If you’re ever stuck for party game ideas, why not try Mafia? A slightly more in depth take on the old ‘wink murder’ game concept, this murder mystery ‘us vs them’ game is easy to play and can be a great way to pass the time. It is also a good way to facilitate discussion and encourage friendly rivalries, so it is always recommended at new gatherings or societies where people may not know each other very well.
Also known as werewolves, Mafia is a murder mystery style role playing game where all you need is a pack of cards and a minimum of 7 people to play; although the larger the group the more fun it is. The game takes place in a fantasy village setting, where secret mafia have taken over the town. Every night the village ‘goes to sleep’ while the mafia choose one villager to kill. Then the village wakes up and has to accuse someone of being the mafia. The game continues, ‘losing’ potentially two players each turn until one team wins. The aim of the village is to reveal the mafia, whereas the aim of the mafia is to kill the villagers until there are only mafia members left. You will need one mafia member per three normal villagers.
You also have ‘special’ villager cards, villagers who have a certain role. This is done in order to help the village work together to figure out who the mafia is, in order to save their own skins.
Narrator – The storyteller of the game. The narrator shuffles the deck and hands the cards out to the players. He/she will then narrate the entire story and has omniscience. The narrator cannot affect the story in only way and only serves to keep the game going. If you’d like to spice it up, your narrator can describe the deaths in the village or make up their method of death, in order to bring more creativity into the game.
King – Mafia. – There should be one mafia member to every 3-4 normal villagers. During the first night when the narrator prompts them, the mafia will open their eyes and identify themselves to one another and the narrator. Every night during their turn, they will have to unanimously decide on whom to kill. The mafia do not have to defend each other and can out other mafia members in order to avoid suspicion.
Queen – Doctor/Nurse – There is only one doctor or nurse in the game. During the first night, upon prompted, they will identify themselves to the narrator by opening their eyes and may choose one person to ‘heal’ each night. They cannot choose the same person two nights in a row. If the person they have ‘healed’ has also been targeted by the mafia, nobody will die that night.
Jack – Investigator/Sheriff – There is only one sheriff or investigator in the game. They will identify themselves to the narrator in the first night also. Each night they may choose one villager to ‘investigate’. The narrator can then indicate by thumbs up or thumbs down whether or not they were successful in identifying a member of the mafia. The investigator does not have to reveal their findings to the rest of the village.
Joker – Serial Killer (Larger Groups Only) – A role that works in a similar way to the mafia, although this person works alone. There is only one serial killer in any one game. The serial killer cannot be killed by the mafia at night. If the investigator identifies the serial killer, the narrator can only state that they are an ‘evil’ role, they cannot state whether they are a member of the mafia or are a serial killer.
The game progress in ‘night’ and ‘day’ rounds. During each night ‘phase’, one (or two, if you are playing with a Serial Killer) villager is marked for death, one villager is ‘healed’ by the doctor and one villager is ‘inspected’ by the sheriff. These are normally done in a certain order, to keep things coherent and so that the narrator can easily follow the game. Everyone ‘goes to sleep’ by closing their eyes. First, the mafia take their turn and upon the narrators insistence, open their eyes and choose their victim. The mafia then ‘go back to sleep’. Then the doctor awakens in the same manner and indicates the person they wish to heal, after which they also ‘go back to sleep’. The game progresses in this manner, with the investigator taking their turn and using their ability next, and ending with the serial killer. Once all ‘night’ turns have been taken, all villagers will wake up to the next day.
During each day ‘phase’, there is the discovery of the murder (or murders), where the villagers find out who has died. If the doctor has successfully healed a target, nobody will die that night although the narrator will reveal that the doctor was successful in their attempt, without revealing who the doctor is. If the investigator has successfully identified a mafia member or a serial killer, the narrator will say so, without revealing the identities of either party. Next is the discussion, where villagers can voice their suspicions, plant red herrings, argue their own cases and accuse others of being mafia members. Following the discussion, comes the vote. Each player will vote as to who they think the mafia member is. If there is a majority vote, the player with the most votes is ‘put to death’. They must then reveal their card and are ‘dead’. The dead cannot speak or influence the game in any way.
If all of the members of the mafia (and the serial killer, if there is one) have been discovered and lynched, the village itself is declared the winner. If the mafia members are equal to, or outnumber the villagers, the mafia is declared the winner. The serial killer wins if he or she is the last village member left before a ‘night phase’. As the serial killer is immune at night, they can easily pick off their last victim during the next night.
While it may sound like a bit of a complicated game at first, it is easy to pick up and can get incredibly funny and competitive. It is best played in large groups and you don’t need to be a certain age to participate. The more the merrier!
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