Friday, July 18, 2008

Memories of a Dead Seer: Werewolf at Foocamp08!

Werewolf at Foocamp08
Originally uploaded by nickbilton.

Foo Camp, a.k.a "shangri la for geeks", is, among other things, the premiere laboratory for Werewolf hacks.*

We get to play A LOT of Werewolf. Typically at least 12 solid hours of Werewolf play, divided over two nights. This year, we played 10:oo PM until 3:30 AM (Friday) and then 11:00 PM until 6:30 AM (Saturday). It's the perfect way to interact with people who might otherwise intimidate you with how awesome they are, and to crush your own introverted instincts if you have them. That's why, I think, it's become such a staple at tech and geek events.

But nothing compares to the Werewolf @ FOO. We play it iteratively -- usually more than one circle is going at at time, in nearby rooms, and we move across circles and rooms, ultimately playing many, many games together in different combinations and size groups. We also play with a lot of history -- many of us have played dozens or even hundreds of games with each other, and we have a lot of information accumulated over those games that we use to try to analyze each other.

The end result is an extremely high level (you might say professional level!) of Werewolf gameplay. A lot of people stand around watching the games like a spectator sport (cool) -- at least 'til midnight (And by sunrise, it's only the hard-core players playing). Newbies get brought up to speed VERY quickly and are expected to play quite well (and actively) or get picked off early by the villagers ("Lynch the quiet people! They're not contributing!"). The expectation for elite gameplay can be seen on the Foo schedule in the photograph "new players welcome; experts really welcome!!"

It varies from conference to conference and year to year how well we hit the "sweet spot" of newbie/expert balance, but if you're curious, after this year's Foo, I can say pretty confidently that we've determined the ideal ratio for Werewolf innovation is between 25% and 33% first-time players in any given circle at the start of the night, and working it down to less than 10% first-time players in any given circle in all subsequent rounds. It's good to have some first-time players around because sometimes they think of weird ideas unbiased by previous experience. It also makes it more challenging for experienced players, since the new players' tells haven't been learned yet. (Yes, Werewolf players have tells just like poker players -- and learning to control and misdirect others with your tells is one of the most important meta-stratgies!) Most importantly, to spread the Werewolf phenomenon, you have to let new players play! And a big part of the fun is finding out who is surprisingly awesome. You never know who will turn out to be an amazing player... Last Foo, I thought Kati London was the big surprise star player. And this year, for instance, I was particularly impressed by the gameplay of newbie Nick Bilton (R & D/Future thinker for the NY Times).

As may already be apparent from the discussion in this post, in addition to the gameplay there's tons of theorizing. At previous Foo Camps, we've held extremely useful informal game theory lunches to discuss and create charts and tables of "optimal villager strategies" and "optimal werewolf strategies" and most controversially "optimal seer and healer strategies" (often very dependent on each other). We always say we're going to start a wiki to share these, but we haven't yet. Last year, we held a formal session to discuss Werewolf game strategy and thought just a few people would show up for an intense conversation; instead we had one of the biggest rooms packed and overflowing with people on the floor and out the door. I might be crazy, but I don't think it was JUST curiosity about game theory -- I think there's actually a little bit of social currency and prestige involved with being a good Werewolf players in the tech community. I don't think that's the main motivation of Werewolf players, but you certainly do have an easier time striking up conversations and meetings with fellow players if you do something clever in a game. For me, I usually throw out business cards I get at conferences (whoops, did I admit that?) but I always Google/Facebook friend/Twitter follow people who were interesting Werewolf players.

So, what happened at our Werewolf hacking lab @ FOO this year? Well, last year, at FOO ’07, Avi Bryant and I worked out on paper an Ultimate Optimal Villager Strategy for a Small Village playing “no reveal” (12 or fewer players, with both a seer and a healer). This is basically a PERFECT strategy that would work ruthlessly well to detect and lynch all of the Werewolves every single game, in almost any circumstance. We did all the math, we ran all the scenarios, and then we tested it in a bunch of games with lots of different players. And in ~20 games, the villagers won every time. (Since then, I’ve only seen the Ultimate Optimal Villager strategy fail once, more on that to come).

