Feed the Kraken is a social deduction game from Funtails based on the idea that you're aboard a ship trying to navigate home amongst a motley crew of sailors, pirates and a cult leader. Each faction wants to get the ship to their own preferred destination. The game is designed by Maikel Cheney, Dr Hans Joachim Hoh and Tobias Immich, with art by James Churchill and Hendrik Noack. It takes 5-11 players and, in my view, it's at its best at the upper end of that player count.
You start off knowing which faction you belong to. Pirates reveal themselves to each other but you otherwise only have your powers of deduction and innate paranoia to guide you as to the roles of each of your shipmates... In addition, players each have a unique character card that gives them a special ability. Tho' the roles are secret, the character cards are common knowledge.
Let me say it up front, this is one of the best hidden role games that I've played. It's strikes a great balance between random, unknown factors and just enough detail to start making reasoned judgement calls about who you can trust. Each turn, the Captain and Lieutenant pass their orders to the Navigator who chooses in which of three possible directions to sail. As in Secret Hitler, there will inevitably be much argument, discussion and very likely accusations over who gave what orders. This could well give rise to Mutiny and a new choice of officers...
The basic game setup is visually appealing, especially in the deluxe edition shown here on Board's Eye View. You can see the love and attention that's been lavished on this game's production - not just making the game look great but also avoiding the pitfalls of other social deduction games: protecting players from accidental reveals. The fact that you aren't merely playing cards but you're physically moving the ship across the large map means excitement builds and the narrative flows well into the game.
For me, what sets this game aside from the huge pile of other social deduction games are the map itself and the various game-changing components. For example, the cards that give each player a single-use special ability regardless of their hidden role and the pistols that are used to decide on Mutinies. Moving the ship forward (towards the cult leader's island) is a wonderful way for pirates to work against the sailors but still claim they're on the side of good but, be warned, when a card is played that shows the cultist icon, the cult leader can secretly convert another player to turn them into a cult member. This means no matter what's happened before, suddenly you can't trust anyone again...
I've played this game around 15 times now and have found it extremely well balanced, with an array of wins for each team. It has some amusing mechanics too, with options to 'cut someone's tongue out' (banning them from speaking for the rest of the game), the captain being drunk (moving the captaincy on to another player) and a potential game-saving option allowing the Navigator to throw themselves overboard rather than play one of the cards they've been handed.
Feed the Kraken has become one of my favourite games. It's easy to understand and the rules can be learned as you go along, avoiding the need for a lengthy rules explanation at the start. The game is packed full of laughs and accusations, and I highly recommend it.
(Review by Becca Warr)