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I love mafia/werewolf/resistance/secret hitler type games, but my kids frequently want to play when there are too few people. Typically mafia is best when there's more than about 6 or 7.

So I thought about a variant aimed specifically at the 3-6 player range. Here's how it works:

  1. Sit around a table and distribute secret roles with cards.
  2. The roles are 1 x mafia, 1 x juggler, and the rest are villagers.
  3. Everyone determines their own role in secret, and then tries to vote off the mafia.
  4. If the mafia is found, that player loses and the rest of the players win.
  5. If the person is not a mafia they show their card to the group to prove it, and then everyone places their card face down in front of them on the table so that everyone can reach everyone else's card.
  6. At night time, everyone closes their eyes (moderated by anyone).
  7. The mafia wakes up and swaps his card with someone else's. He can knock the table when done, or just be given enough time.
  8. Then mafia goes back to sleep, and the juggler wakes up. The juggler swaps any two cards.
  9. Then go back to 3 and continue from there.

My kids are playing this right now and seem to be enjoying it.

It would be nice to have a better theme. Perhaps a cursed item is being passed around and everyone is searching for it?

So my questions are somewhat open-ended:

  1. What themes make the most sense to make some more intuitive sense of the roles here?
  2. What improvements or suggestions do people have? What specific issues might come up?

I'm new to this forum, so apologies for any faux pas. Let me know how I can improve this question and what tags might be more appropriate.

  • Just as a general pointer, keep in mind that any hidden elements that require manual dexterity (such as knocking the table) will be able to figure out by means other than your gameplay, such as accurate hearing. Similar things go for telling who had their eyes open a second ago by looking at the reaction of their pupils. – TheThirdMan May 29 '17 at 19:56
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    It's not an answer to your question, but your idea shares some design elements to One Night Ultimate Werewolf, which you might be interested in looking into. – ConMan May 29 '17 at 23:07
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That feels like a nicely simplified Werewolf-like game that can work with fewer people.
However, I can think of a pretty major drawback, and that is the start of the game.

In a regular game of Werewolf it starts with a night, giving the werewolf players time to know which other werewolves are in play and giving a narrative justification for the lynching that is about to start happening on a daily basis.

In your example you start out by having the players randomly vote to expose one of the other players, without any chance of having information at this point. This could lead to some very cheap-feeling losses if the player that is accused just so happens to be the maffia player.

I feel like it would make more sense to start with a night phase, resolve the passing along and shuffling of roles once and then start exposing people. This way two of the players already have secret information to work with.

I imagine that this will still be a quite hectic game of accusing and bluffing, especially since at the end of the night players get to check their current role again if I understood your description correctly (step 9 instructs to go back to step 3, which includes checking the role).


As for flavour, the only way to win the game is for another player to be caught with the bad thing (in the mockup the maffia card / role), so it's something that a player would want found but not found on them...

Hmm, I can imagine a classroom setting where one of the students 'accidentally' put the class hamster in his or her bag. Everybody wants to see the hamster returned, but nobody wants to be the one getting the blame. The role cards can be different backpacks, with one of them clearly containing the hamster.
The juggler can be re-imagined as a student with a hall pass, or homework that he or she forgot to turn in so they have to rush back and accidentally rearrange some bags on the way.

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You might want to look at other social deduction games, such as Leaders of Euphoria and Bang! Note that as the number of players gets smaller, the need for some gameplay other than social deduction increases. For instance, in Bang!, it starts out as social deduction, but by the end of the game generally everyone knows what everyone is, and it comes down to who can play their cards best; the social deduction part is important in that if you can figure out other people's roles before they figure out yours, you have an advantage, but it's not the whole game. So you should see whether you can combine non-social deduction mechanics, either you own or an existing game, with social deduction. For instance, you could play a variant of Pandemic where one player is secretly a bioterrorist who is trying to get the diseases to spread. Or play Axis and Allies, but rather than having Germany and Japan be the Axis, secretly assign two countries to be "Axis": the Allies have the advantage of being the majority, but the Axis has the advantage of knowing who their teammate is (you'll probably also have to rebalance the countries).

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