Game Play

Running a Werewolf game is one part running through a script, and one part improvised crowd control. The crowd control is up to you, and it’s what makes each moderator unique. But the script is pretty much the same.  Here’s how it works:

Introduction

Invite your players to take a seat in a circle. They should be able to see each other. Count them and make any last minute adjustments to your deck, such as removing cards to compensate for players who didn’t show up.

Introduce yourself and ask for a show of hands of who has played the game before.  Explain the game, being sure to address the following:

  • It’s played in rounds, which are days and nights. (No need for details yet, just high level.)
  • There are two teams: Werewolves and Villagers. The teams are assigned using cards that are randomized and that you’ll pass out momentarily.
  • Winning Conditions: Villagers win when there are no Werewolves left. Werewolves win when their number is equal to the number of Villager Team members. (Once that happens, there is no need to continue playing, the Villagers can’t win so you short-circuit the game.)
  • Elimination: Villager Team members nominate someone for banishment during the day, while Werewolves eat villagers at night.
  • After-life: Players eliminated by any means are in the After-Life. Players in the After-Life see the game at night, so they know who the Werewolves are and who the Seer is, so they must not communicate with the players who are still active in the game, or they run the risk of being suspected of cheating.
  • Voting: Someone nominates, someone seconds the nomination. Then only those two plus the accused get to speak.

Pass out the Cards

Prior to explaining the characters, pass out the cards so that people who have a special character will know that the character does and will pay extra attention when you explain the character.

It is important that the players have trust in your abilities to moderate fairly and impartially. This begins with demonstrating that the deck truly is randomized.

  • Shuffle the deck while you’re explaining the game
  • Point your arm toward the characters and begin to turn, saying “Tell me when to stop”. They’ll shout “stop”.
  • Approach the player to whom you’re pointing and ask that player to cut the deck.
  • Ask that player to indicate a direction, such as “Left or right” or “Clockwise or counter-clockwise”, then begin dealing from the top the deck to that player, all the way around the circle until the final crd is given to the person who cut the deck.

A nomination begins with “I nominate”, which is a ‘special phrase’ to begin the nomination process.  Once a nomination has begun, only the nominator, seconder and accused get to speak. No opportunities for discussion, debate or questions. It is important for players to understand that once “I nominate” begins and is seconded, nobody but those three gets to speak.

Explain the Characters

For each Character that you have, explain the character.  This is not a place to explain the strategic purpose of the character, but simply to provide some back story on the character and define the limits of the role, if applicable. For example, with the Twitcher, you must specify that each bird is only used once per game, not once per night. You also should specify if the Healing Dove may be used on the Twitcher herself.

After each character explanation, allow questions. This is the most timely occasion to address questions. If you forget to clarify the limits of the role, your players will almost certainly ask, which is helpful to you as well as them.

When explaining the Seer, show the hand symbols that indicate the team of the player the Seer is seeing.

Days & Nights

Now that your players know the characters, explain the procedure for Days and Nights:

  • First Night: You’ll ask everyone to go to sleep and then you’ll wake each special card up one at a time so you, as moderator, knows who has what roles. Werewolves do not eat on the first night.
  • Morning comes and if there is a body from the night before, you announce who it is.
  • Social period, for mingling.
  • Discussion time.
  • Voting (optional).
  • Night. Werewolves wake up and pick someone to eat, other roles wake up if needed, such as the Seer.
  • Back to morning.

Assure your Players

By this point, your new players may feel overwhelmed with details that they are trying to remember. Provide them some comfort and assurance by telling them that as the game progresses, you’ll continue to remind them about the procedures.

Along these lines, you might chose to defer the explanation of the voting process until the first vote, when it’s more contextual and relevant.

Game Play

The game has a special first night, and then a repeating cycle of days and nights until a winning condition has been met.

First Night

Start the game with a command such as “Night falls in the Village and the Villagers go to sleep. Please close your eyes. I’ll wake each special character so I know who’s who. Werewolves, open your eyes.” Then make a note of who each Werewolf is. Continue through the roles until you’ve accounted for all your special cards.

The Order of Night Wake-Ups

On the first night, it doesn’t matter the order in which you awake the characters. Some characters, such as Venus, Hunter, Idiot and Young Politician are only woken on the first night, while others such as Cursed and Apprentice Seer stay inactive at the beginning of the game but may be woken nightly later in the game, depending if the Cursed was eaten by Werewolves or the Seer died, respectively.

