Chaosmos FAQ and Clarifications

Here’s an FAQ for the game. I’ll update it with the expansion content soon.


Bold words are clarified in the Glossary of the rulebook. Also remember to consult the Clarifications section of the rulebook for rules you may have missed.



Pay attention. Information is gleaned through exploration (searching planets), winning battles (searching your opponent’s hand), and using a few specific cards. Watching other players’ battles unfold reveals information about some of their cards–  The cards they carry matter to their strategy. Pay attention to which planets players go to, and when. Pay attention to players’ faces when they take spoils or search unexplored planets. By the last few turns, all players should have at least a general idea of what is going on. Always try to save at least one Hypertoken for the final few turns, in case you need to go somewhere for a last ditch effort.


Can I activate flip cards on my home planet prior to my first turn?

You can activate Traps or Vaults, because you start the game “between turns,” already in control of your envelope. (Planetary Bases must be activated during your turn, since they cost an action.)


How do I resolve complex timing conflicts between cards, abilities, and other rules?

When alien powers or card powers contradict each other but are intended to resolve simultaneously, the power that stops or thwarts the other takes precedence. 

Usually: Rulebook>Cards>Alien Powers>Upgrade Tiles>Planet Effect Tokens>Expansions>House Rules


When do I place a Landing Flag?

Place/exchange a Landing Flag each time you control a new planet successfully. Remove the previous flag. Do not exchange flags if you get trapped or otherwise fail to take control. If you play Claw of Sykloakis on a controlled envelope, do not exchange the flags, and return the envelope to the player who is in control of it.




If I am on a planet with an opponent and their Base is active on the planet, can I attack the Base directly?

Only if the envelope is in the envelope box. If the owner of the Base controls the envelope, then you have to first stop them from controlling the envelope (by beating them in combat or another method). Since you can’t control an envelope with an opponent’s active Base, the envelope would then go back to the envelope box, and you could spend an Action to fight the Base as usual.


Can I control my own Base as a free action?



Can I scry a Base?

Yes. (A Planetary Base is just a flip-card like a Trap or Vault. The base token only designates that the card is there; it does not imbue new properties other than the rules written on the Planetary Base card.)



Can I trip my own traps or get around my own vaults or traps without triggering them?

When taking control of an envelope, you may discard your own trap or get trapped by it. Remember it costs an action to gain control of an envelope and open it, so once you have set a Trap in an envelope, you will have to return the envelope to the box and spend another action (either this turn or a different turn) to open the envelope and announce the Trap. If you trap yourself, you get sent home and your turn ends, as would happen if you tripped an opponent’s Trap. You only trigger Flip Cards (like Traps and Vaults) when you take control of a planet, so theoretically you can secretly activate a Vault or a Trap and then flip it back down prior to leaving the planet, even if it has been scryed.



Gravity Anomaly PET:  Do I get sucked to the planet if I end my movement on a wormhole and a corresponding-letter wormhole is adjacent to that planet?

Wormholes are considered to be the same space, so yes.


Ancient Base PET: Who controls the Ancient Base if it is activated remotely via Survey Drones, instead of through exploration?

Either the last player to control the planet, or the first player who takes control of it.



How do toxic planets work?

Your alien miniature can always be on your toxic planet (“in orbit”), or use it as a stepping stone to other places. You just can’t attack other aliens who are on that planet, whether or not they control the envelope. Assault Catapult WOULD allow ranged attacks onto that planet, from at least one space away. When attacking someone on your toxic planet via Assault Catapult, you could win spoils in combat, but not control the envelope (which would go back to the box after winning the combat). While in orbit of your toxic planet you CAN use the Catapult to attack players who are not on the planet. Revealing your enviro-gear negates toxicity, and you only have to reveal your enviro-gear at the moment you attempt to take control of the planet or attack someone there.



Combat (and combat resolution, which is taking spoils or banishing) is a separate action, and you may not engage in other actions– such as accessing any envelope, trading to the Cosmic Pool, or playing non-combat cards– until combat is fully resolved.


Do I have to play combat cards in a certain order?

No, all that matters is that both players are given a chance to “pass” and not play any more cards. At that point the totals are calculated.


If I win control of an envelope from my opponent in combat, do I have to open the envelope and risk getting trapped?

No, you may choose to instead put the envelope directly back into the envelope box without looking inside it.


I won spoils but I am at my hand limit. Can I give my opponent a card from my controlled envelope instead of my hand?

