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New Salem is a social deduction game with an added layer of drafting cards. This adds just a tad more to your traditional social deduction game. Finding out who the other players are could be the difference between winning and losing, there is an actual game being played by trying to get the right number of black cubes on the board (or preventing this from happening).
I really like the look of New Salem. The art really brings the game to life and the theme of trying to find out who the witches are really breathes in the game. If the Puritans are too selfish it will be very hard to find out who the witches are. The more selfish the Puritans are the better chance the witches have to win the game.
The game is a little more complicated than what we have seen from most social deduction games. I think this is a welcome addition to the genre. Most center around finding who is on what side, but here we are matching icons to score VP and manipulating the cubes we need to either bring about our victory (despair) or to purchase the cards with bonuses we need (hope). This is a delicate balance if you want to win.
I have found New Salem to be a fun social deduction game that you are not just trying to figure out who everyone is. Instead, they have built a (simple) game around it. The theme and art really draws you in. While it isn't the first social deduction game I would recommend, this is still a very strong showing.
The biggest complaint I would state about the game is you don't have a ton of control over what cards you can play. Sometimes you just don't get a card you need that will help you win the game so you just play something. It's fine; one round won't cause your defeat in the game, but you still want a decision to be made and they are here. You still have to decide if a card will score you points, what cubes will be played on the card if you play it, and what will the rest of the table think about your card. In my experience, people get stuck with bad cards at times (especially if they draw a random card) so the phase where you buy the cards tells me a lot more about who is on what side. That's my two cents.
The components are pretty good and the art work is just wonderful. The game has a dark theme, but the art plays it for laughs which is nice. I love the art work. The cubes used are huge which is great for seeing across the table. The cards are great quality. The box is way over sized and I think it is as big as it is just to fit the rule book.
The rule book is oversized. This makes the rules hard to use during game play. Luckily, there are two pages you can open up to that has the majority of the rules. The back page has a nice little reference sheet. It is just so big
Flow of the Game:
Each player is given a character: Puritan or Witch. Each character has icons on it of which you will try to collect with the cards you play to score VP. These cards will also add hope and/or despair cubes to the table. The witches are eligible to win if X despair cubes are played and the Puritans win if this threshold is not met.
On a turn, players will draw Y number of cards playing one before giving the remainder to their neighbor (drafting). These cards may score them points (matching icons) and/or add cubes to the table (or maybe take cubes off).
Also, players can give hope cubes that were previously added to the table to buy community cards in the center of the table. The trick is once you give the cubes to another player, they do not have to do the action you agreed upon (screwage!). The cards in the center may let you see someones character (face down) or put them on trial (they can no longer add cubes to the table) or pardon them (they cannot be put on trial).
The trick to the game is you want your side to win, but you want to score the most points so you can win. This means trusting and breaking the trust of the other players.
Should I buy this game?:
This is not the first social deduction game I would buy, but this has a few layers that the other games may not have. This makes it harder for non gamers to pick up and play (this isn't a heavy Euro though). This is one I would recommend to fans of social deduction fans who are ready to venture out past the few that everyone should have (cough Resistance cough).