Here’s how it works. But before I walk you through the logic, please note: this is perfect from a GAME THEORY perspective only. It only works when 1) all of the villager players accept the premise and agree to play according to this strategy and 2) all of the villager players are acting rationally, in the best interest of the village. As we all know from attempting to apply game theory to real life, people are often irrational and don’t follow optimal strategies. So, while villagers win 95% of the time in an ideal mathematical/game theory world, in reality I would say that irrational actors and recalcitrant healers could probably drop the success rate as low as 80%, but only if at least several players were acting like complete and total idiots in combination.

Okay, so the BEST village strategy EVER:

1) The HEALER must heal him or herself on the first night. This ensures the healer is alive on day one, and everyone in the village will know that.

2) The SEER must reveal him or herself on the first day, immediately upon awakening, assuming they have not been killed. (WEREWOLVES have only a 1/10 or 1/9 chance of successfully killing the SEER randomly on the first night, so in the vast majority of games, the SEER is still alive.) There should be no discussion, no thinking, the SEER must simply REVEAL their identity. They should also say what they learned in the night (who they investigated, and what they found out.) At this point, one of two things will happen: Someone else will claim to be the SEER, or no one else will claim to be the SEER. If no one else claims to be the SEER, no problem, the village trusts the SEER. (Keep the other option in mind for a moment, we’ll come back to it)

3) At this point, the OTHER VILLAGERS should accept that this is the real SEER and trust all information the SEER provides for the rest of the game. The SEER becomes a de facto leader of the village. The VILLAGERS can advise the SEER on who to investigate based on their suspicions.

4) The HEALER must heal the SEER every single night, no matter what.

5) If the VILLAGE attempts to lynch the HEALER, the HEALER should out themselves as the healer only as a last resort if it looks like they are going to lose the vote. They should plead not to be lynched, hopefully save themselves from the lynching, and then alternate between healing themselves and the SEER randomly each night, thwarting WEREWOLF efforts to get one of them and prolonging the number of rounds the seer has to investigate.

6) The SEER must reveal what they found out straightaway every single day, no matter what. The VILLAGE should reseat itself, for visual clarity: safe “investigated” players who are proven villagers sit together with the SEER, uninvestigated/unsafe players sit together awaiting their fate.

7) If the WEREWOLVES got the SEER on the first night, then normal Werewolf odds apply. This would be 100% effective if the SEER couldn’t’ be killed on the first night; averaging normal village success rates (~55%) with the perfect success rate at the right weights (90% of the time the SEER isn’t killed the first round) results in a success rate of 95.5% for villagers under this strategy, NOT allowing for awesome and unlikely Werewolf counterstrategy. Which goes as follows…

If a VILLAGE plays this way, the WEREWOLVES have only a few viable strategies to stop their inevitable discovery and lynching.

So here’s the counter-strategy that rarely works, but are the only viable options if a VILLAGE really has its game together:

A) It goes without saying that the Werewolves must always kill “investigated” players so that the pool of “uninvestigated” players remains as big as possible, for them to hide in.

B) After 2-3 nights, they should attempt to kill the seer in the hopes that the healer has died. This is really their only chance to get far enough in the game that enough uninvestigated villagers remain.

C) One of the WEREWOLVES can claim to be the SEER immediately upon waking up, either before the real SEER does, or right after, claiming “WAIT A MINUTE! But I’M the real SEER…” At this point, they have to out-perform each other to earn the village’s trust, and in a best-case scenario, the Werewolf has a 50% chance of winning the village’s trust. The villagers know one is the real SEER and the other is almost certainly a Werewolf. (Well, they could be a drunk, reckless villager – see the note on “irrational players” and game theory above. ^_^)

From my experience, however, this gambit almost always fails. Here’s why. 1) Most Werewolves REALLY don’t want to draw attention to themselves, so they VERY rarely claim falsely to be the Seer, even though it means they are doomed not to claim it. In that first day, they have a powerful instinct to try to “fly under the radar” and an aversion to being called out right away. So you very rarely see two battling Seers. However, if they do take the risk, villagers almost ALWAYS can tell the difference between a real seer and a lying werewolf. You have to trust my observations on this, or try it yourself. It is pretty easy to tell the difference in the first daytime between an honest seer and a lying Werewolf. The Werewolves almost always fail on this gambit.