No, you can never access envelopes during combat, and you don’t win free control of an opponent’s envelope until after combat is fully resolved and spoils or banishment has occurred. Always finish an action (combat) before starting another.


What happens if BOTH players roll Double Mirrors (Infinity)?

If both players roll Double-Mirrors/Infinity BOTH players are banished to their home planets instantly, the envelope (if any) is returned to the envelope box, and the turn ends.



(Also check the Clarifications section of the rulebook)



Can I attack someone on my toxic planet without environment gear, using the Catapult?

No, you need to be at least one space away (per the rules of attacking and toxic planets), and spoils or banishment happen as normal. If you win the battle, the envelope would be returned directly to the envelope box (since you cannot access the planet).



Can I steal a card from a Base or Vault?

If it is controlled by your opponent then yes, since the Claw ignores face-up cards. If it is not currently controlled by an opponent, then no. Don’t place a flag since you aren’t taking control.



If I use Nano Fabricator, is it treated exactly the same as the copied card in regards to other effects?

Yes, once it duplicates a card, it can be considered identical to that card, except it is discarded at the end of combat. Nano Fabricators sidestep alien limitations (Haamflaagon can copy his opponents’ Advanced Weapons, for instance).


What happens if I Nano Fabricate a:

Cosmic Fear- If more than one Cosmic Fear is in play, ignore them all.

Cloaking Orb- Cloaking Orb cannot be copied since it is not a combat card (it just triggers whenever someone looks at the player’s hand)

Imp Food: Your Imps each add an extra +1.

Spores: Treat the Fabricator as a regular Spore. You only count the Spores on your side toward your total.



How exactly does the Smuggler Bunny card work?

Normally you can only trade a card to or from the Cosmic Pool while on your home planet. The Smuggler Bunny card itself can be taken from the Cosmic Pool in exchange for a card in your hand while on any planet. In addition, while on any planet you may place the Smuggler Bunny card into the Pool in exchange for any card. Thus the Bunny will periodically pop up in the Cosmic Pool throughout the game. The Bunny does NOT allow you to trade any card for any card in the Pool. The Bunny specifically must be part of the trade in one direction or the other.



Each Spore’s strength is the number of other Spores you reveal (on your side). Having only one Spore would mean no combat bonus. Two Spores means you would add a total of +2. All three Spores would mean you would add a total of +6.


Can I use my special abilities during combat?

No, unless it specifies it on the Character Sheet. Remember that for the most part, each action (even if it is a free action) must be fully resolved before a new action happens. Combat is itself an action, even if it is a free action because of Amnion Strike.




Can I use my special abilities more than once per turn?

Yes, but only if it would make logical sense. For example, if an ability says “Spend an action to…” then you can do that ability as many times as you have actions. If a card or ability says “Trade to the Cosmic Pool…” then you may still only access the Pool once per turn, since you are not limited by actions, but by the rules of the Cosmic Pool.


Can Drusu do a free scry on a planet in the midst of using Booster Rockets?

No, you always have to finish an action, such as the card effect, before beginning another action, such as the free action of his ability.


Gazmae’s first ability: If I select two cards as spoils, including a card that was cloaked by the Cloaking Orb, and under the Orb is a Trap that I can’t counter, do I get to keep the other card?

No, the Trap would spring prior to combat being resolved, so you don’t get to take the other card, unless you cancel the Trap. (In that case, you would only get to keep the other card.)


Chaosmos: The Temple

After 5 long years, the expansion for Chaosmos is nearly upon us. I’ll be showing it a bit at Gen Con (although my booth – Vigour Games #566 – is mostly about GROWL).TEMPLE-Chaosmos-low

Some of you seem to play the game as a thematic exploration/combat Ameritrash game. So you play the game and have fun but to some degree miss the point of the simplicity of the system. This is, at its core, a complex version of Rock/Paper/Scissors. From a design perspective, Chaosmos was conceived as a deduction and deception game. (“Did Andy drop off the Spores once I defeated Paul because Andy scryed Paul’s hand and knows I might have taken the Spore Immunity? Or did Andy KEEP the Spores in his hand, knowing that I know that he knows?”) So take that as a baseline for where I am coming from when making decisions about where I am taking the expansion.

