Mafia Etiquette – How to Play Mafia and Not Ruin Friendships

January 8, 2016 - Blog

All might be fair in love and war, but in Mafia, rules are rules.  To that end, I’ve asked Mafia master, Jesse Raines, to give us some tips from his playbook on proper Mafia etiquette. If you have ever had a game of Mafia (or its popular wolf-themed clone, Werewolf) go sour,  for your own sake, read this.

Mafia Etiquette

We have all heard of the game Mafia. People play it all over the world in its varying forms and its popularity is ubiquitous. Agreeing upon the rules can be tricky, as everyone seems to have their own opinion about how the game should be conducted. Differences in rules range from the distasteful, such as each player revealing their true identity after having died, to the much more reasonable, such as needing a strict majority when voting to lynch a townsperson. Etiquette, however, should be universal. These guidelines are not strict rules to abide by, but if broken the stigma attached should be great enough to ward off any unsavory characters from being repeat offenders.

1. No back to back first-night deaths

The most helpful piece of etiquette that we try to incorporate into our mafia games concerns the first night deaths. We have all been killed off in the first round, and it is never a pleasant experience, but for it to happen two rounds in a row is infuriating. To address this flaw, both the narrator and the person killed off first from the previous round receive a free pass on the first night of the subsequent round. If this etiquette point is broken, be sure to grab your torch and pitchfork until the offender has been dealt with.

2. Leave real life out of it

Secondly, you should be mindful of the overarching custom to leave real life behind for an hour when playing. Anything said during the game should remain behind when it is all over. I have seen people swear on holy books and their own children that they are telling the truth. This ruins a game, unless of course the whole group of you are cutthroat enough to understand that anything goes when it comes to winning. However, often enough this is not the temperament of the group.

3. Never show your card

Somewhat intertwined with this last idea is that of not sharing with the group which card you received at the beginning of the round. Once again, it is perfectly possible to lie about your card but it does have its pitfalls. More often, when confronted with the noose, the player will tell the truth about the card they received, this is simply down to odds as the innocents outnumber the mafia. This has the effect of other players recognizing that the particular card is in circulation (from previous rounds) and this will lend weight – unfairly so – to their defense. Conversely, the mafia will have to lie about their card and so will not receive this benefit. Isn’t the mafia’s job hard enough already?

4. Observe due process

My penultimate point is in regard to the final defense. I have found that too often the narrator rushes through the lynching procedure without recourse to due process. Thus, before anyone can be lynched they must be entitled to – observed in reverent silence by the masses – a final defense to make their case however they so choose.

5. Peeking is a capital offense

Finally, while it is of course a rule to not open one’s eyes during the ‘night’, to break this rule is the most egregious of all. It is a thoroughly dishonorable act and is punishable by a lifetime ban from that particular circle of players. Just don’t do it.

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