Having played nearly 100 games with the Ultimate Optimal Villager strategy, I have only ONCE seen a Werewolf play this strategy and pull it off. (In games where the village isn't playing by this strategy, it's actually quite common for a Werewolf to successfully claim to be the Seer.) It will probably hurt me in future games to admit that this was a game in which I was the Werewolf and Jimmy Wales was the Seer and investigated me on the first night. So, um, forget that I said that. There is ONE advantage the Werewolves occasionally gain by this gambit, even if the villagers correctly identify the Werewolf as a liar. In an imperfect world, the villagers will decide at this point to abandon the strategy and lynch BOTH the so-called seers, knowing they will get at least one werewolf out, guaranteed. This is not technically a valid move in the optimal strategy, which says you just HAVE to play as if you believe the seer is the right seer. But it happens, and it mildly favors the villagers, so even in an irrational world, it still helps to have the seer come out round one.

D) Alternately, a Werewolf can claim privately to be the HEALER to the SEER, through whispering or eye contact or such. The advantage that could be gained here is that the SEER might forestall investigating the Werewolf because the SEER now trusts that person and concentrates on investigating others. I’ve never seen this work, but it theoretically could improve the Werewolves’ odds of surviving long enough to get the SEER and outplay the rest of the VILLAGERS.

(by the way, how awesome would it be to teach a beginning game theory class using WEREWOLF instead of that idiotically simplistic prisoner’s dilemma?)

So, the cool thing about FOO is that more than half of attendees from year to year are new, and hardly anyone in my Saturday night Werewolf circle had been persuaded of the Ultimate Optimal Villager Strategy the year before. So I had to try to persuade a whole new set of players of how amazingly effective it was. THIS WAS A HUGE CHALLENGE. Mostly because it’s totally conventional wisdom that the seer and healer should keep their identities secret as long as possible, so they don’t get eaten by werewolves.

So, one game, sometime after midnight, I got the Seer card in a small village, was nominated for lynching the first round, and so of course I outed myself and said “But don’t worry! This is fine! This is perfect!” At which point I tried to introduce the other players to the Ultimate Optimal Seer Strategy. It was NOT well received! OMG. They thought I was crazy, crazy wrong. It was SO counter-intuitive. (And hard to walk through all of the game theory and get people to listen and not seem crazy while actually playing a game, lol.) They went through all the arguments: It was too dangerous for a seer to come out in the first round, you couldn’t count on the healer to heal them, the werewolves could be too tricky and the village would fall for their lies, and so on. And naturally, the healer refused to heal me that night, the werewolves got me, and on it went. I was so mad that I scrawled across the whiteboard “THE HEALER NEEDS TO LEARN MATH!!!!!” in the middle of the “night”, and once the healer got picked off, he and I and another dead villager went out in the hall and had a raging argument. REALLY raging. Friendly, but wild. The argument was only settled 5 games later... five games in which we had agreed to test the strategy and saw the villagers win perfect games lasting about 10 minutes each (that’s really short!!!). In fact, after that point, when it was conceded by all that from a game theory perspective this was really ridiculously effective, we had to stop playing with that strategy. It was too boring to be that good of a village! (And really stressful to be a Werewolf in that environment) So we told the Seer to do something crazy, abandon that strategy, and on we went for another few hours…

I could write for hours more about the interesting Werewolf phenomena at this camp, but I’ll close with just one more story. With the help of co-conspirators Cal Henderson and Kati London, I decided to moderate a final game at 6 AM – what we called “The Meta Game”. I would put ZERO Werewolf cards in the deck, and NO Seer and NO Healer. But the PLAYERS would be told that there were 2 werewolves and a seer and a healer. They would each get a VILLAGER card and assume the special roles had been received by others in the group. I would go through the night as usual, “waking” people up, getting their input, and so on. I would just decide who to kill based on who was actively participating (I killed off the least active participant from the previous day each night.) So I faked the whole game that way. I killed Kati first so she could “welcome” each killed/lynched player and convince them to keep quiet while the rest of the game played out. Cal I kept alive a few rounds because he’s funny, but eventually I had to kill him so that the endgame could play out with truly “in the dark” players.

