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Mafia (party game)

Mafia (party game)
Designer(s) Dmitry Davidoff
Players At least 6[1]
Skill(s) required Strategic thought
Team play
Social skills

Mafia (Russian: Ма́фия, also known as Werewolf) is a party game created in the USSR by Dmitry Davidoff in 1986,[2] modelling a conflict between an informed minority (the mafia) and an uninformed majority (the innocents). At the start of the game each player is secretly assigned a role affiliated with one of these teams. The game has two alternating phases: "night", during which the mafia may covertly "murder" an innocent, and "day", in which surviving players debate the identities of the mafiosi and vote to eliminate a suspect. Play continues until all of the mafia have been eliminated, or until the mafia outnumbers the innocents.


  • History 1
  • Gameplay 2
    • Night 2.1
    • Day 2.2
  • Game theory 3
    • Mathematical study 3.1
    • Results in live play 3.2
  • Optional roles 4
    • Investigative roles 4.1
      • Investigative roles (standard) 4.1.1
      • Investigative roles (less common) 4.1.2
    • Omniscient roles 4.2
    • Protective roles 4.3
    • Killing roles 4.4
    • Alignment roles 4.5
    • Double-agent roles 4.6
    • Role manipulators 4.7
    • Recruitment roles 4.8
    • Association roles 4.9
    • Election roles 4.10
      • Public roles 4.10.1
    • Handicapped roles 4.11
    • Handicapper roles 4.12
    • Post-mortem roles 4.13
    • Reanimation roles 4.14
    • Rule-immune Roles 4.15
    • Special roles 4.16
    • Self-team roles 4.17
    • Complicated roles 4.18
  • Variations 5
    • Variations on the win conditions 5.1
    • Election variants 5.2
      • Tied votes 5.2.1
      • Optional lynch variant 5.2.2
      • Timed days 5.2.3
    • Mafia killing methods 5.3
    • Random narrator 5.4
    • Multiple families 5.5
    • Imprisonment 5.6
    • Plague 5.7
    • Punishment 5.8
    • Lives 5.9
    • Attributes 5.10
    • Ultimate Werewolf by mirghani elamin 5.11
    • Quantum Werewolf 5.12
    • Train Mafia 5.13
    • Invisible City: Rebels vs. Spies 5.14
    • One Night Ultimate Werewolf 5.15
  • Online variations 6
  • See also 7
  • Notes 8
  • References 9
  • External links 10


Dmitry Davidoff (Russian: Дми́трий Давы́дов, Dmitriy Davydov) is generally acknowledged as the game's creator. He dates the first game to spring 1986 at the Psychology Department of Moscow State University, spreading to classrooms, dorms, and summer camps of Moscow University.[3][Note 1] Wired attributes the creation to Davidoff but dates the first game to 1987,[4] with 1986 being the year in which Davidoff was starting the work which would produce Mafia. He developed the game to combine psychology research with his duties teaching high school students.[4] The game became popular in other Soviet colleges and schools and in the 1990s it began to be played in other parts of Europe and then the United States. By the mid nineties a version of the game became a Latvian television series (with a parliamentary setting, and played by Latvian celebrities).[5]

Andrew Plotkin gave the rules a werewolf theme in 1997,[6] arguing that the mafia were not that big a cultural reference, and that the werewolf concept fit the idea of a hidden enemy who looked normal during the daytime.[4] Mafia and a variant called Thing[Note 2] have been played at science fiction writers' workshops since 1998,[7] and have become an integral part of the annual Clarion[8] and Viable Paradise[9] workshops. The Werewolf variant of Mafia became widespread at major tech events, including the Game Developers Conference, ETech, Foo Camps, and South By Southwest.[4] In 1998 the Kaliningrad Higher school of the Internal Affairs Ministry published the methodical textbook Nonverbal communications. Developing role-playing games 'Mafia' and 'Murderer' for a course on Visual psychodiagnostics, to teach various methods of reading body language and nonverbal signals.[10] In September 1998 Mafia was introduced to the Graduate College at Princeton University, where a number of variants were developed.[11]

In March 2006 Ernest Fedorov was running a Mafia Club in rates players, and awards prizes (including a Sicily trip for their tournament-series champion).[12]

In June 2006 a Rockingham school inquiry was launched after parents complained of the traumatic effects classroom Mafia was having on their fifth-grade children. Davidoff responded to the reports, saying that as a parent who had studied child psychology for 25 years, he felt that the game could "teach kids to distinguish right from wrong", and that the positive message of being honest could overcome the negative effects of an "evil narrator" moderating the game as if it were a scary story.[13]

In September 2013 a web-chat variation of Mafia began to gain popularity, with players participating from across the globe using only web-cameras and microphones. Chris "PopeStottle" Stottle founded Daily Mafia,[14] a community which hosts games for hundreds of individuals on the popular streaming website[15] The stream is viewed regularly by hundreds of individuals world wide and has even stemmed the creation of multiple spin-off mafia streams, such as Ryuzilla's Super Mafia All-Stars[16] Boonetown's Town Mafia, [17] and Jesus Toast Mafia's Friday Night Mafia. [18]

In late 2013, Michael "Thingyman" Harders founded the Game of Mafia Champions, an invitation-only series in which players from multiple internet communities play in a series of mafia games, culminating in a final game, where the best player of the year is determined. The series was first hosted on Two Plus Two Poker Forums' Puzzles and Other Games section and has since been moved to Mafia Universe. [19]

Mafia was called one of the 50 most historically and culturally significant games published since 1800 by[20]


In its simplest form, Mafia is played by two teams: the mafia and the innocents. At the start of the game every mafioso is given the identities of his teammates, while the innocents at first know only the number of mafiosi in the game. Live games require a moderator who does not participate as a player.

