Bluffing and deduction games are always popular with the review team at Board's Eye View. They come in many guises, but especially enjoyable are the filler-length games where most are privy to key information but one or two in the group are left to blag and bluff to suggest that they too are in on the secret.
Spyfall (Cryptozoic/Hobby World) is perhaps the best known of this genre of game. It's obviously been successful because it's spawned multiple editions, but Spyfall is flawed because, to play plausibly, players all need sight of the sheet that gives all the possible settings. This is a great game that falls down for lack of individual player aids. Chameleon (Big Potato) is a word game which plays the same way but where players do at least all have sight of the grid containing the words from which the target word has been chosen. Chameleon too tho' is flawed because turns go around the table and the clue you were going to give may have been given by someone else before your turn comes along.
This is where Sacred Rites comes into its own. At its heart it's another Spyfall variant but the differences that Julia Koerwer and Jono Naito have introduced into their design have made the game much more fluid. The premise here is that the 3-9 players are all members of a cult. Everyone has a cardboard sleeve which they keep facedown. 'Believers' all have a window on the reverse of their sleeve, 'Outsiders' do not. Each round, one player will draw a Rite card and slide it into their sleeve so that the word will be readable in their window. They look at their window (or pretend to do so if they are an Outsider), and then pass the card on to the next player to do the same. While the Rite card is being passed between the players, every player draws one of the large wooden Tradition tiles. These also set out a word.
Once everyone has had a chance to see or pretend to see the Rite word, they show they will each be showing their Tradition tile and using it to present an aspect of the ritual so that it signals their knowledge of the Rite word, reciting 'The Tradition of our Sacred Rite is...' As with Spyfall and Chameleon, those who know the Rite will want to be slightly cryptic or tangential in their recitation so as not to make it too easy for the Outsiders to guess the Rite or successfully bluff, but if a Believer's clue is too obscure then other Believers may think they are one of the Outsiders...
We liked the way the rules encourage players to volunteer their statements at their own pace (as opposed to being nominated by another player, as in Spyfall, or going round in strict player order, as in Chameleon). We also liked the reinforcement provided by a requirement for all the players to chorus in unison a repetition of each player's statement. We did find tho' that some Tradition tiles lent themselves better than others to pairing with the Rite words. The rules suggest always having two Outsiders, regardless of the number of players, but, as you might guess, playing a three-player game with two Outsiders (ie: just one Believer) is a very different experience to having two Outsiders when playing a nine-player game with seven Believers. For us, Sacred Rites is at its best with at least five players.
Art by Kristena Derrick rounds off the package, which includes an embroidered bag (really just for storage) and attractive coloured wooden flower tokens to keep track of scoring (you get 2 points for correctly pointing to an Outsider at the end of a round; 1 point for not getting pointed at by anyone; and 2 points for Outsiders who correctly guess the Rite word).
If you've ever enjoyed Spyfall or its variants but found them frustratingly flawed, Sacred Rites could be just what you need for a more playable bluff and deduction party game.