(also known as Werewolf
) is a party game
modeling a battle between an informed minority and an uninformed
majority. Players are secretly assigned roles: either "mafia", who know each other; or "townspeople
", who know only the number of mafia amongst them. During the night phase of the game, the Mafia choose an innocent to kill. During the day phase, all players debate the identities of the Mafia and vote to kill someone whom the majority suspect. Players are eliminated until only innocents or mafia remain; the surviving side wins. Mafia is rarely played in groups of fewer than five, and must always start with more innocents than mafia.
Mafia was created in the spring of 1986 by Dimma Davidoff at the Psychological
Department of Moscow State University
, and the first players were playing in classrooms, dorms, and summer camps of Moscow University
. The game became popular in other Soviet colleges and schools and in the 1990s it began to be played in Europe (Slovakia
, Czech Republic
) and then the United States. Mafia is considered to be one of "the 50 most historically and culturally significant games published since 1800" by about.com
Andrew Plotkin gave the rules a Werewolf theme in 1997 - Looney Labs have sold a derivative as Are You a Werewolf?, as have Asmodée Éditions under the title Werewolves of Millers Hollow, Mayfair Games as Lupus in Tabula (Latin for Werewolves at the Table), Bézier Games as Ted Alspach's Ultimate Werewolf: Ultimate Edition, Alliance Games as Mafia Gameplay Cards and Bullet Hole Games as Mafia: Death and Deception.
Mafia and a variant called Thing have been played at science fiction writers' workshops since 1998, and have effectively become an integral part of the annual Clarion and Viable Paradise workshops.
David and Jon Huston created the first licensed version in the theme of H. P. Lovecraft's Cthulhu Mythos called Do You Worship Cthulhu, published by Toy Vault, Inc. in 2005. The main card art was completed by Ron Spencer, and Walt Howington designed the instruction graphics.
A variation of Mafia was used to promote the film Cry Wolf (2005), having one wolf, one shepherd, and a number of sheep, with no day and night phases.
Adam Gopnik devotes a chapter to describing the game in Through the Children's Gate.
In June 2006, a Rockingham school inquiry was launched after parents complained of the traumatic effects classroom Mafia was having on their fifth-grade children.
Ernest Fedorov runs a "Mafia Club" in Kyiv, using his own patented variation of the rules. The club organizes games, rates players, and awards prizes, with the victor of the tournament grand final winning a trip to Sicily.
Rachel Bagenal and Sofka Armour Brown from London and Yuri Gerrits from Leuven collaboratively modified the game in 2006. They combined the characters and plot of Werewolf with the more mobile and physical aspects of Murder in the Dark. They called the game "Ultimate Werewolf". The day time rounds remain the same as players sit around a table or in a circle in "base". The night time rounds are played roaming around the house in complete darkness.
Players make themselves comfortable in a space such that every player can see every other player.
Roles are assigned by a method which is both confidential and verifiable, often by dealing cards; a red or black card signifies the role as either:
- Mafia (alternatively, Werewolves, Worshippers, or Scum)
- Innocents (alternatively, Citizens, Villagers, Townspeople or Civilians)
Other, individual roles within each faction are possible.
Generally, gameplay also requires a Narrator (alternatively, God, Mayor, Host or Moderator), a person not playing, but moderating the game. The Narrator knows the roles of each player and effectively narrates game play.
tells everyone to close their eyes and lower their heads ("It is now nighttime and all the villagers are asleep...") This can optionally be accompanied by all players tapping gently to mask any giveaway sounds of player movement. On the first night, the Narrator tells the Mafia
to open their eyes and acknowledge their fellow Mafia members. Variations at this point:
- The Mafia may have a chance to kill off one of the Innocents by show of hands. (On the first night, the Mafia may "kill" the Narrator so that every Innocent gets a chance to participate in at least one execution decision. The Narrator then says in the Morning that he was killed and game play continues as usual.)
- Optionally, Mafia members must secretly communicate during the daytime and then unanimously agree to kill someone during the nighttime without opening their eyes to communicate (such as by having the narrator call out the names of each player, with Mafia players raising a hand to signify a kill).
