8-BIT WEREWOLF and 8-BIT MAFIA

Home Run Games

8-Bit Werewolf and 8-Bit Mafia are a set of companion games from Home Run Games that come in the same box of cards. Subsequently they've also been published in a miniature version, under the title 8-Bit mini Werewolf & Mafia. This is something that will be of special interest to those who enjoy Werewolf, and who have a fondness for 8-bit artwork.

So who is Home Run Games? I have reviewed some of their products before, such as their Werewolf Coins (review link), which was a unique concept of using customized coins for playing Werewolf. I've also covered their beautiful Murphy Varnish deck as part of a larger article on transformation decks (review link). Home Run Games specializes in restoring classic decks of playing cards from the 19th century, and has reproduced many of these in beautiful new editions (store link). They've also produced a couple of games of their own, like the Press Start Pocket series, and their combat card game entitled Ultimate Soldier, a new version of which is currently up on Kickstarter (review link).

But in this article I want to take a look at the 8-bit versions of Werewolf and Mafia that Home Run Games has published, which features the retro-style pixelated artwork that is popular in many circles.



Werewolf & Mafia

The genre of social deduction games has exploded in recent years, but Werewolf is arguably the classic of the genre, and it remains a regular staple of many gaming conventions, with games sometimes operating on a large scale and going into the wee hours of the morning. It also continues to be a big and active hit in the play-by-forums section of BGG. Werewolf can accommodate very large numbers of players, and its devotees are dedicated and many, happily playing it over and over again.

If you're not familiar with Werewolf, the basic concept of the game is that a group of around a dozen or more players are assigned secret character roles, corresponding to two teams: Villagers and Werewolves. A Moderator leads the group through alternating night and day phases, as the village tries to survive the threat of the Werewolves. Each night, the Werewolves eat one Villager, who is eliminated from the game. During the day, the Villagers must use discussion to try to uncover the Werewolves, and lynch one person each day by means of a vote, aiming to identify and eliminate the Werewolves before the Villagers are outnumbered. As the circle grows smaller, there is more evidence to work with, but the tension grows, because the Villagers need to lynch all the Werewolves in order to win. Many unique and special character roles have been developed for the game, to add extra interest, variety, and enjoyment, with roles like the Seer being a standard fixture of the game.

The genesis of Werewolf is usually attributed to a Russian named Dimitry Davidoff, whose original concept for the game in 1986 employed a mafia theme. American Andrew Plotkin reworked the game with a werewolf theme in 1997, and it is this form of the game that made it especially popular. On his website, Plotkin credits Davidoff as the inventor, and even quotes correspondence from Davidoff about how the Mafia game originated and evolved. While the story about the origin of the game makes for fascinating reading, the reality is that Werewolf has largely entered the public domain, and many people around the world enjoy Mafia or Werewolf by simply using standard playing cards to designate the different character roles in the game. Over time several different commercial editions with polished artwork have been released, and this 8-bit version from Home Run Games is a nice addition to the body of Werewolf games that have a customized style and feel.



COMPONENTS

Box

The game box is the size of a standard deck of playing cards, and has a glossy look featuring the 8-bit artwork from the game.

One side of the box says 8-bit Werewolf, while the other side of the box says 8-bit Mafia.



Component list

Inside the 8-bit Werewolf/Mafia box we get 56 cards:
● 25 Werewolf cards
● 26 Mafia cards
● 5 Instruction cards

The card backs for the Werewolf and Mafia characters are identical, except that one says Werewolf and the other says Mafia. The card fronts have the name of the card, an 8-bit picture of the character, and a short summary of that character's role (there's an unfortunate misspelling of "scene" as "seen" on the Narrator card - the spelling/grammar on the publisher's webpage and videos has similar bloopers). The cards are standard poker-sized, have a linen style finish and clear colourful printing. As with all social deduction games like this, it's probably a good idea to sleeve them given that these cards can see heavy usage and it is essential that they not be marked.



Werewolf characters

The following 25 characters are included with 8-bit Werewolf:
● 1x Narrator
● 5x Werewolves
● 14x Villagers
● 1x Seer
● 1x Doctor
● 1x Witch
● 1x Minion
● 1x Hunter





Mafia characters

The following 26 characters are included with 8-bit Mafia:
● 1x Narrator
● 5x Mafia
● 15x Civilians (one has a "Bulletproof" ability)
● 2x Detective
● 1x Angel
● 1x Vigilante
● 1x Serial Killer





Instructions

The five instruction cards are double-sided, and gives separate rules for the Werewolf game on one side, and the Mafia game on the other side.

I wasn't thrilled to discover that they are written entirely in all capital letters - which is harder to read - but fortunately you can also read a copy of the rules on the publisher's website here. The reality is that most people already know the rules for these games anyway, and often play with their own customized style and house-rules. So I wouldn't be too critical about the rules - the important thing really is getting the cards and characters themselves, so that you can actually play the game!

MINIATURE VERSION

Box

As a separate product, Home Run Games also produced a miniature version of 8-bit Werewolf/Mafia, called 8-Bit mini Werewolf & Mafia. It is a similar concept, but is much smaller in size, and there are some other differences.



I found the tuck box a bit tricky to open, given the smaller size, but it's a very cute looking box, and the cards in this edition also look terrific.

Component list

Inside the miniature version we get 56 cards:
● 28 Werewolf cards
● 28 Mafia cards



Cards

These look like the full sized version cards, but are miniaturized with dimensions of 1.75" x 1.25" (63mm x 44mm) and fit nicely in the palm of your hand.



Once again these have been printed with a high quality embossed finish and coating.

