The game of Werewolf evolved from an old Russian folk game. Commonly played at night around an open fire, with only the imaginations of the players. As such, Werewolf shares more in common with traditional games like I Spy, or Wink Murder, than most published card games sold today.
This version of Ultimate Werewolf was first published in 2008 by designer Ted Alspach and Bezier Games. They intended to provide a definitive, up-to-date Werewolf experience. Ultimate Werewolf is a social deduction game. Players attempt to work out which of them is an imposter, by questioning and analysing each other’s behaviour. Players are ‘killed off’ one by one until only the winners remain alive.
How It Plays
Ultimate Werewolf is for five or more players. One player acts as a moderator. They facilitate the various stages of the game for the benefit of everyone else. All other players are randomly assigned character cards that divide them into two teams - villagers or werewolves. The roles are secret, so only the werewolves and the moderator know who the werewolves are.
Every night phase, the werewolves decide which villager they will eliminate from the game. During the day phase, all players discuss who among them they think the imposters are. All then vote on who they will publically murder, by hanging. If all the werewolves are successfully hanged, the villagers win. If the werewolves ever come to outnumber the villagers, by murdering all but one or two of them, the werewolves win.
There is no physical evidence presented to help the villagers work out who is who, but some players may have special roles that add revealing powers to the game. One player, for instance, may be a Seer, who is able to peek at any other player’s character card once per night. Should they discover a werewolf, they may want to reveal this information to the group. But they may choose to be subtle about it, because doing so risks becoming a target of any remaining werewolves. The game, therefore, descends into a delicate balance of knowing when to tell the truth, and when to keep lying to stay alive.
Each game may last anywhere between 20-90 minutes, depending on the number of players.
Ultimate Werewolf contains 80 illustrated cards. There are role cards for the basic game (20 villagers, 12 werewolves, and 2 Seers). Plus more than 40 unique role cards that you can add to the game to provide a greater depth of intrigue. The cards are well designed and of moderate but acceptable quality.
The game comes with an excellent guide. With pages full of rules, insights, tips, strategies, and variants to help moderators adapt to different player groups.
A score pad is also included to help moderators keep track of multiple roles when needed.
Who is Ultimate Werewolf for?
Ultimate Werewolf is a party game, suited to a large number of players aged 8 and older. The rules of the basic game are simple and quick to learn. They can appeal to a wide range of ages, gaming experiences, and cultural backgrounds. I have found this game goes down well even with people who have never played games before, or who have otherwise decided never to play games again. One of the advantages of this game is that it doesn’t really feel like a game, but a story-led social activity.
Despite a large number of murders, Ultimate Werewolf never feels like a macabre experience. Everything plays out in the imagination and therefore has as much dramatic description as the group prefers.
The ability to introduce advanced rules makes it ideal for experienced gamers. It is great for groups who would otherwise be too numerous to play other games.
Early player elimination is a necessary part of Werewolf. When players are either murdered or hanged by their fellows, they must sit out the rest of the game as silent spectators. This may not be suitable for all situations. In my experience, if everyone is having fun, most people enjoy watching the outcome regardless.
Younger or very competitive children might find it difficult to play. It is very easy to cheat, by peeping when you should have your eyes closed. Though this might seem a trifling point, such a derision can make the game unplayable. Having said that, Ultimate Werewolf can be a very rewarding game for children. With a little patience, it can be a perfect tool to teach such persons how much fun you can have by playing fair.
The game might be too much for people who find intense social interaction frightening or difficult. Or people who become anxious when forced to lie or when scrutinised by other people. An adaptable moderator could alleviate some of these problems by creating a relaxed and non-competitive environment. But such a person is not included with the game and must be sought out separately.
At its heart, Ultimate Werewolf is a game that uses social skills to play and win. If you have these skills and enjoy lying shamelessly to your family and friends, then you will love this game.
I like playing this game, but I don’t love it. I tend to buckle under scrutiny and go red in the face when lying, so I usually end up eliminated rather quickly. What I do love is moderating the game, and I find myself doing so over and over again.
As an entertainer and educator, I find myself having to occupy the attention of large groups quite often. As an aide to this, my copy of Ultimate Werewolf is an indispensable tool. I can bring this handy, pocket-sized gem to any number of social situations. It almost always delivers a good hour or two of fun for everyone involved. From a gathering of friends to a gathering of strangers - from an unruly classroom to an otherwise shy group of adults. From a group of experienced gamers to a group of people who would normally run a mile from any other game. It continues to work wonders.
The option to roleplay your characters as you play adds a fun, storytelling element that works well for most groups, especially with children.
The only caveat, I would say, is that the quality of the game can be highly dependent on its delivery by the moderator. Not everybody takes to this game at first introduction, and I have had to suffer many failures as well as successes to learn how best to present it. But for those who persevere, and who are looking for flexible solutions to entertain large groups of people, herein lies wonders.