There are two phases: "night" and "day." At night certain players secretly perform special actions; during day players discuss and vote to "lynch," or eliminate, one player. These phases alternate with each other until all mafiosi have been eliminated or until the mafia outnumbers the innocents.

Some players may be given roles with special abilities. Common special roles include

  • the detective: an innocent who may learn the team of one player every night.
  • the doctor: an innocent who may protect a player from being killed every night.
  • the barman: a mafioso who may cancel the effect of another role's ability every night.
  • the vigilante: an innocent who may kill a player every night.

Andrew Plotkin recommends having exactly two mafiosi,[3] while the original Davidoff ruleset suggests a third of the players (rounding to the nearest whole number) be mafiosi. Davidoff's original game does not include roles with special abilities.[1] In his rules for "Werewolf," Andrew Plotkin recommends that the first phase be day and that there be odd number of players. These specifications prevent players from being killed before the first day and in most scenarios ensure that the game will end dramatically on a lynching, rather than with an anticlimactic murder.[3]


All players close their eyes. The moderator then instructs all members of the mafia to open their eyes and acknowledge their accomplices. They pick a "victim" by silently gesturing to indicate their target and to show unanimity, and then close their eyes again.

A similar process occurs for other roles with nightly actions. In the case of the detective, the moderator may indicate the target's innocence or guilt by using gestures such as nodding or head shaking.

Night may be accompanied by players tapping gently to mask sounds made by gesturing.[21]


Looking for criminals and suspecting each other during the day time in Mafia party game

The moderator instructs players to open their eyes and announces who "died" the previous night. According to some rules the role of the murdered player is revealed, while according to others it is not.[6][21] Dead players may not attempt to influence the game.

Discussion ensues. At any point a player may accuse someone of being a mafioso and prompt others to vote to lynch him. If over half of the players do so, the accused person is eliminated, his role is revealed, and night begins. Otherwise, the phase continues until a lynching occurs.[3]

Because players have more freedom to deliberate, days tend to be longer than nights.

Game theory

Mathematical study

Mafia is a complicated game to model, so most analysis of optimal play has assumed both (a) that there are only townsfolk and mafiosos, and (b) that the townsfolk never have a probability of identifying the Mafia that is better than chance. Early treatment of the game concentrated on simulation,[22] while more recent studies have tried to derive closed-form equilibrium solutions for perfect play.

In 2006, the computer scientists Braverman, Etesami and Mossel proved that without detectives and with perfect players the randomized strategy is optimal for both citizens and mafia. They showed that when there is a large number of players to give both groups similar probability of winning, the initial number of mafiosi m need to be proportional to the square root of the total number of players P, that is {\textstyle m \propto \sqrt{P}}.[23] With a simulation, they confirmed that 50 mafiosi would have almost a 50% chance to win among 10,000. The Mafia's chance of victory is

W(m, P) \approx \frac{m}{\sqrt{P}},

which is a good approximation when the right hand side is below 40%. If any detectives are added to the game, Braverman et al. proved that the number of mafiosi must remain at a fixed proportion of the total number of players for their chance of winning to remain constant.[Note 3]

In 2008, Erlin Yao derived specific analytical bounds for the mafia's win probability when there are no detectives.[24]

In a paper[25] from 2010, exact formula for the probability that the mafia wins was found. Moreover, it was shown that the parity of the initial number of players plays an important role. In particular, when the number of mafiosi is fixed and an odd player is added to the game (and ties are resolved by coin flips), the mafia-winning chance do not drop but rise by a factor of approx. \sqrt{\pi/2} (equality in the limit of the infinite number of players).

Results in live play

In live (or videoconference[26]) real-time play, the innocents typically win more often than game theory suggests. Several reasons for this have been advanced:

  • The physiological stress of sustained lying degrades the initial ability of mafiosi to deceive the innocents, much more than a model of perfect play would predict, especially if the innocents can get the town emotionally involved in the game's outcome:
If you're trying to feign shock or anger, it's much harder to do over a long period. People accused of something they're trying to hide will start out feigning outrage – 'How dare you ask me that?' But that will start to change to objection rather than shock, as it's psychologically very difficult to mimic emotion.
— Dr Simon Moore, Wired UK[4]
  • The information revealed by the mafiosi voting patterns tells against them later in the game. One of the game's fans Max Ventilla, has said that "If the villagers are allowed to keep a pencil and paper, they always win."[27]
  • As players get more experienced their strategic sophistication and ability to spot and use deception increases.[28] They will typically get better at the skills needed for playing innocents faster, being villagers more often than mafiosi.
  • The Metagame aspect: Dimma Davidoff has said, Past connections will always lose to future collaborations.[4] When playing several Mafia games with the same people, it's more helpful to be known for honesty than for deceit. Davidoff considers that so important that he thinks the advantages of playing the mafioso role honestly outweigh the disadvantages.

But, the Mafia can win in live play; their best chance of winning occurs when mafioso bond with their innocent neighbours and convince those neighbours to value that bond over dispassionate analysis.[27][29] The game designers Salen and Zimmerman have written that the deep emergent social game play in Mafia (combined with the fear of elimination) create ideal conditions for this.[30]

Optional roles

These additional roles are named differently in the many versions of Mafia, for thematic flavor, or historical reasons. Also, the same role-name can have differing functions across different versions of the game.[31] What follows is a general list of role types found in Mafia variants; since the specific names vary by milieu it must be non-exhaustive.

