I think I’m also finally in the right mindset where I can write a cohesive review for One Night Ultimate Werewolf, so let’s give it a whirl. I figure I can publish two reviews at once if I want — I’ve got reviews to spare. If you’re looking for the expansion, One Night Ultimate Werewolf Daybreak, I’ve also reviewed that here.
In One Night Ultimate Werewolf, you’re a member of a town that’s been constantly plagued by Werewolves, and honestly, you’re getting kind of sick of it. They’re lowering the property value with all the murders, they’re climbing in your windows and snatching people up, and they’re being prominently featured in pretty terrible teen romance movies. All in all, it has to stop, and you’ve decided it has to stop tonight. Tomorrow, you’re gonna kill a Werewolf. At least, once you figure out who the Werewolves are..
That being said, a lot can change in one night, and maybe you’ll end up a bit more sympathetic to the Werewolf cause than you expected…
So, if you’re going to play One Night Ultimate Werewolf, before you do anything else, download the One Night App. It’s on iOS and Android. Just. Do. It. I’ll explain why in a bit.
You’ll notice there are a bunch of role cards and tokens:
Select N + 3 roles (where N is the number of players you have) and their respective tokens. Place the tokens in the center, and deal one role to each player face-down. Put the remaining three roles in the center, so your setup looks like so:
You’re ready to start.
So, there are two phases in One Night Ultimate Werewolf: The Night, in which people perform the actions dictated by their roles, and the Day, in which people discuss among themselves to try and figure out what happened during the Night, and more importantly, who the Werewolves are.
At the end of the Day, the town collectively votes to kill a Werewolf — whoever receives the most votes is killed. If they’re a Werewolf, the Village team wins. If they’re a Village team member, the Werewolf team wins. If there’s a tie (with each player receiving two or more votes), both players are killed. If either player is a Werewolf, the Village team wins. Sometimes you gotta make sacrifices.
The night begins by having every player close their eyes, and then the roles are performed in order from 1 to 9. If the token for your role has no number on it, you do not wake up during the night. This is where the app is SUPER helpful — it tells each character when to wake up and what action to perform so that nobody forgets and without one player having to either sit out and moderate or moderate with their eyes closed (one is less fun, the other is hard).
Before you can play the night, you need to know what each role does. Let’s do that. I’m going to go in order, with one exception (The Doppleganger), which I will explain last. Note that when you perform your role during the night, you perform the role you started with. This means that if you get switched for some reason but started as, say, the Minion, you perform the Minion’s action. Unless otherwise stated, once the night starts, you are not allowed to look at your role card again for the rest of the game.
Meet the Roles
These guys are the real deal, like, people who turn into wolves during full moons and stuff. That being said, my friend subscribes to a theory that they’re just normal Werewolves trying to live their lives in this village when the entire town rises up to try and kill them for no reason. I haven’t met anyone else who believes that, but hey, everyone’s entitled to their opinion. During the night, the Werewolves open their eyes and see the other Werewolf. You may also want to open your hand / wave to make sure you don’t miss them. If you are playing with the Lone Wolf Option and you don’t see another Werewolf when you open your eyes, the lone Werewolf can look at one card in the center. This helps give them more information, which they usually need, unless they just see the other Werewolf, which is a bummer.
This guy is a Werewolf groupie for some reason, despite not actually being a Werewolf. He lives (and dies!) to serve his Werewolf masters. During the night, the Werewolves stick out their thumbs and keep their eyes closed. The Minion opens his eyes and sees who the Werewolves are. This helps him know who he should try to protect, because, if he dies, Team Werewolf still wins. Unless it’s a tie between him and another Werewolf. Basically he’s a member of the Village team playing to help the Werewolf team.
Masons are helpful, but a bit boring. During the night, the Masons open their eyes and see each other. This just means they are both Masons. That’s all. Incidentally, do you know who else opens their eyes and gets to see another person on their team? Werewolves.
The Seer has mystical powers, and can use that to reveal someone’s true identity. Sometimes. During the night, the Seer can view another player’s role card or two cards in the center. Personally, I find that looking at the center cards is usually much better than looking at another player’s role card, but that’s just my opinion.
This Robber is more of an identity thief than an actual robber, but sometimes he gets more than he bargained for. During the night, the Robber swaps his role card with any other player’s. He then looks at his new role card. This is fun, because you might get a role you didn’t want. More on that later.
This is a great role, if you enjoy chaos. During the night, the Troublemaker swaps two other players’ role cards (not including their own). They do not look at either. So all you know is that Player A is now whatever Player B was and vice-versa. Usually to great comical effect.