Your General Requests for Improvement:

1. Reduce combat. Combat sometimes overwhelms the game in the final turns, and everyone attacks the guy who does in fact have the Ovoid. (This happens in my own game group about 33% of the time.) Players are afraid the Temporal Displacer will get used, so they prematurely launch their big turns, and then have no more aces up their sleeve for the final round. I view this feedback as requesting a larger diversity of defensive or weapon-negating strategies, or that players want a more tangible reward for exploration and deduction and concealment.
2. Speed the ending. The final turns drag with experienced players. This is likely an issue with the Temporal Displacer, which can be difficult to use effectively when maximizing your hand in the last turns.
3. Add gambits. Some high-risk/high-reward opportunities could be very valuable for players whose strategies have failed, and thus would be given renewed hope in the final turns. And it’s better to launch a crazy and dangerous final turn than simply say “there’s nothing I can do.”


• Up to 6 players (with alliance powers and opportunities for betrayal) – “shared win” as an optional variant
• 5 minutes to set up or less – regardless of player count – in other words:
• Tighten and codify cardset for 2-4 players, with added “5+” cards when playing 5 or 6 players
• Under 3.5 hours to play, even with all modules (when playing to max of 45 or 48 turns)
• Reduce emphasis on combat and more exploring and hiding
• Tight integration between planet effect tokens and cards so there’s ALWAYS some cool interaction or other way to have an epic final turn even if you made grave errors
• 4 unique aliens of varying complexity, each exploiting an untapped key game mechanism
• New cards that push the boundaries
• Dozens of bonus powers that boost new lanes-of-play and opportunities for players in weak positions
* For years I playtested versions of the game using an Agenda deck of rules-breaking political goals. The concept was lifted from Warrior Knights and especially Twilight Imperium. Players got votes based on Influence and the number of landing flags they had on the board. This increased the game time by nearly an hour, and added little. So I folded those powers into the new “Klik-tek” upgrade powers. You can earn hyper-ore a few different ways and spend it on universal rules alterations and personal upgrades that trigger at various times. It’s cleaner and faster this way, and lets the conversation be natural (“I’ll trade you hyper-ore to upgrade your tech”) rather than artificial (“I’ll bribe you to help me pass an agenda!”).
• The “BIG IDEA” of the expansion – I am going to not announce this quite yet…. Sorry.

First of all I wanted to explain that I’ve tried numerous new types of Bases and Vaults. They just didn’t work in playtesting as well as the original versions did. I won’t bore you with all the rejected ideas, but about 4 ideas made it to the last phase of playtesting before getting abandoned. The originals are just better, and interact with the cardsets in beautiful and subtle ways. I likely won’t be adding any new Bases and Vaults, but I will likley have cards and planet effect tokens that make Bases and Vaults work differently.

I finally realized that TRAPS are the interesting mystery surprise flip cards – so most of the cool ideas I had for new Vaults and Bases actually became new Traps.

There’s a LOT of new traps and I’m not sure what to do about it since I only wanted about 3 in each game, and I don’t want to slow up the game setup. There’s Hyperspace Trap, Secret-Base Trap, Toxoplasmic Trap, Ovoid Trap (formerly Squeeze Trap), and Scry Trap, in addition to a slightly buffed Telethwarter Trap. Playtesting on these is not complete at high player counts – I am trying to get the number of Traps down to 4 unique ones and just let players shuffle them all into every game. So all games will have 4 traps instead of 3. I don’t want a lot of extra traps because despite all your pleas for more more more stuff, I actually think what you want is a tight, robust experience that is very different from what you are used to.

Ok, that’s it for now….  Make sure you are on the mailing list for the game.

Announcing Chaosmos: The Temple

I’m hard at work on Dirtside, the sequel to Battlestations, to be published by Gorilla Games next year. But I also had some time to get design work on The Temple closer to done.

Spying, hoarding, deceiving, stashing and sneaking… now with diplomacy, machinations, alliances, betrayals, and wild new abilities!

The Temple is an expansion to the board game Chaosmos, allowing for alliances and betrayals, as well as tech advances that allow you to prepare for the future by altering your powers and the rules of the game themselves!

Up to 6 players can now face off in the epic struggle over the Ovoid, and new cards guarantee a universe of ingenious new strategies. Four new aliens join The Hunt, bringing with them their strange and beautiful physics-bending racial abilities….

Look forward to the Kickstarter launch this summer. You can get on the mailing list for it here.

temple low


Two free games for Halloween…



[EDIT: No longer available.]