Investigative roles

Players with these roles use their own night-phase to discover something about other players. Though the standard game now includes the basic Detective, these roles are optional, and games can exclude them entirely (such as the stool pigeon variant, or Davidoff's original rules).

Investigative roles (standard)

  • Detective, Seer, Commandant,[32] Sheriff,[33] etc.
Allied with the Innocents, the Detective can detect whether a player is a mafioso. They will typically wake up, and point at one person; the Narrator will silently indicate to the Detective whether that player is Mafia or Innocent. In some versions of the game, the Detective's investigation result is announced publicly by the Narrator, for example the Detective found a Mafioso!. More commonly, no announcement is made. As with other roles, which player is the detective is not generally known, leaving anyone the option of pretending to be the Detective.
A Detective is usually included in modern games. For example, somebody is always assigned this role in all commercial card game versions,[Note 4] and almost all internet-based, and most face-to-face games start with at least one detective.[Note 5] Multiple detectives either act in separate night phases (unaware of the identities of other detectives)[34] or work together as the police (an association role).

Investigative roles (less common)

  • Psychic, Wizard, Fortune Teller, Oracle, etc.
Psychic, Psychologist, or Sorcerer-type investigators can determine other players' roles, rather than their alignments.[31] Roles which detect other roles are usually implemented in the same way as the Detective's ability to determine alignment. For example: the Psychologist points to a player (at night) for a Thumbs-up from the moderator if the Vigilante is pointed to.[Note 6] A Tracker may see what someone's night action was, or the target of their action.
Information revealed to investigators is fallible (in more complicated variants). Online versions can give information with a confidence level, and in other variants the Narrator deceives the Detective by showing all players as Innocent, all as Guilty, giving reversed results, or random information (these can be termed as Naive,[35] Paranoid, Insane, or Random respectively). Additionally, some Alignment roles give immunity to successful investigation.[Note 7]
In some games, there are Mafia Detectives, who have the power of a normal detective but are on the Mafia side. The Super Commandant has the standard power of a Detective, while also protecting the investigated from night-time attack.

Omniscient roles

  • Witness, Child, Little Girl, etc.
Instead of having to investigate, some innocent roles give complete information on the entire mafia: The witness is told who the mafia are during the first night, while the mafia are not told the witness's identity (differing from the stool pigeon in not being a part of the mafia).
The Little Girl in Werewolf and Werewolves of Miller's Hollow is allowed to secretly peek and watch as the werewolves choose their victim; if discovered doing so by the Werewolves, she dies of fright.[Note 8]

Protective roles

  • Guardian Angel, Doctor, Bodyguard, Hero, etc.
Allied with the Innocents, the Doctor-type role defends others at night.[Note 9] Typically, they will awaken at night after the Mafia have gone back to sleep and point at one person to protect; that person will survive any night-time attack.[Note 10] They are typically allowed to protect themselves, and are commonly barred from protecting the same target on successive nights.[36] A Guardian Angel can only protect others. The Nurse gains the Doctor's abilities if the Doctor dies.[Note 11] The Firefighter,[37] or the Herbalist can protect from some night-time attacks but not others (in Werewolf, for example, they choose one person to protect with wolfsbane, but that person may still be killed by the Serial Killer). Other games limit this ability to a certain number of times.[Note 12]

Killing roles

  • Vigilante, Hunter, Bomb, Woodcutter, etc.
Aside from Mafia, Werewolves, and Serial Killers (solitary guilty parties), the Innocents may have some roles with the ability to kill at night. The Vigilante is an innocent who kills every night, in his own night-time phase,[Note 13] in some variations, having a limited bullet supply for the entire game. Some variations introduce a time limit of two nights before the player in the Killing Role can exercise his right to kill again. The Bomb may only trigger if targeted at night (not necessarily for death) by another role. Variants exist where this person can kill during the daytime cycle (e.g., the Terrorist / Gravedigger), sometimes only if executed during the daytime. The Woodcutter or Hunter can take one other person with them whenever they die.[Note 14]

Alignment roles

  • Miller, Godfather, Alpha Wolf, Wildcard, etc.
Some roles can fool investigations to determine their alignments: the Miller is an Innocent who appears guilty (usually because they are an outsider); the Godfather, on the other hand, appears innocent despite being the Mafia leader.[Note 15] The Alpha Wolf or Master Werewolf have the same role as the Godfather in Werewolf settings.

Double-agent roles

  • Traitor, Possessed, Undercover Cop, Godfather, etc.
The Traitor is not a mafioso (in that he does not awake at night and is not revealed as a mafioso by Detective type roles), but works to protect them and hamper the town during the day cycle, and wins only with a Mafia victory.[38] Conversely, the Undercover Cop is a mole within the Mafia group who acts with the Mafia but wins with the innocents. The stool pigeon may be the only optional role in play,[39] and makes up one of the few modern game forms to be played without an investigative role.
Distinct from the alignment-role Godfather, the double-agent Godfather behaves as a standard mafioso, but wakes again (after the Mafia sleep) to perform an extra kill. This Godfather-role wins only if he survives.

