Mafia (and many differently named variants such as Werewolf which are have similar or functionally identical rules) is a traditional party game for groups of people. At its simplest, the game pits two factions against each other, the Mafia against the Citizens (or Townsfolk, or Innocents, etc.) The identities of the mafia players are only known to the other mafia. During the day phase, all the players (acting as citizens) vote upon a target to be lynched, who dies, reveals their affiliation (citizen or mafia) and is then removed from the game; then the game progresses into the night phase, where the mafia secretly vote for someone to be the target of a hit. There are many ways to do this secretly, but the simplest method is to have a non-player GM adjudicate the game. The citizens achieve victory if the only surviving players are citizens; the mafia achieve victory when the only players left alive are mafia (which effectively means they win whenever a situation is reached where the mafia match or outnumber the surviving citizens, since the townsfolk will never have the majority vote required to successfully lynch a mafia member).
The game then becomes an exercise in psychology, as players attempt to determine the motives and affiliation of each other based on their actions and logic, while the mafia attempt to disguise their true identities and convince the others they are citizens. This can be further complicated by the addition of many different special roles that have their own abilities, to make the game even more interesting and variable. Such roles might include:
- Cop - during the night phase, he may investigate a target and have the GM secretly reveal their affiliation to him.
- Don - as long as there are any other mafia players alive, the GM will lie and say the Don isn't one of them.
- Doctor - during the night phase, he may target an individual to receive life-saving medical attention, so that if that person would have ordinarily died during the night phase they instead survive.
- Vigilante - during the night phase, the vigilante may kill a single target of their choosing, based on who they believe the mafia are.
- Suicide Bomber - if he dies, so does everyone else. Game over.
- Baker - very similar to the Suicide Bomber, if the baker dies for any reason, then the town runs out of food in a set number of turns, during which the townspeople must finish the game or starve.
- Serial Killer- kill someone every night, cannot be killed during the night and only wins if he is the last man standing, if the edgelord laughs it's obvious he got this role.
- Bus Driver - during the night, the bus driver picks two people to switch places. In the morning, what was going to happen to one person happens to the other, and vice versa. Yes, this means that a mafia hitman might drive quietly up to his own house, attach a silencer to his gun, slowly creep across his own lawn, silently break into his own home, burst into his own bedroom and shoot himself in the head.
- Village Idiot - if the Village Idiot is lynched, the game is over and he wins.
So in truth, this game has very little to do with cosa nostra, in spite of the fact it's called MAFIA. Which is... profoundly fitting when you realize that an actual mafioso would never refer to himself as such...
The roles are secretly assigned, and paths of reasoning can quickly become extremely bizarre as players try and figure out who is responsible for what while hiding their own identity.
Sometimes people try and play the game on forums, and it generally sucks.
- Office Gossip: a more structured "find the hidden traitor" game
- Secret Hitler: Another more structured "find the enemy" game, but this one has a Reichstag theme.
- The Resistance: Insurgents who must overthrow the government, but they know they've been compromised.
- werewolv.es online werewolf themed game that runs 'extended' 24 hour games and quick fire 10 minute games.
- Town of Salem randomly matches you to people online to play a Salem-witch-trials themed game of Mafia. Comes with a TON of other roles not listed here.
- Upper Hive, a WH40K themed version of Mafia with Imperial and Genestealer themed roles.
- EpicMafia, if you thought Town of Salem had a ton of roles, you haven't seen anything yet. Boasting a staggering 220 unique roles including various third-party, independent roles that range from being an alien who has to probe all the living asses to win to literal Santa Claus who gives out goodies to everyone and can also tell if you're naughty or nice, EM is unique in that that there are no formal accusation and defence phases - there are no sub-phases beyond Day and Night. This leads to more chaotic and funny games overall but there is also a competitive section for those who prefer more classic role compositions.
- -Mafia-, a Starcraft II arcade mod that Town of Salem was originally based off, due to copyright issues this version has music from "The Godfather" as well as no profanity filter and the triad, a separate mafia faction working in parallel to the normal mafia, adding even more chaos when you have to deal with what is effectively two separate mafia factions.
- Trouble in Terrorist Town could be considered a real-time FPS variation of Mafia. Role playing is important for deflecting suspicion once bodies start turning up, or to sow paranoia. The addition of a Detective and on some maps Traitor Testers add a wrinkle to the game, as well as various faction-specific gadgets such as suicide bombs, DNA scanners, booby traps, and so on.
- Among Us, that really big streaming game, is a variation. It adds things to do when you're dead and during the "daytime", along with a large number of minigames for the uninformed to distract them.
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