After years of playing Werewolf, we found a few problems with our games. Mostly, they lasted for hours, because we found that werewolves crack eventually, and it was hard to spot them without taking a lot of time. While this was interesting, it meant that one game would take all night long, and many people would not play if that’s what it entailed. The other problem is that one person would get killed by the werewolves immediately, and so they would not really get to play. That’s no fun. So we play with following changes:
- Timed Days: An open and public timer is set to three minutes per live player at the beginning of each day. If the players lynch someone, then the day ends immediately. If time runs out, the day is over and there is no lynching. We have also tried two minutes per live player, and that is pretty fast but still fun. We also have tried a straight 15 minute or 10 minute day, and those work well, too.
- No First Night Kill: On the first night, the moderator has the werewolves open their eyes and find each other, and then close their eyes, without mauling anyone. The seer stays asleep, without getting a vision. We feel it is hard enough being a werewolf without the seer having one more vision. We actually play this round without a moderator. One of the players can say the lines while everyone has their eyes closed. “Werewolves open your eyes. Find each other.” The player waits a few seconds, and says “Werewolves, close your eyes.” The player waits a little longer and say, “Everyone open your eyes.” The player who says the lines may or may not actually be a werewolf. This is great when everyone wants to play, because you don’t need a non-player moderator. Unless the players fail to lynch someone, the first player lynched becomes the moderator for the next night.
- Village Stays Together: We have found it particularly helpful to the villagers to split off and have private conferences in other rooms. It is so helpful that we don’t allow them in our games. Everyone must stay in the same room, although you can always whisper to someone.
Kory Heath has created Werewolf for the iPhone, so you don’t need a moderator at all. His game uses the above rules.
For tournament games, the advanced rules given above are used, and each tournament game must start with exactly nine players. Whoever is alive at the end of the game gets three points, and whoever is dead loses one point. Players may play as many or as few games as they wish, with the winner being the one with the most points. We played this at Origins, but we found that most of the players did not want to participate in the tournament because they found it too limiting. In our own games, we have an official score keeper who is keeping a running tally of all the games we have played, and has ranked the abilities of each player. Not surprisingly, the score keeper happens to be winning.
Andy Plotkin taught us Werewolf, and we enjoyed the game and have played it hundreds of times. At first, we could not catch the werewolves, and the werewolves usually won. It was a strange game when the villagers succeeded, and usually required lucky guesses with the seer. After a while, we started to figure out what people’s tells were, how to spot a liar, and when a person was being nervous for unrelated reasons. Then, the werewolves usually lost, and in fact it became common that we’d get both werewolves in two or three lynchings. Then, we learned to lie. We were openly discussing each other’s tells, and we all worked to suppress our own and find ways to appear innocent when actually guilty. Now, when we play, it’s still very tough for the werewolves, because on balance it is easier to catch a liar than be one, but the werewolves often get much further in the game than before.
We have designed many other games that have all these interesting aspects without the one thing we hate about werewolf: elimination. We don’t like how players are kicked out of the game and have to go off and do something else. We created Covert Action, Criminals, and Are You the Traitor.
Andy Plotkin did extensive statistical analysis of the game.