Role manipulators

  • Role-blocker, Bus Driver, Thief, Barman, etc.
These roles can stop or alter the night actions of others; for instance, they may prevent a protection or investigation from occurring, or they may change the target. The Role-blocker can block the Vigilante for a night, while the Thief, Prostitute or Hypnotizer might be able to disable the powers of any selected target.[Note 16]
When the thief is used in Werewolves, an additional townsfolk card is added before dealing, and the Thief may choose on the first night to steal the role of another player or to take the unused role card. The player whose role was stolen gets the unused role card and the Thief card is discarded.

Recruitment roles

  • Godfather, Psychiatrist, Piper, Cult Leader, etc.
The Mafia Godfather may be able to recruit innocent players into his faction under certain circumstances. The Yakuza is a regular mafia player with an extra power: they may sacrifice themselves from the second night (during the night) and choose an innocent to join the mafia.[Note 17]
Each night, the scientist selects a player to cure; if a mafioso is cured, they awaken as an innocent.[40] The Psychiatrist is an innocent with the ability to convert the Serial Killer into a normal innocent.[41]
Cult Leaders recruit followers at night instead of kill; they act as an independent faction, usually with the ability to talk at night. The Piper wins by charming every surviving player; she charms players at night, who then know each other (but not the piper) but are otherwise unaffected.[36]

Association roles

  • Freemasons (Masons), Siblings, Lovers, Police, etc.
Possessors of these roles know one another and what their roles are.[42] On the innocent's side, a Mason usually has no special abilities, but knows the identity of all other Masons and that all Masons are also innocent.[43] Every member of the detectives or the police knows all the rest, because they collaborate at night to investigate someone (sharing the powers of the Detective role between them).[44]
Sibling pairs typically consist of one Mafia and one Innocent; if one dies, both die. Cupid in Werewolves chooses a pair of Lovers on the first night.[45] In this variant, the Lovers can also win the game (regardless of whether they are Mafia, Innocents, or both) by being the last two standing. In most versions, if one Lover is killed the other dies immediately.[46]

Election roles

  • Doublevoter, Priest, Rabble Rouser, Lawyer, etc.
Until the Rabble Rouser dies there are two lynchings per day.[36]
In some games there are players who can change the vote count. Some players have 2 votes (Doublevoter); some players can only cast the final vote to kill a player (Actor); cannot vote to lynch (Voteless Innocent);[47] must delegate someone else to vote for them (Fool),[48] or require one fewer vote to lynch (Hated Innocent). The Priest cannot place the final vote (this role is not necessarily the same as the Reanimation-role priest). The lawyer selects someone during the night, and if that person tops the lynching vote the next day, saves them (a different lawyer role releases the wills written by players killed up to that point, when she dies).[48]

Public roles

  • Mayor, Judge, Sheriff, President, etc.
This role is taken in addition to the assigned role, and it endows the player with additional, overt, powers (particularly during the daytime). Empowerment can be random, but is usually made by vote. For instance, the Mayor or Sheriff can be elected each morning, and gain two lynching votes,[49] or a Judge could moderate discussion in parliamentary fashion (to the advantage of their team). The elected President has the sole lynching vote.[50]

Handicapped roles

  • Murr, Drunk, Village Idiot, Teenage Werewolf, etc.
This may be a secondary role, taken in addition to the assigned role. However, it has the opposite effect, giving the bearer a handicap, like speaking only gibberish in the case of the Village Drunk, etc.
Alternatively, it may be a standard role with a particular constraint, such as the teenage werewolf, who must say the word werewolf at least once each day.[51]

Handicapper roles

  • Silencer, Dentist, Prostitute, etc.
The Dentist may select any other player at night, and prevent them speaking during the following day.[36] The Silencer is a mafioso with the identical power, except that they may not silence the same player on successive days. The silenced individual wakes in the morning and is immediately instructed not to talk until the end of the day. They can still raise their hand to vote in live games (although, if they were silenced by a prostitute, they are not allowed to vote), but being silenced in online games typically prevents any postings, including that needed to vote.[52]

Post-mortem roles

  • Dark Background, Priest, Medium, Coroner, etc.
The dark background roles are standard (mafia or innocent) except for revealing a deceptive alignment when killed. The M.E. gathers information from the killings that can help the innocents, while the Priest learns about the alignment of the dead in the same way that the Detective learns about the living.[53] The Medium can interrogate dead players.[Note 18] While the coroner survives, the narrator will explain the means of death in all night kills.[40]

Reanimation roles

  • Reviver, Governor, Martyr, Witch, etc.
Revivers and Master Revivers are able to resurrect dead players, Master Revivers can bring the revived into their association (e.g., the Masons: see Association roles). The players resurrected by a Necromancer are converted to the Necromancer's alignment; those revived by the voodooist join a separate zombie group.[40] The Governor can reprieve those killed during the daytime, as can the Martyr if he sacrifices himself. The Witch has a (single-use) revival potion. At night, she's shown who will die in the morning, and can choose to save them.[Note 19]

Rule-immune Roles

  • Bulletproof, Oracle, Elder, etc.
The Bulletproof innocent is invulnerable at night,[Note 20] though usually with limits; for example, the Elder will survive the first night attack, but not the second.[36]
The Oracle has an investigative role similar to a Seer but also has the power to talk when inactive (talking in a sleep phase is usually a rule infraction).

Special roles

  • Baker, Village Idiot, Cobbler, etc.
The baker is on the side of the innocents. During the night, the baker gives one player a loaf of bread, potentially revealing his identity. If the baker dies, the innocents have just three nights to dispose of the mafia, or the innocents starve, and the mafia win. The Cobbler,[36] Village Idiot, or Jester has the objective of convincing the town to kill him, or is required to vote in favor of all proposed lynchings. Sometimes, successful lynching of the Village Idiot results in the mafia being able to kill two people that night.

