Mafia Game With Cards: Rules & How to Play

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Have you ever played the social deduction game Werewolf? Its original predecessor is the Mafia game with cards, created by Dmitry Davidoff in the mid-1980s.

Dmitry Davidoff, a psychology teacher, created this game as an ingenious method of combining research with enjoyable interaction. Little did he know it would become one of the most popular role-playing party games ever created!

Years later, Andrew Plotkin introduced the Werewolf variant, believing the Werewolf theme would be more attractive to different audiences.

Here, we will guide you through the rules and gameplay of the Mafia party game so that you can try it yourself!

How to Play the Mafia Party Game

Mafia is typically played with a medium to large group. The minimum number of players is around seven, but the game becomes more dynamic with larger groups. For this reason, we recommend having at least ten players.

Mafia divides players into two main groups: the Mafiosi (the informed minority) and the Villagers (the uninformed majority). The game also requires a storyteller, who guides the players through the game.

Mafia Game Roles

  • Mafiosi: These players represent the Mafia. Their objective is to eliminate the villagers without being discovered.
  • Villagers: Villagers form the majority. They aim to identify and eliminate the Mafia members. Not aware of each other’s roles, they make the game a test of deduction and suspicion.
  • Storyteller: This role does not play but oversees and guides the game. The storyteller guides the flow of the game, announces day/night cycles, and manages the different phases.

Apart from Mafia and Villagers, there are several special roles players can have in addition to their villager role.

The roles are usually assigned randomly at the beginning of the game, often using a deck of cards where different cards represent different roles:

  • The Detective is a villager who can secretly gain information about other players’ roles.
  • The Doctor is another villager with the ability to protect players from being eliminated during the night phase.

Setting Up

To start the Mafia game with cards, it is important to have a few cards indicative of players’ roles. The storyteller then deals one card to each participant, who can only check their card privately.

The rule of thumb for a Mafia game is to include one mafia member for every three villagers and:

  • 1 Doctor
  • 1 Detective
  • The rest are normal villagers.

After determining the composition of your roles, you should make a selection of cards to be dealt accordingly. To play the Mafia game with cards, you can simply use a standard deck of playing cards and assign roles to them as shown in the image below:

Mafia Game Rules

IIn Mafia, you alternate between night and day phases. Each phase brings different actions and objectives for the players. The storyteller should understand these phases well to ensure smooth gameplay.

To give an impression of what the Mafia narrative should look like, we added storytelling parts to each subphase.

The game starts with the night phase, which proceeds as follows:

A. Night Phase

The Night phase is divided into several steps. The order is crucial, so the storyteller should understand them well. Here’s how it proceeds:

1. Mafia’s Turn

“The night shrouds the town as everyone closes their eyes. While everyone sleeps, the mafiosos wake up for their nightly activities.”

The Mafia members open their eyes and see their fellow mafiosos for the first time. Silently, they communicate, using subtle nods or gestures, to choose their unsuspecting victim.

“The mafiosos have sealed their victim’s fate. They go to bed, attempting to get some sleep before dawn.”

Having made their decision, they close their eyes again.

2. Detective’s Turn

“Lately, the detective has been working on an old murder case, suspected to be a liquidation. In the middle of the night, he wakes up with a new idea about a possible suspect.”

The detective now opens their eyes.

“Detective, whom do you suspect?”

The detective discreetly points at a fellow player, seeking the truth behind their facade.

The moderator, a keeper of secrets, silently confirms or denies the detective’s suspicion with a nod or a shake of the head.

“The detective has checked their suspicions and now returns to bed with a certain peace of mind.”

3. Doctor’s Turn

“The doctor receives a phone call in the middle of the night. A stranger has been shot and is close to death. The doctor faces a choice: Will he do everything within his reach to help the person, or will he conserve his resources?”

The doctor opens their eyes while the storyteller points at the Mafia’s murder victim. They either nod or shake their head to determine the fate of the dying player.

“The doctor has made their choice and returns to their warm bed, quickly closing their eyes.”

B. Day Phase

“As the sun rises and birds sing, a new day dawns. All villagers wake except [name of murdered player].”

1. Open Discussion

“Shocked by the news of the recent death, the villagers gather at the local market. They discuss last night’s events and decide whom they suspect most. Accusations fly, defenses are mounted, and alibis are scrutinized.”

The storyteller now announces that all villagers must have a player in mind whom they would like to put in jail.

2. Voting

“It’s time to vote.”

One by one, players cast their votes, their choices potentially sealing the fate of an innocent or unmasking a mafioso. The player with the majority vote is declared “eliminated,” their role in the town’s story ending abruptly.

3. Moment of Truth

“[Name of jailed player] is arrested and put behind bars for the rest of their life.”

Depending on the rules set by the group, the eliminated player may or may not reveal their true identity.

Each cycle of night and day reveals more of the mystery, drawing the game closer to its dramatic conclusion. Will the villagers prevail, or will the Mafia outwit them all?

C. How to Win Mafia

In a game of Mafia, one of the two factions wins: villagers or mafiosos.

  • The villagers win when all Mafia members are dead.
  • The Mafia wins when the number of mafiosos is equal to or greater than the number of remaining non-mafiosos.

Tips for a Successful Mafia Party Game

A successful game of Mafia depends on both the players and the storyteller, especially the latter, as their guidance can make or break the game.

Here are some tips to maximize your Mafia experience:

  • Effective Storytelling: The storyteller’s role is crucial. As a storyteller, aim to immerse the players in the game with a compelling narrative.
  • Clear Instructions: Ensure everyone thoroughly understands the rules. A single player uncertain about their role at a crucial moment can disrupt the game.
  • Background Music and Light Control: Enhance the Mafia atmosphere by playing a Mafia-themed playlist. Additionally, dimming the lights during the night phase can significantly add to the ambiance.

Wrap Up

The Mafia game with cards is an excellent social deduction party game, well-suited for larger groups and team building. Games like Mafia and Werewolf are always entertaining due to the random and unique situations that arise in each round.

However, it should be noted that these games are best played with friends and colleagues you’ve known for a while. During the game, you’ll be trying to identify mafiosos based on facial expressions and behavior, which can be challenging when you don’t know someone well.

If you find Werewolf and Mafia too complex, you might consider playing Wink Killer, a more simplified version of a social deduction game.

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