Insider (Game Review by Chris Wray)

  • Designers: Akihiro Itoh, Kwaji, Daichi Okano, Kito Shinma
  • Publisher: Oink Games
  • Players: 4 – 8
  • Ages: 9 and Up
  • Time: 15 Minutes
  • Times Played: > 12 (with 4-8 Players)


Insider is a bit of “20 questions” mixed with “Werewolf” (or, more accurately, “Spyfall”) and it plays up to 8 players in about 15 minutes.  I first played it at BGG.Con, and it has been a big hit with my group since then.  I had previously written a review on BGG, but I wanted to see all of the Opinionated Gamers chime in on this one.  

The Gameplay

One player is the Master, one is the Insider, and the rest are Commoners (or “Commons”). Everybody closes their eyes but the the Master, who draws a card with a word on it. (Each card has several words on it, but there’s a mechanic to pick a particular word using the back of the cut in the deck.) The Master then closes his eyes, and the Insider looks at the word. The Master hides the word, and everybody wakes up, and the game begins.

Everybody — including the Insider — can ask the Master yes/no questions to try to guess the word, sort of like in “20 questions.” Players aren’t limited to a particular number of questions, but they are limited by a sand timer with approximately five minutes worth of time. If the players don’t guess the word in time, everybody — including the Insider and Master — loses. Since the Insider knows the word, they can steer everybody towards the right answer with clever questions.

If the group gets the word, the hunt is then on for the Insider. The timer is once again flipped, and the Commons and Master have until the sand runs out to discuss the game and deduce the identity of the Insider. If they guess correctly, they win the game together; if they do not, the Insider wins.

My thoughts on the game…

Before BGG.Con, Jonathan Franklin had recommended the game on our internal email list, so I was eager to try it. After his recommendation, there was a debate among several people about how well the game works.

I’ve played it a dozen times since, and I do think it works well. In one game, everybody lost because we couldn’t guess the word (“Gift”) in time. In another game, the word (“Milk”) was guessed quickly, which made it hard to find the insider.  In the other two games, the words (“Tennis Court” and “Sea”) were guessed after a few minutes, and the hunt for the Insider was fascinating.  It all depends on the quality of the clue.

You really need a medium-difficult clue, and you need to be able to pay attention to who is asking each question.  Don’t let a player go silent, even if they normally play that role in social deduction games: everybody needs to talk.

Is it my favorite social deduction game? No, I’d still rather play Werewolf, and I’ll admit that the gameplay in Insider can be hit-or-miss.  But for a 4-8 person crowd, this works well, and to get a feel for it, I recommend playing it at least 3-4 times.  It is certainly simpler than Oink’s previous title “A Fake Artist Goes to New York.”  And if you’re struggling to get the right quality of clue, don’t hesitate to have the master just write one down (rather than pulling from the deck).

You can now buy it from various stores in the United States, although it has already sold out in a few places.  

Thoughts of Other Opinionated Gamers

Lorna: It is one of the few social deduction games I will play. It’s fast and easy to explain.

Nathan Beeler: It’s easy enough to take, as these things go. But it’s only really fun for me if I’m not the werewolf/insider/secret hitler/traitor. If I’m going to be forced into bluffing, I’m going to play Kakerlaken Poker. At least there everyone has to do that all the time.

Larry:  I agree with Chris that a medium difficulty word is needed, and one that the Master is familiar with (some of the provided words are a bit obscure).  My suggested variant is for the Master to draw 3 cards and choose a word he thinks will make for an interesting game, arranging the second card of the deck so that it points to the word he selected.  Otherwise, this game can be a bit fragile.  But when it works, it’s a lot of fun and trying to guess who the Insider is can be a nice challenge.  Like Lorna, it’s one of the very few social deduction games I have any interest in playing.

Michael: Insider is one of two recent social deduction games that I enjoy despite generally not liking the genre (the other being Secret Hitler). It’s straightforward enough to get just about anyone to play, which means you won’t always be stuck playing Cards Against Humanity in a non-gamer setting.

Dan Blum: Too fragile for me. A word that is too easy really ruins the game, and while you can go through cards until you find one that seems OK, that’s annoying; you might as well just make something up in which case most of the game components are useless. There’s also the bigger issue that Chris mentions of being able to keep track of who says what – we found this to be a big problem. I think the game would work better if players had to ask questions in order, or something, instead of in a free-for-all, which would also address the other issue Chris mentions of players not saying anything. Obviously I could create a variant, but if I have to make my own rules and pick my own words to clue, what exactly am I getting out of the published game?

In the near future Bezier Games is publishing its own Werewolf/20 Questions mash-up, Werewords, which honestly sounds more interesting to me even though I am not a Werewolf fan.

Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers

  • I love it!
  • I like it. Chris Wray, Lorna, Larry, Michael
  • Neutral. Nathan Beeler, Dan Blum
  • Not for me…
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