Self-team roles

  • Alien, etc.
The Alien role is assigned in the beginning of the game. An Alien plays for himself (that is, does not belong neither to the mafia nor the innocents). If an Alien is killed during night, he does not die, however, during the alien's phase of night, the narrator shows (usually with a thumbs-up) that he is activated. After an alien has been activated, it has to get people to vote him out during the following day. If he succeeds, he explodes and wins the game (whereas all the other people lose). If he fails to become voted-out during daytime, the alien deactivates (which usually results in him not having any chances to win because the mafia is unlikely to kill a person who didn't die the previous night, i.e. the person who is an alien (although the probability of the person just being cured by the doctor still exists)). If the Alien gets cured by the doctor, the alien dies, which results in two people (one by the mafia and one by the doctor) dying that night.

Complicated roles

Additional variations exist, sometimes with even more specialized or complicated abilities. There are many special roles, and many moderators design novel roles for each game. Some commercial variants ship with blank cards to allow this customization.[54]


The naming of various roles, factions, and other elements of play is theme-dependent and has limitless variation. Common alternative themes restyle the mafia as werewolves, cultists, assassins, or witches, with other roles being renamed appropriately.

Over the years, players have created Mafia variants that include additional rules. Some of these are listed here.

Variations on the win conditions

If there are as many mafiosi as innocents in the day-phase then a mafia victory is declared immediately, under the original Mafia rules. Other variants suspend this rule, and only declare the game after every member of one faction has been eliminated. There are several reasons not to end the game while innocents are alive:

  • It makes the game easier to explain, and run.[55]
  • The variant may have mechanics that allow the out-numbered innocents to win (e.g. via protection or resurrection of innocents, or the mafia being unaware who their teammates are).
  • Or because other win conditions are in-play for certain players, and need the game to finish to be judged.

Other win conditions that may be assigned include:

  • The Cupid and the Lovers variant; the Lovers can also win by being the last two in the game even if one is Mafia while the other is innocent -in these cases the game is played until a definite outcome is reached. (Even if three mafiosi and two innocents remain it is important to the Lovers which of the innocents is killed.)
  • If a game has a card assigned Head Mafia or Don role, a variation has the Innocent members win when they vote successfully for the execution of the Don, regardless if there are other surviving Mafia members remaining.
  • The Survivor is a neutral player, and wins when any other team or player wins (the survivor merely needs to avoid elimination).
  • To win, a particular player (the jester) must be lynched.

Election variants

Nominees for lynching may be allowed to make a speech in their own defense. Usually, each player must vote, can only vote once and cannot vote for themselves. But some variants have a more complicated process of selecting players to be executed. Davidoff's original 'Mafia' allowed multiple day-time executions (per day), each needing only a plurality to action.[56]

Voting variants abound, but any lynching usually requires an absolute majority of the electorate, or votes cast. So, the voting is usually not by secret ballot for multiple candidates, with the highest vote count eliminated; it is more usual for the voting to be openly resolved either by:

  • A nomination or series of elections structured to ultimately offer a choice between two candidates, or
  • An option to lynch (or not lynch) one suspect (with a new suspect produced if the last one survives the vote).[55]

Tied votes

Deadlocked elections can be resolved by lot,[23] or by killing the player with the scapegoat special role.[4]

The special case of one mafioso and one innocent remaining can be decided randomly,[57] or be ruled a Mafia win (this is more usual in live play).[58]

Another form, tie-breaking, can be had with a seance of the person who was last killed by the mafia, since night has not yet fallen and they have not yet seen the mafia during the night phase.

Optional lynch variant

The Innocents can choose not to kill anybody during the day. Although commonly unsure of Mafia identities, the Innocents are more likely to randomly kill a mafioso than are the Mafia (at night). Therefore, not lynching anyone (even at random) will typically favor the Mafia.

However, when the number of survivors is even, No Kill may help the Innocents; for example, when three Innocents and one mafioso remain – generally called MYLO, or Mislynch and Lose due to the innocents' loss upon a lynch of their own[58] – voting for No Lynch gives a 1/3 chance of killing the mafioso the next day, rather than a 1/4 chance today (assuming random lynching).

Timed days

A public timer is set to a pre-determined length at the beginning of each day. If the players lynch someone, then the day ends immediately. If time runs out, the day is over and there is no lynching, or the person with the most votes is lynched.

Mafia killing methods

Some variants require all Mafia members to choose the same victim independently for a kill to succeed. This can be achieved in the following ways:

  • By waking the Mafia members up separately.[59]
  • By calling out the names of all surviving players and requiring surviving mafiosi to raise their hands when the name of the victim is called out. In this variant, the mafiosi only "wake up" (open their eyes) at the very beginning of the game when they identify each other. This variant also allows other roles to take their actions by simply raising their hands when their target's name is called out.
  • By having them write their kills. Under this variant, Innocent players write the word 'honest' on a piece of paper; Mafia members write the name of a player for elimination. If all the mafia notes have the same name on them, that player is considered killed by the Mafia.

In some online versions of the game, a particular player (the Godfather or a designated mafioso) must send in the kill.

Another variant requires the night-time vote to be secret and unanimous, but allows multiple players to be added to the execution queue to ensure unanimity.

Random narrator

To eliminate the inconvenience of being killed first, this variant has the Innocent killed on the first night become the Narrator. The Mafia must inform this victim of their death without revealing themselves.

