3-10 players, 10 minutes
A lot of things had to come together just right to get One Night Ultimate Werewolf.
First, there’s the party game Werewolf (also commonly known as Mafia) where players are secretly given the role of either Werewolves or Villagers—the Werewolves know who all the Werewolves are and try to kill off Villagers, while the villagers try to kill off the werewolves, but don’t know who anyone else really is.
Then two designers had their won separate takes on the game. Ted Alspach created Ultimate Werewolf, which added in dozens of new roles to mix things up. Akihisa Okui, on the other hand, created One Night Werewolf, which compressed the game into one single round of voting with a couple of extra roles to throw some information into the mix.
You’ve probably guessed that One Night Ultimate Werewolf is a combination of the two—the basic design of Akihisa Okui’s game bolstered by the imaginative variations of Ted Alspach.
It also makes a creative use of both space and time. There are just a few bits and pieces needed to play the game, and the rounds are timed.
In a couple of ways, it’s the chocolate and peanut butter of hidden role games—a description as appropriately delicious as it is oddly specific.
Let’s take the metaphor back around to werewolves as we take a look at this bit-sized game.
The idea behind the game was immediately appealing. It’s easy to get someone interested in figuring out a mystery, or play the villain and try to get away with it. On top of that, it takes just ten minutes to play, and there’s a timer to keep you honest. If you like it, it’s a very easy game to bring out, even if some people are on the fence about it at first.
I’m not sure why I rarely think of these sorts of games as gateway games. Maybe they’re just kind of an odd duck, but that’s great—they can tear down misconceptions for new players, and they’re a great change of pace for those of us already knee-deep in the hobby.
Each player is secretly given a card with a role on it. Three roles are left over and put into the center of the table, just so that no one knows for certain what roles are even in the game. Then, there’s a night phase where the players with certain roles can take certain actions. The Werewolves can open their eyes to see which other players, if any, are Werewolves. The Seer can look at any other players card, or two from the center. The Robber can trade his card with any other player’s without them knowing it, and look at the new role they became. The Villagers get to… do absolutely nothing but hope for the best.
When all that’s wrapped up, players have ten minutes to discuss what happened, trying to either hash things out or sow confusion, before players vote on someone to kill. The Werewolves win if they all survive; if one is killed, the other players win instead… but remember how there are three cards left in the center of the table? It’s possible for there to be no Werewolves. In that case, everyone must survive, or else all players lose. You need to coordinate a tied vote for every player (e.g. everyone votes for the player on their left). That can be tricky, as any suspicion at the end of the game can throw the whole thing off.
And that’s essentially the same as One Night Werewolf, with a few tweaks. The Ultimate part comes in with the addition of eight new roles—a 200% increase from four to ten. The point of the game is to create the same feeling of a particularly exciting round of Werewolf, and that just puts even more content under pressure. There’s a Troublemaker who switches two other players’ cards, an insomniac which gets to check her role before sunrise to see if it has changed, and a Doppelganger that gets to look at another card on the table and become that role as well. And there’s so much more.
I’d also like to give some extra credit to the publisher for the components of the game. It may sound minor, but the cards are made out of a thick card stock that makes them easy to pick up—it’s particularly useful when you want to be discreet about that you’re doing during the night phase. There are also hand tokens for each card in the game, with numbers printed on them to remind the moderator of their order during the night phase. You can even place them on top of cards as a reminder of what information you think you’ve sussed out, and there’s even a pale side if you want it clear that people are unsure.
Best of all those is a free application that takes care of moderating the game for you. You just highlight the roles you’re playing with, set a time you want to play, and hit start. Narration, courtesy of The Dice Tower’s won podcast co-host and resident voice-over artist Rich Summerer, will handle everything. You no longer need a player to shield their eyes while telling the other players when the Werewolves should look at each other, when the Seer should do some snooping, anything else, and it will count down to the vote at the end. There are even ambient sounds in the background to cover over other people moving things around on the table. If you get the game and have an Android or iOS device, I highly recommend it—I haven’t played without it.
As much as I’ve complimented the game, I have to admit there are some snags. Since so many of the roles shuffle cards around during the night, and you won’t be sure exactly who you are (and, as a result, what side you’re on), the game can feel more like you’re all just trying to untangle what happened during the night phase, with less bluffing than you’d think. Even then, bluffing can be… complicated, to say the least.
That said, I honestly think that the fast pace of the game smooths out just about all the wrinkles. Let me give you a couple of examples.
The first time I played, I was wrapped up in explaining the rules and getting everyone into the spirit of the game. I was the Seer, and confirmed another player was a Troublemaker, and we voted for another player who was acting shady… but we forgot that the Trouble maker switched my card with his. I was sincerely trying to kill a Werewolf, but accidentally won the game as a Werewolf.
Another time, we decided to stray from the suggested roles and threw in a Doppelganger, which I received. During the night phase, I looked at another player’s card and became a Werewolf. Then, when the Werewolves reveal their identities to each other all of us opened our eyes. We won the game before the timer even started.
I can’t deny that the game can easily be broken—but that’s okay. You want to win, but it’s so quick and zany that you don’t take losses to heart. It’s okay if a game like this collapses in on itself if it does so in an entertaining way, and it absolutely does.
The beauty of this game is that it can completely break down, but still ultimately succeed in what it’s trying to do. I absolutely recommend it, but if you’re still on the fence, play it if you get the chance. It’s worth ten minutes of your time.
If you would like to support Groom Porter, please consider purchasing One Night Ultimate Werewolf through our Amazon Associate link.