It was a beautiful afternoon for a cookout, and all of your friends showed up for it. As the shadows crept up and the kids moved into another room for a movie, it was time for a classic large-scale game of deception and mayhem.
And best of all, you only needed a standard deck of playing cards to get started, but you can always pick up a specialty version if you fall in love with the game (more about that in a moment).
MEETING THE MAFIA
When you need to entertain a group of seven or more older teens and adults, the classic Mafia game, http://icebreakerideas.com/mafia-game, really does the trick. You need at least seven people to play, but you can easily adapt it to fit more if your yard is really full.
In Mafia, a group of mafiosi work together to take over an area by eliminating the innocent townsfolk, one by one. The town has two special people who secretly defend it. The detective can identify members of the mafia and eliminate them, while the doctor can rescue townsfolk attacked by the Mafia members. The moderator organizes and runs the game, but doesn't take a side.
To get started, the moderator pulls out some of the playing cards to assign player roles. The game needs one king (Detective), one queen (Doctor), and several hearts (Mafiosi, one for every three townsfolk). Use any non-heart cards for the rest of the townsfolk. The moderator shuffles this little deck and hands out cards face-down to the players, who are free to look at their role (without letting anyone else see, of course).
The game works in alternating rounds. During the night, all players close their eyes and lightly pat their hands on legs to make soft noise. The moderator calls on the mafiosi to silently pick who they will eliminate. Once they choose, they close their eyes.
Next, the moderator calls on the detective to choose a person and find out if he is in the Mafia or is an innocent citizen of the town. After that, the detective closes her eyes and the moderator calls on the doctor. The doctor picks someone to save, but doesn't know if that person was actually the Mafia's target.
Now it's daytime. The moderator announces who was killed (or saved, if the doctor picked the right person). If the detective picked a Mafia member, that person is out of the game.
The remaining players begin discussing who they think are the remaining Mafia members. Here's where things get crazy. The Mafiosi try to shift blame and suspicion onto others. The detective and doctor try to hide their identities so the Mafiosi don't eliminate them. And the townsfolk just want to survive for another day.
At the end of the daytime round, everyone takes a vote on who they will collectively eliminate from the game. If they eliminate all of the Mafiosi, they win. If there are ever more Mafiosi than townsfolk, the Mafia wins. Then you can shuffle the cards, find a new moderator, and go again.
FINDING THE WEREWOLF
The folks at Looney Labs loved playing Mafia so much that they created their own version with an added twist. Are You a Werewolf? ($10 suggested retail price) puts the whole game into a fantasy setting. Werewolves replace the mafia members, and the village seer takes the role of the detective.
In a fun twist, the seer can't eliminate a werewolf — that person just knows the truth and then tries to convince the others without revealing their special power, because the werewolves really, really want to take a bite out of the seer.
The game also includes a nice (if slightly sinister) script for the moderator to follow when running the nighttime and daytime rounds.
MORE OPTIONS, FASTER GAME
If you want to try something even bigger that plays faster but doesn't use a moderator, try One Night Ultimate Werewolf ($24.99 suggested retail price) by Bezier Games. They played around with the Mafia rules and mechanics a bit and added more options.
They also created other themed versions, such as One Night Ultimate Vampire and One Night Ultimate Alien (both $24.99 suggested retail price) that work perfectly for Halloween parties and other special events.
Still want to go bigger? Try adding one of the expansion packs that Bezier Games made or just mix different versions of the game together. Have fun with those vampire aliens!
You can find all of these games at your friendly local game store.
IT'S GEN CON TIME!
In just a couple of weeks, you'll find me in Indianapolis with about 70,000 fellow members of my gaming tribe for the Gen Con Game Fair. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the event, which started as a humble gathering of geeky people in Lake Geneva, Wis.
Follow me on Twitter or Instagram to see updates throughout the show.
If you were thinking about attending Gen Con this year, I have bad news: By the time you read this, tickets will likely be completely sold out. This never happened before at Gen Con, so nobody quite knows what the convention will be like, except that everybody knows there will be people everywhere.
This anniversary year might even be busier than the summer of 2015, when the Friday night of Gen Con coincided with an Indianapolis Indians home game and a One Direction concert, all inside the same three block radius.
Wish me luck — I'm going in. See you on the other side!
Fort Wayne resident John Kaufeld is a best-selling author, speaker and dad. He enjoys playing games with his family and letting others know about them. You can email him at email@example.com and read more of his work at www.johnkaufeld.com. This column is the personal opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views or opinion of The News-Sentinel.