Shaun's Best of 2015 Awards

Best of 2015: Best New-to-us Boardgame

Shaun's Best of 2015 Awards

We haven’t really done much coverage of boardgames here on Arcadian Rhythms. In fact, looking back it seems I preceded my one board game review to date with a load of preamble about how we weren’t likely to cover them much because none of us really possessed a breadth of knowledge about the contemporary board game resurgence. Gosh, we are transparent here, aren’t we?

That’s kind of still true. Several Arcadians plus friends have started semi-regular boardgaming sessions, and we’re increasingly dabbling in more modern board games than our traditional fare (Upwords, Fluxx, Bananagrams, Linkee, Cards Against Humanity – the sort of thing you play with your nan). It seems appropriate to at least acknowledge this by picking out a game that was our favourite of 2015, right?

And the winner is…

One Night Ultimate Werewolf cover

It’s One Night Ultimate Werewolf!

This game won us over right off the bat. It’s simple to pick up – with the free accompanying app it will even tell you what to do during the ‘setup’ phase – and its complexities emerge from the truths, lies, arguments and theorising that comes from the players. No two games we’ve played have been alike, and despite many hours of play we’ve not even tried out all of the different variants that are possible.

Let’s backtrack a bit. In One Night Ultimate Werewolf, a set of chunky cards are distributed: one to each player and three in the middle of the table. Each player secretly looks at their card, which contains a role. Their role dictates their team: most players will be Villagers, perhaps with a special ability. One, two or zero players will be Werewolves. Once everyone has established who they are, everyone closes their eyes. During this ‘night’ phase, players with certain roles may open their eyes within brief windows of opportunity and take action – or just recognise who else shares their role. (This is where that app comes in handy! Imagine trying to coordinate all these timings and role orders without some form of exo-brain.)

Varying amounts of certainty and uncertainty are introduced during the night. If a player is the Troublemaker, for example, they will have switched two other players’ cards around without looking at them. The Robber swaps their card with another player’s and does look at their new card. The Seer may look at one other player’s card, or two from the middle set. If there is only one Werewolf, they also get to peek at the middle. There are plenty more roles – these are just some of the basics.

Once night is over, everyone wakes up. Players are not permitted to look at their new cards, but their victory is tied to whatever their new role is. Of course, they may not know if their role has changed, or if it has what to. Now everyone must discuss who they believe the Werewolves are and, after a short period, vote for who they want to hang. Execute. Murderise.

Let’s talk victory conditions! It may be premature, but it works for the US military. So: Villagers win if at least one Werewolf dies, no matter whether villagers die as well. Werewolves win if no Werewolves die. If there are no Werewolf players but the players believe there are, it’s possible for everyone to lose! Because few players know for sure what their role is – even, say, the Seer or Robber may have had their cards swapped by the Troublemaker – there’s a huge amount of uncertainty. This means plenty of opportunity for sneaky Werewolf players to introduce overt lies and misdirect everyone, and players who believe they are Villagers may go chasing red herrings anyway.

One Night Ultimate Werewolf cards & tokens

Take a recent game we played. I mention this one because I won and I like feeling very clever, okay? I was dealt the Robber, and during the night phase I stole a card that turned out to be a Werewolf. I had no idea whether or not there was another Werewolf, so I knew I was potentially in a tricky spot. My quickly devised plan was to wait for other players to volunteer their roles, and then try to ad lib something convincing out of that. I was in luck: a player who had been dealt the Troublemaker said she had swapped cards between the player I had stolen from and another. At this point I said “I can corroborate that: I was the Robber and I stole the Troublemaker from you.”

The player who had been the Werewolf promptly jumped in: “well then, I was a Werewolf – and I was the only one.” She then pointed the finger at the luckless fourth party whose card had been swapped. After this I generally kept quiet. No one suspected a thing; because I only made one small lie, one that appeared to corroborate several other players’ claims, the theories that were constructed to try and understand which roles everyone now possessed appeared to make sense. The vote was taken, the patsy unanimously voted to be hanged, and as soon as it was safe I crowed and ate my victory cake. It was delicious.

So that’s One Night Ultimate Werewolf. It’s fun for about as long as human beings are capable of being tricksy, duplicitous and manipulative: which is to say, infinitely. Plus it’s easy to learn and each game lasts maybe fifteen minutes, tops. It’s an excellent party game and I’d recommend it for anyone’s collection.





2 responses to “Best of 2015: Best New-to-us Boardgame”

  1. Guillaume Avatar

    I HIGHLY recommend DungeonQuest. It’s a player-killing delight. It really isn’t entirely about who wins, but how pathetically we (may all) fail. It’s unfortunately not friendly in presentation though: every pieces just come in boards to pop out of and all the cards (and there’s like, 8 or 11 types of cards) all come in one pile. My girlfriend took great pleasure in crafting a cute little box with separators for all of them though. But at the retail price of around 70CAN$, you’d expect a little better.

    Rant aside, the game is great fun. For those who want a little bit player more competition and looting over a lot of dying, I’ve made a ‘house variant’ which basically makes use of the armor value every time you have the chance to suffer damage. Allows you to do a stat-check roll for armor per damage die rolls made (excluded are damages which are either a consequence of having failed a different stat roll or damage from a specific result of a die roll [read, roll a 1-2 you die]). Also, if you ”save” yourself from, say, an explosion’s 4 damage, you still suffer the explosion effect (which is to lose your next turn)…

    … ok yeah without knowing the rules it doesn’t mean much but long story short, Armor is a stat that is rarely used in the ‘vanilla’ game and can lead to quick and boring deaths before having gone 3 tiles towards the treasure room.

    It borrows a lot of elements from D&D but each dungeon maps are ”generated” as each player picks a tile at random from the many available as they create an attempted path to the treasure room. One thing that is the polar opposite of D&D is that in this game you do NOT want to encounter monsters. They give you nothing but pain, some even end up hurting you if you SUCCEED at defeating them instantly (they just hurt you LESS than if you, say, take it in the face with full force).

    As if the dungeon wasn’t enough a pain, there’s the catacombs which you can fall into and that’s a whole different world of hurt under the dungeon which is played seamlessly. But wait, that’s not all! Every time all players got their chance to play one round, the sun moves. If the day ends, every one still in the dungeon dies.

    Seriously though, it’s awesome. Backgammon being my favorite game this is close second merely because it’s more stupidly unforgiving than the ”luck” one can have in Backgammon… at least in Backgammon you can have some wicked tactic to try to ruin your opponent later, making use of an early ”poor bastard’s luck” in the end-game, but in DungeonQuest? The game will just punch your teeth in, kick you in the crotch taking half your health pool away, shouting ”WELCOME TO DUNGEONQUEST, SUCKERS (in an AJ voice)” and THAT, by turn TWO. But then you’ll have this one guy that will do half of the entire game on 1 HP. And win. Feels bloody awesome, let me tell ya that! Even as a spectator (after having died by turn 3 [yeah totally happened]).

  2. […] Best New-to-us Boardgame […]