Ultimate Werewolf Artifacts Review

Werewolf Artifacts
Designer:  Ted Alspach
Publisher:  Bezier Games
Players:  5-40
Ages: 13+
Werewolf is a game that most people either love or hate. I fall into the “love it” camp.  Of the different versions available for purchase,  my favorite version to use is Ted Alspach’s Ultimate Werewolf.  That’s why I was thrilled to find out that he is releasing another expansion, this one called Ultimate Werewolf Artifacts.

Werewolf:  the Basic Game

Werewolf is an adapted parlor game, also known as Mafia.  At the beginning of the game, everyone receives a card that lets you know what your role will be for the game.  There are two teams:  werewolves and villagers.  The villagers are charged with one task: discovering who in their peaceful village is devouring their neighbors!  Meanwhile, the werewolves deceive and connive to systematically kill off the villagers.  The villagers have one special character known as a seer, who has a special nighttime ability.

Werewolf has two phases: day and night.  A moderator will walk you through these phases.  During the night, everyone will close his/her eyes.  The moderator will wake up the werewolf team and they will have to decide who to devour that night.  This is done with pointing, gesturing, nodding and any other non-verbal communication you can use to convey the message to their fellow werewolves. It’s recommended that they be silent if possible, as their villager neighbors may be suspicious if they hear late night sounds coming from next door.  The moderator will also wake up the seer at night.  The seer will silently indicate one person in the village.  The moderator will indicate to the seer whether that person is a werewolf or villager.  The seer can then use this information to determine who may (or may not be) trustworthy knowing the truth about that person’s true nature.

During the day phase, everyone has his/her eyes open and looks for clues (body language, accusations, pattern of voting, quoting statistics) to determine who might be a werewolf.  When anyone in the village (even werewolves) has a strong suspicion, he can nominate that person, get seconds from other members of the village and the trial begins!  The person on the hot seat must talk quickly and say/do anything they can to deflect the suspicion from himself.  Once accusations/reasons for the nomination and a defense have been presented, the village votes to lynch the nominated person.  If more than half want the person lynched, the accused is dead and we wait, momentarily for the big reveal… was this person a werewolf?  If so, the village rejoices and immediately falls asleep to begin the night phase of the game. If not, the village is sad and depressed and goes to sleep to begin the night phase of the game.  And so it continues until the villagers have killed all the werewolves to win back their village (go villagers!) or the werewolves have managed to pick off villagers one by one until they are are 50%+ of the population in the village.

Ultimate Werewolf: Ultimate Edition
The base game can be played with a standard deck of cards if you really want to, but here’s why I love Bezier Games’ Ultimate Werewolf: Ultimate Edition!  I often end up moderating and the cards in this set are by far the easiest for new players to understand.  At the top of the card, it states very clearly what your role is, so there is no need to memorize symbols.  Each card is given a point value to give the moderator a general guideline to help balance out the games.  The rule book is extensive and has specific scenarios to use with different number of players.

A few of the more commonly used special roles are the:

  • Hunter:  This villager has the special ability to shoot and kill another member of the village when he is killed (either by lynching or being a midnight snack for the werewolves).  Ideally, the hunter is trying to take out a werewolf.
  • Witch:  This villager has one healing potion and one vial of poison.  Each night, the moderator will wake up the witch, point to the werewolves’ intended victim and the witch may choose to use her potion to heal that individual.  She may also choose to use her poison to kill someone that night.
  • Masons:  These villagers are in a secret society that must never be mentioned.  Ever.  However, two people in the village will know at least one other person is 100% safe.

Ultimate Werewolf Artifacts
In Ultimate Werewolf Artifacts, all players are given a second card, which is an artifact.  Some give you a one-time use ability, while others have lasting effects.  The artifacts have a variety of powers associated with them such as:

  • The Cloak of the Prince:  “The first attempt to lynch you fails.”
  • The Prism of Power:  “Choose three players.  That night, the werewolves must choose one of those three as their victim.”
  • The Shroud of the Ghost: “Ask a player who was lynched the previous day for a single letter to help their team.”

It is up to each player to decide, based on the activities in the village, when he/she would like to reveal and play his/her artifact.  Typically, if you’re a villager, you’re trying to pick out the best time to use it to help the village and vice versa for the werewolves.

The Skinny
I play Werewolf at my local gaming convention.  I stay up late, argue with my fellow villagers, and try to pick out tells so I can kill some evil werewolves before they overrun our village.  Werewolf is an incredibly bonding game.  It can break the ice like no other game and appeals to people of all ages, even those who may not like games.  I’ve run countless games at tech conventions, which are full of non-gamers who don’t know each other!  The first night of a tech convention a few years ago, we started with one village of eight people.  By the third night, we had two villages with 20+ players in each village! Even better, the convention goers who played now all knew each other on a first name basis and were hanging out, even when they weren’t trying to lynch one another.  Werewolf is also extremely popular with kids.  I once taught a Boy Scout troop how to play during a volunteer weekend up in the mountains and they couldn’t get enough of it!

