We've already lost count of the number of Werewolf games and variants published by Bezier. But if you thought the label Ultimate Werewolf on previous editions meant you had an every card and role possible in this classic secret role social deduction game, think again. Rename those older versions as Penultimate because Bezier are back with yet more Ultimate Werewolf games with even more roles and variations on this tried and trusted theme.
The social deduction game of Werewolf was originally created by Dimitry Davidoff in 1986. It was originally called Mafia. It was Andrew Plotkin who, in 1997, substituted the werewolf theme. The core game has a moderator and involves the players being dealt a card that identifies them as either a villager or werewolf. The werewolves know which other players are werewolves but the villagers know only how many werewolves there are. Each 'night' (ie: alternating phase where players shut their eyes), the werewolves pick a victim to kill and silently signal this to the moderator. Each 'day' (eyes open), the moderator announces which villager has been killed. The players then debate who they think might be a werewolf. If a player is accused of being a werewolf, there's a vote and if more than half agree, then the accused is eliminated.
Over the past 20 years, the game has developed from this basic premise, introducing many more specific roles, each with their own special abilities, so the non-werewolf players aren't all just plain villagers. With these new editions, Ted Alspach and Aaron Newman have given us a choice of well over a hundred different roles, including, particularly in the Pro and Bonus Roles boxes, a bunch of individual roles for the werewolves. We use the word 'choice' advisedly tho' - we wouldn't recommend introducing more than a couple of new roles in any one game or you risk substituting sheer chaos for social deduction, as well as making the moderator's role impossibly difficult. It's great to have such a wide choice, but you need to exercise the discipline of selection.
The designers have offered some help with this. The boxes come with guidance on how best to approach assembling the cast of characters for each game. Cards all carry a +/- weighting which indicates the extent to which their inclusion favours the villagers or the wolves. Part of the job of the moderator in setting up each game is to establish an appropriate balance by totting up the +/- values of the cards being included. If the total is positive, the game will tend to favour the villagers; if it's negative, then it's easier for the werewolves. The moderator is encouraged to tweak the choice of roles to adjust the balance if one side is winning too many games. And Bezier are making available a free companion app that will ease the moderator's role in building custom decks and running games.
Tho' Werewolf is by definition a team game, some of roles in Extreme, Bonus Roles and Pro force or allow a player to switch allegiance and others establish individual win conditions that, if met, override the standard collective win conditions for the villagers (eliminate all the wolves) or the werewolves (have sufficient villagers eliminated that it's impossible to successfully vote to kill any of the werewolves).
Obviously this is a game predicated on player elimination, so you'll always want to ensure pacy games that don't run overlong and leave lots of players twiddling their thumbs for hours on end. Tho' Werewolf can accommodate a huge number of players, especially this edition with its expansions, we'd recommend breaking larger groups up to run parallel games rather than try to play with an overly large number of players. We noted with some alarm that these Ultimate Extreme games say on the box that they cater for up to 75 players! The rules, however, clarify that they mean there's enough cards in the box (ie: even without the Bonus Roles and Pro expansions) to run three parallel games with up to 25 players in each. It's great to have a game that can accommodate such large groups but that doesn't mean that's necessarily the optimal way to play. We'd recommend this game as at its best with 10-12 players.
If you're regularly playing with fewer than 10, then you probably don't need all these variant cards, other than to satisfy your OCD completionism. But if you have a group of at least this size that enjoys Werewolf enough for it to be a games night staple, then your group will get a real kick out of gradually discovering all these new roles and the sometimes subtle ways in which they interact and shake up the game's dynamics. Buy Ultimate Werewolf Extreme and its two expansions and you will be adding virtually infinite variety to your games!
These games are available from retailers in the US but they may be hard to come by in Europe and the UK. Happily, we can offer a silver bullet: you can order copies direct from the publishers at www.beziergames.com. Whether you're looking for the perfect gift for the werewolf that has everything or a classic party game to liven this year's seasonal festivities, order now!