Critical Play: Mafia

I played mafia with 12 of my friends. The link provided was, but we had trouble coordinating between in real life play and digital play, so we just we played in person and without the site after getting roles assigned by it. Mafia was created by Dimitry Davidoff in 1986, and the provided sit was made by comrade_dik_dik, tapioca, Valiant_Cookie, moko, SuperMikeMan, bolthus, envylouvre, and RestomaK. Based on the website, it seems like the game is targeted toward a slightly older audience. This makes sense, as all of the rules and order may be a bit too complex for younger players.

I played with 13 people (myself included). There isn’t a standard player amount, but 4-5 is the standard minimum. The roles that we played with are Mafia, villager, policeman (can check the identity of anyone they want), and doctor (can save whoever they want). With only the mafia and villager roles, this was a unilateral competition-type game. The objective of the game as a villager is to discover and vote out all mafia members. The objective of the game as a mafia member is to kill all villagers. (Sort of like the capture/destroy objective, but with people instead of objects.) All players have the goal of not getting voted out themselves.

Each round has a “day” and “night” part. At night, where everyone puts their head down and all the mafia killing, policeman checking, and doctor saving happens. During the day, everyone “wakes up” (raises their head) and tries to guess who the mafia is. Suspicion and discussion are huge parts of this game, which is why I think it’s much better played with those that you know well enough to do these things comfortably with. (I have played mafia and its spin-offs with new coworkers before. It was not fun.)

Mafia is the origin of other games in this genre (social deduction games). I like it MUCH better than Avalon (which I’ve played the most), because of its simplicity in comparison. Avalon has way too many roles, and the “mission voting” aspect of the game is unnecessary to me—discussion and arguing is enough for social deduction games (I feel similarly about the cameras in Among Us). Mafia is much more straightforward in comparison, making it easier to play without anything but the people you’re playing with. Also, it doesn’t require specific numbers of players the way that Avalon does. 

The game was a lot of fun. Playing with people I know made accusing each other funnier and more entertaining. There was plenty of yelling. (We had someone getting on their knees, begging not to be suspected as mafia and voted out. Before doing this, they asked “if I was the mafia would I do this?”. To which everyone replied with: “yes”.)

Having such a large number of people gave us the opportunity to speak secretly amongst ourselves because the “circle” we sat in was also large. That and the fact that everyone knew each other led to alliances forming. It was particularly funny to see these alliances break (an interesting twist on considering the “fellowship” aspect of the game). For example, in the most exciting part of the game, a confirmed villager (let’s call them G) made an alliance with a someone that was revealed to be a mafia member (we can call them M). In the previous “day” rounds, G had stood by and defended M, trying to direct the group’s attention away from M when everyone suspected them. The reaction to the betrayal made me feel like I was in a Real Housewives episode. 

To make mafia better, I would have higher stakes as a villager. I find that every time I play as a villager, I just kind of sit around, get excited during the voting, and then sit around again. It would be nice to have something for villagers to be able to win individually. (I may just not be a team-oriented person when it comes to games.)

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