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Lies and Deception in Board Games

Lies and Deception in Board Games - Sheriff of Nottingham

Lying. It’s bad. Certainly not a habit that any of us should be getting into. We all know that. So don’t do it, people! But  . . . maybe there are occasions that it’s okay to lie?

For example, there are board and card games out there that actively encourage us to relax a little, maybe start off with a teeny tiny lie - try it on for a while, see how it fits. After that, you might feel ready to follow, or maybe even lead, your friends into a battlefield of lies blowing up all around you.

These games are just so much fun. They offer a safe place to tell lies, to become a different character, to do what you can to win. Before you know it, you’re a pro liar, able to lie yourself out of any tricky situation . . . in games.

And that’s the key. To remember that it’s just a game, not real life.

I’ve often found it difficult to convince some of my friends and family to play such games because they don’t like the idea of having to lie. And I remind them that none of us like to lie, but the lies we tell in these games aren’t real. They won’t (or shouldn’t) end in hurt feelings or genuine distrust. These games need their players to get on board, to put aside their strict morals and remember that it is just a game. The lies you tell in these games hold no power in the real world.

With that in mind, here is a brief look at some fantastic games that have some or all players tell lies in order to achieve their goal of scoring a victory:

Cockroach Poker Royal (or Kaker Laken Poker Royal)

Cockroach Poker is a bluffing card game for 2-6 players in which there is no winner, just an individual loser. Nice, right?! All cards are brilliantly illustrated with grim creepy crawlies or pests, such as bats, green bugs, toads and cockroaches.

All cards are dealt out each round and will then start with one player handing a card face-down to one of their opponents, while declaring what pest it is. For example, they may say that it is a rat - and it may actually be a rat . . . or it may be something else. The player receiving the card now needs to decide whether they think they are telling the truth or if they are lying. And they can declare what they think and if they guess correctly, the card goes back to the player where it will be placed face up in front of them. But if they guess incorrectly, then the card stays face-up on the table in front of them.


They can choose to look at the card placed in front of them, see if their opponent had lied to them, and then pass it on to someone else at the table and confirm it was a rat or assure them that it is actually a bat.

And so play continues this way until one player has four of one type of pest in front of them. That person is the loser.

This game is silly fun and will have everyone in the group talking, laughing and giving each other suspicious looks.

The Resistance

This is such a great social deduction game for four to 10 players in which there are teams of Spies (bad guys) and Resistance members (good guys). Only Spies will know who each other are going into the game and it is their job to make sure that the Resistance fail to complete their missions.

The Resistance must attempt to figure out who the spies are among them and make sure that they are nowhere near any mission so that they will succeed in bringing down the oppressive leading government.

There will be a total of five missions going ahead in a game of The Resistance. If at least three missions are successful, the Resistance win. If there is at least three failed missions, the Spies win.

If a Resistance member is taken on a mission by the captain (a role that rotates every round) they can only put down a ‘Success’ card. If a Spy is taken on a mission, they can play a ‘Success’ card or a ‘Fail’ card. If there is any Fail cards in the pile when they are revealed by the captain, the mission fails.

It is so much fun being a spy and trying to convince other players at the table that you are trustworthy, that you would never let the team down and then reveal yourself after having defeated the Resistance.

It is equally fun being a good guy and telling the truth at every turn and trying to convince people that you are good. Boy it can be frustrating when people don’t believe you though. But can you blame them when you deceived them so badly in the previous game?!

I have never played just one game of The Resistance. It is so moreish and an entire games night could be taken up by this game, which isn’t bad for what is really a filler party game.

Dead of Winter

There is so much to this heavy zombie themed game that I won’t be able to fit all info in here, so I’ll focus on the social deduction/lying aspect. Dead of Winter is so thematic you can almost feel the zombie guts dripping off the board as you work with the other players to succeed in completing your chosen scenario.

Only thing is, there might be a betrayer among you. There also may not, but it would be foolish to give complete trust to those around you.

If you are the betrayer, it is a fine balance of helping the group to succeed in each round's Crisis, while also keeping information and items to yourself so that you can succeed in your own betrayal mission. It’s most fun to reveal yourself at some point towards the end, but if you give yourself away too soon, the other players can vote to Exile you and you’ll have to take a new personal objective.

If I’m honest, I’m always a little disappointed when it turns out we are all on the same team. For me, this game needs there to be someone working against the group, to throw an extra spanner in the works to overcome. But it is so much fun accusing members of the group for acting a little strange, or for not contributing to overcome each rounds crisis, or for just making a strange decision.

Sheriff of Nottingham

This is the final game that encourages lying that I will cover. In Sheriff of Nottingham, players are merchants, hoping to get their goods into Nottingham so that they may sell them and earn a living. But to get into Nottingham, they must first be granted entrance by the Sheriff.

Each round, one player will be the Sheriff. They will be handed little pouches that hold goods cards by the other players. These goods may be apples, cheese, chickens or bread.

Or they may be contraband; silk, crossbows, royal cheese, mead, pepper are a few. These contraband are worth a hefty sum, so long as the Sheriff is foolish enough to let you into Nottingham without checking your pouch.

The player giving the pouches must only tell the truth about how many items are in the sack. They can be truthful about everything else, or they can tell a little fib, or a bold faced lie. For example, they may declare that there are three apples in the pouch, when actually there’s an apple, a crossbow and some cheese.  

If the Sheriff refuses access, they open the pouch and see what’s inside. Players will have to pay a fine for being caught smuggling contraband or undeclared goods,but if the Sheriff finds that everything is in order, he/she must pay the player the fine as an apology for misjudging them.

Just to add another element of deception, players are also allowed to offer the Sheriff a bribe to sweeten the deal. It is up to the Sheriff to decide whether they can be bought or not.

The game ends after each player has been the Sheriff twice. Players then count up their money/goods and they player with the highest value wins.

It feels so good to get a whole pouch full of contraband through or to catch someone who is hoping to fool you. This is another game that will have players chatting and laughing from beginning to end, and you couldn’t hope for more than that.