I have played “Are you a Werewolf?” before at home with some friends, it’s a pretty laid back game that often turns into a silly “Lets Lynch Everyone!” party, rather than a reasonable thought exercise. I had heard that it was different when played at a convention where players tend to take the dynamics of the game more seriously so, the Friday night of GenCon 2012, I decided that I would get in on a game of “werewolf”, and all I can say is “Wow!” the experience IS different.
For those who may not know, “Are you a Werewolf?” is a game published by Looney Labs and is a reinvention of the old parlor game “Mafia”. In this game, each player receives a card that depicts one of three things: a werewolf, a villager, or the seer. If you get a villager card, your goal is to kill the werewolves. If you are a werewolf, your goal is to eat all of the villagers. The seer player is on the side of the villagers, but has the ability to confirm his or her suspicions about each person during the night, while the village sleeps. Each round, the werewolves eat one person, and the villagers will lynch one person, until either side creates their victory condition.
On Friday night I wandered into the werewolf hall and purchased my wristband. It’s good for two hours of play time, and I figure that would be plenty. I hear that a new village is forming and I hurry over and grab a chair in the circle. Once we all get our cards, the game begins. I am a werewolf.
Suddenly, I realize that this game is being taken much more seriously than I have ever seen it taken before. One person begins to take the role of village leader, and starts asking each person “Are you a werewolf?”. He’s clearly looking for ticks. Sometimes he intersperses his questioning for one person with “So you are not a villager?”, just to try to trip people up, and see what they will say. Suddenly peoples postures and fidgety natures are being called into question. “Surely the guy with the red shirt must be a werewolf, he blinked when he was asked and now he is bouncing his leg”, “that girl over there, she must be a werewolf, look how tensely she is holding her shoulders”. It’s madness!
After about fifteen minutes or so of discussion, we decide to lynch someone, sadly for them, they were a villager. Night falls, and me and my fellow werewolf eat a delicious mortal. The daytime comes and our evil deeds are revealed. Discussion begins again. Analyzing who that person had accused, who they might have made eye contact with. People scrutinize body language some more. We have now been playing for more than twenty minutes, longer than my entire previous games of “Are You A Werewolf?”. But rather than feeling like the game is dragging on forever, it’s become exhilarating! I am dodging questions, turning arguments around on people, and bending peoples opinions against their fellow villagers. Round 2 and 3 go by, me and my fellow werewolf are both cunningly still alive, but the number of prey is dwindling. Just a couple of more rounds and we seal the deal, eating the last of our remaining prey and securing our win. Victory tastes so sweet!
Three games of “werewolf” later, I find out the time. It’s 3am! We have been playing for hours! It certainly does not feel that late. I say goodnight to everyone and head to my bed, but I am loving the games I just played.
The next day I am totally jazzed up for more. One of my friends who was not able to come down to the con earlier in the week, shows up to have some fun, and when 10 PM hits, I suggested we go play “Werewolf”. He didn’t really have much experience with the game, but agreed to go and see what the buzz was about. We both bought our wrist bans and hopped into a village. When we finally were ready to leave for the night, the sun was about to rise… it’s 6 AM!
I was the “werewolf” approximately four times that night, and never once was lynched. I must say I am proud, but two moments really stand out.
…so I can clearly not choose the wine in front of you.
My fellow werewolf and I have whittled down the village to a small handful of villagers. We just need to survive through two more rounds and we have them! An accusation was made in the circle, a guy just turned on his own sister that he had brought with to play. He had been defending her all game, but now suddenly felt like she was behaving oddly. Perhaps she is the werewolf. When night falls and it’s time for my partner and I to feed, my partner wants to take out the brother. I want to take out another random villager, because clearly taking out the brother seems too obvious. My partner quietly insists, and I decide to agree.
When the morning rises and the brother is found dead, everyone clearly turns on the sister. It’s obvious! But almost as soon as the accusation is made it is disregarded. Clearly the wolves are trying to make it look like the sister. We go back and forth around the circle and that’s when I decide to put forth that we have run into an “Iocane Powder” situation. A few people giggle at the Princess Bride reference, and for the others I explain:
“Clearly if she is the wolf, she wouldn’t like his accusations and would have eaten him to get him to stop. However, she would know that would be too obvious, so clearly she can not be the wolf and it must be a setup. But, perhaps she is a particularly crafty wolf and knows that we would think that to be far too obvious, and thus eating him would actually take the heat off of her, and so she decided to make him her victim.”
… after a couple minutes of debating the iocane powder situation, the townsfolk decided to string her up, just to be safe. She was a villager, shucks.
If you knew he was the seer…
Another time, I was the wolf again, my favorite role to have. It has come down to the last few villagers again, and me and my partner wolf are only steps away from winning. There is a dramatic vote, and one single person votes against the group. We lynch the poor fellow and away we go to dream land to feast on human flesh. My partner really wants to eat the guy who voted against the group, and that is just fine by me. When we wake up we find out that we have taken out the seer. I carefully mask my face, trying to look disappointed and upset, but underneath I am bubbling with our good fortune.
Suddenly there is an accusation being pointed at me. Did she see the happiness glitter across my face? When pressed as to why she feels I should be lynched, she doesn’t have anything but her “gut” to go off of, and the fact that I led the charge to have the previous guy lynched, and our seer voted against it. Then she lets it drop that she knew he was the seer… now I have something to go off of.
“Wait! You knew he was the seer?”
“Well, yeah, he told me I was safe.”
“Really… so our seer suddenly drops dead… out of the blue… and you seem to be the only one who knew he was the seer. ”
She gets a look of panic, and multiple people pick up on it. Wrong move, chica. Now it’s time to reel them in.
“Here is what I think happened. Our seer put faith in the wrong person. Let you know that he was the seer, and then before he could out you to the village, you killed him off. After all, if you aren’t the wolf, why wouldn’t you have voted with our seer earlier? Try to drive influence towards his guesses?”
“I’m not the wolf!”, she exclaimed while sweating bullets. And she continued to sweat bullets right up until we lynched her, allowing the final couple of kills to take place in order to eat every last villager standing.
Having now played the game at a con with other people who take it seriously, I love it. The logical deduction, the bluffing, and the ability to stay cool under pressure. Saturday night, me and my friend spent eight solid hours playing round after round of the game, and if it hadn’t been so late/early, I could have played a couple more.
Are You A Werewolf? Tournament
– When: Saturday, June 8th @ 7pm.
– Where: Game Paradise – 1110 E. Prospect Street, Indianapolis, IN
Prizes given to the winners!