- In large groups, each Mafia member can kill one person per night.
- In large groups, a Master Mafia member (Master Werewolf) has the ability to induct innocents into the Mafia (or infect villagers into werewolves).
Other variant characters may have turns to open their eyes to do "business" during the night (before or after the Mafia).
The Narrator tells everyone to wake up and announces the Mafia's victim. Usually this involves the Narrator telling a story about the murder scene that the remaining players wake up to, and/or a story of how the victim was killed. For example, "The police chief said, 'Bob was shot seven times, stabbed three times, and drowned in the river. This is the worst case of suicide I've ever seen.'" This player is "dead" and may no longer participate in the game in any way, and is thus permitted to keep their eyes open at night.
Depending on the variant, The Narrator may reveal the identity of dead players, dead players may reveal themselves by flipping their cards face up (most common version), or the alignment of the dead may remain hidden. Typically, prematurely revealing one's identity by flipping one's card face up while still alive is considered suicide; in single-execution-per-day variants, this may count as the execution for that day.
During the daytime phase, the players deliberate over which suspected Mafia member they wish to nominate for execution. The Innocents want to execute a Mafia member but all players are allowed to vote. Generally, The Narrator will administer the election, the nominee may be given a chance to defend themselves and a majority is required for the execution to be carried out, although voting variants abound. The same rules apply to players who are executed by the Innocents as to players killed by the Mafia. In some variants, multiple players may be killed during the same day. Usually, each player must vote, can only vote once and cannot vote for themselves.
Daytime and nighttime can move quickly in live play, as daily executions and nightly decisions are communicated in real time. Daytime phases usually require a majority to be reached in order for a lynch (execution) to occur and effectively end the round. A set time limit may also be applied to this condition. At night, the evil factions have more information, and less to deliberate. Because of that, night is considerably shorter than day.
When playing online, more time is needed to reach decisions. Players aren't usually available in unison, so forum-based phases tend to last longer than live phases. Online "turbos" replicate live games in requiring all players' continuous participation; the day phase is typically 20 or 25 minutes long and the night phase is usually 5 minutes long. In long online games, days usually run from 9am to 9pm and nights from 9pm to 9am.
The game ends either when the last Mafia member is killed (Innocent victory) or the Mafia members outnumber or equal the Innocents during the day (Mafia victory). The innocents have no way of voting off mafia members at this point, but the mafia can still kill each night. Other variants have different victory conditions.
Number of Mafia
A game with just one more innocent player than Mafia players during the day phase will be won by the innocents if they always kill mafia (otherwise, they lose). A game starting with a night kill must begin with at least two more innocents than mafiosi to permit an innocent victory.
The optimal number of each type of character depends on players' preferences for game length and Mafia win percentage. A good rule of thumb is about one mafia for every two non-mafia members. So one mafia member for under five players, two mafia for five to seven players, three mafia for eight to ten players, and so on. For greater than sixteen players, games usually last too long and the dead become restless. It can add excitement to conceal how many mafia are playing (narration: "either two or three mafiosi are amongst you").
Generally, fewer players result in fewer turns and thus less time to determine the identity of the mafia. The inclusion of "variant" characters typically decreases the Mafia's chance of victory. For example, the addition of a Sheriff or Doctor will decrease the expected Mafia win percentage.
Allowing the Townspeople to abstain from killing on certain turns can decrease or increase the Mafia win percentage as can variants which make it more difficult for the Mafia to achieve a kill (e.g., requiring them to agree on a victim independently). The "no kill" variant compensates to some extent for the disadvantage given to odd numbers of Townspeople. Otherwise, 2n+1 Innocents are less likely to win than 2n Innocents (for n>2) because they have decreased their odds of voting for a Mafia each turn without increasing their number of turns (resulting in ties rather than Mafia majorities).
Over the years, players have created Mafia variants which utilize alternative names for characters, additional characters, and different methods for conducting deliberation, voting and killing.
