Secret Hitler Overview
Is a party game really a party game if it doesn’t involve corruption, paranoia and wild accusations of Fascists? I thought not. Well my friend, read on and allow me to introduce you to the game that indeed ticks those boxes, Secret Hitler.
Aptly named, Secret Hitler is a hidden identity game where Liberals and Fascists fight to enact their policies and ultimately take control of government. To get into the spirit of this game let me take you back a few decades to when communism was king *cue flashback effect*. It’s 1930’s Germany and the fascists are beginning to rise to power. Are you one of them, hell-bent on getting Hitler elected as leader, or are you a liberal, determined to put an end to the fascist movement?
The story is yours to unfold as you play either a Liberal, Fascist, or Hitler himself, with the aim of overthrowing the other party. The Fascists are given a leg up in the game (I guess to make up for the inevitable accusations they will face) by knowing who the other Fascists and Hitler are. The Liberals have no idea who’s who and must deduce this as the game plays out. Be sharp - they are as likely to distrust another Liberal as they are a Fascist, so Fascists can play on this vulnerability throwing lies and accusations of other players to move the scent off of themselves and Hitler. Hitler, however, is as blind as the Liberals and must trust that his loyal devotees will play, protect and support him in his rise to the big bad throne of communist Nazi rule.
Secret Hitler contains 1 Fascist and 1 Liberal board where respective policies are placed, Presidential and Chancellor placards, player cards, and a policy deck containing Liberal and Fascist cards.
During set up, each player receives a randomly selected envelope containing 4 cards. In every envelope, each player will find their secret role, party membership, and their Ja and Nein voting cards. Secret identity cards will either say Liberal, Fascist, or Hitler. Liberals will always make up the majority players, and the number of players will determine whether there are 1, 2, or 3 Fascists alongside their ultimate leader.
Once everyone has discreetly examined their role, all players close their eyes. When prompted, Fascists can open their eyes to identify who the other Fascists is/are. Hitler will then be called on to raise his thumb so the Fascists can identify him, but Hitler is not to know who his loyal supporters are so must keep his eyes closed. The policy deck, made up of 11 Fascist and 6 Liberal cards are then shuffled together and placed face down, ready to be enacted.
When all is ready...it is time to begin.
Electing your Government
At the beginning of each round, the Presidential placard is handed to the next player in a clockwise direction. That new president in all his glory gets to nominate a Chancellor, someone he/she either believes to be trustful (if playing on the Liberal team), or someone they know will help them wreak some havoc on the Liberals. However, democracy still exists and it is up to the people to have final say by voting either Ja or Nein for the candidate. If the majority vote Ja, the candidate is elected Chancellor.
If there is a tie, or majority Nein votes, then the president has failed to elect his Chancellor and the presidential role is passed to the next person. When a vote fails, the fail counter is initiated. 3 failed votes and the top card of the policy pile is automatically enacted. This could play in either teams’ favour.
Once theChancellor has been voted in, it’s time to enact a policy. The President draws the top 3 cards from the policy pile and discreetly looks at them, before discarding one and handing 2 to the Chancellor. The Chancellor then takes a look at the 2 remaining cards, discards one and turns over the final remaining card for all to see, placing it on either the Liberal or Fascist board. Expect a sigh of relief and cheering from everyone if a Liberal card is turned over, but pay close attention, at least 2 of these members are outright lying about their “relief” in the Liberal policy being enacted.
Reveal a Fascist policy however, and expect the accusations to come out a-swingin’. Where did it all go so wrong? Did the pernicious President discard the only Liberal card, leaving the Chancellor with no choice but to play a Fascist card? Did the President hand over one of each, claiming the Chancellor is obviously a Fascist because they played the Fascist card? Is the President lying? If the President and Chancellor are singing two different tunes, how do you figure out which one is telling the truth? Alliances can quickly break in this game as paranoia and distrust spread between players like wildfire.
Liar Liar Pants on Fire
Once the first policy is enacted then a race begins to get all policy slots on a Liberal or Fascist board filled up. As policies are enacted and placed on the Fascist board, Presidential powers are introduced that can benefit either Liberal or Fascist, so it’s not always the worst idea for a Fascist policy to be chosen as it grants the President capabilities like investigating a players party membership card, or shooting a player (figuratively, of course). Such allowances can help a Liberal rule out if a player is a Fascist. However, if this game teaches you anything, it’s to not believe anything anyone tells you. A Fascist President is just as likely to look at a Liberal member’s card and try to claim they are the Fascist.
There are a few different ways in which Secret Hitler can be won. The first is when either party fills their board with policies. However, if the President successfully shoots Hitler (what a sentence) the Liberals win, but if Hitler is elected Chancellor after 3 Fascists policies have been placed on the board, the Fascists win.
The mistrust and paranoia this game elicits will have you doubting everything and everyone. If you happen to be playing for the Liberal party, you can be genuine in your search for ‘truth’ and conviction that you are an honest, law-abiding Liberal. However, the Fascists have the added challenge of convincing the other players of their “good-willed, innocent actions” while carefully conspiring their rise to the top.
I’m generally not good at bluffing so, naturally, the first time I played this I landed the superstar role of Hitler, and only had 1 faithful disciple to help me take control. Miraculously I somehow convinced all players that my sweet, innocent Liberal friend was either a Fascist or Hitler to which the more she screamed in frustration she wasn’t, only convinced them more she was - *cue evil laugh*. It was hilarious to say the least and lead to a very sweet win for myself and the other Fascist.
I really enjoyed this game, it had our group in stitches as accusations were flying everytime Chancellors were nominated and Fascist policies were played. What’s more, our group had a mix of seasoned boardgamers along with those who had no real experience playing anything beyond pictionary, but was easily picked up by them and fun was had by all. If you asked me if my nefarious character could once again convince the team someone else was Hitler it would probably be a no, but that’s what’s great about the game - you never know which way it’s gonna be played or what skilled bluffing mixed with some sheer dumb luck will create. I’d highly recommend this for any group of people looking for a laugh and a game where you’re guaranteed to say ‘Fascist’ more times than you ever have in your life.