For this critical play, I played Secret Sith. This is a variation on the game Secret Hitler, but the leader of the separatist party is Palpatine. I wasn’t able to find where the Secret Sith variation came from, but the original Secret Hitler game was created by Goat, Wolf, & Cabbage in 2016 (or at least thats what the Creative Commons license says). I will assume that the creator of netgames.io created the Secret Sith variation. The target audience of Secret Hitler (hopefully) is college students educated on the topics of fascim. However, the Secret Sith variation can be played by anyone from ages 10 onwards, and especially appeals to people who have watched Star Wars and understand the general premise of the Formal Elements at play.
The game mechanics are very similar to Secret Hitler. To start the game, players are separated into Loyalists and Separatists. Loyalists win if 5 mandates are enacted, or if Palpatine is executed. Separatists win if 6 mandates are enacted, or if Palpatine is elected Supreme Chancellor after 3 mandates are enacted. The Separatists know who each other are, but the Loyalists don’t know who anyone else is. There are 6 Loyalist mandates and 11 Separatist mandates in the deck. At the start of each round, the Vice Chair proposes a Supreme Chancellor, and all players either vote yes or no to the proposal, and a successful vote is determined by majority. After 3 failed elections, the first mandate in the deck is enacted, and after 5 Separatist mandates have been enacted, the Supreme Chancellor can veto the agenda with the Vice Chair’s permission.
If the proposed Supreme Chancellor is not voted into power, they become the new Vice Chair and propose the next Supreme Chancellor. After a Supreme Chancellor is voted into power, the Vice Chair draws 3 mandate cards and discards of 1 of them. Each mandate card is wither a Loyalist or Separatist mandate so it is in the interest of the Vice Chair’s party alignment to dispose of a card which doesn’t serve their agenda. The remaining two mandates are passed to the Supreme Chancellor who enacts 1 of them.
There are three interesting Formal Elements which manifest from the Loyalist, Separatist, and Palpatine mechanics. If you are a Separatist, you want to work for the beneficence of your party. There are Formal Elements which arise from this. The first is maintaining your secrecy, becoming elected as Supreme Chancellors and passing mandates. However, the second is to serve Palpatine as your “real” leader. This includes getting Palpatine elected once three Separatist mandates have been enacted, and preventing Palpatine’s execution. The last Formal Element in Secret Sith is the Loyalists working to prevent the Separatists from passing mandates and Palpatine getting elected. This is the most difficult dynamic in the game since the Loyalists don’t know who anyone is. Whereas Separatists know who the other Separatists are and who Palpatine is, Loyalists only know their own role.
Secret Sith is similar to games such as Assassin and Werewolf. In Assassin and Werewolf, there are villagers who don’t know who anyone else is, and there are assassins or werewolf’s who are the “bad guys”. In contrast to Assassin and Werewolf, in Secret Sith no one is killed each round. In Assassin and Werewolf, the villagers can deduce who the killer is by process of elimination each round. However, there isn’t any deeper context provided to help the villagers determine who is who. What I enjoyed about Secret Sith is that each player eventually becomes the Vice Chair, and many players become the Supreme Chancellor. Players have access to many different variables to determine who is a Loyalist, who is a Separatist, and who is Palpatine. Being able to stay in the game each round and not get killed off allows more long term strategy; a formal element of Secret Sith I thoroughly enjoyed.
The game was very fun. It is easy to play with just 5 players, or even with twice that number. The complex psychological component analyzing each player’s role as a function of the mandates they pass and Supreme Chancellors they vote for adds an additional dimension of fun – narrative and fellowship. While we played the game, I was a Separatist. We were able to enact 2 mandates immediately; a huge success. At that point, we knew that we just had to enact 1 more mandate and then get Palpatine elected Supreme Chancellor. However, because we got 2 Separatist mandates enacted immediately, and because the Vice Chairs who selected the two mandates to pass to the Supreme Chancellors were Loyalist, they were able to deduce that the two players who had enacted the mandates were Separatists. Since the Loyalists had the majority of players, they were able to prevent those two players from becoming Supreme Chancellor ever again – one of those players was Palpatine. Thus, the Loyalists were able to enact their entire agenda and execute Palpatine, winning them the game, and demonstrating an epic failure for the Separatists.
If I were to change this game to make it better, I would add more explicit deliberation between rounds. A Formal Element of Assassin and Werewolf I enjoyed was being able to deliberate with everyone between rounds and add a conversational mechanic which contributed towards the dynamic of the game. In the case of Secret Sith, each Separatist knows who the other Separatists and Palpatine are, however the Loyalists must deduce this on their own, and figure out who the other Loyalists are as well. If I were to add a mechanic to Secret Sith, I would add a deliberation between each round where players can plead their loyalty (truthfully or as a bluff) to the Loyalist party.