Hidden role social deduction games are often a great way of rounding off a games night. We've been spoiled for choice over the past couple of years. With very large groups, the Werewolf Extreme boxes from Bezier are a popular choice but we frequently find we gravitate back to Secret Hitler (Goat Wolf & Cabbage). It's a feature in most social deduction games that players usually know which character or faction they represent. Not so in Cheatwell Games' PsychoBabble...
Designed for 4-11 players, and best with at least half a dozen, one player is 'insane' but tho' it's the job of the other players to identify them, the insane player doesn't know they're insane! So how does this work?
PsychoBabble is played using a deck of large format 'Dream' cards laid out in a 4 x 4 grid. The cards each show a black & white nightmare or dreamscape picture. In addition, there are four piles of 'Cypher' cards. At the start of each round of play, one player is designated as the psychotherapist; the others are the patients. The psychotherapist creates a deck made up of cards drawn from one pile plus a single card drawn from another pile so that the total number of Cypher cards is equal to the number of patients. The Cypher cards are shuffled and dealt face down to each patient. Two standard six-sided dice are rolled and the patients use their Cypher card to determine which Dream card in the 4 x 4 grid represents their dream.
All but one of the patients will be directed to the same Dream card but one player's Cypher card will direct them to a different Dream card. Patients describe their Dream and can question each other. They are trying to work out if they have had the same dream as others. After questions are done, the psychotherapist has to identify the correct Dream card. Patients all point to the player they believe is insane. The patients then all reveal their Cypher cards so they can all see who was insane (ie: who had the unmatching card).
If you're keeping score, the psychotherapist wins the round if they are correct. If they were incorrect, the patients win if the majority pointed at the player who was insane. If neither the psychotherapist nor the patients were correct, the insane player wins.
In PsychoBabble, Kedric Winks has designed a game that combines elements of Dixit (Libellud) with Spyfall (Cryptozoic/Hobby World) or Chameleon (Big Potato). Patients have to be fairly cryptic with their comments so that they signal to others the Dream card they are referencing without making it blindingly obvious to the psychotherapist. We found tho' that the psychotherapist tended to win most rounds. The artwork by Eric York is suitably fantastic, with something of a Lovecraftian feel, tho' some players grumbled that all the drawings were black & white. Of course, if you'd prefer to use colour pictures to aid clarity you could probably substitute Dixit cards. A greater concern in gameplay terms was that, even tho' each of the Dream cards are large, players had to stare quite intently at their target card to draw out the detail needed, but of course doing so could make it very obvious which card they were looking at... Nonetheless, if you enjoy social deduction games, PsychoBabble offers a novel take on the genre.