These additional roles are named differently in the many versions of Mafia, for thematic flavor
, or historical reasons. Also, the same role-name can have differing functions across different versions of the game.. What follows is a general list of role types
found in Mafia variants; since the specific names vary by milieu
it must be non-exhaustive.
- Investigative roles (Standard) - "Detective", "Seer", "Angel", "Sheriff", "Commandant", "Knight Commandant", "Cop", "Inspector", etc.
- Allied with the Innocents, the "Detective" can detect whether a player is a Mafia. They will typically "wake up", and point at one person, at which point the Narrator will silently indicate to the Detective whether that player is Mafia or Innocent. In some versions of the game, the Detective's investigation result is announced publicly by the Narrator, for example "the Detective found a Mafioso!". In other versions, the narrator makes no such announcement and the Detective must convince the other players that he or she is the Detective. This leaves anyone the option of pretending to be the Detective, and additionally the Detective (and any impersonating him) must avoid raising suspicion among the Mafia when trying to convince other players that a player is a Mafia. A "Detective" is usually included in modern games. For example, somebody is always assigned this role in all commercial card game versions, and almost all internet-based, and most face-to-face games start with at least one detective. In some games, there are Mafia Detectives, who have the power of a normal detective but are on the Mafia side. The "Super Commandant" in games featuring it, has the standard power of a "Detective", while also protecting the investigated from night-time attack.
- Investigative roles (Less common) - "Spy", "Psychic", "Wizard", "Little Girl", "Oracle", etc.
- "Psychic", "Psychologist", or "Sorceror"-type investigators can determine other players' roles, rather than their alignments. Roles which detect other roles are usually implemented in the same way as the Detective's ability to determine alignment. For example: the Psychologist points to a player (at night) for a "Thumbs-up" from the moderator if the "Vigilante" is pointed to. A "Tracker" may see what someone's night action was, or the target of their action. The Devil is the Detective's Mafia counterpart, with the night-time ability to identify empowered Innocents. The "Little Girl" in Werewolf and Werewolves of Miller's Hollow is allowed to secretly peek and watch as the werewolves choose their victim. Information revealed to investigators is fallible (in more complicated variants). Online versions can give information with a confidence level, and in other variants the Narrator deceives the Detective by showing all players as Innocent, all as Guilty, giving reversed results, or random information (these can be termed as "Naïve", "Paranoid", "Insane", or "Random" respectively). Additionally, some Alignment roles give immunity to successful investigation.
- Protective roles - "Guardian Angel", "Doctor", "Healer", "Archangel", "Bodyguard", etc.
- Allied with the Innocents, the "Doctor"-type role defends others at night. Typically, they will "awaken" at night after the "Mafia" have "gone back to sleep" and point at one person to protect; that person will survive any night-time attack. Sometimes they are allowed to protect themselves, sometimes only once. (A "Guardian Angel" has the doctor's powers without the ability to self-protect.) The "Nurse" gains the Doctor's abilities if the Doctor dies.. The Firefighter, or the Herbalist can protect from some night-time attacks but not others. (In Werewolf, for example, they choose one person to protect with wolfsbane, but that person may still be killed by the Serial Killer.)
- Killing roles - "Vigilante", "Rambo", "Hunter", "Crazy Veteran", "Bomb", "Woodcutter", etc.
- Aside from Mafia, Werewolves, and Serial Killers (solitary guilty parties), the Innocents may have some roles with the ability to kill at night. The Vigilante is an "innocent" who kills every night, in his own night-time phase, in some variations, having a limited "bullet" supply for the entire game. The Bomb/Crazy Vet may only trigger if targeted at night (not necessarily for death) by another role. Variants exist where this person can kill during the daytime cycle (e.g., the Terrorist / Gravedigger), sometimes only if executed during the daytime (e.g., the Hunter / Village Bicycle). One killer can have the ability to kill several other people at once. For example, Rambo can kill three adjacent victims. And, if killed in the night, the Human Torch can kill the two surviving players closest to them in the morning. The "Woodcutter" or "Hunter" can take one other person with them when they die.
- Alignment roles - "Miller", "Godfather", "Alpha Wolf", "Master Werewolf", etc.