When there were only 5 players left, I decided to announce no deaths in the daytime, thus convincing them the healer was still alive and had saved himself or herself. They were quite flustered when no one would admit to being the healer! (They assumed the seer was long dead). They descended deeper and deeper into truly spectacular confusion, and we played to a final endgame of 3 people, which in normal Werewolf would mean that there was 1 werewolf in the circle and 2 villagers. They went nuts trying to persuade each other that they were really villagers and not werewolves. This was great, because they were all telling the truth! They were so infuriated with each other they were throwing food and such. Literally. Throwing food. At each other. It was awesome beyond awesome. They finally settled on one last person to lynch, at which point I perversely announced that the Werewolves had won. Meaning they would have lynched the wrong person. Their jaws dropped, they stared at each other, frantically trying to figure out, “Who was it? What just happened?” It was pretty priceless. At which point all was revealed. To much celebration. The next day, one of the final 3 players came up to me still excited and said he hadn’t been able to sleep for an hour and a half, he was so keyed up thinking about the final game. AWESOME.


* One of the first Werewolf hacks that the FOO/O'Reilly community has been really active in propagating is the fact that we call it "Werewolf" instead of "Mafia", which is the original variant's name but was re-proposed by this guy as Werewolf. I love this, because I spent about a year observing the difference in roleplaying strategies that emerge when people play "Mafia" versus "Werewolf" versus "Vampires" versus "Witchhunt" versus "Zombie Village." I find that Werewolf killing seems to be taken less personally -- players are less offended being eaten by Werewolves in the night than picked off by the mafia in the night. Because there is the potential for a little bit of actual bullying in a game like this and a lot of potential for hurt feelings (why did you kill me??!!!), I think it's important to stick with metaphors that de-personalize the process. Werewolf also seems to evoke the least amount of fictional role playing/posturing and the most game theory and real-person interaction. All of this probably sounds hard to believe -- why would the game metaphor change interaction so much, and is it really consistent across groups? I haven't done a scientific study, these are only ethnographic impressions, but I have a gut sense they are pretty valid. Chat me up about this sometime, I have lots more to say on the subject! At any rate, some of us would like to see wikipedia stop redirecting the Werewolf article to the Mafia article, but we haven't really made a good case for that yet to the wikipedia elite. Maybe at Foo '09 we will stage our wikipedia revolt!

UPDATE: First, in the comments of this post, some EXCELLENT ideas and strategies. Take a look! (And thank you to everyone for adding them.) I am particularly enamored of the "neighbor" strategy, which I have never encountered in Werewolf play. I will DEFINITELY be trying it at the next Werewolf night! Second, this is a really interesting analysis of this post from the angle of "What does it mean to 'solve' a game?" Maybe it's a little meta to link to it, but I'm just such a geek and who could resist a blog called "Geek Out New York"? Third, I just wanted to add that I love playing in different combinations of characters: Seer/No Healer, Reveal/No Specials, No Reveal/No Specials in REALLY small groups, like 5-7 (we call this "Speed Werewolf"), Medical Examiner (my own invention, play with me to find out how it works!) and so on... the great thing about Werewolf/Mafia/etc. is that there are endless variations, and EACH has its own optimal strategy. So the game theory and the geeking out never has to end!


Anonymous said...

We've got a Werewolf wiki up on It's not that extensive yet, but we're slowly working on it. I've never tried the Ultimate Optimal Villager strategy before, but it makes perfect sense!

I've got to arrange more Werewolf nights; I haven't played since Hide&Seek and I'm craving some Werewolf action :D

Jim said...

