In order to make time for writing I must give up working or gaming...
“Wolfed” is a commercial interpretation of the classic pencil-and-paper game “Werewolf”. The original idea was a psychology exercise called “Mafia” created by Dmitry Davidoff in the ‘80s, but Andrew Plotkin gave it a Werewolf-theme in the ‘90s when it became a popular party game.
To play, you need a Moderator who hands out secret roles to a large group of players (at least half a dozen, ideally a dozen or more). During the Nighttime phase, everyone closes their eyes and the Moderator invites the Werewolves present to open their eyes and silently agree upon a victim. Everyone opens their eyes for the Day phase: the victim is pronounced dead and leaves the game and everyone else (including the feigning-innocent Werewolves) must agree on one of their number to lynch by popular vote. Then another Night follows and another death, until the players successfully figure out the identity of the Werewolves and lynch them or the Werewolves kill enough of the other players that they cannot be lynched (because a majority of players can no longer vote against them).
The fun is complicated by certain other roles in play, notably a Seer who discovers the identity of one other player each Night. If the Seer reveals herself, she’ll be the Werewolves’ victim next, so she has to persuade the other players to lynch the right person without announcing who she is.
The game is rich with deception, storytelling, bluff, diplomacy and calculation – as well as being psychologically thrilling. There are lots of websites explaining how the game is played as well as all sorts of extra roles beside Werewolves and the Seer that make the game lively. So why do we need “Wolfed”?
"Wolfed" is the brainchild of a Bulgarian team of artists and gamers, led by Nickolay Nedev and Svetoslav and Valeri Petrov, who have given traditional “Werewolf” a high-class makeover. A set of attractive cards are used to allocate roles, each one with unique image in what might be called a ‘cartoon Gothic’ or ‘dark fairytale’ style. As well as the traditional mix of hapless Villagers, hungry Werewolves and a Seer, there are dozens of extra roles, such as Vampires (who attack only on even-numbered nights but who cannot kill Werewolves), other Evil characters like the Bard or Assassin, extra Good characters like the Hunter and the Gypsy and a range of Neutral characters with powers that further confuse or enliven proceedings.
The art cards are sumptuous and set the kinky, comedy-horror tone of the game perfectly. If you’ve got the Kickstarter edition of this game, you may well have a lovely accompanying book of art panels, a map of the Village in the same style, whimsical Event cards and a soft felt bag to store cards in.
All very nice and good, but do you need it? Well of course, no you don’t. You can play “Werewolf” for free, equipped with pieces of paper, without investing in “Wolfed”. But if you do play “Werewolf” with your gaming club, students, co-workers or at parties, “Wolfed” will lend a richer atmosphere and the additional roles will produce wild variations on the basic premise.
However, if you’re not a “Werewolf” player already, “Wolfed” has a number of drawbacks. As with any game following the “Werewolf” pattern, you need to start with a lot of players who get gradually eliminated (usually one every Night and one every Day). There’s nothing much for the eliminated players to do except watch. Moreover, someone must be the Moderator, which is a fairly demanding task and involves missing out on all the fun and mystery.
“Wolfed” has some further drawbacks of its own. For a game that’s all about presentation, there’s a lot of sloppiness in the final product.
The rules are, to say the least, a bit opaque. More concerned with reflecting on the aesthetics or psychological drama of the game, they do a poor job of explaining how it is actually played. The winning conditions on p11 get cut off mid-sentence. This needn’t be a major drawback, since lots of websites publish rules for ordinary “Werewolf” so you can research it and fill in the gaps. Nonetheless, it detracts from the game’s value as an introduction to the concept or a definitive version.
Similarly, there’s no guidance given on how many of each role to use: how many Werewolves? what proportion of Special Characters should there be? do you include Vampires too? Again, websites offer guidance on this, but since “Wolfed” introduces extra roles not found in other versions of the game, you’re on your own working out how to incorporate them. What’s more, many of the new roles have very vague explanations, making it rather unclear just how some of them should be put into effect.
The rules use a colour-coding system to keep track of all these new roles – good characters are blue, evil are red, neutrals are grey – but this coding isn’t used on the cards themselves, so if you get given the Bard or the Undertaker there’s nothing to tell you whose side you’re on without reaching for the rule book.
There’s clearly a philosophy behind “Wolfed” that arty, creative types will use the game as a springboard for their own imaginative activities. The map, for instance, could be used to contextualize things and turn the game into a sort of storytelling exercise. However, no guidance is given for doing this. No scenarios are offered that make use of particular combinations of roles, like Vampires versus Werewolves.
“Wolfed”, at the end of the day, feels like a game that hasn’t been fully realised. There are, after all, other commercial versions of “Werewolf” out there, without the amazing art but with clear, coherent rules. There’s a gap in the market for a definitive and deluxe version of “Werewolf” and “Wolfed” pitches to be it, but falls short because the rules aren’t followed through with the rigour and attention to detail that’s been lavished on the art.
Nonetheless, if you’re already a “Werewolf” fan you won’t want to miss these cards and if you already play another “Werewolf” variant (or even “One Night Werewolf”, which uses similar roles) you might want to substitute these lovely cards for the ones you normally use. There’s a lot of potential in these characters and the map’s spooky setting to develop quirky scenarios and storytelling conventions that go beyond the original game. Fans might do this for themselves, but “Wolfed” misses the mark by not delivering on this and it settles for being a ‘coffee table game’ instead, which looks great but doesn’t offer a distinctive gaming experience.
- Last edited Sun Apr 9, 2017 1:33 pm (Total Number of Edits: 1)
- Posted Thu Jan 12, 2017 5:15 pm
I came into this review wondering "what is there to say about a Werewolf variant?", but this was an excellent review of the salient differences. Nicely done!