The Game Mechanic - Hidden Roles

    Hidden roles add a layer of social deduction to a board game. Players must try to analyse other people's decisions to surmise their secret role. Do you have the same objective as everyone else? Are you a traitor and do people suspect you? Should you make a decision against your objective to cover your tracks? The rules of the game should allow players to deceive one another, to form alliances based on trust and to do other events typical of social competitions.

"Three may keep a secret, if two of them are dead." - Benjamin Franklin


    Mafia is a party game created in 1986. It has one group of players secretly be the Mafia and another be innocent civilians. Every night the Mafia take out an innocent civilian. During the day, the civilians must deduce which are hidden Mafia members. This is social deduction at it's simplest. Players begin wild unsupported accusations from the very beginning. Players are keenly watching others for reactions or lack of reactions. There are many variations of this simple theme from werewolves to assassins.

    I have very fond memories of playing this game with people I just met. People of all ages and walk of life understand deception is the key to this game. This leads to fantastic moments where the kind unobtrusive Mother has deceived everyone and has secretly been assassinating all of her children. This is a fantastic game to bring people into the mechanic. However this game does require a moderator, someone who does not play in the game but ensures the rules are carried out.

    For a description on how to play this public domain game and even get your own free copy, view our post on it by clicking here.

Love Letter, Coup

    The more roles the better. These games have a deck of roles that constantly change during the game. It's up to you to keep a cool head and figure out the best move. Love Letter has 7 different roles. On each turn a player must play a role and try to eliminate the other players or survive until the end with the most powerful role. This is an incredibly quick and easy to learn game. Coup is a competitive card game where players are each given two face down role cards and two coins. There are five different roles which may allow a player to assassinate another player, steal their coins or do other actions. You can bluff roles you don't have but if someone calls you out on it, you lose one of your roles. These two games are fantastic to play with a small group of people.

The Resistance, Secret Hitler

    Added complexity means an added challenge. Some games have added complexity to allow for new and interesting social events. The Resistance has players be either operatives or spies. The spies must sabotage missions the operatives are attempting. This game removes player elimination and adds in a leader role. Each round there is a new leader. This leader must choose who they think are the operatives to ensure the mission is successful. This is a fantastic game as it forces spies to be a lot more vocal in convincing people they are the good guys. Secret Hitler has players be either liberals or fascists. Adding in all the complexity of government voting and secret powers, this game plays smoothly with a fun theme of lizard Hitler.


    There are many fantastic games in this mechanic. Some other ones I didn't mention but truly love are Two Rooms and a Boom, BANG! The Dice Game and Dark Moon. Players get incredible satisfaction preying on the weakness of others. Working together or alone you can sway the public into agreeing with your opinion. Watching friends slip up and give away their role leads to panicked pleas of innocence. These games create truly memorable experiences that will drive people to play again. Why not try adding hidden roles to other games you play? Such as Monopoly, Scrabble or Risk.