Once You Eliminate The Impossible, Whoever Remains, No Matter How Improbable, Is A Werewolf

Social deduction games are one of those game genres that have a built-in audience almost separate from other hobby gamers. Entire clubs are formed around Werewolf and Resistance variants, and basic forms of the game like Mafia are found often on Internet forums and at camps. However, today I didn’t want to talk about the genre as a whole but about a trend that, to my delight, is slowly becoming more popular: Evidence.

Why is evidence so cool?

Games like One Night Werewolf are fun and tense, but they rely completely on the players’ ability to lie smoothly. Because there is no way to objectively determine someone’s identity before everyone has to vote, players have to rely entirely on intuition. This frequently devolves into guesswork, especially if players are exceptionally good at lying and/or exceptionally bad at telling that someone is lying.

For all my griping, this system obviously works, considering how popular the games are. However, with the addition of vague evidence, players can work on multiple levels. You can find out a traitor because they’re taking a long time to come up with something, catch them with a contradiction in the evidence, or even try to analyze if they’re being too vague. Evidence creates a layer of complexity that allows more play styles to work.

There are basically two categories of deduction games with evidence: Games where “something is there”, and games where “something is missing”. Let’s dive into both of them.

Something is there

My go-to example for this type of game is Deception: Murder in Hong Kong, which combines things like the Merlin mechanic from Resistance: Avalon (one of my favorite mechanics in board games) with the vague communication style of Concept. Each player has a pile of evidence in front of them, half of it potential murder weapons and the other half innocuous objects. The players have to guess not only who the traitor is, but also which pieces of lethal and nonlethal evidence they committed the murder with.

Central to this game is the lab technician. They are witness to the murder and the evidence, and are on the side of the detectives, but they can only communicate through unhelpful cards that say things like the victim’s build. In this way, it’s a little easier to determine who the traitor is by using the cards to eliminate evidence, but it’s vague enough to be difficult and the traitor (and accomplice, if playing with that role) can easily pivot the investigation towards someone else.

There are lots of ways to play Deception. You can focus solely on the lab technician, trying to suss out meaning from the fact that the victim was short and liked gambling. You can try to keep an eye out for people subtly trying to shift the investigation away from them and accuse them of being the murderer. You can even, as the murderer, intentionally make wrong accusations against yourself to throw the other players off the trail. It’s this freedom that makes the game superior to a lot of others in the genre.

Something is missing

In these games, the non-traitors have some piece of evidence, while the traitor doesn’t – and they have to desperately cover up their ignorance. I’ve played two games recently that use this mechanic in similar ways. In Spyfall, everyone is dealt a location except the spy, then asks questions just specific enough to figure out who is the spy without allowing them to figure out where they are. More off-the-wall is A Fake Artist Goes To New York, where everyone collaboratively draws a single picture, but one player (the fake artist) doesn’t know what they’re supposed to be drawing.

Something amazing about these kinds of games is how funny they are. The traitor can’t hide under a rock snickering about how nobody’s noticing them: The games, in one way or another, force them to participate and bluff that they have the relevant information. The acrobatics required on both sides lead to frequent bouts of nervous laughter – an atmosphere I find superior to the seriousness that simpler deduction games tend to create.

Fake Artist deserves special mention because the traitor’s awkward attempts to draw something they don’t know often leads to the end result being hilarious. Because the pictures are permanent and include a score sheet that says who the fake artist was, players can also look back on some of their funnier games and remember.


In part, my preference for deduction games with evidence is personal and nothing to do with a more objective evaluation. However, I think that these twists allow deduction games to be more fun and accessible for people who either aren’t good at or don’t like straight-up mindgames. (For the record, I’m OK at them if keeping quiet and being passed over is a valid strategy.) A game that expands the audience of a genre can only be good, and the polarizing genre of social deduction could use an wider audience.

Game Analysis: Fibbage and Quiplash

Up until last year, I didn’t really pay much attention to the You Don’t Know Jack series of video games. The trivia questions were cleverly written about 60% of the time, but the 90’s Kool Attitude tone of the jokes got old quickly. However, in 2015, The Jackbox Party Pack and its sequel, Jackbox Party Pack 2, were released. Along with that year’s version of YDKJ, the game bundles included two games – Fibbage and Quiplash – that I believe are some of the best party games ever designed.

As many of you know, I am currently late in the design phase of Stand Back, Citizen!, my superheroic party pitch game. There aren’t a lot of resources for this type of game, despite its popularity, so I wanted to delve into why Quiplash and Fibbage are so fun and have so much repeat value. Other designers can use the tools they created in their own games, even if not all of them translate well from the video game format.


On its face, Fibbage is very close to the classic board game Balderdash. A factoid is put up on screen with critical information missing, i.e. “The death metal band Hatebeak’s front man is ________”. Each player then creates a fake but plausible-sounding answer that will hopefully get the other players to guess it instead of the real one*. You get points for other players guessing your answer, as well as if you guess the correct answer yourself.

This is already a pretty decent formula. However, the designers included one of the most brilliant mechanics I’ve ever seen in party games: The thumbs-up. After guessing an answer, players may then select any or all of the answers to give a thumbs-up to, indicating that they thought it was clever or funny. At the end of the game, the players whose answers got the most thumbs-up gets the prestigious “Thumbs Cup”, even if they’re in dead last.

Instead of trying to convince its audience that it should be taken seriously, Fibbage instead rewards people who want to goof off and make hilariously bad answers. Players are effectively split into two camps: Try-hards who put in realistic answers that people will guess, and goof-offs who answer “The original name of Kool-Aid” with “It’s Fruit Sugar! With The Glass Intruder” in an attempt to get thumbs. People bad at making jokes will be happy trying to earn points, while people bad at coming up with good fake answers will be happy watching the other players’ reactions to the latest monstrosity they created.

For the record, I am firmly in Camp Goof-Off; the Kool-Aid answer is mine and I included it because I have a huge ego when it comes to joke writing.


In Quiplash, players receive two prompts and write a funny answer for each one. Each prompt is put on screen one at a time (two players compete per prompt) and the rest of the players vote on which one they liked the most. Points are earned for each person who liked your response, plus a bonus if everyone votes for your response, also called “Quiplashing”.

This formula sneakily addresses one of the biggest issues with Apples to Apples-style pitch games: The massive amount of player downtime. I will be getting more into this topic when I talk about designing Stand Back, Citizen!, but the flow of most games like this work as follows:

  1. A prompt is revealed, players select a card.
  2. The judge reveals all the cards and reads them out loud.
  3. The judge selects the best card and awards that player the prompt.

The problem is that the longest amount of time in the game is spent on a phase in which only one player has the power to do anything besides argue pointlessly about how their submission was the best. However, in Quiplash, all but two of the players act as the judge every round, creating a lot less average downtime for each individual player. The rounds are also timed, which helps prevent the problem of the slowest player taking five to ten times longer than the others when deciding on an answer to a prompt.

Unlike Fibbage, which tries to appeal to audiences with multiple tastes, Quiplash is strictly oriented towards people who like to write jokes. Because the prompts are write-in, people who aren’t good at coming up with funny things under pressure might feel alienated, but this is made up for by the escape hatch of writing an in-joke about your friend group.


A good party game is difficult to differentiate from the pack, partially because the review resources aren’t as meticulous as those for hobby games and partially because there isn’t a lot out there saying what makes a good party game. I will be writing another column or two on the subject in the coming months, and I hope it proves useful in buying – and making – social games.

* ”A parrot.”