Game: One Night Ultimate Werewolf (2016)
Publisher: Bezier Games
Designer: Ted Alspach & Akihisa Okui
Artist: Gus Batts
Main Board Game Types: Party Game & Secret Identity Game
Duration: 10 minutes
Time to Learn: 5-10 minutes
One Night Ultimate Werewolf Board Game Review
One Night Ultimate Werewolf is a fast-paced, secret identity game based on the longer Japanese game Ultimate Werewolf. It's roots trace all the way back to the classic party game Mafia, but it shares a common DNA of "Who can I trust?" with recent hit Secret Hitler and John Carpenter's classic paranoid sci-fi thriller The Thing.
Players are divided into two camps, Werewolves and Villagers. Everyone is dealt a card and three cards are placed face-down in the middle of the table. An amusingly over-dramatic smartphone app narrates every step of the way, making the game extremely easy to explain to beginners. All players are instructed to close their eyes, then the Werewolves are allowed to wake up and identify one another (or look at a card from the middle of the table if there is no other Werewolf).
Play proceeds with players being instructed to wake up and perform actions based on assigned roles. The Seer, for example, may view another player's card or two cards from the middle. The Robber steals another player's card and swaps it with her own. A wide variety of different roles can be interchanged during each game and interact with each other in surprising and entertaining ways.
After each player has performed all assigned actions, everyone is instructed to wake up and discuss what happened. At the end of deliberations, each player points at another and the player with the most votes is "killed." If at least one Werewolf is killed, the Villagers win. If all Werewolves survive, the Werewolves win. There are a few slight variations to these rules based on the roles chosen, but basically that's it.
The real fun starts after everyone wakes up and deliberations begin. Each player must question which team they currently belong to (for example, they may have started as a Villager, but had their card switched with a Werewolf by a mischievous Troublemaker) and who else is on their team. The Werewolves attempt to cast suspicion on others, while the Villagers conduct a witch hunt to smoke out the Werewolves. But will they "kill" a Werewolf, or an innocent bystander?
One Night Ultimate Werewolf becomes increasingly tense and fun with each subsequent round. Alliances are formed and broken and eventually everyone distrusts everyone else. A euphoric sense of paranoia can set in, but it inevitably ends nearly as soon as it begins, due to the ticking-clock countdown.
One Night Ultimate Werewolf is a great appetizer to start off a gaming session. Its free-to-download app makes introducing new players a breeze and it's rare that people don't want to start a new game as soon as the current one ends. The app really makes the game shine; it's hard to imagine this game catching on ten years ago when someone would have to narrate each game.
The tension can get surprisingly high for such a light game, and vendettas are almost certain to form. The strategy gets surprisingly deep and the cross-examinations will bring out the inner lawyer in most players. It may not be substantial enough to carry an entire game night on its own, but used as an appetizer, it sets a fun tone for the evening. Board Game Addicts Unite!
Gateway Game Score (what's this?) - 10/10
Overall Rating - 8.5/10
- Fun appetizer for a deeper follow-up game
- Easy setup
- In-game app makes introducing new players a breeze
- It may be a little too easy to make enemies. Vengeance may come during your next game selection
- The game is not deep enough to carry a night on its own and will likely lose its momentum after 4-5 sessions
Review by The Happy Strategerist
Is One Night Ultimate Werewolf a Howling good time or should it be run out of town by angry villagers? Let us know in the comment section below.