I love the story of your All Villager Extravaganza. I will forever suspect any game you moderate from this point forward.

In Ruby/Rails circles, your metric for choosing the least participatory player is know as "The Marcel Utility Factor," named for Marcel Molina, Jr. who frequently advocates lynching the "least useful villager."

Anonymous said...

I ended up mostly moderating games @ Foo, and while I probably should have played more often, I love watching new players - and (perhaps as expected) the skills of some of the new(er) players (Luke Kanies, Michael Lopp, etc.) were good enough to make them competitive right from the get-go. (Plus, I caught about a dozen player's tells...)

One of the other things Foo did very well is set up the "quiet people die" culture for new players.

I hope that most of the dozen or so new players who played in the upper room take Werewolf back to their hometowns. We need a more regular game in Seattle. And I'm sorry I missed the infamous zero-werewolf game. Next year!

LeCrapaud said...

Do you know the French version of Wereworlf (Loup Garou). It seems slightly different to the one you use.
First the healer becomes the witch and can save only one person during a game (and can also kill one). It brakes your optimal strategy. It also introduces some new characters (which makes any optimal strategy more difficult to build).

Have a look there (in French):

Anonymous said...

I've always been a little iffy on including the Healer in a game---preferring The Witch (one cure, one kill).

Your Ultimate strategy pretty much confirms my opinion.

I AM wondering how a reveal game would change the details. Only slightly...the werewolves would not have to waste attempts on the Seer---but could continue hunting for the Healer.

A: Have you tried that?
B: What could you add to the game to fix it, and leave the Healer in place?

ra-gn'iolk said...

I find it amusing to note that you, a game designer/theorist, really like gaming the system, and chose that over roleplay.

The times I've played mafia/werewolf the emphasis has been roleplay and gaming the system is frowned upon.

Quite often in the miniatures/wargaming hobby people take great offense at people who attempt "ideal"strategies. And those irrational villagers that throw the wrench in the works are praised.

Someday if you're in Chicago I'd love to gather a posse to play werewolf your style.

Anonymous said...

We used to play Mafia with my friends some years ago almost everyday but we hadn't played for a long time.
Yesterday I read this post and made my friends play with me again.
It was one of the best night of Mafia I had. I got to be the killer twice.
The first time I was alone during almost all the game and I had to kill everyone and defend myself without help but you know what? I won! Everyone was amazed of my acting hahahaha
The second time I was discovered by the other players on the last turn. I think I a friend recorded a short video. I'll tell you if I upload it on YouTube.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting this. (I had a FooCamp invite but I wasn't able to get there.) I am always interested to see how Werewolf/Mafia are being played.

I really like the "kill the quiet player" dynamic.

When I first learned the game, Healer wasn't a standard role -- there were many ideas for variations of roles, including that one, but they were *variations* and not the basic form of the game. Given what you've said, it sounds like the Healer is just too powerful.

How do you think the game would run if there were just werewolves and a seer, and the villagers tried the openness/cooperate strategy? It seems to me that, regardless of your experience, the wolves would eventually learn to fake being a seer uniformly.

Unknown said...

Jane, sad I wasn't at Foo this year to participate. I've had similar problems convincing new groups of The Strategy. Thrilled you've gathered so much data since we talked about this last year...

Anonymous said...

So, the Optimal strategy makes sense intuitively... but could you show your math?

Anonymous said...

I found it interesting to read your description of the Ultimate Optimal Villager strategy.. a strategy that had evolved naturally over at (live chat mafia). The strategy works well, but it dulls the fun of the game and turns it into statistical analysis, not an exciting logic puzzle... Good thing EM's founder added roles that make strategies like that an impossible gambit. If I ever got a chance to attend, I would love to.. the all villager setup sounded extremely fun and I will be trying it out in forum mafia soon.

whim said...

This may be old news, but here in Portland we've just started playing a variation that makes the game dramatically more interesting. It is called "neighbor".

