AtB#3 was a viper's nest of backstabbing, intrigue and subterfuge. And that was just what happened when the pizzas started appearing! We accept full responsibility for this, having set the scene with a selection of games that encouraged everyone to put on their most angelic faces whilst quietly plotting their opponents' downfall. We can only applaud how fully you embraced the theme :-)
(Disclaimers: everyone got the correct food in the end, just not necessarily in the right order. The alternative explanation of completely innocent mistakes has not been disproven. Everyone remained friendly and polite throughout!)
Here are the games that started the trouble...
- In Not Alone, players are survivers of a space ship crash on an alien planet... except for one, who plays as the existing resident of the planet, a 'creature' that perhaps doesn't mean you actual harm, but definitely doesn't want you to signal for help and escape. To kick off each round, each survivor secretly chooses a location on the planet to visit, all of which offer some useful characteristic or resource. The creature also decides where to lurk this turn, and potentially also disables or booby-traps one or more other locations. When the choices are revealed, we learn whether the survivors have moved a step or two closer to escaping the planet... or, whether the creature has successfully sapped some of their willpower, making them more likely to just... stay. This is a very new (2016 released), nail-biting game of guesswork and second-guesswork for 2-7 players, complete with great artwork with an 80s-inspired, Stranger Things-type feel.
- Citadels is a more venerable offering, having been around since 2000 and quietly reached something like classic status in the world of Euro games. It was thrust back into the limelight with a re-release in late 2016 (we haven't got our sticky fingers on the new version yet, so we were playing the original). Players are racing to build lofty citadels by drawing building cards from a deck and paying gold to construct them. So far, so simple, not to mention intrigue-free... However, the cards you can draw, the money you have available, and the nasty things you're able to do to other players are all determined by the role card you choose at the start of the round. The roles are selected using a card-drafting mechanic (pick a card and pass the rest on, for those unfamiliar), meaning that some players have some information about which roles other players might have adopted. This is important, because the nasty cards act on specific roles rather than specific players. So, if you're the thief and you want to steal money from the player to your left, you'd better guess right which role they selected or your attack will go awry. All this adds up to a LOT of game in a tiny and very reasonably priced box.
- I won't say too much about Sheriff of Nottingham, except that it's both gripping and funny, despite being, in essence, "Customs: the game". If that's given you an appetite to learn more, we strongly recommend you watch this excellent video, from our favourite games reviewers Shut Up and Sit Down.
- The Resistance: Avalon is set in the time of King Arthur, with players as knights in his court. At the start of the game everyone is dealt a hidden role card, assigning them either as a loyal servant of Arthur or an evil minion of Mordred. One of Arthur's servants is Merlin, who learns the identities of Mordred's minions. Said minions also know who else is on their side, whereas the rest of Arthur's allies are playing blind. Throughout the game, players take turns selecting a team of knights from those round the table to embark on one of a series of quests (team selections are voted on by the rest of the players to determine whether each will go ahead). Getting the team right is crucial, since those who make the final cut have the chance to sabotage the mission from within, and Arthur's servants must complete three missions successfully in order to win. If they do manage to get that far, the forces of evil have one final shot at victory: if they can guess the identity of Merlin, he is assassinated and Mordred & co win the day, so he had better make use of his insider info very carefully. A number of other special roles can be introduced to the mix creating further twists and turns, but suffice it to say that the set-up reliably creates tension and surprises, and the big reveal at the end when you finally learn who was who can be enlightening on a number of levels! There are also few things more satisfying than finding yourself accepted as a trusted member of the good guys' team, knowing all along that you have something nasty up your sleeve.
- Legend has it that Skull was originally played with beer mats by Mexican biker gangs. Whether or not this is true, Skull is a quintessential bluffing game that's easy to teach but hard to win, with beautiful artwork to boot. Once again I'll hand over to Shut Up and Sit Down to do the hard work of explaining it for me: learn how to play in five minutes here.
- One Night Ultimate Werewolf has a lot to answer for, as it was probably this game more than any other that transformed our occasional board gaming hobby into a full-blown obsession. It showed us that board games don't have to involve big boxes full of components and weighty rule books (we're big fans of these too, don't get us wrong, but they're less useful at midnight on a Saturday when you want something to keep the night going!). ONUW is, in our opinion, about as good as hidden role games get. It's super-streamlined with a minimum of rules, and works well with anything from four to ten players (more still with the Daybreak expansion). To start each game, everyone is dealt a hidden role card to determine whether they are on the werewolf or villager team. Depending on the cards selected during set-up, team villager will contain a mix of roles, from bog-standard villagers with no special powers, to seers, thieves, trouble makers, insomniacs, suicidal tanners, and a host of other peculiar characters. Once players have looked at their card, the night-time phase begins in which everyone closes their eyes and the various roles activate in order, narrated either by a player with a good memory or by the handy accompanying app. Werewolves open their eyes simultaneously to learn each others' identities, thieves exchange another player's card with their own and look at the result, etc, until all roles in play have activated. Then, dawn breaks, everyone opens their eyes, and the real meat of the game begins: sharing information (genuine or otherwise), to reach some sort of verdict on who looks the most suspicious, before taking a vote on who to lynch. If at least one werewolf dies then team villager is victorious, but if the only casualties are villagers, the werewolves win the day. Each game lasts just ten minutes or so, but in our experience one is never enough!
- Not too long after ONUW gave us an appetite for hidden role games, we heard about Two Rooms and A Boom and knew we had to try it. It certainly did not disappoint. This is a full-blown party game: no table necessary, but you will need a good crowd of people (we would suggest at least 10-12 to get things going). You don't even need to buy a game: Tuesday Knight Games have graciously gifted 2R1B to the world as a print and play, so you just need to run off a set of cards and cut them up. They've even provided an extremely concise and funny how to play video, so just gather everyone round a screen and you won't even need to do the teaching. In a nutshell: everyone gets a card assigning them a role and team. There is a red team and a blue team, randomly mixed up between two (actual, real-life) rooms. One blue team member is the president. One red team member is the bomber. A timer starts and each room has three minutes or less to elect a leader, who chooses a number of people (determined by the number of players) as hostages to be exchanged with the other room. This happens two more times. At the end of the third swap, the bomber 'explodes'. If the president and bomber are in the same room, the red team wins. If the president is safe in the other room, the blue team wins. LOTS of additional add-on cards and variations are provided to add complexity and sub-plots if desired. Voila! Twenty minutes of high-adrenaline fun for a houseful of people, not to mention a least another half hour of hilarity working out what the hell just happened, before everyone decides they want another go :-)