Number of Players: 8 to ???
Grade Levels: Middle School and Up
Length: 20 to 30 Minutes
Curricular Connections: Storytelling, Characterization, Persuasive Language, Critical Listening, Deduction
A brief history of…. the werewolf!
Werewolf is derivative of the mafia party game created in 1986 by Dimma Davidoff at the Psychological Department of Moscow State University. The werewolf theme was applied in 1986 by Andrew Plotkin and the game has had subsequent publishing by various companies including: daVinci games, Looney Labs, Mayfair Games, Asmodee Editions, and Bezíer Games. Publications of note for school libraries include the Asmodee Edition: Werewolves of Millers Hollow, which handles 8-18 players and the Bezíer Games version: Ultimate Werewolf: Ultimate Edition which handles 5-68 players. The Asmodee version has the most school appropriate art work on the cards while the Bezíer version easily handles a whole class and provides the best guidance for getting started and running the game.
Did you hear something?
Werewolf is a captivating social game in which players are secretly assigned roles that they must play out over the course of the game. The story is that werewolves have infiltrated a small country village, stealing away another victim each night. By day these creatures could be any one of the citizens, leaving the town no choice but to elect one member of its village to pay for the continuing atrocities. It is this act of nominating that lies at the heart of the game, as students use language and social interaction to help them accuse others and defend themselves. The game is over when either all of the villagers or werewolves have been removed from the game.
Game play is open and unique for each experience. The roles themselves are minimally defined, leaving the direction and depth of the game in the hands of the students playing the game. The basic games features three roles: villagers, the seer and the werewolves. The majority of players will receive villager roles, playing the game to discover who amongst them are werewolves. A handful of students will be receive the role of werewolf. These few come together each night to select one player to remove from the game each night. By day they try to blend with the rest of the village, seeming as outraged and accusatory as the rest of the village. If one of their own is nominated in the morning, they need to try to shift attention if the group is uncertain and follow suit if there is certainty. A very delicate position to play. The last role, the seer, is usually given to one player who can ask the identity of one player each night and use that information as they see fit.
To play, students receive their cards and are told the back story by a moderator. The moderator’s role is key in creating an engaging experience, their enthusiasm and demeanor can make or break an experience. After the story has been set, the village falls asleep (closes their eyes) and the moderator asks for the werewolves to open their eyes, recognize each other and select a villager to take away in the night. They go back to sleep and the seer is asked to open their eyes and select villager for which the moderator silently gestures their role (usually making a “V” or “W” with their fingers). Next comes morning, with the moderator building suspense until indicating which villager was taken away during the night. They remove themselves from the group and watch the rest of the game from the side, there are some roles that allow some of these villagers to still participate in the game.
Now comes the meat of the game, the village must vote to select one villager to stand trial for the crime. There are no real rules for this process, except that nominated villagers have an opportunity to defend themselves. Here, students have an opportunity to immerse themselves in the game and the story. They are not only playing the game but becoming an active part of the experience. They must be persuasive, critical or inspiring depending on the situation that has developed and the role that they have. It is a storytelling experience of a different caliber and one that should be experience by every student. This cycle of night and day is repeated until one group alone remains, villagers or werewolves.
The game I described has been modified from the basic game, but only slightly and not in any way that detracts from the experience. In the regular game villagers are killed by
the werewolves and nominated villagers and lynched by the crowd. Adjusting this language for a school environment is a slight and superficial change that allows the value of the gaming experience to
be utilized as a classroom tool. Additional modifications include the inclusion of a variety of roles that come with the different editions of the game. The Bezíer version, Ultimate Werewolf, has the most comprehensive collection of roles with good descriptions of their part in the game.
A naked American man stole my balloons.
Werewolf allows students to become storytellers. It creates a venue for students to not only create but take part in a fun and fascinating tale of mistrust and solidarity. It is a wonderful exercise in the use of persuasive language and critical listening and with slight modifications to the language of the game, students from middle and high school can, for a few moments, loose themselves in a familiar yet fantastic world.
I nominate you as the werewolf!