Here’s the latest FAQ, which includes the latest rules for high player counts.

DARK UNIVERSE playtest kit (2-3 players, 5-10 minutes)

Here’s a 2 or 3 player bluffing/deduction/memory game I designed (with Jeff Siadek) inspired by the classic Universal monsters. The name is obviously temporary. Please forgive the unlicensed/stolen art; this game is just a prototype. It doesn’t have card backs, so just sleeve it with card sleeves that have an opaque backing.

I’m currently seeking playtesting feedback on it. It takes about 5 minutes to play. I hope you like it!

Have fun with these games and email me any feedback from the contact page.



What comes in the Howly Growly Box? (4-10+ players)

  •  Fur bag, magnetic hinged box with slotted inserts.
  •  10 punchboard tiles, including 1 “Start Player” tile
  •  84 card deck (10 extra tile cards, 8 Nights, 8 Final Nights, 12 Gold, 5 Salve, 5 Charm, 8 Wound, 4 Wound (6+ players), 4 Wound (9+ players), 12 Bite, 4 Bite (6+ players), 4 Bite (9+ players)
  •  Spells Expansion (13 cards including rules)
  •  Curses Expansion (15 cards including rules)
  •  24 punchboard coins (including 6 value “3” coins)
  •  Black velvet deck bag
  •  Golden ticket (hiding under the box insert)
  •  36 page rulebook (including rules in English, German, Spanish, Italian, Chinese, Thai, Japanese
    (The Basic Box has the same content, but it does not have the double-height box for slotting the cards and organizing the expansions, and it does not come with any expansions. It now also allows 4-10+ players.)
Note: The 7 Sins/Undead expansions do NOT come in either box.
That add-on is available in the shop.

Card Sleeve Questions?

The sleeves come in sets of 200, with 130 wolf backs (for all the main cards and cards that say GROWL on the back), 30 Spell cards (cards with blue backs), 10 Night (includes 2 extras), 10 Final Night (includes 2 extras), and 10 Undead sleeves (for the main undead cards).

  • First, sleeve the main 74 cards.
  • If you received punchboard tiles then you don’t need the card tiles (or you can sleeve them with your own clear sleeves).
  • The 14 Curses cards (pitchfork icon) should be sleeved with the same wolf card back as the main cards.
  • The Spells cards (potion icon) should be sleeved with the blue Spells back.
  • If you bought the 7 Sins, those are also spell cards, so sleeve them with the blue Spells back as well.
  • The Undead expansion cards should be sleeved with the green undead back. The green grave/green blood drop cards from this expansion can be sleeved with your own clear sleeves or remain unsleeved. (These cards are remnants from before the game offered punchboard tiles to replace the card tiles.)

Second Deck?

If you bought an extra deck you only need up to 30 extra cards to raise the player count (see “Playing with more than 10 players”). The rest are backup cards, or you can use the second deck as a portable edition of the game, using the black velvet bag.

If you don’t have an extra deck you can invent your own cards to put in the sleeves or save the sleeves to be compatible with current or future expansions.

If you bought custom sleeves, the set comes with more than enough (200 total), so you have extras in case any are damaged or if you get expansions.
Even if you own all 4 expansions (Spells, Curses, Undead, 7 Sins), PLUS add all 30+ cards from an additional deck to play up to 15 players, you will have extras. The sleeves are not intended to cover all duplicate cards and extra cards from your second set – they only cover all the sleeves you need to play up to 15 players with all expansions.
If you bought an extra deck, it can be played standalone or with the base game to increase player count, but the sleeves do not cover both copies of the game, only up to one copy maxed-out with bonus cards and expansions.

Are stretch goals missing from the final production version?

The 3-player variant was canceled because it was not fun enough, so we replaced it with the free Spells expansion in the Howly Growly, and increased the Basic Box player count to 10, just like the Howly Growly.
The bonus Night and Final Night cards were mostly all renamed or replaced with improved versions. But the game originally came with just 5 Night/Final Night cards, and the final version comes with 16.

I bought the 25 bonus coins and there aren’t the same number as the punchboard coins (24).

That’s on purpose. For production reasons the game comes with 18 “1” coins and 6 “3” coins, and the metal version of the coins comes with 20 “1” coins and 5 “3” coins.


Howly Growly comes with a thin pack of 28 cards. Divide those based on their icon in the lower left (Curses and Spells) and slide them into their expansion slots in the box. The icons above line up with the slots.

