Ultimate Werewolf Legacy is the latest release in the line of social deduction games, this time adding the currently hot game evolution – a legacy mechanic (created by Rob Daviau). There are many secrets buried in this box that you are meant to uncover and enjoy over a period of time. As such, reviewing a game that changes over multiple plays and becomes marked with stickers that alter rules adding layers of new interactions, makes keeping it spoiler free quite difficult! Because of this I will mostly keep to an explanation of the basic game and the components.
How does it Work?
If you have never heard of ‘Werewolf’ before, it is a game where a group of players sit in a circle and are dealt a card with a villager or a werewolf on it. Depending on the player count there are only a few werewolf players, you win the game by killing all the villagers and staying alive.
Along with the players, the game requires a ‘moderator’ who effectively runs the game by reading aloud the phases of the turns and also makes sure no-one cheats…After the cards have been dealt, everyone shuts their eyes the moderator asks the werewolf players to open their eyes so they can see who else is on their team. No vocal communication is allowed between them so they have to rely on eye gestures or pointing as quietly as possible to not give the game away to the villagers who they are.
Starting with the first night, all the players shut their eyes again and werewolves are instructed to open theirs and pick a villager to eat. They then shut their eyes again and the moderator proceeds to inform the victim they have been killed. A really great moderator can drastically increase the theatrics of the game by walking around the group delaying the notice and gently tapping the victim, heightening the tension amongst the players.
The day cycle follows, where all players are told to open their eyes, find out who has died and then argue amongst themselves over whom to blame and pick a player to sacrifice in hope of picking a werewolf. The player who was murdered is unable to talk or give any further assistance to the living. Games of social deduction revel in this paranoia and the real meat of the game is how the werewolf players either shift the blame or tell lies to stay hidden.
It is a classic game that has seen many releases over the years including different variations. There are many different characters that can be added to the villager cards to give them special abilities and alter the course of the game. At the start of this version, the game is stripped back to the bare bones and then meat is added though additional characters.
Ultimate Werewolf Legacy comes in a large and heavy box, which is completely at odds to how it is normally presented. Previously, Ultimate Werewolf comes in a box no bigger than two decks of cards side-by-side, so what does this new legacy version contain?
Inside the Ultimate Werewolf Legacy box it is revealed that the main weight of the packaging is a huge gorgeous leather-bound ‘Diary’. This really is one of the best in-game assets I have ever seen in a board game. Due to the base game being fairly minimalist and only needing a deck of cards, Bezier Games really went to town with giving the legacy aspect a sense of grandeur.
The tome contains all the information for the moderator to run a series of 15 games broken up into five chapters of three games. There is a prologue game that introduces the rules and is a great way to start with new players not being left behind. Each chapter should last no more than three hours and are perfect for an evening's play. The moderator follows the rules within which is well written and easy to understand.
There is very little set-up time needed, although it is best for the moderator to scan the next chapter in advance to understand what may happen. As the games go by you begin to unravel how the legacy aspect adds new rules and how decisions taken in one game can affect the later plays. The moderator doesn’t have to be the same person through the entire campaign and players can be swapped in and out if you do not have access to the same playgroup throughout, although it is highly advised to only do so after a chapter has been completed in full.
After you have run through the entire campaign, your diary will tell a story unique to your players. Much like the board in Pandemic Legacy after completion, your diary becomes an artefact of the experience. It is a story that you and your friends actively engaged in and lived through that you can treasure for years to come. If you do wish to start again, with a new group or even the same players, you will need a ‘replay’ pack which can be bought separately online.
Aside from the diary, the game contains a deck of character cards with amazing artwork and some props for use during the games. One of the new features that I am able to talk about is players will be continuing through the various games as members of families. Depending on their actions, various families will lead the story in new directions and become unique to your friends. I really shouldn’t say any more…
Final Thoughts on Ultimate Werewolf Legacy
Ultimate Werewolf Legacy takes a fairly simple game and adds bells and whistles for a playgroup to explore over multiple sessions. If you're an experienced group of players of Werewolf, the legacy aspect should be more than appealing. If your group is used to playing with different player powers and modified rules it may be a shock to return to vanilla Werewolf and slowly unleash new aspects, but it is rewarding to unlock new parts.
If this is your first experience with the werewolf system I do not think you will be at a disadvantage. The diary explains everything neatly and whilst I would advise the moderator role to be taken by someone with prior experience it isn’t a necessity. If your friends have a gift for the dramatic and enjoy role-playing, the game really comes to life. Playing at night with the lights dimmed and perhaps a few candles it really becomes an evocative experience.
Legacy games generally have a finite play through time, leading to a climax that leaves you unable to start again. Like other similar games, a replay pack does extend the life of the game and extend longevity. If this is your first experience of Werewolf, I would be surprised if you didn’t want to play other variants afterwards and lead you to further purchases.
Finally, whether this game will suit you and your friends comes down to pure logistics. Ultimate Werewolf Legacy requires a minimum of nine players, which goes up to 16. If you have a regular group of that size or a large family of gamers it is perfect. Not many games are built for these numbers but in opposition if you only play with the same six people, this isn’t for you. With Christmas coming up and the inevitable family gatherings, maybe this would be the perfect alternative to play over the period instead of repeated hours of Monopoly.