I've always been fascinated by the concept of the "meta game", the game within a game. Bluffing in poker is not explicitly stated in the rules, but doing so is essential to success. Deception lies at the heart of bluffing, in poker you deceive your opponents in subtle ways: the amount you bet, your facial expression, body language and vocal intonations. But what if a game demanded that your deceptions be more overt, more aggressive and more direct?
Here was a game that I had accidentally stumbled upon while bouncing around the internet. A few months ago all my friends happened to be together, in the same place, at the same time, something that does not happen that often. We arrived at that inevitable moment of restless boredom that tends to strike when people gather.
I could sense that the host of this little get together was leaning towards pulling out the old staples: Apples to Apples and Scattergories, as I started to panic a spark went off in a long dormant area of my memory, and I ran to a nearby computer in search of this...Mafia verses Werewolves thing I read about so long ago. After quickly reading the rules and making some impromptu cards out of a piece of loose leaf paper; I sat everyone down and proceeded to explain the game. Several games later we walked away with a night to remember.
There are people in the world who can lie with the greatest of ease, they can look at you in the eyes and tell you whatever you want to hear. Such deceptions are not so easy for the rest of us, and Werewolf is a game that is completely built around this concept. It was amazing to see which of my friends could perform under pressure, who was capable of lying the best, and who would do whatever it would take to win.
I was chosen to be the werewolf only once out of all the games we played and from the very moment the game began my heart was racing, it was beating so loud that it took a considerable amount of concentration to relax. In the game we played there was only one werewolf among the villagers, it was me against the world. I pulled out all the stops and tapped into every ounce of my acting abilities.
I would feign surprise when the murders were revealed, I would persuade others that I was harmless and draw their attentions towards anyone who questioned my motives. It was exhilarating, and when it came down to the wire, there were only three players left, and I did everything in my power to sway the king maker towards my point of view.
I had won not because the hand of fate had dealt me the right cards or rolled the dice in my favor. I had won because I had outwitted all the other players, I had out smarted them, the odds were not in my favor but I still managed to persevere.
This was an amazing feeling and it was not one that I generally feel when playing games. Only sociopaths derive pleasure from deceiving those around them, but these are the skills required to be successful at werewolf, and at the end of the day, it's just a game, right?
A few months later I was blindly stumbling through the internet and I came to learn about The Resistance.
The Resistance has a lot of in common with Werewolf, but with some differences: no player elimination, no moderator and it is considerably faster. I played a few games with my friends, first the basic game, then with the plot thickens cards.
There is a lot I like about this game, particularly it's quick pace, but the few games I played did leave a few things to be desired. The Resistance lacks the immense pressure of Werewolf, at no point were people dramatically pleading for their lives and I never felt that heart pounding stress when I was a spy.
One of my friends wished that the game was longer than 5 rounds, at first I disagreed but by the last game I was beginning to agree. I started the last game as a spy, and my strategy was to perform a long con on The Resistance and betray them later. I attempted to do this by voting success in every mission and outing one of my fellow spies as a way to gain the other's trust. I am convinced that this would have worked if we didn't run out of time so quickly.
I need to play this again, but I must admit that I am not really rushing to play it any time soon. At the moment I actually have my eyes on Ultimate Werewolf: Ultimate Edition, I'm intrigued by all the roles in this game, and the addition of the artifacts in the expansion.
I do owe a lot to The Resistance though, because it is the game that lead me to this site and made me want to play more games.
Now I ask you, dear reader, what are some other games I can play that have bluffing, deception, persuasion and negotiation as game play elements? I've always wanted to play Diplomacy but I am afraid of the long play time.
In my next post I will officially begin writing about playing games with my girlfriend.