I’ll try to avoid the puns, but One Night Ultimate Werewolf really is a great game with tons of replayability.
As I was growing up, I became acquainted with a storytelling/card game called Mafia. One person played the storyteller, who had no way to really “win” the game. They were there to tell each role what they could do. If you were selected as a member of the Mafia, you would coordinate assassinations against the rest of the town in secret. If you were a Nightwatchman, you got to investigate a different person every night to see if they were Mafia or not. Then there was the Doctor, who could heal someone if they were attacked. Finally, there were the normal Townspeople who voted alongside everyone else to decide who should get lynched. If the Mafia were taken out in this manner, the Town would win. If the Mafia whittled the Town down to where they made up half the group, they would win.
Games of Mafia tended to take a long time to play, especially if there was a large group of people. Think about it. A ten person game has two mafia, which means that roughly two people a round would be killed off. Not only will those people be out of the game for a while, but it would take approximately five rounds of “heads down, mafia up, mafia down, nightwatchman up, nightwatchman down, doctor up, doctor down, Gooooooood morning, Vietnam” and squabbling with the Town to make it through a single game.
I’ve seen one other game that attempts to take the classic game of Mafia to the next level: Town of Salem. This delightful little online game automates the storyteller role and adds a ton of extra roles for people to play. The Mafia may still win, but the Jester could also win if he managed to get himself lynched. The Executioner gets a random target to lynch, and they win if they succeed. This helps keep the game varied and interesting for everyone involved, especially since there are no dead roles. Unfortunately, it also takes a long time to play through, and someone who dies night one will have a lot less fun than someone who reaches the end of the game.
Enough Talk, Tell Me About the Game!
One Night Ultimate Werewolf manages to solve all four of Mafia’s problems. The first solution is literally in the title: One Night. There is only one round per game, one night to figure out who is a werewolf and who is not. Second, the game has a free app (One Night) that automatically reads out the roles and adds some delightfully spooky/fun music to the Night phase. Third, it has a wealth of roles – some of them may be familiar to those who’ve played Town of Salem – that allow everyone, regardless of what role they get, to have some fun. Finally, there are many random elements that change people’s roles during the night to keep everyone guessing.
What are these random factors? In addition to dealing cards to each player, three cards are placed in the center, making it possible that one or both werewolves are not in play. That doesn’t remove the threat of werewolves, though, as many of the roles allow players to shift and shuffle cards about the table. If the Drunk switches his card with a Werewolf card that was in the center, he is now a Werewolf even though he cannot look at his card to find out. See, the name of the game isn’t to figure out who is or is not a Werewolf. The entire point of the game is to try and figure out where the Werewolf card(s) are currently hiding.
This is the big change from Mafia and Town of Salem; in One Night Ultimate Werewolf, you may not be the role you started out as. Sure, you had the Seer and looked at someone else’s card, but the Troublemaker swapped your card with the Werewolf, which means everyone is now looking for you. By shifting the cards around, the game becomes less of a Witch Hunt and more of a Whodunnit as everyone scrambles to figure out what the hell happened during that one night. This keeps the game fun and refreshing round after round.
Of course, the game does have some notable problems. Smaller groups are usually able to untangle everything better than large groups, and friends have a tendency to know how their friends act when they don’t want to be suspicious. To counter this, there is the Tanner, who only wins if he gets lynched, but deception is pretty difficult to do when you know someone really well. The cardboard cards also have issues with rubbing off on tables as they are shuffled about. You could try laminating them or getting card protectors for them, or you might play somewhere with a soft texture (i.e. carpet or a poker table). The extra role chips are intended for the group to figure out what roles are in play, but they feel somewhat unnecessary unless you have all the roles in play. Finally, there is only so much variation that the roles can bring. Luckily, there are some expansion packs that can be purchased separately to help with that.
While the game has its issues, I still highly recommend One Night Ultimate Werewolf. It is a ton of fun at parties, and it works as a sort of icebreaker for new friends and family. The accompanying app makes learning the game a breeze, and no two games are going to end up the same. It simply is Awoo-tstanding*!