So you have purchased the very exciting game, Secret Hitler, and are dying to know how to play and what makes it so great -- does it live up to all the hype and everything you have heard?! For more social deduction games like Secret Hitler, I recommend Resistance, Avalon, or Werewolf.
To set up this 5-10 player game, everyone is dealt a secret Party Membership card (Liberal or Fascist) and a secret role card which has either "Liberal", "Fascist", or "Hitler" on the front. All Liberal party members will receive a role card which says Liberal. Most Fascist party members will receive a role card which says Fascist, however one player who is a member of the Fascist party will receive a role card which says Hitler. Once the party membership/role cards are handed out, everyone also gets a pair of Ja! or Nein ballots for voting. Finally, put out the Liberal and Fascist boards, and create a draw pile for the policy tiles.
This last step before play begins is important. Everyone in the group closes their eyes, and extends a fist outwards. All players that are Fascists, and NOT Hitler, must open their eyes and see one another. Now, while all the Fascists still have their eyes open, Hitler, with their eyes closed, make a thumbs up signal with your fist. Everyone now closes their eyes. Everyone, wake up. Now, the Fascists know who the other Fascists are, and the Fascists know who Hitler is. Hitler has no information about his/her teammates, and Liberals have no information about any of the players. (Note: for games with 5/6 players, there is only 1 Fascist and 1 Hitler and they both know the other, so the directions are the same except Hitler can open his/her eyes).
NOW WE CAN BEGIN THE GAME OF SECRET HITLER.
A player is randomly chosen as the President at the beginning of the game and must nominate a player to be Chancellor. (If this is the very first game you are playing, then you can randomly select a player to start, or pick the player who went to Germany last, or who is wearing the brightest colors, etc.) Who should the President select as Chancellor? I won't get too much into strategy and meta-gaming here, however, the Presidency moves clockwise (to the left) so you probably don't want to pick the person to your left, as they will be President next. You could select someone closer to the middle of the group or to the right since they won't be President for quite a while - since is the first round, you don't have much to go on. You could have a hunch, or instinct, and read body language, however typically this is the round where you have the least amount of information in the entire game.
The President selects and nominates a Chancellor. Next, all players votes on this proposed government with their ballot cards (Ja! = yes; Nein = no) at the same time so no one can switch their vote. If more people vote Ja! then Nein then the government passes (ties = fail), and the President and Chancellor will enact a policy. How to enact a policy? The President picks 3 policy tiles, discards 1 of them, and passes the remaining 2 policy tiles over to the Chancellor. The Chancellor then selects one tile to enact.
How do you win the game as a Liberal or a a Fascist?
Liberals win if they enact 5 Liberal polices.
Fascists win if they enact 6 Fascist policies OR by electing Hitler as Chancellor after 3 Fascist policies have been enacted.
Back to enacting the policy. Let's say the President picked up 2 Fascist tiles and 1 Liberal tile. If the President is a Fascist, he/she could pass along 2 Fascist tiles to the Chancellor (discarding the Liberal tile), thereby forcing the Chancellor to enact the Fascist policy. Or, the President could also pass along 1 Fascist tile and 1 Liberal tile thereby forcing the Chancellor to choose which policy to enact.
In either event, the Chancellor enacts a policy. If there was no choice, and he/she was given 2 Fascist tiles, then the Fascist policy will be enacted. (This could mean that the President is a Fascist as it's rare to pick up 3 Fascist policy tiles, but it does happen). If the Chancellor is instead given 1 Fascist tile and 1 Liberal tile, then they will have the choice. Let's say they enact the Liberal tile. Does this mean they are a Liberal? Perhaps, but not necessarily. That player could be Fascist or Hitler, but wants everyone to believe they are Liberal. Btw, if this isn't quite what you had in mind for a good family board game to play, I get it.
This 'round' is now over, and The Presidency moves to the player to the left, and he/she will nominate a Chancellor. There can be discussion of course, with players wanting certain players to be Chancellor, or having noticed how a player voted on the prior round, and so on and so forth. After the next Chancellor is nominated, all the players vote on this proposed government, with their Ja! or Nein ballot cards. If more people in the group vote Ja! then the President selects 3 policy tiles, and passes 2 of those tiles along to the Chancellor. The Chancellor chooses a policy to enact, and the game play continues until 5 Liberal policies are enacted or 6 Fascists policies are enacted (there are 6 liberal tiles and 11 fascist tiles) OR Hitler is enacted as Chancellor, which feel terrible for the Liberal and pretty amazing for the Fascists.
Of course - I haven't addressed the OTHER nuances of the game (how far we have come from classic games like checkers and chess!) - for example, each member of the previously elected government (not nominated, as often the proposed President/Chancellor government fails) cannot be nominated as Chancellor in the next election. Also, every time a FASCIST policy is enacted that President receives an additional power. The first and second time a Fascist policy is enacted, the President gets to look at any player's membership card. The third time a Fascist policy is enacted, the President gets to pick the next President (it then reverts back to the regular order of moving clockwise). The fourth, the President gets to shoot a player, AND the fifth time, the President gets to shoot a player and unlock veto power which means the President and Chancellor (if they agree) can not enact a policy if they so desire. Finally, if the group rejects 3 proposed governments via the Election tracker on the Liberal board, then the country is thrown into upheaval and the top policy card if flipped over and immediately enacted.
And really, I haven't EVEN gotten into the best part of the game which is maneuvering however you see fit to figure out how your party can win, which may include arguing, debating, lying, acting, and any of the yelling, shouting, and chaos that ensues, but that is what makes the game SO delightful and deliciously fun - after all in what other situation besides playing popular board games that are good for groups, do you get to deceive and hide who you are to your friends, and family, or even with a random bunch of strangers in this way? And determining your team and role playing and acting in any way that is best to get the outcome you desire- as a Liberals or Fascist party member because THIS IS pre-WWII in Germany and the fate of the world rests in your hands?
I hope I have convinced you of the fun that is Secret Hitler. This is just one of the many facets of the game that make it one of the most entertaining, fun, and BEST social deduction games out there. Again for games like Secret Hitler, I recommend Resistance, Avalon, or Werewolf.
See here for a full set of rules to Secret Hitler.