- Some roles can fool investigations to determine their alignments: the Miller is an Innocent who appears guilty (usually because they are an outsider); the Godfather, on the other hand, appears innocent despite being the Mafia leader. The "Alpha Wolf" or "Master Werewolf" have the same role as the Godfather in Werewolf settings.
- Double-agent roles - "Godfather", "Traitor", "Possessed", "Undercover Cop", etc.
- There is an alternative definition of "Godfather" role from the Alignment role Godfather (who is immune to alignment-detection). This "Godfather" behaves as a standard mafioso, but wakes again (after the Mafia sleep) for an extra kill. This Godfather-role wins only if he survives. The Traitor is not a mafioso, but works with their vote during the day cycle to protect Mafia and hamper the town (he wins only with a Mafia victory). Conversely, "The Rat" or "Undercover Cop" is a mole within the Mafia group (winning with the innocents). Judas is an innocent who converts into a "Traitor" (and survives) when lynched (or vice versa, becoming a "Rat").
- Role manipulators - "Role-blocker", "Bus Driver", "Thief", "Barman", etc.
- These roles can stop or alter the night actions of others; for instance, they may prevent a protection or investigation from occurring, or they may change the target. The "Walrus" can block the Vigilante for a night, while the "Thief" or "Prostitute" might be able to disable the powers of any selected target.
- Recruitment Roles - "Godfather", "Psychiatrist", "Cult Leader and Followers", etc.
- Cult Leaders recruit at night instead of kill; they act as an independent faction, usually with the ability to talk at night. The Mafia Godfather may be able to recruit innocent players into his faction under certain circumstances. The Psychiatrist is an innocent with the ability to convert the Serial Killer into a normal innocent.
- Association roles - "Freemasons (Masons)", "Siblings", "Cupid"/"Lovers”,etc.
- Possessors of these roles know one another and what their roles are. On the innocent's side, a "Mason" usually has no special abilities, but knows the identity of all other Masons and that all Masons are also innocent. There are, however, sometimes Mafia Masons, who look like Masons, but are actually part of the Mafia. Innocent Masons all believe that the Mafia Mason is innocent.Sibling pairs typically consist of one Mafia and one Innocent; if one dies, both die. Cupid in Werewolves chooses a pair of "Lovers" on the first night. In this variant, the Lovers can also win the game (regardless of whether they are Mafia, Innocents, or both) by being the last two standing. In most versions, if one "Lover" is killed the other dies as well.
- Power roles - "Mayor", "Judge", "Sheriff", "President", etc.
- This role is taken in addition to the assigned role, and it endows the player with additional, overt, powers (particularly during the daytime). Empowerment can be random, but is usually made by vote. For instance, the "Mayor" or "Sheriff" can be elected each morning, and gain two lynching votes, or a Judge could moderate discussion in parliamentary fashion (to the advantage of their "team"). The elected "President" has the sole lynching vote.
- Handicapped roles - "Murr", "Village Drunk", etc.
- This role is, much as the power roles, taken in addition to the assigned role. However, it has the opposite effect, giving the bearer a handicap, like speaking only gibberish in the case of the Village Drunk, etc.
- Mafia Team Variant Roles - "Silencer", "Yakuza", etc.
- The "Silencer" can 'silence' anyone each day (except whoever was silenced yesterday). The silenced individual wakes in the morning and is immediately instructed not to talk until the end of the day (They may vote and be executed though). The Silencer does not participate in the mafia killing, and the mafia do not know who their silencer is, but he is typically aligned with them and knows their identities. The Yakuza is a regular mafia player with an extra power: they may sacrifice themselves from the second night (during the night) and choose an innocent to join the mafia team.
- Post-mortem roles - "Dark Background", "Priest", "Medium", "Forensic Expert", "M.E.", etc.
- The "dark background" roles are vanilla (mafia or innocent) except for revealing a deceptive alignment when killed. The "M.E." gathers information from the killings that can help the innocents, while the "Priest" learns about the alignment of the dead in the same way that the Detective learns about the living. The Medium can interrogate dead players.
