Critical Play: Bluffing, Judging and Getting Vulnerable…

David G

Secret Hitler is a social deduction game for 5-10 people about finding and stopping the Secret Hitler. The game is designed by GOAT, WOLF, & CABBAGE. There is no direct theme, but it does center itself generally around Germany’s political regime, between the Fascists and the Liberals.

The target audience of this game varies, as it can really be played by anyone over the age of 10; however, it’s best for people who are playing as a party game with other friends. I imagine that the game is best played with people over 14, as the game involves acting, understanding tacit agreements, and being able to manipulate others.

Players are secretly divided into two teams: the liberals, who have a majority, and the fascists, who are hidden to everyone but each other. If the liberals can learn to trust each other, they have enough votes to control the elections and save the day. But the fascists will say whatever it takes to get elected, advance their agenda, and win the game.

At the beginning of the game, the players randomly deal out a single card in an envelope to each other. Each person reveals their single card to themselves, which identifies them as either a liberal or a fascist. One special character  will have the Hitler card. Similar to Avalon, the characters will go through a process of secretly identifying one another – the fascists will know who the other fascists are, however, the fascists won’t know who Hitler is (similar to Merlin). 

Each turn, people will try to pass a law by choosing groups. The player whose turn it is, which is chosen in a sequential fashion, will become president. They will choose two other people to form a team with and  pass a law. They will also choose a Chancellor. The goal of the game is to pass three laws, make Hitler Chancellor, or kill Hitler, which one has the option to do (choose one person to kill randomly) at the end of the game. 

The interesting resources of this game mostly pertain to the laws that you pass. The more Fascist laws that pass, the more power the fascists have to check other people’s cards, adding disorder and more randomness to the game. The game is similar to Avalon in that there’s deception in telling others what cards you received, but also deception in convincing others to give certain people the title of Chancellor. 

The game is also designed nicely and has a simple but elegant aesthethic, something different from the many other games in this genre.

This game is fun due to social connection. Players get a better understanding of each other through the game. Players have to guess each other’s roles and question each other in a fun but critical-to-the-game way, which helps people become closer with each other. 

This game doesn’t require anything more than a surface-level amount of vulnerability. Unlike other games in the genre, it’s more about passing laws and not passing laws, and unlike Avalon and other similar games, because there are much more fascist cards than liberal cards when selecting to pass a law, there’s an amount of detective work that goes into whether someone is a fascist or not. That chance allows for more skilled gameplay, as opposed to in Avalon, where the ratio is more or less the same, and evil characters who don’t know how to play the game well are revealed quickly.

To improve the game, I’d include more visuals and minigames to keep the pace of the game, especially when it Liberals or Fascists only need one or two more rounds to win. 

The game works because it’s constantly moving, and it’s not as obvious who the fascists or liberals are. Unlike other games in the genre, because of the balance of randomness and chance, skill isn’t the only determinant of success in this game.

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