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Secret Hitler – Second Opinion

secret hitler

When I am in the mood for a good party game amongst my friends, no board game does it like Secret Hitler. It is unique in that it presents an interesting opportunity to extract the social dynamics of the group with which you play this game - some may be silent and calculating (or clueless!), some may be loud and opinionated, and some may be cunning and manipulative. It is the last bit that always brings the most shock value to any play session and I am always amused to find out how people can so convincingly sell me on a series of lies!


The game’s theming is very much on point and a simple and consistent design is present throughout the box and all its contents. Secret Hitler is about you and your group of friends playing German policymakers during the year 1932, a few years before the start of WW2. Fascism is on the rise and despite most of you working your best to create a Liberal Germany, a few of you have a different, more Fascist, version of Germany in mind. As you might have guessed, it follows the format of a hidden role game, similar to classic games like Mafia or Werewolf. But it uses its political nature to create two whole teams battling it out to take control of the government.


As a Liberal, there are two ways of winning the game: either you pass all 5 Liberal policies on your board, or at some point in the middle of the game, you assassinate Secret Hitler. As a Fascist, you may either pass 6 Fascist policies or secure Hitler’s place as a Chancellor in the elected government after at least 3 Fascist policies have already been passed. Each round involves voting to elect a government consisting of the President and a Chancellor, wherein after the voting is successful, the President picks up 3 policy cards from the draw deck, discards one and passes the remaining two to the Chancellor. Then the Chancellor decides to discard another policy card and pass the remaining one onto the appropriate board. The gameplay flow is quite smooth and easy to follow and allows for a lot of speculation and discussion between rounds - which is where this game shines. It is in these discussions you may extract the social dynamics of your friend group! The base strategy of any player is to be as convincing a liberal as possible and sway the opinions of the majority. It is a battle of your word against theirs because even if you get into an argument with someone else over the validity of your allegiance to the Liberal party, you may never pull out the discarded policies to prove your point.


There is a dichotomy in the way the game is played because as a Liberal, your strength lies in numbers, but you collectively know nothing and cannot afford to trust anyone easily. The Fascists on the other hand are few and far between but they know everything - who the other Fascists are around the table and who is their leader, the Secret Hitler. Depending on the player count, the twist is that Hitler may or may not know who the Fascists are. So the Fascists must work double-time to help Hitler locate them so they all work together to win. With more Fascist policies enacted, extra actions/powers must be taken by the President responsible for passing them. These may include discretely seeing a chosen player’s party membership, assassination, or enabling veto powers. The last power is very interesting because it only activates once the 5th Fascist policy is enacted, indicating that the Liberals are close to defeat. However, once enabled it affords the Liberals a final fighting chance to get back in the game because it thereafter allows both the Chancellor and the President to veto all 3 policies that were just drawn, if not to their liking.

Generally, I find that this game works best when it is allowed to be the most chaotic - when played with a group of 10. This allows room for not only the Liberals to play to the strength of the Liberal majority and convince the masses of their beliefs, but it forces the Fascists to employ meaner strategies in twisting the intentions of other players in the game as each policy is put down on the board. In this way, I find that there is a 50/50 split outcome between either team winning, given that each side of the table plays the game properly. So, I rarely pull this one out of the shelf when there are only 5-6 players as the game is unfortunately inferior this way.

X-tra Spice

I highly recommend going all out with the theme and turning it into a speakeasy cocktail party to serve up some interesting drinks from the prohibition era, especially if your player group is already familiar with the game. Get your friends to dress up like it’s the 30s and put on some swing jazz for the ambience. Secret Hitler certainly does not require you to commit to the bit, but I always find people tend to be receptive to going all-in with the immersion.

The online community for Secret Hitler is very active and you can even download the digital pdf and print out all its contents without having to buy it. As the creators have been quite liberal about their game, there are now free open-source expansions: the Secret Hitler Socialist Expansion and Secret Hitler XL which add new parties such as the Socialists and the Communists respectively into the mix. These introduce different win conditions and include bonus actions or party powers on the new boards. The artwork is also quite consistent with the original’s design and if you fancy hosting a party for up to 19-20 players, then Secret Hitler XL is the logical upgrade for the base game.

Final Remarks

Social deduction games heavily rely on the ability of their players to be convincing liars. So no matter how good the game, if your players are terrible liars, then they may not grow fond of Secret Hitler. After a few rounds of this game, you and your players may note that there are way more Fascist than Liberal policies. I remember making the cardinal mistake of once playing Secret Hitler with friends who are economists and statisticians. One of them had the bright idea of peeking at the policy deck and keeping track of the total number of Liberal and Fascist policies. They eventually devised a statistical meta after a few policies were enacted which robbed the game of its suspense and paranoia because their predictions were pretty much on point! Nevertheless, this once cult classic game fully deserves its mainstream appeal of being one of the best secret role + social deduction games out there and I cannot recommend this enough to anyone looking to take their first step into the board game hobby.