Werewolf characters

The following 28 characters are included with 8-bit Werewolf:
● 1x Narrator
● 5x Werewolves
● 15x Villagers
● 1x Seer
● 1x Doctor
● 1x Witch
● 1x Minion
● 1x Dracula
● 1x Chupacabra

However unlike the standard-sized version, all but three of the Villagers have special roles/abilities that are commonly used in Werewolf, and that you can optionally use. These are: Bigfoot, Cupid, Hunter, Little Girl, Mayor, Serial Killer, Thief, Tough Guy, Village Idiot, Wizard, Wolf Man, and Zombie. All these unique abilities are explained briefly at the top of each card. The names of the roles are added in small print, so you can just use these cards as vanilla Villagers if you prefer.

Similarly the Werewolves also have optional roles added to those cards: Alpha Wolf, Lone Wolf, Teen Wolf, Wolf Cub, and White Wolf. This basically allows players to customize the game to their own experience and preferences.



Mafia characters

The following 28 characters are included with 8-bit Mafia:
● 1x Narrator
● 6x Mafia
● 16x Civilians
● 2x Detective
● 1x Angel
● 1x Vigilante
● 1x Traitor

Once again the different characters have been assigned special roles/abilities that are in common use, and can be used if desired. For the Civilian characters, these are: Bulletproof, Burglar, Chemist, Cosplay, Cupid, Governor, Mafia Cousin Turned, Old Lady Witness, Priest, Serial Killer, Tough Guy, Town Fool, Traitor, and Zombie.

For the Mafia, the special roles/abilities are Godfather, Mafia Kid, Silencer, and Undercover Cop.



App

In conjunction with the Kickstarter that funded the miniature deck, the publisher mentioned plans to create a free 8-bit Werewolf/Mafia app, which includes 8-bit songs for the narrator to play during the night, scary 8-bit sound bits, an 8-bit soundtrack for each night, and rules for both games. I've not been able to find evidence that this was ever produced, although the publisher has produced apps for some of their other games, like Press Start Pocket, and something like this would be a nice addition to the game.



CONCLUSIONS

What do I think?

Werewolf: Werewolf/Mafia is rightly considered a classic among modern party games, and in the social deduction genre, so I really don't need to say much about it. If you are a gamer and have never played Werewolf, then something is seriously lacking in your gamer cred, because this is a party game that you should play at least once in your lifetime. Certainly if you enjoy secret role games, you absolutely owe it to yourself to give it a shot.

Rules: Questions can arise about how the roles of some of the characters work, but that is common with most versions of the game. The roles are explained briefly on the cards themselves, and in most cases if you're already familiar with Werewolf you should just be able to play immediately with these cards. For most published versions of Werewolf I wouldn't rely too heavily on the rules that are included anyway, because it's worth doing some research online to find out the best way to play. As far as rules go, perhaps the very best set of rules is the detailed instruction booklet that comes with Ted Alspach's Ultimate Werewolf (Bezier Games), which includes a very comprehensive coverage of all the ways to play, and how each character should work (review link).

8-bit version: While you can certainly play can play Werewolf and Mafia with a deck of standard playing cards by assigning different cards to different characters of the game, it's more fun when you have customized components that reflect the roles in the game. A number of different versions are already available, and the Home Run Games edition reviewed here will especially appeal to people who appreciate 8-bit artwork, and who have fond memories of console gaming in the 1980s and 1990s. A lot of effort has gone into creating the artwork for this version, which reflects a light-hearted take on the game, which fits the party-like atmosphere that this game should be played in anyway. For those who like the art style, Home Run Games has also produced a few decks of playing cards with 8-bit artwork that you might also be interested in.

Components: I'm quite happy with the quality of the components that come with this version. Home Run Games is very experienced in producing playing cards with a quality finish, that handle well and prove durable, and it shows. They're currently offering both the standard sized game and the miniature version on their website for $9 each, so the price is fairly reasonable as well.

Two-for-the-price-of-one: One nice thing about this version of the game is that it comes with both Werewolf and Mafia in the same box - so you can play whichever one you prefer, or try both. This is true of both the full-sized version and the miniature version - both come with cards for Werewolf and for Mafia.

Miniature version: One advantage of the miniature 8-bit version is that it doesn't just have standard characters, but lots of different roles that are in popular use have found their way onto the cards. I find the small size of the cards quite fine, and have had no difficulty in reading the print. They have been printed clearly and are quality card-stock just like the regular sized deck. In fact I find the palm sized cards quite convenient for a social deduction game like this, because it's easier to tuck a smaller card into a pocket or keep it secret without bending or ruining the card. One disadvantage is that the miniature version doesn't come with separate instructions, but these can be accessed online, and as mentioned already, most Werewolf players would rather rely on their own rule-set anyway.



Recommendation

So are 8-Bit Werewolf and 8-Bit Mafia for you? Even with the growing wave of modern games, Werewolf and Mafia will continue to have a place of honour among party games. Not only have they had a large role in shaping the genre of modern social deduction games, but they continue to be enjoyed by many gamers around the world. They become easier to manage and more fun to play if you have an official looking version with cards that reflects the different roles and capture something of the atmosphere, and this version is a nice example.

Definitely check out what Home Run Games has on offer at their website if the 8-bit artwork appeals to you, and if you're looking for a published version of Werewolf/Mafia.

Want to know more?
Home Run Games: http://homerungames.com
8-bit Werewolf/Mafia: http://homerungames.com/games/8-bit-mafia.html
Webstore: http://homerungames.com/store/board-games.html

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mb The complete list of Ender's pictorial reviews: http://www.boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/37596

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