- Reanimation roles - ," "Reviver," "Master Reviver, "Governor", "Martyr", "Witch", etc.
- Revivers & "Master Revivers" are able to resurrect dead players, Master Revivers can bring the revived into their association (e.g., the Masons: see Association roles). The players resurrected by a Necromancers are converted to the Necromancer's alignment. The "Governor" can reprieve those killed during the daytime, as can the "Martyr"-role if he sacrifices himself.. The Witch has a (single-use) revival potion. At night, she's shown who will die in the morning, and can choose to save them.
- Rule-immune Roles - "Bulletproof", "Oracle", etc.
- A variant on receiving protection is the "Bulletproof" innocent, who becomes invulnerable to night-time attack. The Oracle has an investigative role similar to a "Seer" but also has the power to talk when inactive (talking in a "sleep" phase is usually a rule infraction).
- Special roles - "Baker", "Village Idiot", "Cobbler", "Doublevoter", "Priest", "Lawyer", etc.
- The baker is on the side of the innocents. During the night, the baker chooses one player to be the recipient of a loaf of bread. If the baker dies, the innocents have just three nights to dispose of the mafia, or the innocents starve, and the mafia win. The Cobbler, "Village Idiot", or Jester has the objective of convincing the town to kill him, or is required to vote in favor of all proposed lynchings. Also, in some games there are players who can change the vote count. Some players have 2 votes (Doublevoter); some players can only "hammer" vote, or vote the final vote to kill a player (Actor); cannot place the final vote (Priest); cannot vote to lynch (Voteless Innocent); or require one fewer vote to lynch (Hated Innocent). The lawyer has the ability to represent any person, the person is selectied during the night. If that person would be voted guilty instead they are saved. There are endless special roles, and many moderators make up their own roles for games.
Additional variations exist, sometimes with even more specialized or complicated abilities.
- Mafia killing methods - some variants require all Mafia members to choose the same victim independently for a kill to succeed. This can be achieved either by waking the Mafia members up separately, or by having them write their kills. Under this variant, Innocent players write the word 'honest' on a piece of paper; Mafia members write the name of a player for elimination. If all the mafia notes have the same name on them, that player is considered killed by the Mafia. In some online versions of the game, a particular player (the Godfather or a designated mafioso) must send in the kill.
- Voting variants - some variants have a more complicated process of selecting players to be executed. Davidoff's original 'Mafia' allowed multiple day-time executions (per day), each needing only a plurality to action. Another variant requires the night-time vote to be secret and unanimous, but allows multiple players to be added to the execution queue to ensure unanimity.
- "No lynch" or "No kill" - the Innocents can choose not to kill anybody during the day. Although commonly unsure of Mafia identities, the Innocents are more likely to randomly kill a mafioso than are the Mafia (at night). Therefore, "No kill" may favor the Mafia. (Furthermore, a player's role is generally revealed at death, providing reliable information to the Innocents.) However, when the number of survivors is even, "No Kill" may help the Innocents; for example, when three Innocents and one mafioso remain, "No kill" gives a 1/3 chance of killing the mafioso the next day, rather than a 1/4 chance today (assuming random lynching). Lynching an innocent either day gives a Mafia win (a daytime killing which leaves 2 innocents alive will leave one innocent and one mafioso alive the next morning, usually ruled a win for the Mafia).
- Timed Days - An open and public timer is set to three minutes per live player at the beginning of each day. If the players lynch someone, then the day ends immediately. If time runs out, the day is over and there is no lynching.
- Random narrator - to eliminate the inconvenience of being killed first, this variant has the Innocent killed on the first night become the Narrator. The Mafia must inform this victim of their death without revealing themselves. The writing variant works best.
- Multiple families - (or a Mafia group and a Werewolf group) act and win independently, giving faster gameplay and the potential for "cross-fire" between the factions.
- Imprisonment - allows players to be sent to prison as an alternative to execution. They can either be sent there by vote or at the discretion of an optional character. Imprisoned players move to a separate room, possibly with a separate narrator. Murders can happen in prison and certain roles or events can liberate players.
