Friday, November 3, 2017

Dave Reviews: Linguistic Hybrid Man-Beasts


Take Werewolf, One-Night variety, add a dash of Twenty Questions, forget how to stop counting at twenty, and voila:

Like normal Werewolf, there's a Seer, a Werewolf, and some villagers, and all the non-Werewolves are trying to find the Werewolf. Like One-Night, there's only one round of gameplay, and everything is over in five minutes.

The difference is in the challenge placed before the villagers. There's a magic word, chosen by the Mayor from a short list, which the Seer and the Werewolf also know. All players close their eyes, and the game's phone app directs the relevant characters to open their eyes in turn so they can see the magic word. Then all players ask the mayor questions, which she answers by handing out yes, no, maybe, or so close tokens. The players have four minutes or until the mayor runs out of tokens to guess the word. They can take as many guesses as they want, but each wrong guess eats a no token.

The Seer's goal is to guide the players towards the correct answer, while the Werewolf's job is to ask questions that guide them away from it. If the villagers guess the word, the Werewolf reveals himself and has one chance to guess who the Seer is; if successful, he wins. If the villagers don't guess the word, they have one chance to guess the Werewolf, and if successful they win. Thus most of the game hinges on the Seer and the Werewolf, as they need to affect the data being revealed without making their roles apparent.

(Note: The Mayor also receives a role, which means she can theoretically end up as the Werewolf. If this happens, she can lie about the answers. Being in control of the answers can make throwing the villagers off easier, but given that the Seer knows the word, it can also be an easy way to get busted if you send them too far off away from the actual word.)

Werewords is an ultra-fast party game, to use for either a few rounds as a warmup for bigger games or to play for many rounds if everyone's having a good time. It's important to remember how game size and the skill of the Seer/Werewolf are in determining outcomes. If the villagers keep getting Seers who are too obvious about what they know, it can look like the game is skewed heavily towards the Werewolf when the Werewolves keep pulling out wins. Likewise, inexperienced Werewolves might be prone to getting busted and feeling like it's impossible to win. The game itself, though, allows for a broad enough array of strategies (literally any question you can come up with is allowed, and you need to pick the ones that will help you win) that it's not weighted in either direction unless the good guy/bad guy ratio is skewed. (The instructions don't say at what number of players you should add the Beholder, Minion, or second Werewolf, so experience and a desire to experiment will have to be your guide.)

Much like in regular Werewolf, most of the responsibility falls on the people with the special roles. If you're a piddly little Villager, you have about as much impact on the game as in Werewolf: plenty if you're thinking and being active, very little if you're passive and let others lead the action. On the plus side, it doesn't suffer from the Werewolf problem where active players are assumed to be special roles, and often are accused of being Werewolves just because they're so vociferous. In Werewords, there's no potential downside to trying to get involved, and you may just lure the Werewolf's attention away from the real Seer.

Basically, it's Werewolf, it's word games, and it's cheap. If at least two of those three attract you, you'll probably like Werewords.

Score: Five dead villagers with their guts spread across the street in the shape of the alphabet out of six.

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