Multiple families

Multiple, independent groups of mafia or werewolves[60] act and win independently, giving faster game-play and the potential for cross-fire between the factions.


This allows players to be sent to prison as an alternative to execution. They can either be sent there by vote or at the discretion of an optional character. Imprisoned players move to a separate room, possibly with a separate narrator. Murders can happen in prison and certain roles or events can liberate players.

A similar variant is Kidnapping, which allows for a Kidnapper character to remove individuals from the game temporarily. If the kidnapper is killed (or, in some cases, investigated by an Investigative role), the kidnapped return. While kidnapped, players are inactive, and cannot watch night-time events.


A random player dies of plague each morning. A player who had targeted the plagued player the previous night may be infected.


This variant is generally used as a drinking or risk based game. When a person is killed in the game they are made to take a punishment. In drinking circles this may be a shot of Gin or Vodka.


This variant requires the Narrator to keep track of the players' lives on a piece of paper, because every player has two or more lives. This extends the game when there are too few players for the standard rules. Kills (in the night & day phases) reduce these lives, until a player reaches zero lives and is eliminated. Mafia 'kills' which reduce lives are usually not announced to the innocents.


In this variant, players are given two cards: the first contains their role, the second an attribute. Attributes were originally derived from roles that could apply to both Mafia and Innocent alignments such as Bulletproof (cannot be killed at night), Mayor (has two votes in the lynch), and Siamese Twins (more commonly known as Siblings or Lovers).[61]

Ultimate Werewolf by mirghani elamin

The day time rounds remain the same as players sit around a table or in a circle in the candlelit base. The night time rounds are played roaming around the house in complete darkness. Innocents are killed by the werewolf tapping the victim on the shoulder in the dark. The victim must wait fifteen seconds until screaming in order to allow the werewolf to get away. Once an innocent is killed by the werewolf, everyone re-assembles in the base for the day time round. This variant of the game includes the Little Girl character who is allowed to collect a flash light from a prearranged place (e.g. at the bottom of the stairs) at the beginning of each night time round. Innocents who have been killed in the game become zombies and roam around in the dark (after a 30 second advantage on the innocents) in each night time round. Lovers need to find each other in the dark and protect each other from the werewolf.

Quantum Werewolf

This variant was developed by Steven Irrgang and used for a puzzle in the 2008 CISRA Puzzle Competition. He later published more formal rules so that it could be a fully playable variant. The difference from a standard game of Mafia is that players are not initially assigned roles, but rather on each day are given the probabilities describing the game's current quantum state. Each player with a non-zero probability of being a seer or a werewolf performs the appropriate night actions (which may not be effective if it is later determined that the player did not have that role). When a player is killed, the wave function collapses and the players are given updated probabilities.[62]

Train Mafia

Traditional Mafia re-envisioned and heavily modified by the Copenhagen Game Collective to be played in a subway metro. In this variation, players who are 'lynched' are kicked off the train (at the next stop), and must wait in shame for the following train – a kind of 'afterlife' train – to join a second, interwoven game.[63]

Invisible City: Rebels vs. Spies

A location-based mobile gaming variant for Android, designed for city center play. The two factions are: the Rebels, the majority; and the Spies, the informed minority. The rule-set replaces expulsions with scoring by round. Each player is assigned an individual mission each round. Some missions are critical and if one of those fails, the round goes to the Spies, but only one player knows which missions are critical.[64]

One Night Ultimate Werewolf

In this standalone game published by Bezier Games, players only "sleep" and close their eyes for a single night at the beginning of the game. They then have a single day of discussion, with a single lynching. No players are eliminated as the game progresses. There is no moderator, so everyone gets to participate as a member of the town or village. When playing this game, three more role cards are used than the number of players; when everyone is randomly dealt out their card the three extra ones placed in the middle of the table. To begin the game one of the players, with eyes closed, will act as the "caller" on the single starting night, going through the nighttime roles once: Werewolves and Masons (if in play) will identify each other, the Seer will examine one player's card or two of the middle cards, the Robber will steal another player's role card and replace it with their own, the Troublemaker will blindly swap two players' role cards, the Insomniac wakes up to check if their role card has been swapped, etc. The game ends on a single lynching vote, with the villagers winning if a single werewolf is caught, and the werewolves winning if no werewolves are killed. This game can be played with as few as three players. Play time can be as quick as five minutes per game[65]

Online variations

Mafia can also be played online.

Games can be played on IRC channels, where a bot assumes the role of a game moderator and the interaction of players is conducted via textual communication. [66] Being the IRC is cumbersome and not a widespread way of communication, these Mafia games are restricted to limited number of people. Since 2008, many other Mafia game sites were formed. Most prominent ones are the EpicMafia and Town of Salem.

All of the so far mentioned variations are attempts at reproducing the live Mafia games. The duration and the mechanics of the games are about the same as if you are playing the game the traditional way.

Playing mafia-like games online opens a possibility long lasting games, such as the ones on forums. In such games, one day in real life usually corresponds to one day within the game. So players log in each morning to see who got killed during the night.

Some of the popular Mafia forums are MafiaManiac, MafiaScum and TeamLiquid.

The online games have several things going for them:

  • No need to gather many people in the same room. Organizing and playing a game of Mafia gets faster and much more convenient.
  • No need for human moderator. If playing a game with unskilled human moderator, an entire game can be ruined in a second.
  • No need for eye closing during night phases. With traditional gaming, this opens room for game breakdowns as it enables cheating. Even if it is unintentional.
  • Convenient and objective way of voting. Possibly with a timer.
  • Possibilities of exciting new roles that make actions in an asynchronous way without exposing player's identity.

