Currently, board games are a wildly popular hobby. Modern gaming is loaded with new genres and subtypes, unlike well-known games of the past. The social deduction sub-category includes hidden identity games, known for collaborative play, and entertaining larger gatherings.
Looking to stir-up your weekly game night getting everyone participating? Secret identity games will allow your group to experiment with some role-playing through deceit and deception. What standard features make hidden identity games so noteworthy?
Three Elements of Hidden Identity Games
Hidden identity board games have three common characteristics making them part of the thrilling social deduction category. Bluffing is an important one. These game mechanics are not the only components in this type of board game. However, these mechanics set the hidden role genre apart from the typical deduction category, making them engaging and replayable.
During game set-up, at least one player is assigned as a traitor or given a secret identity. Often games can be lost if the ‘betrayer’ completes their mission and sabotages the game. An essential aspect of this mechanic is the uncertainty it creates. Tension and doubt grow out of believing one of your friends is deceiving you.
Bluffing or lying might prove difficult if your friends know you very well. This is where live-action role-playing comes in handy. As the traitor, concealing your identity is essential to complete your mission, especially if your objective is sabotage. How good are you at deception? Hopefully, you paid attention in high school theater class.
Social deduction requires logic to gather evidence supporting your well-educated accusation against the presumed traitor. If the ‘good guys’ can’t figure out which one of your companions is subverting the objective, you lose. The social aspect of the traitor versus the group adds to the interaction. Some of these games are played in quick rounds, making it challenging to track allies and traitors.
Introductory Level Games
Choosing the ideal game means the difference between fun and frustration for newer players. If you have a larger gathering or a mix of various ages, 12 years old and up, then games on the introductory level would be a perfect starting point. They are easier to learn, and offer fast fun, lasting 30 minutes or less.
In the first game we discuss, agents collaborate to complete missions against the Empire. Players secretly assigned as Imperial spies want the tasks to fail. The Imperial spies know who is a spy and who is a resistance agent. But the agents don’t know who is a spy and who isn’t. This game will appeal to larger groups of seven to ten players looking for a quick game.
The deduction involved in this game is simple and sometimes more math than actual social deduction. Counting how many times missions failed while a player was involved can be a clue to who is a spy.
Two Rooms and a Boom
Next, this game uses two teams, red and blue. Each side should have a separate playing area. Participants divide equally between the two groups, and character cards are given out. The blue team has a randomly assigned President, and the red team has a secret Bomber.
This game plays out in timed rounds, each ending with some players swapping between the two teams. During the final reveal of character cards, the blue team wins if the president is not in the same room as the bomber. The red team wins if they manage to smuggle the bomber into the room with the president.
Since this game can accommodate up to 30 players, it’s ideal for a party or an ice breaker for a large gathering. However, due to this game’s randomness, a player could receive the same character card over consecutive games.
Deception: Murder in Hong Kong
In Deception, you act as the investigators on a homicide case, but one of you is the killer. The forensic scientist knows who the perpetrator is and gives the investigative team clues. The killer uses deception to derail the investigation. Solve the crime and arrest the murderer before they kill again. Some may find the role of the forensic scientist problematic because they can’t speak. The forensic scientist is limited to giving clues by pointing to words on the cards provided.
Intermediate Level Games
The intermediate level games are best if played by people with some knowledge and skill. Most of these games require moderate ability to understand the rules and mechanics. A good attention span is strongly recommended, since most of these games offer around 30 minutes to an hour of playtime.
Ultimate Werewolf Deluxe Edition
In this interactive game of social deduction, it’s villagers versus werewolves. The werewolves have a deadly secret with a goal to remain hidden as they remove the villagers one at a time. The villagers use speculation to uncover the werewolves and put an end to their evil plans.
The game takes place over a series of rounds divided into days and nights. Each day, the players try to guess who might be a werewolf and vote out a player. Each night, the werewolves choose someone to slay. The game ends when either all the villagers are eliminated or all the werewolves. Play this game in larger groups for the most entertainment. It’s appealing to various age groups and experience levels.
When you have significantly large groups that are not quick about making decisions, this game can seem to drag on a bit. So, groups of 20 to 75 benefit from a skilled moderator to keep the game moving and tallying scores.
In this hidden identity game, it borrows some concepts of the previous one and adds mechanics where players build a village and earn points. It’s righteous versus the witches leading to a literal witch hunt complete with pestilence and accusations.
An exciting layer added to the hidden identity element is that all players have a point goal. Figuring out the identity of the witches does not assure your victory. Winning also requires the highest number of points. This game will appeal to gamers who enjoy historical Salem witch themes. Also, the added mechanics of card drafting, building, and point collecting allows players to use more strategies. Fans of the typical secret identity and social deduction games may be let down by this point collecting system.
Betrayal at House on the Hill
With uncanny investigation and unexpected twists, Betrayal at House on the Hill is a new breed of haunted house adventure. Thrills begin as players collaboratively build a haunted mansion. This game is unusual because the deception begins randomly, triggered by any player during the game. At this time, the secret identity is assigned. To win the game, either the traitor or the explorers must complete their goals.
Only one hero needs to survive for the explorers to win. As a quirky twist, some haunts include goals allowing the traitor to win even after they die. This game is suspenseful, exciting, and different every time you play. Due to the importance of clear communication and interactivity in this game, misunderstandings happen. Not following directions will lead to a confusing mess.
Advanced Level Games
When selecting an advanced level board game, it’s best if experienced with a group of players with the same proficiency due to complex rules, mechanics, strategies, and sessions that often last well over an hour.
Shadows over Camelot
In this medieval-themed board game completing legendary quests will assure your triumph. Collaborate with Knights of the Round Table to save Camelot. Take heed, one of your fellow knights is not so noble. Save the kingdom before the traitor destroys it.
It’s an amusing game that appeals to players who enjoy grail quests and all things Camelot. Sadly, after several replays, this Arthurian adventure may not feel as captivating.
Battlestar Galactica: The Board Game
Next is a cooperative social deduction board game with an unusual element. In this game, the Cylons are the traitors, and there can be more than one. The idea is the Cylons made life easier for the colonies until they decided to kill their creators. If humans can keep the Galactica together and reach earth before the Cylons destroy the human race, your team will win.
This game is excellent for players that enjoy cooperative games, with in-depth involvement. Keep in mind, the average playing time is two hours, making it a considerable commitment.
Dead of Winter: A Crossroads Game
Lastly, Dead of Winter is a cooperative survival game with hidden obstacles. Each player leads a faction of survivors, working together toward one common objective. For players to achieve this common goal, first, they must complete their secret mission. These secret intentions can be harmless or sabotage the entire colony.
The hidden agendas can result in all players winning, all players losing, or a little of both. This game will interest fans of story-centric games with psychological situations. Be aware this is for serious gamers due to the extended playing times (1 to 2 hours) and the complex strategies.
A Few Final Words
Whether you are planning a party or hosting a weekly game night, don’t stress about the entertainment. Even if you are hosting a large crowd, hidden identity games with trickery and deception can be a lot of fun. Invite your friends to a captivating evening of logic and social deduction to outwit each other through sabotage and secrets. Give a hidden identity game a shot. Besides, what’s a party without a little backstabbing and betrayal among friends?