It creates stories that will be retold for YEARS to come!  I am normally a mediocre werewolf.  My best friend however, is an excellent werewolf.  For the life of me, I can never tell whether or not I should believe him.  However, there is a legendary game from three years ago.  I was a werewolf and I duped him and my other friends that play Werewolf at the cons.  I started by throwing one of my fellow werewolves under the bus and led the charge to kill a second one.  We started with five werewolves, so we had extra werewolf baggage and it sealed my “villager” nature with my fellow players.  I will say, there’s nothing more satisfying than getting down to five players in the village and having the three villagers all pointing at each other rather than myself or the other werewolf!  Ever since then, that particular session gets mentioned by my BFF and all the other regular Werewolfers.  I’m now the one that can’t be trusted!  It’s kind of awesome.  And a lot of pressure.

Every game, I’m always nervous before I look at my card.  Most people want to be a special character.  Honestly, I am glad to be a plain Jane villager.  I don’t want to have to worry about whether I’m effectively acting normal and deceiving my unsuspecting villagers, or, if I’m the seer, trying to throw the werewolves off my scent.  Playing Werewolf can be stressful, which is probably why some people don’t like it.

To me, the beauty of the Artifacts expansion is that EVERYONE has an extra power that they need to figure out when and how to use.  It’s not focused on just the seer or the werewolves (or any special roles).  This makes me happy because it gives me a special ability, but not necessarily the pressure of having a whole special role.  Because everyone has a special ability, I don’t feel like there’s any added pressure.  Plus, it gives some people, who might otherwise be easily distracted, more incentive to pay attention to the daily happenings.  How can you figure out when to use your super-cool new artifact if you don’t pay attention to all the activity in the village?  In addition, it’s great for the people who hate being “just a villager” by giving them something else to do.  In that sense, Ultimate Werewolf Artifacts is a win-win!

That said, the downside is that a handful of the cards are essentially the same abilities of the Ultimate Werewolf: Ultimate Edition special role cards with the power transferred to an object.  For example, the Artifacts expansion has the Bow of Hunting, which allows a player holding it to “choose a player who then choose any other player, killing them instantly.”  A small handful of other cards have powers allow to switch out your cards with other players.

Some of the artifacts have very specific powers that can cause chaos.  The amount of chaos seems dependent on the ability of the card and perhaps may be related to  the experience of the player.  Some of these artifacts could be incredibly crucial in helping a team to win, but like life, timing is everything and they must be played at a critical time to help the cause.  The first few games I moderated with the artifacts were somewhat chaotic, but I think that was more because everyone was so excited to have the special abilities and so many of the artifacts were played.

One of the first games I played had both the Ring of Truth and the Orb of Speculation in it.  There was a suspected werewolf that was nominated and the holder of the Ring of Truth used it to ask the player a yes or no question, which the nominated person had to answer truthfully.  Naturally the question was, “Are you a werewolf?”  The answer was, “Yes.”  At that point, the holder of the Orb of Speculation revealed his artifact.  The Orb allows the holder to choose two players.  If both of them are werewolves, the villager team instantly wins.  If the two players are not both werewolves, the holder dies instantly.  Armed with the knowledge that he knew 100% that the nominated person was a werewolf, he was very suspicious of two other players, so was willing to risk his life on the chance to win the game for the villagers.  He chose correctly and the villager team won!

I think that the above combination could be too powerful, depending on the mix of other roles in the deck.  However, my idea of “too powerful” is subjective.  It will be up to each moderator to decide which artifacts to include.  As for myself, in future plays with the artifacts, I will definitely sort the deck and pick out specific artifacts that will work with the mix of special role cards I have in the deck in order to keep it balanced.

Bottom Line
Overall, I’d recommend Ultimate Werewolf Artifacts to anyone who likes to play Werewolf and wants to add some variety to the game.  The special abilities are fun.  Another nice feature is that because it’s a completely separate card, you can use this expansion with any Werewolf set, even if you don’t have the Ultimate Werewolf: Ultimate Edition.

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2 Responses to Ultimate Werewolf Artifacts Review

  1. Paul Owen says:

    I became a huge Werewolf fan a few years ago at PrezCon and introduced it to my extended family at a reunion last summer. My nieces are now playing it in Buenos Aires. My brother says,
    ‘The best part is that the moderator is reading the script in English and then they play in Spanish. “No pero [name] no puede ser el werewolf” It’s a riot, but it is also impressive at how well they read in English.
    “EEt ees night, and thu moooon is fuuuulllll……”
    “Vos sos un hombre-lobo?”
    Funnier still with seven 9 year old girls hysterically yelling, “PERO YO NO SOY EL WEREWOLF!!!!”‘

    I look forward to trying out the artifacts.

  2. Ryan B. says:

    Great review. The interesting point about Werewolf is that it can be a great game without any components. And this is one of those ingeniously designed games which places a high premium on interactivity. So much of game design now follows down similar paths. At the same time, Werewolf, is a perfect example of all there is left to cover in the arena of boardgame design. What I like about Werewolf, besides its inherent interactivity, is that the end game has a tangible “storyboard” goal. (i.e. villagers have to get the werewolfs!) This instantly makes the game more thematic (you feel like a villager) versus an end goal that is a variation of obtaining victory points.

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