On subsequent nights, wake the characters in the following order:

  1. Aurèle
  2. Werewolves
  3. Vampires
  4. Twitcher
  5. Seer
  6. Old Hag
  7. Songstress

The order of 1 – 5 is important: You need to know who Aurèle is protecting before knowing who is going to be attacked, so there are no allegations of the Aurèle knowing who was going to die and choosing to protect that person. Then Werewolves and Vampires must select their victims before the Twitcher is awoken, because you have to indicate to the Twitcher who is dying so she knows if she wants to use her Pecking Crow.  The Seer has to come after the Werewolves, incase the Werewolves eat the Cursed, which results in the cursed now being reported as a Werewolf Team member to the Seer.

Day

The Day consists of morning, then a social period, then afternoon which leads into evening, when night occurs. Just. like. real. life.

Morning

Awake the villagers with “Good morning, Villagers.”  Be clear with your players that they must not anticipate morning by opening their eyes until you give them the cue. You might need the extra time at night to make adjustments or double check your notes.

On the first morning, ask the players to go around the circle and make up some back story for themselves. Asking them what they do for a job in the village is a way to break the ice and give them something to talk about when socializing. They shouldn’t reveal their actual roles, just make up a job, like “I’m the village country singer, I sing about heart aches and lost dogs.”

On mornings other than the first, report on what deaths occurred during night: “You awake to find the body of…” and indicate who died at night. Deaths could be from the Pecking Crow or from the Werewolves. This is not the time to announce the Vampire kill, because that venom hasn’t moved through that player’s body yet, that death is not announced until the afternoon.

The Canadian format for Werwolf is a “Non-Reveal” format. This means although you announce that bodies were found, you do not announce the special roles that those players had, nor do you announce the team they were on. Again: For night kills, all you say is that a body was found: you do not specify the team or character. You must instruct your players not to reveal their characters when they are removed from the game. Only you, the moderator, may announce those details, and even then its only when a player is successfully banished during the afternoon.

Social Period

After announcing the body or bodies that were found, play a song and let your players socialize. After the song, have them sit down.

If your players are having a hard time getting back to their chairs in time, then tell them that when the song ends, you’ll remove a chair or chairs from the circle (like musical chairs) and if they come back late and have no chair, they have to sit out of the game for that day because the gates to the village are locked. Some players may try to use this to their advantage, deliberately being late so as to avoid banishment. You may chose to allow the players who are locked out to still be nominated for banishment, but they won’t be able to defend themselves, which is often motivation for those players to get back to their seats in time.

Afternoon Discussion

When Players return to their seats after Social Period, prompt a discussion by asking them “Did anybody learn anything they want to share? Anyone have any suspicions of who they think might be a Werewolf? Did anyone hear anything at night when the Werewolves awoke?”

The discussion period is not the place for Robert’s Rules of Order, it is an open town council. Villagers should self regulate, sometimes talking over each other, which can make for a heated (and fun) game.  As long as the discussion is productive, let them continue.

A goal of the afternoon discussion is to get a nomination for banishment. If the villagers are talking at length but not making nominations, say to them “It’s getting late, Villagers.”, to suggest that if they don’t nominate someone soon, night will come and they will go to sleep, at which point the Werewolves will surely eat one of them. (Don’t say that part about the Werewolves surely eating one of them, that’s leading them. Let them come to that conclusion and a villager will likely point that out.)

Voting

Voting begins with the phrase “I nominate Frank” As soon as you hear it, stop discussion and ask “Is there a second for the nomination of Frank?” Ask a couple times until you get one, or say “Going once.. twice.. nomination is quashed.”

If your game is using the Vlad character (Vampires), announce the death of the vampire’s target from the previous night. It might go like this:

Player 1: I nominate Frank

Moderator: Yanick drops dead. Is there a second for the nomination of Frank?

Player 2: I second the nomination.

Moderator: Frank has been nominated for banishment by Player 1, seconded by Player 2. Only Player 1, Player 2 and Frank get to speak until the vote is complete.  Player 1, explain why you nominated Frank.

Once the nomination is seconded, only the two nominators and the accused get to speak. A nomination shuts down discussion, and may strategically be used in that capacity. If that happens, someone may second a nomination for the purpose of speaking on behalf of (instead of against) the accused. The person who initially made the nomination must explain why they are nominating Frank for banishment, then the seconder does the same, and finally Frank steps into the centre of the circle and pleads his case, giving his defence.  Players often must be reminded that it is not a cross examination: no discussion.

