Sunday, February 23, 2014

Ultimate Failure

On occasion, in discussing other games, I've mentioned that when my gaming group gets especially large, we sometimes like to play a game called Werewolf. It's a simple hidden identity game you can play with a few cards from a standard deck. In successive rounds, one or two "werewolves" kill off other members of the group, as the remaining "villagers" try to identify and lynch the guilty one(s). If the werewolves (aided by mistaken, bloodthirsty villagers) kill off enough of their prey before getting caught, they win; if the villagers find and kill the werewolves, they win.

Over the years, there have been a few different products trying to package the concept up in a pretty way to sell cheaply. One recent effort along these lines caught the attention of my friend: One Night Ultimate Werewolf. The appealing promise of this incarnation was that no player needed to sit out as the "moderator" -- an iPhone app could be downloaded to narrate/officiate the game.

Unfortunately, the makers of this product made other key changes that completely gut Werewolf's already debatable value as a game. They decided to take out the "eliminations" from the game as well; everyone gets to play. A noble goal, perhaps, but utterly foolish. The key to Werewolf is the successive rounds and the dwindling pool of players. Players try to use logic and manipulation to identify the werewolf based on the victims he has taken. Without successive rounds -- a history of data upon which to draw -- Werewolf is just a crap shoot. Who did it? Was it that guy? Nope? Well, game over! There's no deduction, no social interaction, no game. One Night simulates exactly what its title says, and it's utterly meaningless.

The story doesn't even make sense any more when distilled to this level, as someone in our group hilariously pointed out. The entire premise of a mob out to string up a werewolf depends on them having found a brutalized body after the night of a full moon. Without a victim, then you have a weird Shirley Jackson story or something. The village wakes up one morning and decides to lynch someone! And even if they luck out and kill a werewolf, the werewolf was just as innocent as any other villager, having not actually done anything!

Even if you like social party games, even if you like Werewolf in particular, there's sadly nothing here for you in One Night Ultimate Werewolf. It's a total bust of a game that surely can't have been playtested. It took us mere minutes to conclude, as a group, things were seriously amiss. Perhaps you can use the snazzily produced pieces for your own purposes, but otherwise the game can only be called an F.

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