This Thursday, two more small card games to be reviewed – neither of which is in my wheelhouse. To preface this, I hate party games. The only thing I hate worse than party games is “social deduction” Werewolf-style games. Earlier this month, I had an epic gameday with my boys where I ended up playing One Night Ultimate Werewolf (ONUW) and Sandwich a total of 10 times.
Surprisingly, at the end of the day, I wasn’t ready to kill myself. In fact, I have to admit, that I actually might have had fun with the games. (Though officially, I’ll have to deny it lest people try to rope me into future games of Werewolf, 2 Rooms and a Boom, Coup, etc.) For now, I’ll have to make it clear that I had fun because of the company! <g>
One Night Ultimate Werewolf
- Designer: Ted Alspach / Akihisa Okui
- Publisher: Bezier Games
- Ages: 8+
- Players: 3-10
- Time: blissfully less than 10 minutes
Times played: 10ish (and counting)
So, Werewolf is the king of social deduction games. There are entire cults of gamers who would inexplicably rather argue with themselves for hours instead of playing fun, engaging boardgames at conventions. I just don’t get it. A big part of my dislike of the game is that every Werewolf session seems to run on for hours, and I just don’t have enough patience for that.
One Night Ultimate Werewolf (ONUW) was touted as the game that would solve that problem for me. ONUW shortens the Werewolf process down to a single round, which means that any particular game will only take 10 minutes at most. It also has the added advantage that it does not need a human moderator to direct the game – everyone who is in the room can play the game.
If you’re not familiar with Werewolf, don’t expect me to try to teach you the game in detail here. I’d just as soon not turn anyone to the dark side! (You can read here for more info). In short, there are a bunch of character cards in the game (three more than the number of players), and in each round, each player is randomly dealt one. Two of the cards in play are Werewolves. In ONUW, their goal is to not be killed; if no Werewolf is killed, the Werewolves win. In general, the other characters are Villagers of some sort. Their goal in ONUW is to kill at least one of the werewolves – if this happens, they win.
All of the “regular” Werewolf characters are available. There are also a few extra characters with different actions. For instance, the Troublemaker wakes up in the middle of the night and switches the role cards of any two players. The Drunk wakes up at the end of the night and puts his card back in the center of the table and takes one of the face down cards without looking at it. The Tanner hates himself and he wins if he is killed.
Okay, so back to the game. I’d strongly recommend downloading the iOS or Android app for the game as it does all the hard work for you as far as directing play. People are dealt their cards and the extra three are placed face down in the center of the table. Then the app is started and everyone closes their eyes. Depending on your role, you “wake up” and open your eyes when your role is called. If you get a chance to screw with the cards, you do so as directed by the app.
After the end of the night, the app tells everyone to wake up. It gives you a set amount of time to argue amongst yourselves about who is who, and then after time is up, everyone votes to kill someone else. To do this, you simply point at someone else. Whoever gets the most votes (or tied for the most votes) dies.
Then, based on who is left in the game, you determine who wins (werewolves and/or the minion, the villagers, or maybe the tanner). Of course, you also have to flip over your role cards to see who you are because there are a bunch of ways for your role to have been changed while your eyes were closed.
My thoughts on the game
OK, so it’s actually kinda fun, and because of the short duration (about 10 minutes), I can tolerate it. Other than the fact that I’d still rather play boardgames than social games, it takes the next most painful barrier (the game length) and throws it out the window. But do I love it? Absolutely not. While the game is shorter, it adds a whole bunch of French-style randomness into the game. You’re never quite sure of your role as long as the Robber or Troublemaker is in the game. There were a couple of times where I was arguing as a Villager when in fact I was a werewolf! I know that the Werewolf players find this sort of thing fascinating, but I find it annoying or maddening.
The deduction part is what I find satisfying. In the discussion phase, people tell you what role they are and what they did or saw – but, of course, you have to figure out who is lying and who is telling the truth. It’s like a mini logic puzzle, and I like that part. But, it all falls apart for me because the role switching makes the game feel too random for me.
The damning thing of ONUW is that my kids love it. To the point that they made me print up role cards to play with a homebrew version until we get a production copy from Bezier in the mail. So, I hate it, but yet, I keep playing it. Sigh – the things you do for your kids.
My initial rating: Neutral. (Which makes it sound bad, but when you consider that every other version of Werewolf is about 5 rungs below Not for me…, this is a significant rating!)
Thoughts from other Opinionated Gamers
Larry: Dale and I are of one mind when it comes to social deduction games. These are designs based on psychology and bluff, both of which bore me to pieces. And while the original Werewolf is tolerable when played for 20 minutes with a half dozen friends, I run screaming into the night at the 20-30 person games I often see.
But, like Dale, I find that ONUW is a game I don’t mind playing. In fact, I almost kind of like it. Not enough to suggest it, but I’m happy to play two or three games in a row when we’re waiting for the other table to finish up. The basic idea of converting Werewolf into a single accusation game is quite clever and there’s a certain manic enjoyment to the proceedings.
Now, mind you, I don’t take the game nearly as seriously as most of my fellow players do. They know all of the roles by heart and have strategies all worked out (and there is definitely good play possible, although its success level is limited by the game’s inherent chaos). Whereas I usually have to be reminded of how the more obscure roles work and during the game, I pretty much focus on myself and not gettin’ kilt. Surprisingly, that can still be fun. Mostly, I enjoy listening to the cacophony of accusations hurled around me. It’s not a real game for me, but I’ve gotten to the point where I consider it a reasonably enjoyable activity.