Open the main 84 card deck. Take out the 10 tile cards. These can be placed anywhere in the box or discarded if you also have punchboard tiles.

Look for the 6+ or 9+ in the bottom-left corner of the bite and wound cards and place them in their appropriate slot (if you want you can use a tile to divide them).

Yellow/Red: Night/Final Night cards (denoted by backs of cards): put in the slot that looks like a yellow/red moon.

Pitchfork: Curses cards expansion

Potion bottle: Spells expansion (packed with Curses expansion)

Green Hand: Undead expansion (packed with 7 Sins expansion, if you purchased that).

Demon mask: 7 Sins expansion (packed with Undead expansion).

The expansions all have their icons in the bottom-left corner of the cards for sorting.

You can (unofficially) play GROWL with up to 15 players. To balance the game, you will need a second copy of the game (a “bare-bones” deck) of 84 cards. (Technically, you only need up to 30 of these extra cards, although you can try different card sets or invent your own variants if you want.)

• For EACH player above 10, add 3 additional Wound cards and 3 additional Bite cards to the game. (Store unused cards from the second copy of the game far away, so you don’t accidentally mix your two copies other than the cards needed to play with additional players.)
• Additionally, when playing with 12+ players, there will be 4 starter wolves (4 Bite cards given out during the Infect Wolf Zero phase of setup).
Playtesting is ongoing for these unofficial high player count games. There is a high likelihood that the balance will need to be updated when more data comes in. Go have fun, and if you are interested in helping the GROWL community, track your wins at high player counts and post your data to Board Game Geek.


• Playtesting has proven that if the deck is face-down, players forget to publicly reveal the card they draw before passing it. Playing with the deck face-up solves this problem. On your turn, instead of drawing just the top card, pick up the entire deck, select a target for the card, and then give the card before passing the entire deck to the next player.


• You are allowed to say anything you want about the cards in your hand but you may not show anyone your cards unless a card allows it.



• If a human is converted to a werewolf AND dies simultaneously, they die as a werewolf.


 • If a human is the last remaining human but is converted to a werewolf on the Final Night, they win with all the wolves. This may not seem like a big difference (winning with humans vs winning with wolves, but it DOES matter which players get to collect their gold that round).
Some players don’t like that humans who survive right to the last night will win (either as a human or wolf). If your group chooses, you can play the unofficial rule, which is that humans who get converted in the final night (or during a final night power) don’t win with the wolves. It may technically be more balanced this way, but it is difficult to track, so the official rule stands as written.



• You can do that if you prefer, as long as you keep track of your hand. Playtesting has proven that most players can’t remember their entire hand, which means they won’t notice when they get bitten or wounded. Keep in mind that some Night cards REQUIRE you to carefully note which cards you received from your neighbors.


• When a Night card is first revealed, all talking must cease other than the active player reading it (you can call this player the Night Watchman if you want). You may make claims what you passed the previous Night but you may NOT wait until you see the Night card and then tell another player what you are about to pass.


• As soon as those players remember their mistake, they should admit it. They immediately out themselves as humans who broke the rules and instantly die. (They die as humans, even if they WOULD have turned into wolves that night.)


• Players are NOT allowed to shuffle or otherwise randomize the cards they are passing away at night. They must make a specific decision which card to pass left and which card to pass right.


• See the rulebook: If a player… is unable to pass the two cards, they die prior to Night falling and do not pass cards.”


• The game uses the honor system. Don’t play with people who can’t handle that.


By Joey Vigour (Designer, Chaosmos & GROWL)

joey growl face

To celebrate the INSANE FINAL DAY of my Kickstarter game GROWL I am reposting a hugely updated version of my social deduction/hidden roles game list.

Despite what some hardcore tabletop gamer “friends” may say, social deduction is NOT a withering genre, but an ever-evolving one. The mysteries are not unlocking to reveal aged rusted mechanisms within, they are blooming and propagating into new generations of infinite variation and beauty… a new mini-renaissance of the “old school” deduction games of yesteryear. I’m going to mention just some of the lighter, more casual games in the social deduction/hidden roles genre. (If you are a more dedicated detective and deceiver, check out Battlestar Galactica by Corey Konieczka, or its baby cousin, Dark Moon by Evan Derrick.)

