Werewolf is one of my most favorite social deduction games for many reasons which I outline towards the end of this article, and there is no doubt in my mind that you will see why if you give this game a try, and are a generally fan of these types of group social deduction games. Make no mistake, if you aren’t comfortable with deception, lying, arguing, and voting to eliminate other players, then this game is not for you. For those of you that are curious, and want to play a game where you have to be a sort of detective, and actor, and figure out who other players are, and convince other players of your role, please continue reading.
Overview – How to Play Ultimate Werewolf
How do you play this social deduction game, Ultimate Werewolf? It’s a fairly easy and simple set-up, and only takes about 10-15 minutes to learn, and though this sounds cliche, perhaps a lifetime to master. It may take some time to really play to the top of your ability and understand all the possible intricacies, but it is easy enough to get started.
First, you need a minimum of 6-8 players, including a Moderator. Each player receives their role card and the Moderator will use a pen and pad of paper to keep track of the roles and facilitate the game. The game starts with a town, and within this town, there are Villagers and Werewolves. The Villagers don’t know who each other are, however the Werewolves (always in the minority) do know who each other are. Also, there are two phases to the game – Day & Night. During the Day phase, the Villagers try to figure out who the Werewolves are, and the Werewolves try to act as Villagers so they are not discovered by the Village team.
During the Day phase, Villagers try to figure out who the Wolves are by any means and tactics including discussion, banter, questions, baiting, and finally, by accusing players of being Wolves and “putting them on trial.” In order to put a player on trial, they must be nominated and seconded by two other players. For example, Player 2 says, I nominate Player 5, and Player 7 says I second this nomination. Thus, Player 5 would be put on trial. Players have an opportunity to speak, and have 2 minutes to defend themselves, and speak to the Village on their own terms, and answer any questions posed by other players if they so choose. Once the 2 minutes it up, the town votes on whether the player (in this case Player 5) should stay in the Village or whether he/she should be eliminated. If more players vote that the player should stay, discussion continues and other players may be nominated, seconded and stand for trial until the Day Phase is over (the Moderator usually sets the Day Phase for 10 minutes or less). After the Day Phase is over, the town “goes to sleep.” If, in any trial, the majority of the town votes that the player should be eliminated, his or her role is immediately revealed and everyone in the town finds out if they have correctly eliminated a Wolf or a plain ‘Vanillager’ AND the town immediately goes to sleep. So again, when a player is eliminated during the Day, the town immediately goes to sleep and the Night phase begins. Otherwise, the Village has a full 10 minutes to discuss and hear what other players have to say.
During the Night phase, 2 things happen – 1) secret roles outside of the Werewolf may wake up, and have an opportunity to act out their special abilities (we get to this later on when discussing specific set ups of the game below) 2) the Werewolves choose a player to be eliminated.
If the Villagers do not snuff out and correctly lynch a Werewolf during the day, they slowly but surely are eliminated as time progresses. Why? Because during the Night phase, the Werewolves choose and eliminate a Villager.
During each and every Night phase (outside of the very first one before the game really begins), the Werewolves will choose and eliminate a Villager. There is no debate, there is no discussion, there are no accusations, nominations, or standing trials. The Werewolves decide and choose to eliminate a Villager during each Night phase.
Thus, the Villagers dwindle in size, as time progresses.
This is why the Day Phase is so very important, and during the Day phase, any player can put any other player on trial. Those assuming the Villager role/team, are trying to figure out who the Werewolves are, and thus players can be placed on trial without being eliminated as a way to move the game forward and get more information about which side players are on. When the Village team gets it wrong, and eliminates one of their own, it reduces the numbers of the Villagers in favor of the Wolves. On the other hand, there are always more Villagers and it can be hard at times to locate the Werewolves.
Clearly, for the Village team, it’s ideal to accuse and lynch (eliminate) a Werewolf and great when the Village team correctly identities Werewolf. It’s not great when the Village team eliminates one of their own, however this happens fairly frequently.
So, how do you win??? Well, the Village team wins when they find and eliminate all of the Werewolves. The Werewolves win when there is an equal number of Villagers and Werewolves in town. So, for example, if there are 2 Villagers remaining and 2 Werewolves remaining after a Night Phase, the Werewolves win.
Now that we have the basic mechanics and understanding of the game, we can be a bit more specific about how to play and a discuss a few easy strategies that can be employed during game play.