By the way, the iOS app for the game is unquestionably the best game-oriented application existing in the free world. Whereas most game apps are superfluous or downright silly, the ONUW app serves a critical role and makes the game play much more smoothly and trouble-free. I can’t imagine playing the game without it.
Nathan Beeler: I do enjoy party and social games, quite a bit. But after having many great nights of convention werewolf, I feel like I’ve gotten the whole experience out of my system. I’ve moved on to other things and have never looked back. So it was only the promise of a ten minute length and a different game immediately afterward that I agreed to join a game of One Night Ultimate Werewolf (a name which I maintain makes it sound like a *longer* version of werewolf). This version does indeed solve the length problem, which is nice. But then it simply replaced that problem with an annoying randomness issue. The game took the entire point of the original parlor game – the bluffing, deduction, and political gamesmanship – and chopped the knees out from under it. Instead of being swayed back into the werewolf fold, I was left saying “at least it was short.”
Ben McJunkin (25+ plays): Like Dale and Larry, party games and social deduction games are not really my cup of tea. I prefer serious games with dour themes, like the oppression of Jewish land managers in 16th-century Lithuania. But darned if One Night Ultimate Werewolf isn’t just about the best thing I’ve encountered this year. The game plays extremely quickly, but each session is a tremendous challenge to reconstruct the night’s events while sorting through misinformation (and offering up some of your own). With few exceptions, you can rarely be sure what team you are on — and thus your winning condition — until you’ve elicited information from other players, who are likewise trying to simultaneously discern information without accidentally giving too much away. I’ve had a ton of fun with this game over the past few months and I am eagerly awaiting the arrival of my own copy. I can’t imagine hosting a game day this year without breaking this out at least once (though it is so addictive that “once” usually turns into 2-3 games).
Tom Rosen (67 plays): You already have a pretty good picture of the game from all the comments above, but I thought I’d add a quick note because I’m actually a bit differently situated than everyone above. I do like many social deduction and party-style games and I do like One Night Ultimate Werewolf. The folks above all seem to either like the former or the latter, but not both. I love The Resistance and Coup, among others, and enjoy playing regular old Werewolf on occasion. But I find One Night Ultimate Werewolf to be a huge improvement over traditional Werewolf. It eliminates the need for a moderator; it is much faster and more engaging; it allows you to play back-to-back-to-back while changing the mix of roles; and there is no player elimination. I’ve played it 67 times in just a few months and have taught it to a ton of different people. Almost everyone has loved it. It’s very simple, but it actually takes a few plays for it to click. It often seems too random or too deterministic at first, but after a few plays, you see that it’s actually the perfect balance between the two. It’s like a puzzle with all the information there to figure it out, but a couple people adding misinformation to make it tough in the handful of minutes allotted for discussion.
Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers
- I love it! Ben McJunkin, Jennifer Geske
- I like it. Larry (somewhat to my surprise), Tom Rosen, Luke Hedgren, Lorna
- Neutral. Nathan Beeler, Dale Yu
- Not for me… Joe Huber, Mary Prasad
- Designer: Christophe Raimbault
- Publisher: Repos
- Players: 3-10
- Ages: 7+
- Time: blissfully around 10 minutes
Times played: 5 (and counting) with review copy provided by Repos
So, I said I hate party games – right? So guess what other game my kids have decided that they love this week? Sandwich, the new-ish party game from Repos. It’s a game in the same vein of Apples to Apples but with a foodie theme.
The game is comprised of 63 cards, each of which depicts a sandwich ingredient (ham, wasabi, oranges, corn, brie, eggplant, leberkase, whipped cream, chocolate, etc.). The cards are shuffled up and each player is dealt 9 cards – which he does not look at. On a given round, players flip up the top card in their hand and put it in the center of the table. In real time, all players quickly look at the ingredient cards and choose the one they want the most. Players are not allowed to take the card that they flipped over unless it is the only card left on the table. These collected cards are then placed in a separate pile. This process continues until all the hand cards are played and each player has collected 9 ingredients from the center of the table.
In the next step, players construct three sandwiches, each made up of three of his collected ingredients. When all the sandwiches are made, they are then distributed, one each, to the three players to the left. At the end of this phase, each player has three constructed sandwiches in front of him, one from each of the three players to his right. The sandwiches should be shuffled so that you don’t know who gave you which sandwich.
Then, in turn, a player exposes his three sandwiches and ranks them in order – theoretically based on what he would want to eat or maybe what he found the most interesting or whatever. Whichever sandwich is judged to be the winner gains the constructor of that sandwich 3 points. The second place sandwich constructor gets 2 points. The 3rd place sandwich gets nothing but the derision of his peers. Each player goes through their sandwiches and points are awarded. The winner is the one with the most points.
My thoughts on the game
Well, it’s a party game – and I like it a little better than Apples to Apples because the food theme is more interesting. In the end, though, this feels more like an activity than a game. It’s a cute enough filler, and at 5-10 minutes, it does not overstay its welcome.
My kids, as with ONUW, love it. I am not sure if they love it becuase I hate it or because they actually like it. Either way, we keep playing it, and it continues to generate laughs at each play. And that’s probably the most important thing about it. In the end, I don’t know if anyone in our family cares who wins or loses – but we always end up laughing while we play it.
My initial rating: Neutral.