I am a person who loves a great party. However, in order for a party to be fun and exciting, the party games that are played have to be top-notch. I present to you Mafia (also known as the Werewolf game): a game of deception, frustration, and surprises. In addition to being a riot in and of itself, Mafia is easily customizable, and you and your group of friends can try out different variants so you never get bored of the game.

Things You Will Need

You'll need to make at least 6 friends and organize them into a circle. My personal favorite place to play this game is around a campfire, but a dining room table or even the floor works just fine. This game is one of those that is more enjoyable with more people.
You will also need a deck of cards.

Step 1

Cards (17810) Setup
You will be functioning as the host of the game. In a moment, you will deal out cards to the players. The cards determine what role a player has in this party game. If a player gets a black card, they are a member of the mafia. If they get a red card, they are an innocent villager.

I recommend starting off by having 1 mafia member for every 3 villagers. So, a game of 8 would have 2 mafia and 6 villagers. Let us use this as our example. For a Mafia game of 8, you would take out 2 black cards, 4 red cards, a red king, and a red ace. The red king (the cop) and red ace (the doctor) are the two special villagers, and I will explain their roles in the next step.

Proceed to shuffle these and deal them out to the players. Let them look at their cards to see whether they are a Mafia member or a villager.

Step 2

The Mafia and the villagers form the two factions in this party game. The Mafia win by having the same number of living members as there are living villagers. The villagers win by killing all Mafia members.

Step 3

Nighttime Nighttime
The game of Mafia is played in a cycle of two rounds: day and night. The game starts with night. Say to the players, "Night approaches -- everyone go to sleep." The players must then close their eyes. First, ask the doctor (player with the red ace) to open his eyes. Ask him to select one player to protect throughout the night (he may protect himself). Then, say, "All right, doctor, go back to sleep."

Proceed to say, "Mafia, awaken." The Mafia members are then to open their eyes and look at each other to acknowledge who their partners are. Tell them, "Select someone as tonight's kill." They must then silently point and agree to kill one player. (They may select no one.) If they select the player that the doctor protected, no one will die. Otherwise, you will announce the selected player's death in the morning. Once they have shown who they want to kill, say, "Mafia, go back to sleep before the cop finds you."

Then, tell the cop (player with the red king) to open his eyes. Instruct him, "Select one player to learn of his alignment." If he points to a mafia member, nod your head "yes." If he points to a villager, nod your head "no." Then tell the cop to go back to sleep.

End the nighttime round by saying, "The sun is rising, everyone wake up."

Step 4

Daytime Daytime
When the players open their eyes, greet them a good morning and deliver the news of the mafia's kill. It is always fun to make a little story about the kills to liven up the party, so keep that in mind. However, if the Mafia did not kill or if the doctor protected the Mafia's kill, simply announce that everyone made it through the night safely (do not specify which of the two scenarios occurred).

The main part of this game begins: debate. All members organized, both Mafia and villager, all pretend to be innocent and look to hang a Mafia member. The cop has information that can be used, but it is dangerous to let the Mafia know who the cop is, even more so once the doctor is gone. Debate typically consists of false claims by the Mafia and analyzing the psychology of the other players.

Let them debate until half of the players demand a vote on who to hang. Once this happens, stop debate (you may have to be forceful) and go around, asking for each person to publicly declare their vote on who to hang. Players may vote for someone or vote to hang no one. In order for someone to be hung, they must receive over 50% of the vote. If no player receives the majority, no one is hung.

Then, instruct the players that the long day is over, and it is time for bed, then start the cycle over again. Gameplay resumes until...
  • Mafia victory: The number of Mafia is equal to or greater than the number of innocent villagers.
  • Villager victory: All Mafia members are dead.

Step 5

There you have it: the basic structure of, in my opinion, the world's most fun party game: Mafia! However, don't let this be the end-all for your partying pleasure. Consider switching up the ratio of villagers to Mafia members, or try some of these other variants:

  1. Day Start: Cut out the first night kill and start the game with nothing but raw lie detecting.
  2. Must Hang: Get rid of the option not to hang for a fast-paced bloody brawl.
  3. Reveal Roles: After each player's death, announce what role they had in the village.
  4. Godfather: Make a black ace the Godfather card. The Godfather is a special Mafia member in that he appears to be an innocent villager to the cop.
  5. Spy: Make a black queen the Spy card. The Spy is a special Mafia member who gets to select one player every night to be told whether or not they are a special villager.
You are now prepared to host Mafia at your next party. So, before you go out and buy another $30 party game, just whip out a deck of cards laying around the house and engage your friends in this addicting game of deceit, thinking, and surprises.

Tips & Warnings

Mafia is a party game where the host can royally ruin everything -- don't be one of those hosts. Never talk directly at a player during the night. Remain facing in one direction and move your eyes around to catch what is going on. Also, be careful not to accidentally say "yes" or "no"; your responses must always be in body language.