This week in Tabletop Games and Leadership, we played Ultimate Werewolf. If you don’t already know this is a classic example of a social deduction game. We were assigned roles, either on the villagers’ side or the werewolves’ side, with many players having some form of special ability. The werewolves are hungry and each night the werewolves choose someone to eat, eliminating them from play for the rest of the game. The villagers are tasked with choosing someone to execute at the end of each day, hoping that they can find the werewolves before it’s too late. Some key roles that we used in our playthrough were the seer who could check if one player is a werewolf each night.
In this game there is a certain level of mandated risk, because everybody votes on somebody to execute each day and in doing so the villagers risk executing teammates. Werewolves also risk eating teammates during the nighttime, but this risk is lower than for the villagers. To minimize these risks players employed various strategies in an attempt to win the game. Some people, such as myself, decided to just be open about our role in an attempt to gain trust, others shared a fabricated role to portray innocence, and the rest refused to share in an attempt to keep their important role hidden. All of these choices employed different styles and amounts of risk. Being open puts a player in danger of being an open target for the opponent, lying leaves you vulnerable to people finding out the truth, and silence garners suspicion.
The hardest part of the game for me was determining how to balance risk and reward when creating a personal gameplan. Because the only way for anyone to truly verify your role you would have to be voted off. There were, obviously, ways that you could be checked that would make your role more trusted, but not truly guaranteed. Every decision you make changes the risk landscape of the game. It changes what’s risky about you and your gameplay as well as affects the rest of your team, especially when there were things like the lovers and Virginia Woolf, which both involved a second death when certain people died. An example would be that I revealed that I was the PI, which comes with the ability to check if a player or either of their neighbors are a werewolf one time. Although I was trying to establish trust, doing this let the werewolves know that I was against them and is likely the reason I was eaten that night.
While playing this game, there were a couple examples of leadership and of my classmates being leaders. Like in the dancing guy video, at the very beginning of the first day there was a split second of silence before anybody spoke, then someone said the first thing, something about how do we want to approach this first day, then someone else said that we could go around saying our roles to try and figure out something suspicious. Followed by me speaking out with my role and a continued cascade of people speaking up, until just about everyone was speaking or at least had spoken. The first person to speak set off this chain reaction that essentially began the game. A similar thing happened for the first vote, people started voting pretty quickly after the first vote went out. Another instance of leadership that occurred was when the seer, which is a very important role for the villagers came out and admitted their role to say who they have cleared. This allowed them to guide the conversation in a way that they wouldn’t have been able to otherwise and lead the villagers to finding the werewolves sooner. In general, this game’s biggest tie to leadership is in the decision-making process, because it allows players to make decisions openly and be affected by the decisions of others. This relates to its next biggest tie to leadership as well. This second tie would be the team strategization aspect, in which members of each team have to try to strategize without knowing each other’s true role or intentions.
The deductive reasoning required for this game is one of my favorite parts. I love to try and untangle the web of truths, lies, and partial truths that the other players are spinning. I also like to try to spin my own little web, but I am not always good at lying and am very risk averse, so I am never sure what lies to go with and when. Although I didn’t get a chance to contribute much to the dialogue, it was still interesting to see how everyone else was slowly unfolding the nightly happenings. Something that I wasn’t a fan of was the night stage. It makes sense for the game, but it feels long and drawn out while you as a player are not doing much, even if you have a role with an ability. However, this is a relatively small drawback that shouldn’t deter new players. This game is one that I think could fit very well with general audiences, because the rules are relatively simple and it’s about interacting with others. It also could do well with people who like to solve puzzles and use reasoning to solve problems. Because of this, I think my roommate Blake would really enjoy this game.