Critical Play: Secret Hitler

Name: Secret Hitler 

Creator(s): Mike Boxleiter, Tommy Maranges, and Mac Schubert

Platform: Board Game

Target Audience: Ages 17+ 


Notable Elements of the Game 

Secret Hitler is a social deduction game that is set in WWII. 


  • The game is team based– Players are divided into Liberal and Fascist parties, and one player is Hitler (part of the fascist party). However, Hitler doesn’t know doesn’t know who the Fascists are, creating a unique dynamic where the fascists will try to reveal themselves to Hitler without alerting the rest of the group. The liberal team also doesn’t know who the fascists are. 
  • The game can support 5-10 players, but I personally noticed that the game tended to function better at 7+ players. With 5-6 players, the game procedures and mechanics change slightly to account for the imbalance between liberals and fascists. 


  • The liberals win by passing 5 liberal policies or by assassinating Hitler, and the fascists win by either electing Hitler to chancellor after 3 fascist policies have been passed, or by enacting 6 fascist policies. 


  • Each round, the president-elect role goes to the next player clockwise, and the president-elect picks a chancellor. Players then vote on the new government. If they do not receive a majority of the vote, then the president elect moves to the next player and the process repeats. 
  • The president and chancellor then decide what policy to pass; the president picks the top 3 policy cards from the stack, discards one, and hands the remaining 2 to the chancellor. The chancellor further discards one more policy card, and the remaining policy card is what is passed. 
    • The discarded policy cards are never revealed, so you can never be really sure what side a player is on based on what policies they pass. It could be that the 3 cards drawn were all fascist policy cards, or that the president purposefully discarded a liberal policy card This creates a really interesting dynamic where all explanations could be plausible. 
  • The president can then take actions based on what policy (and how many) have been passed. This includes things like investigating a player’s party membership, appointing the new president, and even assassinating other players. 
    • One interesting feature of the game is that when the president passes either the 4th or 5th fascist policy card, the president must kill a player. This leads to interesting dynamics because it forces players to aggressively try to figure out who the fascists are. 


  • One rule that prevents endless election stalling is that if a government fails to be elected 3 times in a row, the top policy card on the deck is automatically passed. 


  • One really interesting aspect of the game was the amount of policy cards (formal element: resources).  There are only 6 liberal policy cards, and 11 liberal policy cards. This means that it is increasingly harder to pass liberal policies in the late game since the number of available liberal policy cards decreases, meaning that fascists can play more aggressively.


  • Conflict in this game arises mostly during the election phase. It is disadvantageous to let fascists become president or Chancellor, because they have influence over the policy process (and also because Hitler becoming Chancellor ends the game in some circumstances). As a result, most of the player discussion takes place when electing someone president, or when choosing players to kill. 


Compared to other games in the Genre 

  • Mafia:
    • Although both Mafia and Secret Hitler are social deduction games, Secret Hitler differentiates itself from Mafia through the unique legislative process. In addition, the “secret” part of Secret Hitler (that Hitler doesn’t know who the rest of the fascists are) is a unique factor. 
    • I personally find that Secret Hitler affords more player interactions than Mafia because there’s no moderator needed, so everyone gets to take part in the mystery. Also, I feel like the amount of fun I have with Mafia can be really dependent on the moderator’s storytelling abilities. In addition, whereas someone dies every round in Mafia, players don’t start dying in Secret Hitler until after the third fascist policy, so players don’t have to just sit out if they die early. 
  • One-Night Werewolf
    • One-Night Werewolf and Mafia share a lot of the same similarities, so a lot of the above analysis applies. However, One-Night Werewolf has a lot more roles than Mafia, including roles where the Werewolves are not aware of the other wolves (similar to the Hitler role) leading to a lot of different player relationships. However, One-Night Werewolf is a single voting round (as the name implies) whereas Secret Hitler involves multiple rounds and fewer roles. 


Was it Fun?

I found Secret Hitler really fun! Although it felt slow at first since everyone was pretending to be liberal (only passing liberal policies, not voting no on any governments), once people were more accustomed to the game, the game was a lot more fun because people were playing more aggressively. 

Successes and Fails

We had a bit of a fail in the first round where the player with the Hitler card was confused about the rules– they thought any time the Hitler player was elected chancellor, they would win, so they revealed themselves in the first round, ending the game in about 5 minutes. However, we had an epic success in terms of really slick plays in our second round where I killed a liberal as President since the Hitler player and the other fascists convinced me that they were liberals. Hitler managed to get voted chancellor the next round because I had accidentally killed a liberal and we no longer had a majority. I didn’t suspect that that person was Hitler at all, so all of us were in shock. 

Things to Change to Improve the Game

While I don’t think there were any glaring improvements needed for the game, it might be fun to explore what would happen if there were more than 2 teams involved, or what would happen if there were more than 2 players involved in the decision making process. For example, a jester-like role who tries to get killed intentionally might be interesting, as it would prevent liberal players from blindly shutting anyone down.

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