Werewolf/Mafia is the classic but takes hours to play, and eliminated players just have to sit there and wait, sometimes for hours. Bang! by Emiliano Sciarra sort of improves this a tiny bit by shortening the game, but it also distracts from the actual hidden roles and makes it more card-driven. Honestly I don’t think Bang! is anywhere near as good as Werewolf. But it also came out in 2002, so it is practically as old as Werewolf and deserves a pass for inspiring many other games.

A quick shout to WitchHunt by Kyle Brockman for slightly improving Werewolf by letting the dead players have some voting powers and the ability to try to protect some of their living teammates (villagers), or cause more chaos from beyond the grave (witches).

Red Riding Hood: Full Moon Rising is a new prototype from Ta-Te Wu, liking hitting the scene late this year or early next year. It’s a definite improvement on the Bang! style mechanics of being able to shoot players and deduce their role, etc. There’s bombs and things, and it’s a hoot and a howl (excuse the pun). [image: Red Riding Hood]

One Night Ultimate Werewolf from Ted Alspach and Akihisa Okuiis may be the go-to these days… but I think there’s some issues with it (still requires a moderator/phone app, too complicated for casual gamers, suffers from the “alpha gamer problem” where the loudest players often take charge). It doesn’t really work with my group for some reason. One Night Ultimate Alien is better, but a bit complicated for the casual crowd. He has a new game coming to Kickstarter next week called One Week Ultimate Alien, which appears to add a board and area movement of some kind to the basic ONUWW system.

Crossfire by Emerson Matsuuchi is very similar to One Night, but even shorter. It takes place in exactly 3 minutes. Players have more hard information and a few various powers. Players simultaneously point their finger to “shoot” someone, and then roles are revealed. Definitely worth a look.

2 Rooms and a Boom (by Alan Gerding and Sean McCoy) improves on the live action role play elements of Werewolf in many ways, and introduces a two-location area-movement mechanic, and players physically move and are “traded” into the other room, where information is gleaned slowly while a clock counts down only 15 or so minutes. One team wants the Bomber to be in the same room as the President after 3 rounds of moving people. The game is wonderful but an extremely uneven experience because of the dozens of weirdly-interacting roles/powers. I would have preferred only a few tightly balanced card sets (although there are several suggestions in the rulebook and online).

Mafia de Cuba by Philippe des Pallières, Loïc Lamy is a very clever “light” game which comes in a cigar box. Players take turns secretly stealing diamonds or a poker chip with a secret role (thus you get to choose a hidden role from whatever is left in the box). The Godfather and his minions try to root out the betrayers.

Salem 1692 by Travis Hancock is one of my favorites of the “new generation” – I personally prefer it to Secret Hitler (and I mildly prefer Secret Hitler over The Resistance, and I prefer The Resistance to Coup, and I prefer Coup to Mascarade). Players have 3-5 tryal (trial) cards, depending on the number of players. The village’s goal is to locate and reveal all the tryal cards labeled “Witch” (the remaining ones say “not a witch). You can place Accusation tokens one people you suspect, and when they get too many they are forced to reveal one of their tryal cards (at the discretion of the last player who accused them).

Deception: Murder in Hong Kong by Tobey Ho is a bit like Dixit or Mysterium, in that there’s art images that you are using to convey information to certain players (in this case information about a crime), but with the added delight of some simple hidden roles like Accomplice and Witness.

Everyone knows about Spyfall by Alexandr Ushan, a wonderful little inversion where there’s a traitor who is trying to “fit in” and several related games like The Chameleon and A Fake Artist Goes to New York. I won’t get into too many “traitor mechanic” games but I mention Spyfall because it naturally leads into an amazing “inversion” of the traitor mechanic… Fall Guy.

Fall Guy is an amazing and very simple prototype game by Jon Perry, coming next year from [xxxx not allowed to say xxxx]. We’re criminals and one of us is the “fall guy” we are trying to pin the crime on. Our role card says who the fall guy is, but one of our role cards is LYING to us! What a genius mechanism! So we’re going through the game and we are all trying to quietly communicate via our actions and purposely confusing sentences, making sure we are on the same page and trying to each get the right card in hand to pin the crime. But whoever happens to be the fall guy has to “go to the police” before we pin the crime. The game is probably coming out next year and it is fantastic.