In "neighbor" there are no special roles (no seer, no healer, no little girl, etc.) -- just villagers and werewolves. Each night, the werewolves kill someone, as usual, but for that night only, the first person to the right of the killed villager becomes the neighbor and they have the power of the seer (they ask about one person, and the moderator indicates if they are a werewolf). When the village wakes up, everyone knows who the neighbor was for that night. Typically, the neighbor will report what they saw.

The "story line" of the neighbor is that the werewolf killing spree woke them up, and they "saw/heard something".

What makes this interesting is that the werewolves can also be the neighbor, and since the werewolves pick who dies, they also pick who the neighbor is. Chains of trust develop. In this variation, it can be a successful strategy for the werewolves to kill one of their own, to create false chains of trust.

Both the werewolves and the villages develop long-term strategies, and have to change strategies as the game develops. Being a werewolf and trying to get everyone to agree on a strategy, without words, is part of the fun.

Anonymous said...

Depersonalization makes sense.
In our CPR class the dummies were gray humanoid robots, which the instructor said make the participants much more comfortable than lifelike mannequins.

We all expected it was to remove any racial bias.

Anonymous said...

I hope that most of the dozen or so new players who played in the upper room take Werewolf back to their hometowns. I am wondering how a reveal game would change the details. Yesterday I read this post and made my friends play with me again.

Anonymous said...

I loved reading this part

"I decided to moderate a final game at 6 AM – what we called “The Meta Game”. I would put ZERO Werewolf cards in the deck, and NO Seer and NO Healer..."

I actually did the same with my fellow students some years ago, and I had forgotten all about it. Thanks for bringing back one of my fondest game memories!

Anonymous said...

another way to stop the ultimate strategy problem is to randomise the inclusion of the seer and healer. That way no one is sure whether a healer or seer exist, both or none at all. That way, claiming to be the seer becomes a big gamble as a healer may not be present.

bryanflurry said...

I had played a game during my much younger years. I forgot what it's called, it is similar to Werewolf but in a court setting. The judge is the moderator and would give out pieces of paper with the roles in it. The suspect would be the werewolf, the nurse is the healer, the witness is the seer, the villagers would be the juries and theres the police.

It is suffice to have only 1 suspect/witness/nurses/police, the rest would be the juries. But depending on how big the circle is, it is possible to have 2 of each. And I recommend to play with 2 each, for more complexity and fun! Only the judge is allowed to know everyone's role and to confirm if the police really captured the suspect.

The judge would start by announcing "The court is now in session"(plus points if you have a wooden hammer!) and the game is played throughout without night and day. It's more on observing each other's eyes and body talk without actually talking. There are two goals in this game. It's either the suspect would take-out the victim/s, or the police would capture the suspect/s.

The suspect would make eye contact on the chosen victim and wink once, discreetly. If the chosen victim is a jury/nurse/police or another suspect, then he would announce "bang! I'm shot!", and assume the role of a victim (the victim is a temporary role, they're still part of the circle, but cannot be shot again).

If the chosen victim is a witness, then the game is over.(If there are two witnesses, the game would be over if both are shot without being healed)

The nurse have the power to heal by making eye contact on the victim and winking once. If the victim has been healed, he would announce "ah, I'm healed!" and return to his original role.

The police's job is to catch the suspect. He should be careful because he can only do this once. If he thinks that he caught the suspect, he would point to that person and announce "You're caught!". If he's wrong then the suspect/s win, and the game is over. If he's right then they have brought justice in the court!(If there are two suspects, the captured suspect can't participate anymore but can remain in the circle. If both suspects has been captured then the game is over.)

I'm not sure about the origin of this game, but my guess it's from the U.S., are there any similar game(in a court setting) being played there?

Anonymous said...

Remembered this post when seeing today's Shirt at Woot:

- DeanG

Anonymous said...


My name is CYP. I am seeing lovely things in your blog. I too am a professional Werewolf player. Im like a Icon, I would very much like to be invited to one of your werewolf games one day. I like to play werewolf pants off. That means if I am a GG, I take my pants off, if I am a BG, I take my pants off, this way I have no tell, unless its cold out, then I have a small tell. If its warm out, I have a HUGE tell. Ya know, thats just how I roll. VOTE the BG's

Anonymous said...

