All Photos Beth Elderkin

An experiment in both hysteria and hilarity, One Night Ultimate Werewolf not only lets players find out how they’d handle a witch hunt, but also how much their friends suck.

This week’s spooky game spotlight is on One Night Ultimate Werewolf ($13), the condensed, more small-party version of well-known card game Ultimate Werewolf... which is also an excellent game, and one where players can get more immersed in their characters. However, One Night is much easier for newbies to pick up. It takes place in a village over the course of one evening. Most of the village’s inhabitants are harmless residents, but one or more just might be a werewolf. It’s the job of the townsfolk to figure out who among them is a secret werewolf, while the wolves just want to stay alive and eat everybody.

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Players start by selecting the characters they’d like to participate in the match—it’s always the number of people plus three extras, which make up the center pile. Then, the game begins. One Night happens over two rounds, totaling about 10 minutes of actual gameplay. The first round is where each player does their assigned task, under cover of night (meaning everyone keeps their eyes closed)—whether it’s looking at another player’s card, offering them your protection, or any other number of actions.

The villager doesn’t get to do crap—except stare and judge.

One Night has 16 characters to choose from, each with their own unique abilities that will be utilized over the course of the first round (and that’s not getting into the expansion, Daybreak, or any of the other Bonus Packs). Figuring out the right ones to play with isn’t easy, as how their abilities interact can make the game too easy or damn-near impossible. It’d take too long to go into every character so I’m just going to point out my favorites:

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The Insomniac: This person gets to look at their card right before the round ends to see if they’ve changed into another character, possibly a werewolf.

The Drunk: Too wasted to remember the night, they have to switch their card with a card from the center pile and not look at it.

The Village Idiot (from Daybreak): This person can move everyone else’s cards one move to the right or to the left. A guaranteed way to screw everyone over.

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The Curator (from Daybreak): They give an additional secret task to any player on the board, which can include automatically becoming a werewolf or having to stay silent during the entire deliberation round.

Then, there’s the Tanner, which both is and isn’t a favorite because it’s something all its own. The Tanner is a depressed man who wants to die but doesn’t want to kill himself, so his goal is to convince people that he’s actually the werewolf. If he dies, everyone else loses. It’s best to only bring that character out if you’re playing with at least six or seven people, because otherwise it’s pretty easy to single out who’s trying to get themselves axed.

After the first round, then everyone has to figure out who among them is actually a werewolf and kill them, using a mix of process of elimination and nasty trickery. This is where you figure out who your true friends are. Players can lie as much and as often as they want, especially if they’re a werewolf and want to keep their identity secret. Sometimes, you might lie to catch someone else in a trap, or you’re worried you became the werewolf sometime during the night. Other times, it’s just funny to mess with everyone.

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The metal pumpkin returns!

One Night Ultimate Werewolf is a staple at my house, and for good reason. The artwork is cute and colorful, the rules are easy to explain, and a lot of people have either played it or played something very similar to it. It is easy to get into a pattern of cards that work well together (I tend to be lazy and start with cards like the Seer, the Troublemaker, the Robber, and the Drunk), so it’s a good idea to experiment with ones you haven’t played to create new and more complex mysteries to solve. But be warned, there’s a chance at least one of your friends, the one who kept switching your card with others because they felt like it, may “asshole themselves” out of an invitation next time.

If werewolf hunting isn’t your thing—or you just want more creepy gaming in your life—check out last week’s profile of Mysterium. But also, suggest your personal favorites in the comments! I want to highlight audience faves at the end of the month.

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[Note: Sure, last week I technically said I’d be reviewing something Lovecraftian this week, but the biggest scare during any Halloween is... A SURPRISE. But seriously, I do have a Lovecraftian RPG on the way, as promised, but asking coworkers to play a complex RPG during New York Comic Con week might as well be asking them to walk on the sun.]