But the online games also imply possibly undesired changes in the game mechanics:

  • The most apparent drawback is the lack of direct face-to-face communication, which many consider the most important aspect of Mafia. There are some sites, like DailyMafia, that organize Mafia games with web cams, so that the face-to-face communication is preserved. The long lasting online mafia games that are usually played via online forums do not necessarily have this drawback. It is merely a correlation that people who communicate via forums usually do not know each other in real life.
  • Private communication. In a traditional Mafia game, all of the players are in one room. There is no way to communicate with another player in private. With online games, this is not the case. Many Mafia game forums and game sites have rules that mandate that only one channel of communication must be used for all game related discussion. [67] Thus forbidding the use of alternative channels for discussing the game. These rules are obviously only declarative as there is no way of enforcing them efficiently. It is especially difficult to enforce such prohibiting rules during long games on players that communicate with each other in person in real life. All forums support different kind of game setups, so it is feasible to organize a forum game without the restrictions on private messaging.
  • Online games open up a lot of possibilities for (un)intentional cheating. In the most crude way, this implies taking screenshots and sharing it with other players in order to prove your game role. The one site that has efficiently managed to mitigate this problem is ExposeMafia. Their solution is to allow players to modify their UI so that they can artificially create any impression they want. Nobody but the player himself knows that their UI has been faked. Changing the UI doesn't change the actual state of the game, it only modifies what information are shown to the player. Since the game also has no barriers on private communication, the site contains no messaging capabilities whatsoever. The game discussion can be moved to Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, or direct live conversation if the players are the people who meet in person on a daily basis. Only the game state and its progress can be viewed on the game site.
  • Private communication problem comes to light especially in trying to prevent dead players from participating in the game. All so far mentioned Mafia games (with the exception of ExposeMafia) consider this a breach of rules. Since, in general case, this breach of rules cannot be proven, the gameplay of most sites depends heavily on players' honesty and integrity.

See also


  1. ^ Plotkin quotes a 2005 email in which Davidoff explains that he brought Mafia into the Psychology department classrooms for research and it spread (as a meme) from there to dormitories and likely over next summer, through student summer camps. He credits this game-based methodology to pioneering 1920s psychologist Lev Vygotskiy.
  2. ^ In which the antagonists are Things, monsters that can turn humans into other Things. For a more detailed description, see:
  3. ^ The single detective publishes a large list of innocents, and asks to be lynched to guarantee its veracity (under the standard rules in which the detective's role is revealed after she is killed, no strategic interference from the Mafia is possible):
  4. ^ As of November 2007, five card-based versions of this game are sold, and all require one player to becomes a Seer. The specifies that a Seer card be dealt to someone even with the (minimum) five players. Similarly, the Lupus in Tabula Preparation calls for the Seer card to be dealt to somebody even if the game is played with the minimum number of players (eight). Getting Started with Ultimate Werewolf Role Selection advises that even the introductory game should include the Seer (with further optional roles being added in addition to the seer in later games). Werewolves of Millers hollow uses the Fortune Teller name for the Detective but the role is identical to the standard seer/angel/detective, and is again mandatory, having its own phase of the night in the basic rules. (As does the Seer in Are You a Werewolf? – though it is after the werewolves' phase.)
  5. ^ For example, , from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, are very simple, and specify roles for 7–20 players, always including at least one Detective. Andrew Plotkin's original Werewolf always includes a Villager (Seer), and he mentions that in 1997 Mafia was played in the National Puzzlers' League convention with a Knight Commandant. (The role of the Knight Commandant or Knight is described in detail as having the standard Detective powers in: ) Plotkin describes Davidoff's original game (which had no Detective) as well off the current average. A rare modern rule-set with No Inspector is: but only when starting with five, larger groups get at least one inspector.
  6. ^ For example, Vigilante in the
  7. ^ For example, The Oracle in Werewolf chooses one person to investigate every night, and are shown their card, unless they pick the Master Werewolf – when the Oracle is shown an (innocent) villager card.
  8. ^ For example, as described on Ultimate Werewolf's Little Girl Card, and in the first non-introductory role Wiredsuggested by : The Child spies at night when the werewolves are killing, and only when the werewolves are killing, by opening her eyes ever so slightly
  9. ^ Depending on the variant, they may know the identities of the Mafia, but this isn't required; they usually indicate the player to protect in a separate phase of gameplay (a separate part of the night) than the Mafia's killing phase. The Mafia-Doctor is a mafioso, and a more obscure variant role, with the opposite power (from the Doctor) of protecting the guilty from attack during the day.
  10. ^ The protected player gains complete invulnerability during the night they are visited by the Doctor or Bodyguard. The Mafia do not usually know the identity of the protected player, nor get a chance to select another victim, so this attack is wasted if the Mafia target a protected player (e.g., ).
  11. ^ For example, see the 2+2 rule-set describing the Nurse:
  12. ^ For example, the Witch in Werewolves of Miller's Hollow has only one use of her protective potion. She is allowed to see who was killed by the werewolves before applying the protective potion, so this character is more typical of the reanimation than the protective type.
  13. ^ . This makes the vigilante as lethal as the entire Mafia, potentially overbalancing the game, which has led to the introduction of roles that limit his effectiveness, such as the Walrus role-blocker.
  14. ^ The Hunter appears in Werewolves of Miller's Hollow, for example. The Woodcutter is a (less common) equivalent name for the role. Wired recommends including the hunter in even the most basic games:
  15. ^ The Godfather role is played differently between variants. If immunity to detection is the Godfather's only power, his leadership of the Mafia need only be nominal:
  16. ^ The thief's action usually applies for a single night, as in: . The thief sometimes has a purely investigative function – being only able to determine the roles from stolen items.
  17. ^ In other variants, the mafia can't kill anyone else on the night this power is used. The potential existence of a Yakuza makes innocents with protective roles less inclined to reveal their roles for fear of being converted (or more inclined to reveal themselves if they expect the Mafia to win and wish to be converted).
  18. ^ The Medium function varies, for example see summarized 'Medium-enabled seance' rules from Werewolf at: , as opposed to the Lupus in Tabula Medium, who alone can uncover the alignment of the deceased (see: ).
  19. ^ The Witch was introduced as a special character in The Werewolves of Millers Hollow, where she also has a single-use killing potion. She may be able to revive herself with the "reanimation potion", see: Original Werewolf characters
  20. ^ The bulletproof effect typically applies to night-time killings and is usually temporary, for example, the Ultimate Werewolf Amulet of Protection (bulletproof vest equivalent) protects over only a single night. Rare optional roles do give permanent protection from mafia attack, such as the Lupus in Tabula Werehamster


