Updated: Dec 12, 2019
The hidden identity game Werewolf was first developed by Andrew Plotkin in 1997 as an adaptation of the party game Mafia designed a decade earlier by Dimitry Davidoff. Over the years there have been countless incarnations of the game, where players are assigned a role (at the most basic level, Villager or Werewolf). Players vote each round to eliminate a player: the Villagers are trying to kill the Werewolves and the Werewolves are trying to survive by getting the Villagers killed. Tho' many other publishers have produced Werewolf games, it is Bézier Games who are now most closely identified with the game. This follows Ted Alspach's design of Ultimate Werewolf and a huge stack of One Night Ultimate adaptations of the game; with every game incorporating a range of different roles, each with their own special ability.
All these previous versions of Werewolf, Ultimate Werewolf and One Night Ultimate Werewolf are essentially card games (ie: all that's in the small box is a set of hidden ID cards). If that's your expectation, the first thing that will surprise you about One Week Ultimate Werewolf is the size of the box (30cm x 30cm) and its hefty weight. There's a lot more inside than a pack of ID cards!
What Ted Alspach and co-designer Akihisa Okui have done here is take the Werewolf concept and throw into the mix elements originating from Ted Alspach's other big board game hit Castles of Mad King Ludwig. One Week Ultimate Werewolf is set in Ludwig's Castle and is played using a modular board made up of a selection of room tiles representing Castle locations. Art in the game is by Greg Bartlett, Gus Batts, Jason Boles and Taylor Bogle.
As you might expect, players each draw a hidden role; in this case by taking a circular token that shows that they are a Villager, Werewolf or Tanner. The tokens fit neatly (face down of course) into chunky wooden castellated playing pieces, which is what you will be moving from room to room as you try to collect information on which players have which role. And there are non-player characters too: servants at the Castle who also have hidden IDs and with whom you can interact. At the end of the game, the Villagers win if the player they choose to eliminate is a Werewolf, the Werewolves win if a Villager gets the most votes for elimination, and the evidently suicidal Tanner wins if they are the player with the most votes.
The great thing about One Week Ultimate Werewolf is that it's a party and social deduction game that genuinely also feels like a board game. It's played over several game days, each comprising a day and a night phase. In the day phase, players play one of their small hand of cards face up to determine how far they move. If they move to a room with a day action, then they take that room's action. If they are in a room with a night action, they'll have the option to take that action when the game moves to the night phase. And it's the night phase that delivers the real meat of the game. Here, as other players shut their eyes, the active player plays a card face down, announces what it is and takes that card's action. For example, the Seer card allows the player to look at any two tokens; the Troublemaker allows the player to switch two tokens where the markers are in the same room but not to look at either. Players can lie about which card they've played and about what they see when, for example, they play a Seer card. What you'll be trying to do through the course of the game is piece together information about players' identities from what you know to be true and what you discover to be lies, and if you're a Werewolf or the Tanner you'll be doing your best to spread misinformation...
One Week Ultimate Werewolf takes 3–7 players. All player counts are enjoyable but we found the game worked best with 5 or more. Be warned tho', it can be quite chaotic as you increase the number of players: you may very well not end up with the ID you started with.
You'll find 15 different room tiles in the box but you only ever use a maximum of 7 rooms in any game. That means there's a possibility of huge variety between games depending on the rooms you use. Some of the choices significantly alter the dynamics of play so there's a lot of replayability. There is even a room that offers artifacts that can override the player's ID. For example, if you draw there the Claw of the Werewolf, then you will be a Werewolf regardless of what your ID token shows.
Bézier may well have stretched the word Ultimate in the past in respect of its numerous Werewolf games but One Week Ultimate Werewolf really does lay claim to being the Ultimate werewolf game.