Ultimate Werewolf Rules & Strategy (6 Players/1 Moderator)
Let’s say you have a Group of 7 – 6 Players and 1 Moderator. To start off with a basic game of Ultimate Werewolf, you would have the roles be as follows: 1 Werewolf, 1 Seer, and 4 Villagers. The Moderator gives everyone their roles cards (which are hidden), and everyone goes to sleep. The Moderator would then ask the Werewolf to wake up (in games with 2 Werewolves, they would wake up and see each other) – since there is only 1 Werewolf in this game, the Wolf wakes up as part of the process, but obviously in this game, does not see any other Werewolves. Next, the Werewolf goes back to sleep, and the Seer wakes up. Each night, the Seer chooses a player to learn if they are a Werewolf or not. The Seer gets a thumbs up from the Moderator if they have found a Wolf, or thumbs down to indicate they have not found a Wolf (e.g. they have found a Villager).
Notice, this is before we have had a first Day Phase – and we already have information. Now, the Day Phase begins and everyone in the town will wake up. Discussion begins – any number of things can happen here. Players can accuse other players of being Wolves for any or no reason at all, players can say they don’t have any information, players can discuss or talk about pretty much anything to try to get information from other players and observe how they are behaving, and what they are saying. Are they accusing other players? Are they being silent? Are they joking around? There are any number of things that can be going on in other player’s minds – and that’s part of what makes the game so fascinating!
A few things to summarize about the Day Phase in Ultimate Werewolf:
- players can seek to observe and get information from other players
- players can accuse and nominate players of being a Werewolf
- if a person is nominated by 2 players, (1st nomination and 2nd nomination), they will be put on trial and have a chance to defend themselves and players will then vote on whether the player on trial should stay or be eliminated
- there may be multiple trials during the Day
- Day Phase usually lasts 10 minutes or less; trials usually last around 2 minutes
- if a player is eliminated during the Day, the Village immediately moves to the Night Phase with no further discussion (even if the 10 minutes of the Day Phase has not been fully used)
Following the Day Phase, we move to the Night Phase, where the Werewolf eliminates a Villager. Assuming the Village did not vote to eliminate a player during the first Day Phase, following the Night Phase, there will be 5 Players left. This Day/Night Phase cycle continues until either the Wolf or the Villagers emerge as winners (either the Villagers find and eliminate the 1 Werewolf, or the game continues until there is 1 Wolf and 1 Villager, in which case the Wolf has won). And of course, this is where all the fun is happening as players accuse, defend, and use any devices available to them to try to put their team in the winning position 🙂
Now, let’s back up for a moment, and say that we are in Day 1 with 6 players, and the person who is nominated/standing trial is the same player that the Seer looked at during the first night, and the Seer knows that this player is not a WW. Should the Seer come out and say this is the case? Probably not. The Seer at this point would not want to give out direct information as they would clearly be targeted by the WW during the next Night Phase, and the Seer plays a hugely important role. (The Seer could defend the player and make up a reason why they don’t think this player is a Wolf, but doesn’t want to be too obvious about why, etc). If the player is not a WW, and makes a case for this, then hopefully (and likely) they would not be eliminated, and even if they are, the Seer’s ability is highly useful and it’s still quite early in the game, as he/she can hunt for the WW each night.
Let’s say the players vote for this person to live, and time is up for Day 1. We move to Night, and the WW will choose a Villager to eliminate from the game. The Seer will also be able to look at another player – thumbs up from the Moderator when they have found a WW, and thumbs down when they have found a Villager. When the town wakes up for Day 2, there will now be 5 players comprising of 1 WW, and 4 total Seer/Villagers, as one Villager or Seer has been eliminated during the Night.
During Day 2, discussion continues. At this point, the Seer (who is still hidden to all players and assuming he/she is alive) has checked 2 players so knows the role of 3 of the 5 remaining players (including himself/herself if the player eliminated during the night was not one of the 2 players he/she has checked). Assuming this and that the Seer has not been eliminated, the Seer could come out and say that the WW is in one of the 2 remaining players. If, all the players believed him/her, this could be a good play. If everyone believes the Seer, and no one else comes out as the Seer, then in theory, with 1 WW, and 4 Seer/Villagers, the Village team could eliminate 1 of the 2 remaining players that the Seer has not checked during the night. If this player was the WW, the Village team would immediately win. If this player was the Villager, then we would move to the Night phase, and the WW would eliminate another player. Here, the WW could eliminate the Seer, but may not necessarily. Let’s say, the WW does eliminate the Seer. The Seer would still be able to look at a player during this Night phase, however he/she has already located the WW as they are the only player left that the Seer has not checked and whose role has not been revealed. Day 3 now begins with 1 Werewolf and 2 Villagers (as the Village eliminated a Villager and the Wolf eliminated the Seer during the night) and the town is now reduced to 3 players. At this point, it would make sense for the Villagers to nominate the remaining player accused of being a Wolf and vote to eliminate thereby catching a Wolf. [To reiterate: the WW team wins when the number of Villagers is the same as the number of WW. So if there is 1 WW, the WW wins when there is 1 Villager left. In this case, there is 1 WW and 2 Villagers so the Villagers have to correctly identify the Wolf during this Day phase, otherwise, they go to sleep and the Wolf eliminates 1 Villager during the Night and thereby wins as the next Day is made up of 1 WW and 1 Villager.]