  1. ^ a b
  2. ^
  3. ^ a b c d
  4. ^ a b c d e f g
  5. ^
  6. ^ a b is Plotkin's own description of the original Werewolf version
  7. ^ Since the Clarion workshops take place during the summer, the game must have first been played at a Clarion workshop in 1998, most likely Clarion East – see David Levine's account of Clarion West 2000, Mafia and Thing were first taught to the annual Viable Paradise workshop by James Patrick Kelly and Steven Gould in 2001; see
  8. ^ See ; ;
  9. ^ See ; ; ; ; and . Quoting Also:
  10. ^ Петров С.В., Холопова Е.Н. «Невербальная коммуникация. Развивающие ролевые игры „Мафия「 и „Убийца「». Учебно-методическое пособие – Калининград: КВШ МВД России, 1998
  11. ^ . Retrieved 2014-05-16.
  12. ^ The club has its own rules, see:
  13. ^
  14. ^
  15. ^ cite web | url = | title = Daily Mafia
  16. ^
  17. ^
  18. ^
  19. ^
  20. ^ . also includes Mafia in the Top 5 Best Voting Games. The reason it is significant is given:
  21. ^ a b
  22. ^ For example:
  23. ^ a b
  24. ^ Derivation is by recursion on decreasing numbers of players in the following round, see:
  25. ^
  26. ^
  27. ^ a b
  28. ^
  29. ^
  30. ^
  31. ^ a b For example, Bezier Games' Ultimate Werewolf Sorcerer has the ability to detect the Seer role. (The sorcerer is granted different powers in other rule-sets, like Princeton University's, in which the Wizard has the ability to detect the Seer.) Whatever name this role is known by, the Detective-detector is typically aligned with the Mafia (for example, see: )
  32. ^
  33. ^
  34. ^
  35. ^
  36. ^ a b c d e f
  37. ^
  38. ^ A typical Traitor-type role is the Possessed Special Character from
  39. ^
  40. ^ a b c
  41. ^ The Psychiatrist can 'cure' the Serial Killer according to the Pub Game rules: . When 'the psychiatrist' is in play, the Serial Killer may be The Psychopath, as in:
  42. ^ For example, Ultimate Werewolf Masons recognize one another from the first night.
  43. ^
  44. ^ As in the Mafia Games setup described by, requiring only mafiosi, police, a doctor, and the townspeople. Or, a simple version using only citizens, mafia, and detectives, as described in:
  45. ^ The Cupid card in Bezier Game's Ultimate Werewolf, for example.
  46. ^
  47. ^ Alternatively, they may have a vote, but be mandated to always vote against lynching, as is the Village Ethicist
  48. ^ a b
  49. ^
  50. ^ described by, for example.
  51. ^ A role introduced in Ted Alspach's 2010 Ultimate Werewolf: Classic Movie Monsters.
  52. ^ – The Silencer is typically aligned with them and knows their identities, but (in some variants) in unknown to them, not participating in mafia killings.
  53. ^ The Priest alone knows whether the dead were innocent in the World Boardgaming Championships game described by Bruno Wolff in
  54. ^ Lupus in Tabula (Werewolves at the Table) card listings
  55. ^ a b
  56. ^
  57. ^ The random resolution is typical in academic models of Mafia. For example see:
  58. ^ a b That a single mafioso wins against a single surviving innocent in the day phase is a standard live-play rule, being a sub-case of the rule that a numerical equality is a Mafia victory
  59. ^ The 'separate waking' method of designating victims is used in the official rules, for example. (This is a Soviet Union-themed variant with other expanded rules, released under Creative Commons licensing.)
  60. ^ – From the old Princeton variant rules.
  61. ^ 7-0-7, Jon Bennett Additional rules created by Jon Bennett, accepted in local Mafia circles.
  62. ^
  63. ^
  64. ^
  65. ^
  66. ^
  67. ^

External links

  • The original Mafia ruleset
  • Hungarian Mensa Society – first Mafia-related page on the Internet
  • Werewolf at BoardGameGeek
  • Wiki
  • The Princeton ruleset
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