A couple of years ago, I learned a game from a Chinese grad student that he didn't know an English name for. I'd love to know if anybody knows about it and has a name I could use when explaining it to others. Here's the way it works:

There need to be at least four people playing, but I don't know if there's a maximum number of players. The game takes place in rounds where one person is the game master (GM) for each round.

The GM writes words on pieces of paper. Every paper except for one has the same word on it, but the remaining paper has a related, distinct word. The GM puts the papers in a bowl so that players pick without anybody knowing who has what word, even the GM.

Then players go around and say something about the word on their paper. After everyone has said something, the GM calls for the players to vote on the count of three by pointing to who they believe has the distinct word.

The GM checks to see if the player with the most votes has the distinct word or not. If it's not somebody with the distinct word, that player is eliminated and the remaining players go around again and say something else.

This continues until either the player with the distinct word is caught or there are only two players left, at which point the distinct word player wins.

There were only six of us playing when I learned about the game, but the guy who taught us the game said that there were additional rules to keep it competitive when there were more players. I think he said a third word would be added or something like that.

I just watched a video on YouTube of people playing a Japanese card game called "A Fake Artist Goes To New York" which was similar to my game (link to that video). The most obvious difference is that mine requires no drawing. But another significant difference is that in my game, nobody knows whether they have the distinct word or not. Everyone wants to be vague in case theirs is the distinct one, and it may continue to be hard to tell if things are kept vague enough.

Is anybody familiar with this game?

  • That's interesting. It definitely has a similar feel to Chameleon, with the glaring difference being that the Chameleon only knows what category of words; (s)he doesn't know a specific word. Feb 3, 2019 at 5:18
  • It's also pretty similar to Spyfall, which is more narratively driven but works more or less the same way. Feb 3, 2019 at 8:09
  • It's also similar to Elon Musk's iPod Submarine, with the difference being that Elon Musk knows only that he is Elon Musk, and the vagueness being mechanically enforced because you're only allowed to say two words. Nov 11, 2021 at 4:53

2 Answers 2


I don't know if the game and the rules you played has a certain name, but the basis of this game looks like from Word Wolf, a Werewolf game with words. The rules you played might be a variation/house rules of this game.

Preparation: Players get their own words (or "role")

  1. At least 4 participants, consisting of 1 GM and 3+ players
  2. The GM thinks of 2 different-but-related words (e.g. "Tennis" and "Table tennis") and decides which one is the "villagers" (the majority) and the "werewolves" (the minority; usually 1, but can be more if there are enough players)
  3. The GM writes these words on pieces of paper the same amount as the "villagers" and "werewolves", then fold and shuffle them (or anything to prevent the words easily guessed by the players and the GM)
  4. Each player then picks a paper and sees the words without telling anyone. They don't know if they are "villagers" or "werewolves"!

Playing: Players trying to guess if they are "villagers" or "werewolves" by discussing the words without revealing them. The "villagers" trying to hunt the "werewolves", and the "werewolves" trying to mix-in with or deceive the "villagers". This phase seems to have many variations, but usually free-talk with time-limit (just like the original Werewolf)

  1. The GM decides how long the round will be (e.g. 5 minutes), then starts the game
  2. Each player is free to say/ask something to gather information based on the other players' response, while at the same time trying their best to hide their identity from anyone
  3. When the round ends, the players simultaneously vote on who is the "werewolves" (a.k.a "lynching")
  4. If the majority votes are on a "werewolves", then the "villagers" win. Otherwise, the "werewolves" win. (It seems there's no default tie-breaking system, though usually it's done by re-voting on the players with the tied vote only)

That's the basis of the game, though it is easily extended with variations/house rules, such as (the naming is arbitrary; it's my own idea):

  • Reversal: if the majority votes are on the "werewolves", then they are given a chance once to guess the majority word. If it's correct, then the "werewolves" win
  • Turn-based: instead of the time-limit, the GM decides how many turns in a round, then each player has 1 chance to say/ask something in each round
  • Sequential: instead of free-talk, each player in sequential says/asks something
  • Long game: just like the original Werewolf, instead of a single independent round, it is played until all "werewolves" got hunted (the "villagers" win), or the amount of "werewolves" equals the "villagers" (the "werewolves" win). Each round, the "lynched" player is eliminated from the game
  • Outsider: The 3rd word is added, and is deemed as "villager"
  • and possibly many more...

This game is known as 誰是臥底 (Who Is Spy). It is created and popularized by a Chinese game show based on another long-standing word guessing game 捉鬼 (lit. Catching Ghosts). There are a number of different variant rules for both games. Usually, playing Who Is Spy with more players means adding more spies, but there are variants of Who Is Spy and Catching Ghosts with a third word or blanks.

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