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Cheese Thief

You can have a lot of fun with social deduction games but the majority do seem to have macabre themes and player elimination; for example, Secret Hitler (Goat Wolf & Cabbage) and the various incarnations of Werewolf (Bezier Games). Eliminated players rarely have to sit out for long but player elimination and a disturbing theme can make these games unsuitable for children. That's a pity, and it's where Cheese Thief comes in...

Designed by Dongxu Li, with art by Moyo, Cheese Thief is a light, easy-to-play social deduction game from Jolly Thinkers that's suitable for children and for play as a family game. The premise is that the 4-8 players are all mice, or maybe hamsters (judging from the illustrations). They are all dealt a character card at the start. One card will show that player that they are the Cheese Thief; the other cards will just show them as a 'sleepyhead'. There'll be a lump of cheese (actually a foam wedge) in the centre of the table. Players each have a dice cup and a standard six-sided die. Players roll the die under the cup and peek at it so only they can see the number. That number will represent the hour that they wake up.

There's a script for a moderator to recite but a free downloadable app will fill the moderator's role. The moderator/app tells all the players to sleep (close their eyes) and then those players who rolled a 1 should wake up. When you wake you open your eyes. After a few seconds, the moderator/app will tell those players to close their eyes, and the process will be repeated for 2 o'clock, 3 o'clock through to 6 o'clock. If at any time a 'sleepyhead' is the only player who is awake, then they can peek under another player's cup to see their die. When the Cheese Thief's time is called and they wake up, they take the cheese and conceal it on their person. If a 'sleepyhead' has their eyes open at the same time as the Cheese Thief, they become the Cheese Thief's follower - they win if the Cheese Thief wins. If more than one sleepyhead witnesses the theft, the Cheese Thief chooses which will be their follower. When playing with six or more players, there are additional rules for choosing followers after 6 o'clock.

The sleepyheads win if they deduce who stole the cheese, while the Cheese Thief and their follower(s) win if the sleepyheads fail to correctly identify the thief. What they have to go on is the evidence of their own eyes and the accounts of others as to when the cheese was still there and by when it had disappeared. Players will all give accounts of what time they opened their eyes and whether or not the cheese was still there at that time; not all will be telling the truth... Players then vote by pointing a finger at the player they think is the Cheese Thief.

Cheese Thief plays in around 10 minutes, so it's a quick game. The components are of high quality and add to the game's appeal. It's fun and the only practical limitation on even quite young children playing is the necessity to maintain silence during any actions you carry out when your waking hour is called.

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