I don’t remember the first time I played Werewolf, but I do remember the first time I moderated. See, the game was always fun for me as a player – I love hidden roles and nothing was better than trying to throw people off your scent as a werewolf. But the first time I moderated, I noticed something: that first person that the werewolves kill on night one? She’s kinda bummed. Cause now she’s got to sit there and watch people play the game for at least 20-30 more minutes as everyone gets winnowed down and the game comes to a conclusion.
Sure, we could sit here all day and debate whether the player elimination in Werewolf is a good thing or not, but what I noticed was that my gaming group wasn’t as fond of it. The premise of the game still resonated with a few of us, but the execution wasn’t really hitting home. Then, in 2013, there was a Kickstarter for a new take on the old Werewolf game. Played in one round, it took the spirit of the game and boiled it down to something even more pure than before.
One Night Ultimate Werewolf is a game for 3 – 10 players by Ted Alspach and Akihisa Okui. It’s published by Bezier Games and will play in about 10 minutes. That’s right. 10 minutes.
The game is exactly what you would think it is: one night of a game of Werewolf. At the start of the game, everyone is dealt a role card, with three extra cards going unseen face-down in the center of the table. You look at your role, place it face down in front of you, and the game begins.
Much like regular Werewolf, there is a night phase and a daytime phase. During the night phase, certain roles will wake up and take actions: the Werewolves will look at each other, the Troublemaker will switch other players cards, the Drunk changes with a card in the center but can’t look at it…that sort of thing. Once all the nighttime actions have been completed, the daytime phase begins. This is where, as they say, shit gets real.
The daytime phase is five or so minutes of discussion about who was what role and what players did or saw on their turn. The game comes with a little character token for each of the twelve roles, and players will typically grab these to either place on their own card or toss on someone else’s card. These are meant as placeholders – if you think you know what someone is, toss it down. Want to claim to be something? Grab one.
As an example, we all wake up and I say “Whelp, I was just a plain ol’ Villager, so I didn’t see a thing”, and then grab the Villager token and place it in front of me. Of course, people don’t trust me, so I’ll immediately get a Werewolf token tossed at me and the roller coaster starts heading out. The tokens will move around a lot, but help keep things straight for people as there is only one round.
Once the allotted time has expired, everyone will vote at the person that would like to see lynched. The person with most votes is killed, and flips their card over. If it’s a werewolf, the villagers win. If it’s a member of the villager team, the werewolves win. And that’s it. Mostly. I mean, that Tanner throws a monkey wrench in there, but that’s a whole different story.
Now in case you’ve never played a Werewolf style game before, I will talk a little about what I see as the appeal with this style of game. The gameplay here is simple. I can teach people how to play in about a minute, so that’s obviously a plus. But the magic comes from the bluffing. Sure, if you’re a werewolf, you’ll pretend to be something else. But do you do that by not talking at all, or by jumping on an opening someone else has provided with their faulty logic?
Can you sway people to your side, no matter what that happens to be? “Look, he reached for that Villager token WAY too quickly. That’s suspicious.” Are you able to talk your way out of a corner when the votes look like they will stack against you? This is a negotiation and bluffing game through and through. And I love it.
One Night Ultimate Werewolf fixes the problem that I noticed my group having with Ultimate Werewolf – since there’s only one night, there’s no player elimination. And with the shortened time span, it makes it even harder for both teams. The villagers have to work together even more and the werewolves have to sow as much discord as possible.
This game is fantastic. I’ve played it more than 50 times since picking it up, and it still comes out all the time. The interplay between the roles is incredible. The Robber will allow a player to switch their card with another player’s card, and then look at their new card. Easy enough. Well, then the Troublemaker switches two other players cards……..which might be the two which were just involved in the Robber’s turn. It’s chaotic and amazing.
It might take a few games, but the daytime phase is more nuanced than it might first appear. Let’s say I’m the Seer and chose to look at two of the center cards on my turn. Now I have two pieces of information which may or may not come into play. I could either admit this right off, revealing what I saw, or wait and see what people claim to have…hoping to catch someone in a lie. There will be advantages to both.
A couple small side notes about this game. There’s a player mat available for the game, which is basically a gigantic mouse pad with the One Night logo on it. Well worth the money. Nothing is worse than hearing cards move around during the night phase. Speaking on hearing things, there’s an app which will moderate the whole game for you. Best. Thing. Ever. And lastly, sleeve your cards. They are a really thick cardboard, which is awesome, but they tend to wear quickly, so sleeving them will help make them last.
So if you’re looking for a game which is going to play insanely quick but still give you that Werewolf feeling, look no further. One Night Ultimate Werewolf is the game for you! Oh…and there’s an expansion…