The village has been under silent siege for some time now. Villagers have been found mysteriously dead on mornings that follow a full moon. Many suspect that a werewolf is living among us - but who?
The prolific Ted Alspach is back to his werewolf-y ways with One Night Ultimate Werewolf. Having never played the original games Werewolf or Mafia, but being a huge fan of Coup and Resistance, I was not sure what to expect when I got One Night Ultimate Werewolf in the mail. Of course, most gamers involved enough in the hobby to have an active BGG account have heard of Werewolf - the main reasons I have never played it is because of the player elimination and because it requires a non-player moderator to run the game (and I don't get to go to many conventions). So, after experiencing a couple nights of One Night, what did I end up thinking? Let's find out!
The game begins with the night phase. One Night Werewolf does still require a moderator, but the rules allow for the moderator to also be a player. During the night phase, all players will have their eyes closed. The moderator will announce certain roles to "wake up" and perform a special action that is associated with their role. For instance, the first group the moderator asks to "wake up" is the werewolves. Any werewolves playing then open their eyes and see who else is a werewolf (if there is another werewolf). The moderator waits ten seconds, asks the current group to close their eyes again, and announces the next group to "wake up."
After the night phase, the day phase begins - everyone opens their eyes. After a few minutes of discussion, all players vote on one player to be lynched. Whoever gets the most votes dies. If two players tie for the most votes, they both die, but if no player receives more than one vote, then no one dies. After the vote, the game ends.
Villagers win the game if at least one werewolf dies during the lynching. Even if a villager dies in addition to a werewolf dying, the villagers all win. If, however, there are no werewolves in the game (remember the 3 cards in the middle of the table), the villagers only win if no one dies. The werewolves can only win the game if at least one player is a werewolf and no werewolves die.
This, on its own, would be a pretty compelling hidden role game. But the addition of roles to One Night Ultimate Werewolf adds even more wild fun to this already enjoyable base experience. Some of the roles give more information to players, while others add a healthy dose of chaos. The Seer, for instance, wakes up during the night phase and can look at another player's card or at two of the cards in the middle of the table. While the Troublemaker (who wakes up after the Seer) can switch the cards of two other players without looking at them.
One Night Ultimate Werewolf has a few weaknesses. First, I think this type of game has a fairly wide appeal, but people who will not enjoy this type of game will really not like this type of game. The fact that the game still requires a moderator - even a player moderator - is a pretty big con for me. I usually "run" most of the board games I play - learning setup and in game upkeep along with the rules of play - but here being a moderator could take a player out of the game experience, somewhat. This game could also (maybe?) be criticized for not having very much (traditional) strategy. There is a lot of chaos in some of the roles here, and some players will simply be unable to see the subtleties of deception which are inherent to succeeding here. This isn't to say there is no strategy, in fact I'd say my final con of the game is that the strategies of when and how players should lie during the day phase can be hard to figure out.
All that said, One Night Ultimate Werewolf is a stupendously fun game that can be used as a "filler" in many situations, but I would say that gamers should schedule around 45 minutes to play this game - not because it takes that long, but most groups will probably want to play this several times in a row (just like mine did). The best thing about the game are the unique situations, bluffs, and outright lies that it presents with players. Actually, one of the best things about the short playing time of One Night Ultimate Werewolf is that because groups will likely play the game multiple times in a row, a lying meta-game will likely develop, adding a fun inside joke feel to sessions of this - especially when played with groups of close friends.
Overall, I would give One Night Ultimate Werewolf an 8.5. I really like the game, and - along with the companion app - I think most other groups will enjoy it as well. The game can be dependent upon groups being comfortable with lying to each other, but hopefully if you're bringing this to your game night, you know how your group will react to having to lie. One Night Ultimate Werewolf packs a lot of game into a small box and low price point. I definitely recommend it.
If this sounds fun, you might also want to check out: The Resistance, Bang! The Dice Game, or Battlestar Galactica.
Jim would like to thank Bezier Games for providing him a review copy of One Night Ultimate Werewolf.