Mafia is a popular party game which requires only paper or a few cards to play. In Mafia (and the closely related game "Werewolves") a group of people sits around a room and tries to figure out which of them are "killing off" the others. The upstanding townspeople must figure out who are the Mafia members, or be killed in the night.
The primary difference between Mafia and Werewolves is that, in Mafia, the bad guys must choose the kill order at the start of the game and remember it, while in Werewolves the wolves can convene every night. However, in the game of Werewolves more complex roles are often assigned to players at the whim of the group, making it a more flexible game.
Setting up a Mafia Game
To set up a game of Mafia, the first thing you must do is decide the number of mafia members. The minimum is 2, but if the group is quite large (more than 7 or 8) you may choose use three or four.
The key thing when deciding numbers is to remember that "trials" (to see who is mafia) are done by voting. So if the mafia get majority voting, they win the game by default as they can then kill off the rest of the villagers no problem. Don't unbalance your game and let them win in just 1 or 2 turns.
Once you've decided on your number, pass out cards randomly (assigning kings as mafia or similar) or have everyone choose a slip of paper with their role written on it.
Other Roles in Mafia: God and Sheriff
Mafia isn't just townsfolk and gangsters. You need a moderator or "god" character who does not play, only runs the game. You also may want a sheriff. It is an optional role but quite fun.
Sheriff: can "investigate" aka ask whether 1 person is mafia during each turn, and "god" will answer him truthfully.
On the first night of Mafia, God set up the game.
There is a "setting up" phase to this game, which goes like this.
- Everyone chooses seats, cards are passed out, etc.
- God tells all players to close their eyes.
- God tells Mafia to open their eyes and choose the order of their kills.
- Mafia members silently try to decide an order and memorize it without alerting anyone in the room as to who they are.
- Mafia members close their eyes.
- God asks the Sheriff to open his eyes so that God can ID him.
- God tells everyone to open their eyes, and the first day begins.
If anyone heard anything during the night, they bring it up. Townspeople decide whether to conduct a trial or kill someone. (trial and voting procedure is at the discretion of the group)
When all suspicions have been aired and trials conducted, night falls on the town and everyone closes their eyes.
The night phase.
When everyone's eyes are closed, the God will say something like
"Mafia, choose your target."
At this point, the Mafia members must point to the person they will kill that night, without opening their eyes. This is the hardest part of the game for beginners, who are likely to misfire. All mafia members MUST point to the same person for a "critical hit." If they do not, the person does not die.
Once this part is over, God asks the Sheriff to open his eyes. The Sheriff silently points to a person, and God nods or shakes his head about whether they are a mafia member.
The Sheriff closes his eyes and night is over. God tells everyone to wake up and open their eyes.
The day phase.
God starts the day off with the "Morning News."
" # shots were fired, (name) died."
" # shots were fired, no one died."
In this way, the players know how many mafia members remain in the game, and the mafia know whether they are still firing correctly. If they have begun misfiring, they must find a way to communicate without anyone catching on, and get back on track.
After the report, people again discuss their suspicions. The Sheriff ought to try to get any mafia he knows about killed, but not too obviously, as the mafia may adjust their pattern to kill him if they realize who he is.
One very important rule: No one may reveal their position.
Obviously you can argue that you are a townsperson, not a mafia member, but you are not allowed to show your slip of paper or card and prove it. The Sheriff especially cannot do this, and you may want to institute a rule that he cannot claim his status at all. Once someone uses the "I'm the Sheriff and these are the mafia" the game ends extremely quickly, and it's not much fun. (this is even more important in the game of werewolves where it really ruins the game entirely)
Second rule: only one hanging per day
This means that the townspeople can only get rid of one mafia member on each round. You may choose to institute this rule or not, but having it makes it easier to decide when to start the next night round. If you don't use it, you can get stuck in endless days.
Some people also choose to make one killing per day mandatory, just to get discussion flowing in the townspeople.
Ending the Game
The game ends when either all of the Mafia are dead, or the voting numbers have reached the turning point where the townspeople cannot win.
It is up to the God to keep track of this, as the mafia are not likely to reveal themselves by commenting on how many of each type are left.
Try to think of something appropriate to say, to keep the mood going, such as "As the townspeople's fatalities rise, the mafia have overtaken the city. All remaining townspeople must flee for their lives. Mafia win!"