This strategy is exactly the reason why my group typically excludes the healer/priest role. When we do use the healer/priest, we make it so the ability can't save the same person multiple times in a row.

Before we made this adjustment, some people in our play group would act in a manner against the town while not being wolves. Their logic was that a human math problem is still a math problem. Math is typically less fun than a game.

Even with the modified set up we use, the town has a win percentage of about 60%. The issue at this point is that to tweak it further would mostly cause more harm than good.

Al's Werewolf said...

I love werewolves. Once they changed the game from Mafia to werewolf, I got hooked... :)

Thanks for the strategies & tips. I'm going to try them out & see if they work.. :)

Al the Werewolf

Uwodzenie Mito said...

I reading what are you writing. It`s for me incredible how much you have passion to play this game. I think it was not so easy to spend time to write this post : )

Tobias Amaranth said...

This wouldn't work in the slightest with my version for almost every reason. XD

Hi, I'm Tobias, I made my own version of Werewolf that was a derivative of all previous versions, bits of my own creativity, and refinement of creating the optimal convention/weekend-long experience, similar to the times you listed at the top.

That said, I explicitly have created roles to help give the Werewolves a better chance and to make playing a perfect villager impossible. Instead, my idea of a perfect villager strategy is to be 'fun' and come up with all sorts of entertaining personalities. I've been the crazy bloodthirsty villager, the fumbling villager, the one who is totally something special but won't say what, etc.

As for what ways that strategy doesn't work: 1. In my version, the first night is identification and just lets the players that need to know each other learn such information, and the Town Mayor is the one who dies. This makes the first day phase completely blind where people are forced to put the pressure of being lynched on each other. The Seer knows nothing at this point.

2. The Bodyguard cannot protect the same person two nights in a row, specifically for this type of reason. It cannot be an invincible shield for one particular person, and if for some reason you decide you want that, the Bodyguard then should not be allowed to protect himself. The Witch can save and kill, but only one of each for the whole game.

3. We have more evil characters than just Werewolves ranging from Cultists who know the Werewolves, to Heretics who are just evil Villagers. This helps to better thwart role callouts, especially in No-Reveal games, provided enough players are experienced enough to know when to use them for deceit and not just chaos.

All in all, my version is meant to be as balanced on the roles as possible, with the ability to tweak the deck based on player personalities. Over time, Werewolves should win about one in four, provided the Mayor is creating the decks correctly.

I have been GMing for 5 years at this point. There's a lot of subtleties to doing it. And it's important to never allow the players to game the system. My local group really exploits the Stone Masons, and the Werewolves don't know how to counter this. (We play almost exclusively Reveal games, they're too scared of the No-Reveal and feel they take too long.) So I've taken to excluding them from decks I create. I also have had to outlaw seat swapping because things get too hectic like that and it's TOO much of an advantage for the Villager team. It simply was never being used by the evil players.

With my away group, we play a far greater variety of games, and things are much more about having fun and not about a cutthroat desire to min-max to victory. This has resulted in some amazingly cool games. We also play 4 days of 6+ hours each, which creates a very intense atmosphere towards the end. :3

Unknown said...

This reminds me of the intrigue and deception involved in playing the game of diplomacy.

In that game you control a small number of Armies and navies and, with the support and alliance of others, you can gang up on a 3rd player and carve up their resources.

So in between rounds you have a bunch of quiet side discussions with your neighbors and in many cases you are lying about your true intentions.

Often you can find yourself supporting a foe to damage another player when that same foe double crosses you and helps that same player hurt you.

One thing about the game is if you are kind of a dick and everyone hates you you get ganged up on and lose quickly.

And in other ways you are constantly trying to weigh the veracity of the claims of the so called allies you are trying to enlist to collude and accomplish something to help you.

Often this results in a lot of tit for tat. I help you capture Trieste, and you help me eliminate the French.

Trade offs. This can also result in broken promises. Once I get Trieste, I help the French eliminate you...