Werewolves? There… there wolves! (I love early Mel Brooks – as far as I’m concerned, Space Balls was where he jumped the shark – PROVE ME WRONG) Yes, now you can be a Secret Hitler, go between Two Rooms and A Boom, spend One Night with an Alien/Vampire/Board Game Blogger… you can even go to a Mascarade, but once upon a time, there’s was only one game in town when it came to hidden identity games… Mafia.
Okay, so it was deemed that lycanthropes were cuddlier than organised crime bosses, so Werewolf was born and it’s alright nooooooow!
Bad Moon Rising
Werewolves, from Pegasus Games, is a full on family edition of 2001's Werewolves of Miller’s Hollow. For all of you familiar with this game, skip ahead (like Red Riding Hood on her way to Granny’s House).
For those unfamiliar, a quick rundown: at least six players (and up to 23!) take on the roles of either villagers or werewolves. One player takes on the role of narrator or referee (remember when more than six people could get together to do things other than shoot defenceless birds? Ah, such days…) The players keep their identities hidden, because… hidden identities, and play commences. The idea of the game is for the villagers to kill all the werewolves and the werewolves to see off all the villagers.
The core of the game is night-time and aftermath. During the night, everyone closes their eyes and the narrator tells various characters to open their eyes in turn. At one point in the night, the narrator tells the werewolves to open their eyes and choose a victim for their midnight snack – yum yum. In the morning, the narrator announces whether there has been a death and who it was. (Alternatively, the victim can keel over in a dramatic fashion if they are into that sort of thing.) The player reveals their identity and they are out of the game.
The remaining players then have to decide who is getting invited to a necktie party for one (though I would have thought that a silver bullet would have been more appropriate here). Everyone votes on who gets the noose and that player is out of the game. They too reveal their identity– pretty unforgiving, huh? Especially as the werewolves know each other’s identities and can start playing MIND GAMES with the villagers, who don’t. Yeah, if you thought you had trust issues with your friends… you ain’t seen nnnnuthin’ yet.
Blue Moon… I Saw You Standing Alone…
Now if it was just a case of villagers vs werewolves, this would be weighted pretty heavily in favour of the werewolves. Fortunately, some of the villagers have a specific skillset which they can bring to bear in the fight against the werewolves:
Cupid – okay, this one’s a pain. In the first night, before The Eatening, Cupid chooses two players to be lovers – they know who each other are – and if one lover dies, so does the other. Real awkward if one is a werewolf and the other is not.
Seer – very useful bod. The seer wakes up in the middle of the night and points to a player – the narrator has to say whether they are wolfish or not.
Witch – the witch has the power of life and DEAAAATH! Once per game. After the werewolves have struck, before the sun rises, the witch can choose to resurrect the victim. She can also choose to poison another player – very powerful, but only once.
Healer – Can point at one person during the night and heal them… only they’re not allowed to know who the victim is so… a bit hit and miss.
Hunter – like a doomsday device, the hunter can take vengeance from the grave and choose to shoot one other player if they are killed.
Red Riding Hood – RRH cannot be eaten if the hunter is still alive – if the hunter is dead, then she’s fair game.
Mayor – the mayor’s vote counts twice (only the narrator knows the identity of the mayor) because autocracy.
So it’s maybe a little fairer? As with all hidden identities, with great power comes great responsibility. Or rather: careful what you say during the day, ‘cos it might act as marinade for the night. Also, you might end up over-powering the villagers with too many special characters, which is why each card has a point value. The game suggests a maximum points for villagers and werewolves. It also gives you points for ‘easy’ games in favour of the villagers and ‘hard’ games in favour of the werewolves.
Bark at The Moon
When it comes to hidden identity games, we suffer from an embarrassment of riches, as seen above. There is something satisfying about getting back to the simplicity of the original game. I often get confused with what I’m supposed to do in massive games of One Night… or Two Rooms. This is why I am usually the narrator, which appeals to my amateur dramatic nature.
The simplicity of the game also keeps the ‘quarterbacking’ down to a minimum. You can always decide to lynch the know-it-all, regardless of whether you think they’re the werewolf or not. This version is made of good quality components too.
The cards are large, nicely illustrated and clearly labelled and made of good stock cardboard as well (the last time I played Miller’s Hollow, I nearly wept when I saw what one player’s sweaty paw was doing to my cards).
Sure, it is not as complex as something like Blood on the Clocktower, but it’s portable, affordable and perfect for the size of gatherings we can only dream of at the moment.