Now, though I did use this as an example, this is in fact highly unlikely, and frankly, in all of Werewolf games, I don’t believe I have ever seen a game go down like this. In theory, this can happen, but because Villagers can suspect and accuse and eliminate other Villagers, and because Werewolves can play like Villagers, there can often be a lot of suspicion and dissent among Villagers and there is not always agreement in who is “bad” and who is “good.” And, if the town is convinced that a Villager player is a Wolf, and they are not, the Village team sees their numbers go down.
Many other scenarios could occur – perhaps the WW does not eliminate the Seer in the above example, and then says they are the Seer and casts doubt on the actual Seer. Or, one of the 2 Villagers that the Seer checked does get eliminated by the WW during the first night, thereby he/she would only know the role of 2 of the 5 remaining players (his or herself and the Villager remaining) so the Seer does not come out. Or, the Wolf eliminates the Seer the first night, and now the Village has no special information or knowledge and won’t have any insight during the entire game, outside of their own wits and instincts!
There are so many ways that the game can play out – and that’s what is so much fun about Ultimate Werewolf.
Ultimate Werewolf Rules & Strategy (9 Players/1 Moderator)
Let’s say you have a Group of 10 – 9 Players and 1 Moderator. To start off, you could have the roles be as follows: 2 Werewolves, 1 Seer, 1 Old Hag (Special Role) and 5 Villagers. The Moderator gives everyone their roles cards (which are again hidden), and everyone goes to sleep. The Moderator would then ask the Werewolves (2) to wake up and see each other. Next, the Werewolves goes back to sleep, and the Seer wakes up. The Seer chooses a player and points to them to learn from the Moderator if they are a Werewolf or not. The Seer gets a thumbs up from the Moderator if they have found a Wolf, or thumbs down to indicate they have not found a Wolf but have found a Villager.
Now, in this game, we have introduced special roles – this is outside the ‘Main’ roles which include Werewolf, Villager, and Seer. The Old Hag is on the Village team and during the Night the Old Hag may protect a Villager from the Day Phase, which means that this player must leave the game (literally not be able to hear the discussion or take part, and also cannot be accuse/nominate or be place on trial) for that Day. So, the first Night Phase continues – the Old Hag wakes up and points to a player that must leave the Village the next day. He/she goes to sleep, and the entire town / everyone wakes up.
At this point, the Werewolves know who each other are, the Seer has found 1 Villager or 1 WW during the night, and the Old Hag has chosen a player to leave the village during this Day Phase. Discussion now continues for about 10 minutes (Moderator chooses how long each Day Phase lasts) and now everyone can speak and point fingers at others in attempts to figure out who is who. Players can nominate other players, and second nominations for players to go to trial to hear what other players have to say, and who they suspect, and the town can possibly eliminate players who stand trial. As you will see there are many things going on even during this first Day Phase.
Villagers who don’t have any information, e.g. don’t have a clue, can point fingers and incorrectly accuse other Villagers. Of course, in this case, the Werewolves are gleefully happy and usually content to stay silent and watch Villagers bring down other Villagers. Or, some players have great instincts and perhaps correctly accuse a Wolf as a Wolf, and depending on how talented the player is at defending themselves, or incriminating themselves, can diffuse the situation and re-route suspicion/misdirect or make it worse for themselves. Again, this is something you can see for yourself once you play a single Werewolf game. Also, it might be a good time to point out that once you start with with your friends, and the same group of people and players, the more you will learn about each other and various playing styles.
Let’s say the Seer did not find a Wolf in the previous night phase, and 2 Players stood trial during the day, with neither eliminated. Now, we move to the Night Phase, and the Wolves will choose a player to eliminate. There can be little thought here, or a lot of thought when deciding who to eliminate during the second Night Phase. The Werewolves preferably would like to find and eliminate the Seer because each Night the Seer lives means another look at a player and find a Wolf. Otherwise, Wolves can eliminate an aggressive player who has influence, or a player who might be suspicious of one or both of them; or, another play is that Wolves DO NOT eliminate players early who cast suspicion on them as then it appears that player was correct and right to raise their concern!
