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.
- 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.
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
- The Resistance insurgents who must overthrow the government, but they know they've been compromised.
- werewolv.es online version that runs 'extended' 24 hour games, but with a werewolf theme instead of mafia.
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.
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