves' picks). The victim will
be killed just before morning (after the Seer action for the night). If this
is the first night and there are an odd number of players no victim is chosen.
The GM can announce a non-player victim or use some other color to get
the lynchings started.
- The GM announces that the wolves should go back to sleep. The wolves
must now close their eyes.
- The GM announces that the Priest should wake up (even if the priest
has already been killed). The Priest should open his eyes and make it clear
to the GM he is the Priest.
- If this is the second or following night, the GM should remind the
priest which player was lynched the day before and then signal whether
this player was a wolf (raised claws, snarling expression) or a human
- The GM announces that the Priest should go back to sleep. The priest must
now close his eyes.
- The GM announces that the Seer should wake up (even if the Seer has already
been killed). The Seer then opens his eyes and makes it clear to the GM that
he is the Seer.
- The GM then announces that the Seer should pick a character to
learn about. The Seer should then point to a living character (including
tonight's intended victim of the wolves) to find out about. The GM should
then signal to the Seer whether this player is a wolf or a human.
- The GM then announces that the Seer should go back to sleep. The Seer
must now close their eyes.
- The GM moves by the character that was killed by the wolves (with a
possible exception on the first night) and announces that the villagers
should wake up. Everyone should now open their eyes and sit comfortably.
- The GM should announce the victim chosen by the wolves.
- The players begin an open discussion and must lynch one of the remaining
characters. Procedurally, someone must make a proposal to lynch a particular
player, which if seconded by another player will result in a vote. At this
point a small amount of discussion should be allowed and then the proposed
victim should be allowed to give a final statement in their defense. Then
the vote should be taken. Normally, the same player shouldn't be voted on
twice in a row (on the same day), nor should the player who made a proposal
that resulted in the vote be allowed to make the next proposal without other
players being given a chance to make one first. The votes should be made
publicly and simultaneously. All players must vote (including the proposed
victim). Typically, you might have people have there arms extended ready
to give a thumbs up (live) or thumbs down (die) on the count of three. The
players should leave their vote indication visible while the votes are
tallied. (Note that wolves can vote to lynch other wolves.) If the vote
results in life, discussion and more votes continue until someone is lynched.
If the players fail to lynch someone after a long time, the GM can keep the
game moving by calling for nightfall and letting the wolves pick two victims.
- Repeat for the next turn until the game ends.
Players that are eliminated may watch the rest of the game, but should not
talk. They should also not reveal their card. While the GM may ask the
special characters to do things after the player is dead, this is to keep
the living players unaware of what has happened. Dead players don't get to
help pick victims or get information about whether players are/were wolves
Also once the vote is taken for a lynching, a successfully lynched player
is not allowed to talk any more. If a Seer or Priest wants to spill the
beans, they need to do it before the vote is taken.
Ending the game
The villagers win when all of the wolves have been eliminated. This should
be signalled, by having a night where no one is killed. The wolves win
when the last human has been killed. The wolves will win for sure (unless they
lynch each other needlessly), once there are as many wolves as humans. But
the humans won't know that and you can let them squirm while thinking they
still have a chance. Eliminated players should still be considered winners
if their side won, though winning and living is preferred.
There are some interesting strategies that can be used. Wolves should normally
kill off Seers and Priests that are bold enough to announce themselves. Other
villagers might pretend to be Seers or Priests (perhaps using information
whispered to them by other players) to protect the real ones. The wolves
might pretend to be Seers and Priests. In that case leaving the real Seer
and Priest alive and getting the villagers to lynch them is probably better
than killing them.
As a theoretical exercise that probably doesn't correspond too closely
to how people play the game, I have found that having the wolves know
who each other are, shouldn't help them in voting until they have a majority
The humans can guaranty a random selection by having someone (even
a wolf) publicly roll a die (or some other random process) that indicates which
character should be lynched. The humans can then all vote to lynch this person.
The wolves should vote like humans or they will give statistical evidence to
the humans which will point them out. Trying to vote as a block won't help
against optimal human play and can point out who they are. The humans can
even use strategies that increase the number of votes to give the wolves more
chances to identify themselves.
Based on my preliminary findings, taking out the Seer needs to be top
priority for the Wolves. Also they should take out any players announced
by the Seer as villagers in preference to other villagers (the Seer should
still be eliminated first). The Priest shouldn't be that important.
Cornered wolves might want to pretend to be a Seer when about to be lynched.
You will be able to name several villagers and a false wolf and have some
chance of being believed. Even if this doesn't work, it will make declarations
by real seers about to be lynched, less likely to be believed.
Balancing the sides
In general, I think the wolves should get the smaller chance of winning,
because of the extra fun of playing a special character that they get.
However adding some randomness to the number of wolves may add some fun
to the game because of the extra uncertainty the villagers have about
how many wolves are in the game.
I have two programs that provide chances of the wolves winning when the
villages have and don't have a seer. The first
assumes that the seer data is totally available to the villagers, but that
the wolves don't know who the seer is. The second
assumes that only the seer has the data until he reveals himself (and
becomes the next victim). This is probably a close representation of what
happens in real games. For those of you that can't run perl, I have
sample output of the first program and
the second program.
The program uses backtracking, rather than simulation to make the calculation.
I have only done minimal error checking of the results and so they should
be used with caution.
Preliminary results are that having a seer
makes a huge difference. Also note that when the number of players is odd,
the seer effectively gets a free shot before starting.
The first program provides some upper and lower bounds on the wolves chances
of winning. I feel the second program provides a number in the ball park
of the wolves' real chances of winning.
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