If there’s one person out there who knows about Werewolf – aside from the originator, Dimma Davidoff – it’s Ted Alspach. He’s managed to build an empire on the game that has culminated in the recently released Ultimate Werewolf set that plays with up to sixty-eight people. Chuck in the expansions and you’ve got one of the deepest, most involved party games around. However, it’s also a game where no matter what version you may play, people will be determined to point out what they deem as problems. Arguments abound, of course, and players may feel like they’re being picked on or targeted. Larger game groups can take an absolute age, and then there’s the elephant in the room – player elimination. When people are either run out of town through group votes or eaten by the werewolves at night, they’re out of the game – any many hate that. However, the positives (in my view) outweigh the negatives; the accusations and finger-pointing are what make the game.
If only there were a way you could get rid of those perceived bad points. A version of the game where you get all of the discussion and pleasure of people bellowing “YOU’RE THE WEREWOLF YOU BLOODY LIAR” but none of the folks hanging around for an hour because they’ve been knocked out of the game. And, as of Essen this year, it just so happens that such a game now exists: One Night Ultimate Werewolf.
It’s not actually an Alspach design – the vast majority of the work was actually done by Japanese designer Akihisa Okui back in 2012 when the original One Night Werewolf was released. A limited English language run was produced by Japon Brand for this year’s Essen Spiel (which are now changing hands for ludicrous sums, though that’s not surprising as the 8-bit retro styled artwork is crazy pretty) but Ted, enterprising chap that he is, thought it would be a good idea to bring the game into the Ultimate Werewolf universe – and so One Night Ultimate Werewolf was born.
The premise is simple. Rather than days and nights running endlessly until one side wins, play takes place over one single night and day period. Players are randomly assigned roles that are recognisable to anyone who has tried out the game before, and a further three role cards are placed in the centre of the table. The moderator will then run through the different roles and ask them to perform their special abilities which could be anything from sneaking a look at another player’s card to switching roles around. While all this chicanery is going on, players who have their eyes closed will be listening out for the slightest noise or attempting to discern any movement – anything that could potentially give them a little extra ammunition once the discussion begins.
When everything is done, all players are asked to open their eyes and the clock begins. The accusations fly fast and furious, questions are answered with denials, lies and the occasional actual fact, but once the time runs out only one action remains. A countdown ends with every player pointing at someone they believe is a werewolf, and if one is correctly determined the villagers win the game. If the werewolves escape, they are declared victorious. It’s very simple, plays out in minutes, and is very much the perfect “let’s have another go” game. As the Moderator decides how long the discussion part lasts, games can take as long (or as little time) as you like, so you can also decide what kind of play style you want. Considered discussion and time to work out things? Give the players ten minutes or more. Haphazard roaring and baseless accusations? Give them two. It really is a brilliantly adaptable little game.
A final issue with standard Werewolf is also fixed thanks to ONUW – that of the Moderator themselves essentially being left out of the game. Now, while many don’t mind the responsibility of running a game, Bezier Games have fixed it so everyone can play thanks to an iOS / Android app that does everything for you. Easy as pie to sort out, you simply tap the various villagers that will be in your game, shuffle the cards (well, I say cards but actually mean lovely thick punchboard tiles that will stand up to the most hardcore of game groups), set the amount of discussion time you’d like, push start and away you go! Even better, the whole thing has been narrated by The Dice Tower’s own Eric Summerer who uses his finest spooky voice to add some gravitas to the game. Throw in a bit of background noise to cover up any shuffling about that may give you away and you’ll never want to have a Moderator again!
Now, there’s already been some criticism about the game, mainly along the lines of “I already own Werewolf – why do I need this is my collection?”. Well, when do you ever truly “need” a game? They are luxury items, after all, and are not exactly necessary to live… however, while this version of the game is entirely playable using any regular Werewolf set (with a couple of very minor alterations, of course), having a copy of ONUW to hand is a rather lovely thing. As mentioned, it’s well produced, using thick punchboard in place of cards, and the art is cute as anything. Think of the style as a more Disney-fied take on classic Werewolf roles – the Insomniac looks particularly heartbreaking, as if she hasn’t slept in weeks.
In all honesty, ONUW and the standard Werewolf are very different experiences despite them sharing the same world. There’s room for both in your collection – the regular game is still great, sure, but if you’re looking for a quick fix that gives you the same kind of feel, I can’t recommend One Night enough. Throw in the Moderator app (which is free, by the way) and it swiftly becomes the ideal filler or game to round out your evening. No-one’s left out, everyone gets a chance to voice their opinions and they all go home happy. All you have to do now is wait for the game to actually come out…
One Night Ultimate Werewolf will be released through Bezier Games in January 2014. A co-design by Ted Alspach and Akihisa Okui, the art (which really does deserve a special mention) is by Gus Batts. Anywhere from three to ten people can play with games lasting… well, as long as you want them to go on for. Copies will be available through the usual retail outlets, but for the most up to date news on release, check out BezierGames.com – and thanks to Ted for the advance copy!