A successful banishment vote requires that more than 50% of the voting players vote for banishment. Players may not obtain from voting. The accused may not vote. A player disfigured by the Old Hag may not vote. The After Life members may not vote.

Ask all the players to extend one arm parallel to the ground. Remind the players that on the count of 3, they will lower their arms if they want the accused to stay in the village, or raise their arms above their head if they want to banish the accused. Give the count. Ask the players to keep their arms in position as you count.  You may also chose to register the votes through a name call, where each person must say “In” or “Out”.

If the number of players who vote for banishment is greater than 50%, the accused is banished to the after life. If the vote is exactly 50%, the player is not banished. When the vote is counted, you reveal the team of the accused (Werwolf, Villager or Vampire) but you do not reveal the character. (Canadian format is non-reveal. Ultimately that decision rests with the moderator, if you want to reveal the actual character, that’s up to you.) The accused is not to speak after being banished, especially he is not permitted to reveal his role.

If the vote results in a banishment, night falls immediately. If the vote does not result in a banishment, discussion continues and another nomination may be made. This can continue until a successful banishment is made, or you decide to move things along by moving to night.

Circle of Life in the Village

Announce that night has come “Night falls in the Village, and the Villagers to go sleep.” and repeat the process of night, then day.

Oops: Moderator Error

You’ll make mistakes when you moderate a Werewolf game. Your wolves will eat the cursed and you’ll report his body as being found, instead of not reporting a body found. Or you’ll tell the Seer that someone is a Villager when that person is actually a Werewolf. The more characters, the more complex the game and the more work required from the moderator.

When you identify that you made a mistake, fix it. Tell your players “Moderator error. I need to correct something.” And with revealing as little information as possible, try to correct what you’ve done. During the game, you do not owe your players an explanation as to what happened, in fact with no explanation, they’ll hypothesis during the social and discussion periods, and it can be quite interesting to hear the theories. After the game is over, tell them what happened and, if you know why, tell them why. Everyone gets a bit of a laugh at being let in to the puzzle.

Here’s some examples of moderator error and one possible way to address it:

You tell the Seer someone is a Werewolf but they are not. The Seer then goes into social period and tells the trusted villagers that Person 1 is a werewolf, but they are not. During social period, you review your notes and realize you made an error.

You can’t go to the Seer during social period and correct the information, because a moderator approaching and speaking to a player will raise the suspicions of other players. They will then ask the Seer why the moderator approached her, and that risks undo attention on the Seer, which could result in a banishment and that would be detrimental to the Villager team. (It’d be like losing 7 villagers, given the points of the Seer character.)

One approach: When the Villagers return for discussion, say “There’s been a moderator error. During the night, I indicated that a player was on a team that the player is not on.”  The players will then be abuzz because they’ve been strategizing an afternoon vote based on the Seer’s information.  Re-enter the circle, indicate you’re going to make a correction, clarify that this is not moving night, then say “Players, close your eyes. Time for a rare afternoon nap.  <they close their eyes>.  Seer. Open your eyes. ” Then point to the player whom you reported incorrectly, and give the correct signal. “Seer. Close your eyes. Players, in light of that correction, I’m going to play half a song so you can get up and mingle for a little bit longer, before actually starting discussion period.”

That allows the players an opportunity to reform their strategies outside of the circle, while correcting the error and not outting the Seer.

Another example involves the Cursed:

The Werewolves eat Player 1, who is Cursed. You forgot that the player is Cursed, so the next morning, you announce that Player 1’s body was found. Player 1, confused, exits the circle to the after life, and approaches you during social period to ask why he’s dead since he’s the cursed. He suspects maybe the Pecking Crow took him out, but you realize it was just another Moderator Error. He hasn’t seen night yet, which is important because it means he has no new information. You just put him back in the game: Tell him to go mingle with the other players who are engaged in the social period.

When everyone sits down, some players won’t even notice that he’s back, while others will bee-line for you to inform you that someone from the after life is mingling with the active players. Announce to everyone “I need to correct a moderator error. I shouldn’t have removed Player 1 from the game. He has not seen night, he has no special information, so I’m correcting my error by having him continue in the game.”  Just own it. But don’t explain it… not till after the game. Let them figure it out and if they ask, don’t tell.

Ultimately, it’s just a game. And the game is just a framework for a party (Canadian format, for the win!). Be honest and transparent without further influencing the game. It’s like time travel: try not to upset the continuum. Just, as moderator, observe.


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