FTW Staff Picks - Secret Hitler
For The Win Board Game Cafe's Staff Picks is a weekly series where we take a quick look at some of the staff's favourite games, old and new.
Genre: Social Deduction
Designer: Mike Boxleiter, Tommy Maranges, Max Temkin
Player Size: 5 to 10 Players
Game Length: 45 minutes
For fans of: Avalon, Werewolf, Mafia
Love it or hate it, Cards Against Humanity has placed itself among the classics in the tabletop world. It's not the most unique or even funny game in the genre, but it's impossible to debate its impact on the industry. Today, there are dozens of "dark" spinoffs of popular party games like Anomia X, Cranium Dark and Telestrations After Dark, just to name a few. So while you don't have to appreciate the game, you have to respect the hustle. The boys behind the mega-hit have had a few attempts at building a new, successful game. They certainly love controversial themes to paint their endeavours. And with Secret Hitler, they may have just found their next hit.
Secret Hitler is a social deduction party game, akin to the likes of the more modern adaptations of Werewolf and Mafia. It's like Avalon, Good Cop, Bad Cop, Bang! but at the same time, very different. In Secret Hitler, players are divided into two teams: Liberals & Fascists. Among the Fascists is none other than Hitler himself. In order to claim victory, the Liberals must either pass 5 Liberal Policies or assassinate Hitler. The Fascists on the other hand, must pass 6 Fascist Policies or successfully elect Hitler as Chancellor.
Like all deduction games, there is the element of hidden roles. Fascists know who one another are, and who Hitler is but Hitler doesn't know who his own teammates are. And the Liberals are left in the dark entirely. The Policy deck is unevenly skewed with 11 Fascist Policies and just 6 Liberal Policies. Presidency moves around the table like the Group Leader in Avalon. The President chooses a player to nominate as Chancellor and everyone votes on the proposed government. If successful, the President will draw the top 3 Policies, hand 2 to the Chancellor, who will then decide which of the 2 he/she will pass. As the game progresses, and Fascist policies are enacted the current President of the round will receive very powerful abilities.
Avalon is among my favourite games of all-time. I've played it hundreds of times, without exaggeration. When I read the rulebook to Secret Hitler I was anticipating an overbearing, bloated experience with too many added rules to a genre where less is usually more. I couldn't have been more wrong. Every nuance in Secret Hitler is there for a reason. Unlike Werewolf or Avalon, players have a much easier time lying and being a "bad guy" because the mechanics of the game allow that breathing room. Passing Fascist policies can advance Liberal motives. The stacked deck often forces Liberals to pass Fascist policies. There are a handful of pre-built excuses for any Fascist claiming to be Liberal. it makes the game more forgiving to new players, while keeping everyone involved. I really enjoyed the change of pace Secret Hitler offered, and I can only hope it remains fresh after as many plays as I've had with Avalon.