I was first introduced to the social deduction game Werewolf under the name Mafia. That was also the name its creator Dimitry Davidoff gave it originally. The game is also known as Murderer. As the loosely translated Finnish saying goes, a dear child has many names. And Werewolf is indeed very dear to me.
In its simplest form Werewolf has two teams: the villagers and the werewolves, who each want to kill the other team. The teams are decided by drawing the roles randomly, but the number of certain roles is decided beforehand. Each night the werewolves kill one villager and during the day there is a vote in the village to execute one suspected werewolf. There are also other roles, but I won’t go into much detail because there are at least 20. The most common special roles are Seer, who can check one person each night to see whose side they’re on, and Protector, who can heal protect one person from attack each night. The game is run by the game master, who also doubles as the narrator of the story. Werewolf can be played with up to 68 people, so it’s perfect for parties. (It’s also fun when drunk.)
The most intriguing aspect of the game for me that it’s played on two levels: a purely game-theoretical level and a social level. It’s possible to play Werewolf on only the game-theoretical level, where you make decisions based on the testimonies of other players and information you gather with the skill of your specific role. However, the social aspect quite literally brings the game to a whole other level. If you’re playing with people you’ve known for a long time you can assess whether they’re being truthful or not.
It’s also possible to evaluate if they’re acting naturally. For example, I’ve noticed that those of my friends who are usually quiet but talk a lot during the game are usually trying to take the initiative and shift the blame on other people to not be suspected themselves. When I’ve played as a werewolf myself, I’ve noticed that speaking, in general, is usually not wise. Consequently, when playing on the side of the villagers I tend to suspect the quiet people a lot more. No wonder Werewolf was at one point used to teach psychology.
The large number of different roles makes the games immensely customizable, so it’s fun to play with novices and certified Werewolf gurus alike. This combined with the flexibility of the number of players and the added social level in gameplay makes Werewolf a truly unique experience each time you play. That is why I can’t get enough of it: no two games are alike.