After the Wolves choose a player to eliminate, they go to sleep, and the Seer will look at a player of their choosing and the Moderator will let them know if they have found a WW or not. The Old Hag will choose a player to leave the Village the next day, and then the town will wake up and find 1 Seer/Villager/Old Hag eliminated. There are now 2 Werewolves and 6 Seer/Old Hag/Villagers. We now enter Day 2, and let’s say the Seer has not been eliminated by the WW, and the Seer also did not find a WW during the night (he/she has now looked at 2 players), one tool that may be used by the Village is what we call a ‘whisper’ campaign. Players may speak only to their neighbors, e.g. the person sitting to their right and left, and tell each other if they have information, suspicions, etc. This is a good way for the Village team to bring information to the spotlight without outright saying it. For example, if the Seer has information, he/she may not want to deliver it directly for fear of getting eliminated by the WW during the night. As we are now in Day 2, it likely that more than one player will stand trial and highly likely that a player will be eliminated.
Day and Night Phases continue until 2 WW have been found and eliminated by the Village Team, or there are 2 WW and 2 Villagers remaining. If a WW is not discovered during Day 2, following the Night Phase, there will be 2 WW and 5 Seer/Old Hag/Villagers. As you can see, if the Wolves play a good game and the Villagers continue to incorrectly eliminate other Villagers, which I have seen happen again and again, then the Wolves get that much closer to winning!
I’ll end the explanation of how the game works and light strategy in this group scenario. A big plus to Ultimate Werewolf is that it can scale and plays just as well with 8 players or 10 or 15 players (the Ultimate Werewolf Deluxe Edition has enough roles to play with 75 people). I also want to note that there can be many variations on the game, including changing and adding special roles. In this instance, we added the Old Hag on the Villager team, however other popular roles include the Hunter, Village Idiot, or the Lycan, and I’ll go into a bit more detail about these special roles next.
Ultimate Werewolf Variations and Roles
There are many different variations and scenarios to change up Ultimate Werewolf, and the easiest way to keep this social deduction game interesting and dynamic for all of the players involved is to switch up/rotate the Special Roles. Examples:
Hunter – this special role is on the Village team and when he/she is eliminated (during the Day or Night), they may immediately choose to eliminate another player. Though the Hunter does not have to eliminate another player, usually they do.
Village Idiot – this special role is on the Village team and always votes for players to be eliminated. In order to maintain anonymity, this role may be in the game (and shuffled into a random deck when choosing a few special roles), though should not be guaranteed by the Moderator.
Lycan – this special role is on the Village team though not helpful to the Villagers; the Lycan is a Villager but appears to the Seer as Werewolf, making it that much more difficult for the Seer.
Mayor – this special role is on the Village team and his/her vote counts twice when voting to eliminate a player (the Moderator will keep track of this).
Apprentice Seer – this special role is on the Village team and can be powerful; if the Seer is eliminated, then the Apprentice Seer becomes the new Seer.
Wolf Cub – this special role is on the Werewolf team and there are major consequences for eliminating this Wolf Cub; when eliminated, the Werewolf may eliminate 2 players during the next night.
Sorceress – this special role is on the Werewolf team and each night he/she will look for the Seer. However, the Sorceress does not know who the Wolves are, nor do the Wolves know the Sorceress, and he/she also appears as a plain Villager to the Seer.
In conclusion –
I highly recommend trying Ultimate Werewolf – and hope that I have accurately conveyed my enthusiasm for how much fun this game is.
Ultimate Werewolf is easily one of my most favorite social deduction games (along with Resistance, Avalon, Secret Hitler, and Call of Cthulhu) for a few reasons:
- It scales REALLY WELL so 8, 10 , or 20+ people can play the game
- While there is a framework and structure to the game, there is a LOT of room for maneuvering – in a much different (looser) way than other social deduction games out there since
- Due to #2, there are many opportunities to manipulate, misdirect, deceive, and defend yourself, over the course of the game and there is a large component of interacting, reading, and convincing players, and generally influencing other PEOPLE of your opinion/stance, etc
- There are MANY more roles to the game, so the dynamics and play can change a fair bit (more so than when you play Resistance/Avalon/Hitler etc)
- There’s more at stake because you/the werewolves must ‘kill’ someone every night the Village sleeps (and in a large game, it can be painful to be eliminated early and have to watch for 30-40 minutes)
- It is extremely fun to play – there hasn’t been a single game of werewolf that I haven’t enjoyed, and it’s also pretty incredible to watch as a spectator
Simply put, this game is social deduction in its most classic and simple form. It’s an incredible experience and great fun for groups, friends, adults, and co-workers alike, and you definitely learn something about yourself.