I want to start this article talking about some of the pitfalls with bigger player count games. It’s one thing that party style games generally do pretty well, but can be issues with other games. The big pitfall is some of these games have too much time between turns. Elder Signs, a game that I enjoy as a lighter Lovecraftian game, has a player count up to eight players. The downside is that the rounds last too long so there is too much down time between turns. This if the big pitfall for a lot of higher player count games where once you’ve taken a turn, you have time to converse, and you don’t stay involved in the game. Now, cooperative games like Elder Signs do cut down on this some, but with that large a player count, not everyone can easily see the board in order to give advice.
The other one is too many rules and or roles. While it’s fun to have one group of players doing one thing and another working on yet another thing, that can be challenging. Some of it can be a challenge just to play, but more so, there is a fair amount of time setting up the rules before the game. People lose track of what they are doing, rules are explained multiple times or a rule can even mean different things for different people. The point of playing a larger group game, most of the time, is to start off the game night with something simple and getting people into the game playing mindset. If a game is overly complex, it’s going to be harder to teach to that large of a group. To get that type of game to the table, start with a smaller group and add one or two people at a time. Now, there are exceptions to this rule, which I’ll give an example of as a larger group that people can play.
To move away form pitfalls or things that could be difficult in larger group games, what are some categories or types of non-party games that people play with a larger group? There are times where party games are good, but what games can you branch out with?
The first category is actually just a game itself, but it’s been themed and reskinned so many times, I think it’s one that you can qualify now as it’s own category. That is Fluxx. Any theme you can imagine has been put on this, I have the Lovecraftian one, but there is environmental fluxx and there is space fluxx. Whatever theme works best in your group, you can probably find it in Fluxx. To explain how fluxx works, you are trying to match cards you’ve played to the objective, however, the rules of the game are in a constant state of flux as people play new rule cards or change the objective of the game to keep someone from winning or to get themselves closer to winning. It’s draw a card, play a card sort of game as the base though. It’s okay as game, but it can run long, so I’d lean towards playing this when I know I’m waiting on someone for a little bit.
The second category of games is social deduction games. Most people are familiar with the concept of mafia. It’s a game where some people are citizens or police and others are mafia. The mafia try and kill off the citizens and the police try and get the mafia. That’s the basis for a lot of these games. They are trying to figure out who is some character or role and keep them from winning. There are three games that I would most strongly recommend out of this category of game: Deception: Murder in Hong Kong, Secret Hitler, and Donner Dinner Party. Clearly they are all nice and happy things here.
There are other games like The Resistance, Avalon, or One Night Ultimate Werewolf, that are also social deduction games, but these games are missing one important aspect. These games miss an important aspect that the others have, which is the introduction of imperfect but useful information.Yes, there is very imperfect information in these games, and you can find out more information, but at the end of it, they all fall closer to the mafia basis of the games. This just means that they end up being a little bit simplistic at times.
Deception: Murder in Hong Kong introduces a component of the forensic scientist who is trying to help the investigators find out who committed the murder and who is the accomplice. Each player in front of them has four clues and four weapons. Then the standard thing is done, everyone closes their eyes, except for the game master, the forensic scientist, who asks the murder and accomplice to open their eyes and the murder to select a murder weapon and clue from in front of that player. Then everyone closes their eyes again and everyone opens their eyes. The forensic scientist then, without speaking, selects options from cards that they have to give clues to the investigators to help them narrow down who is the murder and what the weapon and clue were. The investigators eventually end up guessing, and if one of them gets the combo right, we catch the murder. But the murder and accomplice are trying to distract people but not too obviously.
Secret Hitler and Donner Dinner Party work on similar mechanics. The imperfect information combo. In Secret Hitler, the two people who are it, chancellor and president and that changes each round. Each player has a role, and the fascists are either trying to get Hitler to be chancellor or to complete so many objectives. These objectives, however, are completed each round, but could be good for the players or could be bad for the players who aren’t fascists. But what works well with this game is that the president draws three bills and then has to pass two on to the chancellor who then selects a bill. So you have some information, but it’s possible to draw three fascist agendas, in which case, you’re stuck with what you pass. In a similar way, the Donner Dinner Party has you hunting for food. Each player, minus the current camp leader, gets to draw too food cards and pick one to play. Poison is bad as it poisons the whole food supply, squirrels are good, because you can feed two people with squirrels. But it’s possible that you can be a settler who just happened to draw two poison cards so you have to screw over the group. Add in to that the played food cards are shuffled up means that no one really knows who played what, but let the accusations fly.
Turns out that there is going to be a part three to this, because while I’ve gotten to some games here, there are still even more games to go. These have all fit into a certain category, minus Fluxx which is it’s own category, but what are some other games that can work well, that’s what I’ll come back with next time.
What is your favorite social deduction type of game?
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