- Kidnapping - like imprisonment, this variant allows for a Kidnapper character to remove individuals from the game temporarily. If the kidnapper is killed (or, in some cases, investigated by an Investigative role), the kidnapped return. While kidnapped, players are inactive, and can not watch night-time events.
- Wrath of God - this variant allows the Narrator to select in a random and verifiable manner one or more Innocents, to carry a cost for their death(s). If the Mafia selects said Innocent during the night round, then the mafioso who selected the "protected" player will also die as a result. If, during the day round, any player leads an accusation towards the "protected" player and that player is voted out, then the original accuser shall die as well. ("Wrath of God" in online games often refers to the moderator killing off inactive or disruptive players, not to this rule variation.)
- Plague - this variant allows the Narrator to select in a random and verifiable manner one player who dies of plague in the morning. A player who targets the plagued player at night may contract the plague as a result.
- Punishment - this variant is generally used as a drinking or risk based game. When a person is killed in the game they are made to take a punishment. In drinking circles this may be a shot of Gin or Vodka.
- Lives - this variant requires the Narrator to keep track of the players' lives on a piece of paper, because every player has two or more lives. This extends the game when there are too few players for the standard rules. Kills (in the night & day phases) reduce these lives, until a player reaches zero lives and is eliminated. Mafia 'kills' which reduce lives are usually not announced to the innocents.
- Attributes - in this variant, players are given two cards: the first contains their role, the second an attribute. Attributes are originally derived from roles that could apply to both Mafia and Innocent alignments: currently including Bulletproof (cannot be killed at night), Mayor (has two votes in the lynch), and Siamese Twins (more commonly know as Siblings or Lovers).
- Ultimate Werewolf - The day time rounds remain the same as players sit around a table or in a circle in the candlelit "base". The night time rounds are played roaming around the house in complete darkness. Innocents are "killed" by the werewolf tapping the victim on the shoulder in the dark. The victim must wait fifteen seconds until screaming in order to allow the werewolf to get away. Once an innocent is killed by the werewolf, everyone re-assembles in the base for the day time round. This variant of the game includes the "Little Girl" character who is allowed to collect a flash light from a prearranged place (e.g. at the bottom of the stairs) at the beginning of each night time round. Innocents who have been killed in the game become "zombies" and roam around in the dark (after a 30 second advantage on the innocents) in each night time round. Lovers need to find each other in the dark and protect each other from the werewolf.
Although Mafia is usually played face to face, online play is also common. These games last longer, and allow player's votes and words to be reviewed more easily. There are many forms of online play: the film Cry Wolf
was promoted through a wolves vs sheep
variant, played over AOL Instant Messenger
. Online play typically means Internet forum
-play, with early games including those in the forum of mathematical puzzle
site Grey Labyrinth
in 2000. The standard human-moderated games require one or two moderators: a sign up thread is created announcing the game, and once the game has sufficient players, play can begin. It usually starts in the night phase with mafiosi communicating via email
before submitting their kill (to the moderator). The moderator then writes the appropriate death scene
for those that were eliminated, and posts a dawn scene. Software can automate the moderator function, but this is rarer. All players can now discuss (in the forum) who they should execute, followed by an execution vote. Innocents are usually forbidden in-game communication outside of the public forum.
Mafia is also played on IRC (Internet Relay Chat) using private messages to send votes and channel modes to allow private communication during the night. The first IRC mafia channel was #mafia on irc.dynasty.net. An email version was invented by a group of programmers and players on Richard's PBEMserver, and the end result was written down as a ruleset. Most of the times the Werewolf variant is played, but it has the same rules as Mafia and in some cases both Mafia and Werewolf groups are trying to kill the village. The games take mostly one week and every month three games are started and finished. Versions of Mafia have also been created on BYOND and Facebook.
Fictional reality themes are common in online play, which will work with any group of well known characters. The Simpsons, Hanna Barbera, The Lord of the Rings, Lost (TV Series) have been used, for example, because of their extensive character sets. Players are assigned characters from the theme, with matching roles. Generic themes are also popular - such as the Werewolf-theme.