Good Cop Bad Cop by Brian Henk/Clayton Skancke is a 52 card hidden identity, deduction game where each player takes on the role of a law enforcement officer in a corrupt district. Players must investigate others to figure out who is on their side, grab one of the 2-3 guns on the table, and shoot the opposing leader to win the game. There’s alternate versions themed as Leaders of Euphoria and a prototype based around Total Recall.

Tradecraft print-and-play by Steven Cole uses a cool system where the roles are only part of what gives you points (you also get points if you stay alive and if you have certain points-giving cards. Really interesting game but I haven’t been able to get my group into it.

Timebomb [also called Don’t Mess With Cthulhu, and also Tempel des Schreckens] by 佐藤 雄介(Yusuke Sato) is a great, very simple game you can even make at home. We’re on a bomb squad trying to clip the red wires and then deactivate the bomb. The Terrorists want to have the bomb flipped (go off) before the bomb squad activates it. But we don’t know who the terrorists are. Players have 5 cards to start. they look at them but then shuffle them up and place them out in front of themselves. The cards are all blank except 3 red wires and the bomb. On your turn you reach out and flip up a card. If the bomb goes off before the 3 wires are flipped, the terrorists win. After each player has flipped a card, the round starts over, minus the cards already flipped, so the total number of cards each round is reduced. Very exciting and brilliant design.

Mayday Mayday by Stephanie Brandl is also very clean and simple – each player on an airplane is either Honest or an Infiltrator. You know your role because you have 3 cards and whichever role you have 2 of is your true team. Players spend their turn looking at one other role card and speaking/lying about what they see.

Human Punishment from Godot Games uses a similar (but more complex) system to define your role (you have 3 role cards. if you have 2 of one type, Humans or Machines, then you are that role, and if all 3 role cards are different then you are an Outlaw, meaning you want all non-outlaws to die.

Patriots and Redcoats combines elements of The Resistance and the 3 card role aspect of Mayday Mayday, with the 2 Rooms and a Boom concept of getting the Assassin and Leader together to end the game. I haven’t played it but it looks most similar to Secret Hitler, but with a lot of interesting twists and interacting powers (like everyone having to pass one of their three roles to the left, etc.). Also a twist in that if one of your role cards is a Leader (George Washington/King George) then you are secretly that leader’s faction, even if your other two roles are the opposite faction.

Transylvanian Pickup is a prototype from Dave “Get Bit” Chalker, and I believe it has been at Unpub in the past. There’s 18 cards featuring monsters and your current role is the monster pointing at you. On your turn you either draw a new card or cast a vote for another player (you can change it next turn if you get one). When all players have cast a vote, or instead if the deck is empty, you check for a winner based on the powers and objectives of each monster.

Shadow Hunters is a 2005 game from Yasutaka Ikeda, and it has 3 different teams you can be on, and introduces an area movement mechanic. There are several other games that have been released since that are inspired by this one.

Rick and Morty Total Rickall – some of you are parasites, some are real people. The basic mode is a simple cooperative game, but the advanced mode is full-on social deduction. There’s a bunch of characters in the middle of the table and we need to decide who to shoot. When you shoot a “real person” your hand size goes down permanently.

If a 4th “real person” character is shot, the player (and therefore team) that shot that last real character loses. Players have a small hand of action cards, and they commit to their action simultaneously but get to select their target when their turn comes around. Player identities/allegiances can shift frequently. There’s no player elimination since we are shooting NPCs instead of each other.

My new game is called GROWL. Here your hand of cards determines if you are human or a werewolf. If you ever have 3 Bite cards you are turned into a werewolf. A Charm cancels a Bite, and there are also Salves, which cancel Wounds, etc. During the game you don’t play cards from your hand, you take the top (face-up) card from the middle of the table and publicly give it to someone. So we all get to see how players’ roles are slowly being influenced. When a Night card pops up, all players get to pass a card from their hand face-down to the left, and also a card from their hand face-down to the right. Players shuffle the two cards they receive from their neighbors, so if you get bitten you won’t know for sure which neighbor bit you. At the end of the third night all wolves start growling (yes, out loud!) and the goal for humans is to have at least one human left alive (and wolves of course want no humans left alive). Check it out if interested, on Kickstarter now!

Just like any fun genre of game, social deduction hidden roles games just keep evolving and each new design inspires others. Is there ONE ultimate game of this type? No, because like any infinite magisterium, beauty can be found in strange places. Each player might be seeking something different and every game on this list might be somebody’s favorite. So go explore this exciting new world of mysterious identities and wicked deceivers!