Werewords is a mix of 20 Questions and Werewolf—players are trying to find a word as quickly as possible, but there's a traitor in the midst trying to steer the conversation away!
Variable Player Powers
Designer: Ted Alspach
Artist: Jason Bole
Publisher: Bézier Games
Category: Party Game
Player Count: 4-10
I have a suspicion that a fair amount of our readers here at Geeks Under Grace have attended youth group at some point, maybe even some youth camps. And that means I suspect many have played Mafia, also known as Werewolf. It’s also played at many gaming conventions, so I feel doubly confident you know where I’m coming from. If you don’t, Werewolf is a game that technically doesn’t require any components, just people sitting around and lying to each other and occasionally closing their eyes. The villagers try to identify the lying werewolves before the werewolves exterminate the villagers.
Ted Alspach of Bezier Games has made Werewolf a backbone of his company, first by packaging deluxe editions of Werewolf that included all kinds of crazy roles, and then by licensing the game One Night Werewolf, giving it app integration and several deluxe treatments and spinoffs, making it “ultimate” along the way. Werewords follows the real-time trend of One Night Ultimate Werewolf, but mixes secret roles with the classic game of 20 Questions, another game I suspect you all know. This one usually involves someone asking yes/no questions, trying to identify a word before using up 20 questions (what an on-the-nose name!). Is that game better when someone is secretly trying to mess you up? Let’s find out!
There is a bit of (comical) mysticism in this game with werewolves, a seer, a beholder, and a minion. But if there’s any issue with the game, the real issue is that some players are actively trying to lie and trick each other. It’s probably less malicious than a traditional game of Werewolf / Mafia, since the lying is necessarily more subtle and less about pointing blame. There is also controversy around this game’s similarity to Insider from Oink Games. I will simply point to Ted Alspach’s rebuttal here, and say the games are sufficiently different in my mind (and that Werewords is a hundred times over the better game).
There are obvious relations to Insider in Werewords, and the public domain games mentioned in the intro, but the most popular “hobby” game I should discuss in relation to it is actually One Night Ultimate Werewolf. I love hidden role/traitor games like The Resistance, but I really, really do not like ONUW. I found that during the timed round, there’s no proper way to “begin,” so it feels like the players are just floundering and saying random things. I get I’m in the vast minority with that, and yet Werewords took care of my issue with ONUW.
In Werewords, everything centers around players trying to guess the word chosen by the Mayor. The villagers have only 4 minutes to guess, while the Werewolves try to distract and the Seer tries to help (without getting caught). It’s a fairly basic, why-didn’t-I-think-of-that formula, but several twists put it over the top. The Mayor cannot talk and can only hand out tokens saying Yes, No, or Maybe, with one So Close and one Correct (to end the round). The best twist is that the Mayor can end up being the Seer or even the Werewolf! In the latter case, the Mayor is actually allowed to lie about his answers to confuse the players (and doing that without getting caught is not easy).
There are very few components in the game—just cardboard role tiles and a bunch of tokens, and they’re done well. The components are all very thick and chunky, and I really like the art, except for the cover, which looks a little too 1980s. However, the real component for this game is your smartphone. The app handles the role selection seamlessly, keeps time, and has plenty of options, including an ability to import new word lists, making the game endlessly replayable—literally. There are two extra roles that can also be added—the Beholder and the Minion—in an addition to an extra Werewolf. My only complaint is that I wish you could play with 10 players without having to use all the advanced roles, since it makes the game harder to teach.
I just had 12 people over for an all-day gaming marathon, and I brought out about 20 games I was eager to play. We played very few of them because Werewords was played 15 times, with anywhere between 4 and 10 players, and with every combination of roles. Even my friends who strongly hate more argumentative traitor games like The Resistance found this game highly enjoyable. The addition of a linguistic element makes it appeal to more types of people, and it also requires the lying and deduction to be extremely different than most other traitor games. And yet, with all that brain concentration, it still manages to be funny, particularly when the Mayor is clueless about answering a particular question. Furthermore, the brilliant app and the relation to two well-known public domain games makes it immediately accessible.
It’s been a long time since I had a game so well received by so many people. I literally could not get them to stop and move on so we could play something else, and after a while I gave up and just continued to enjoy this awesome game. I have griped that 2016 was a year of big boxes that didn’t interest me, someone who loves family and party games. If Werewords is any indication, we’re doing just fine in 2017. Werewords is easily among the best new games I’ve played this year, and I haven’t had a single person dislike it.
Thank you to Bezier Games for providing a review copy of Werewords. Buy it here already:
+ Familiar and accessible, yet completely new
+ Subtle strategy is more interesting than other "angry yelling" traitor games
+ Linguistic element adds a whole new element
+ Wordbank is potentially limitless
+ It's exciting, tense, and really funny
- Front cover is not inviting
- Would like to play with high player counts without advanced roles
- Weak with 4 players (Excellent with 5-10)