20 Questions with an app? Doesn't sound like the most exciting premise right? When was the last time you played a game of 20 Questions with anyone? I'm sure the majority of you would have found something a bit more enjoyable to do on your long journey, call the parents, listen to some music or something. It's simple yes, but we don't go out of our way to play it these days. Is the inclusion of a traitor mechanic however a reason to revisit this old classic?
Now another game has already done this, Insider. However I wasn't a big fan of that one and it came down to a couple of reasons. Firstly it was horrendously group dependent - a quiet, introverted person could shut the game down because they stick out like such a sore thumb. Secondly, I didn't like the idea that the person that was trying to hide, had to help out the group as well - it confused a few players and it doesn't make much sense. So will the familiar werewolves plus an app be able to improve on this formula?
In Werewords, players guess a secret word by asking “yes” or “no” questions. Figure out the magic word before time is up, and you win! However, one of the players is secretly a werewolf who is not only working against you, but also knows the word. If you don’t guess the word in time, you can still win by identifying the werewolf!
To help you out, one player is the Seer, who knows the word, but has to be careful not be too obvious when helping you figure it out; if the word is guessed, the Werewolf can pull out a win by identifying the Seer! Thus most of the game hinges on the Seer and the Werewolf, as they need to affect the data being revealed without making their roles apparent.
A free iOS/Android app provides thousands of words in hundreds of categories at various difficulty levels, so everyone can play. However be careful not to place too much reliance on your Mayor, for he/she might be a werewolf in disguise and thus has chosen the hardest word possible for your team!
Ask me a Question
There are not a lot of components present, but then there doesn't need to be. It's mostly all in the app, which contains a huge word bank of over 10,000 words with customisable word difficulty. Insider always had an issue where the game was dependent on how hard the word was, because you couldn't tweak it. Here, if you want a challenge, simply pick a harder difficulty and the app does the rest. Of course, easy and hard is relative when it comes to a clue you don't know! It's a very polished piece of software though, easy to use, intuitive and does the job nicely.
Another hiccup with Insider was that the concept of trying to help the group, yet also be subtle enough to remain hidden, was always a bit tricky for new players to grasp. You may have more roles in Werewords, but the concept is simplified. You have bad players sabotaging the guess and good players trying to aid it. Nice and straightforward, good vs evil mentality. However the Mayor rule can throw a spanner in the works having the ability to end up as a werewolf as well. That word was really tricky. Was it because the group weren't good enough or did the Mayor pick a nasty word on purpose? You won't be surprised to hear that you get accused of being a werewolf A LOT as the mayor!
The game always comes down to a vote, even when the guessing fails, which is good as it means it's not an auto-fail if you don't get the word. Of course, the flip side is that it's not an auto-success if the word is guessed, but that's the beauty of the Werewolf system. There's always a second chance to bounce back if things don't go your way and that's what I love about it.
The Elephant approaches the Room
Like One Night, there's only one round of gameplay, and everything is over in five to 10 minutes - so this is perfect to fill a gap at the end of the game night and is a cinch to teach. Unlike One Night, there aren't 10 different roles to explain, technically only two as Villagers are pretty self explanatory.
As a result, Werewords is streamlined to a 'T' and can be approached by anybody, gamer or otherwise. Everyone has heard of 20 questions, so you're just explaining a few extra bits on top. The large quantity of words in the app database mean an almost infinite level of replay-ability and you can tweak the difficulty settings to suit any group. And that's before you even consider adding your own list of words or ones that other people have come up with. I wonder if there are themed lists like James Bond or Doctor Who? That would be cool.
If anything, the main thing that hurts it a little is that you do only have a few unique roles present, but then that does help keep the game simple. However Werewords Deluxe is on Kickstarter right now and when that releases, you'll get more content and roles on top so help is on the way.
Verdict on Werewords
I enjoy social deduction games a lot so when the market is bloated for this genre, I like to pick the ones I put my stamp behind with more scrutiny than usual. Werewords is a great blend of a classic concept with a modern gaming style and the app makes the experience as smooth as possible. When comparing the gameplay to Insider, this is the one I would prefer to play hands down. Both are portable games as everyone carries around a smartphone these days, but I think the traitor mechanic is handled better here.
You can play Werewords several times in one evening, it's easy to teach and approachable by anyone really, not just gamers. Relatively inexpensive (remember time was put into that app) to boot and you have a solid party game that is certainly worth considering for that small hole in your collection.