Every party has that one guy. This guy, however, takes blacking out to a whole new level. During the night, the Drunk swaps his role card with any card in the center. He does not look at his new role. I want to emphasize that the Drunk doesn’t look at his new role a few more times, because someone always forgets. This does mean that the Drunk has no idea what he ended up as, however. Very exciting!
This poor woman is having trouble sleeping. As such, during the night, the Insomniac wakes up and looks at their own role card. This way, they know if someone swapped their card around or something during the night, as well as what they are now.
Hunter (No number; does not wake during Night)
The Hunter has an itchy trigger finger. Probably too itchy, if I’m being perfectly honest. They don’t wake up during the night, but if they’re killed during the day, the person they’re pointing to is killed as well. Makes things a bit more dangerous for the Werewolves, I guess, but honestly I never play with him so I wouldn’t really know.
Villager (No number; does not wake during Night)
The Villager is boring and has no special powers. They also do not wake up during the night. That’s it.
Tanner (No number; does not wake during Night)
You think you hate your job? You haven’t met the Tanner. This guy hates his job so much that he only wants one thing: the sweet release of death. Naturally, you’d be happy to oblige, but assisted suicide is kind of a complex societal topic and honestly you’re just here to kill Werewolves. While the Tanner doesn’t wake up during the night, if they’re killed during the day, only the Tanner wins. Yup. You read that right. They’re essentially a third team trying to trick other players into killing them. Note that if they die in a tie, they still win, but if a Werewolf is killed as well, the Village team also wins. Aggressive.
You might notice that having the Tanner means that getting a tie game is almost impossible with certain configurations. That’s generally true. In games with the Tanner, we house rule that a player must get at least three votes to be killed (rather than at least two). This means you can still avoid killing anyone without the Tanner interfering (if you believe that no player is a Werewolf, which almost never happens). I’m not sure if that’s an actual rule or an errata, but that’s how we play.
This one is confusing, so I would strongly advise not playing it your first game. It’s just generally not a good thing for a new player to get, and here’s why. At the beginning of the night, the Doppleganger looks at another player’s role card. They are now also that role. Yup! They copy another player’s role card perfectly, as though there were two (or more!) of that role in play. This means that:
- They open their eyes for the Werewolf team or the Mason team, if they turn into a Werewolf or Mason, respectively.
- They immediately do their action if they are one of:
- If they are the Doppleganger-Insomiac, they go after the Insomniac goes, making them the last to wake up during the night.
- If they are the Doppleganger-Tanner, they are not on a team with the other Tanner. Rather, each Tanner is trying to win for themselves alone. That complicates things.
Naturally, this causes the Night to take much longer and introduces some weird effects (since normally all the roles progress in a certain order and the Doppleganger can mess with that order by going first). Use at your own risk, but it’s one of my favorite roles in this set. They also keep their role if their role is swapped or stolen, meaning that if you end up as a Doppleganger, you have no idea what you are now. Good luck!
Some suggestions during the night:
- Play some music. It helps distract from any noises players may make while they’re moving around.
- Lift the cards, don’t slide them. They make noise sliding against the table and if you hear two cards sliding once the Troublemaker’s turn is up, you know they’re not in the center.
- Move the cards around before everyone opens their eyes. Just reach forward and swish your card around a bit. Not everyone puts cards back in the same spot, so you want to make sure you can’t tell which cards got moved during the night.
Once you’ve done that, the Day begins! This is where players try to piece together the events of the Night to establish who did what, when, and consequently who is a Werewolf. You are under no obligation to tell the truth, and you might find that telling the truth is non-optimal, if you’d like to not die. Different players have different objectives, so just talk it out and try to catch players in lies or make bold claims. Whatever gets someone on the team you want killed killed, works. More on that in Strategy.
After time runs out, all players vote on a countdown from three (basically every player votes simultaneously), and whoever gets the most votes is killed (barring a tie, in which each player with the most votes dies). Again, if the Tanner is killed, he wins; if no Werewolf and no Tanner is killed, the Werewolves win; and if at least a Werewolf is killed, the Village team wins!
Player Count Differences
No real player count differences; it’s just not that fun with any fewer than five players, in my opinion. Basically, play Coup with < 5, play Spyfall with 5+, play this with 6+, and / or play Avalon with 7-10. If you’re looking for bluffing games, at least.
This is a bit hard to quantify, since it’s fairly dependent on your group. I’ll try to give general tips, but your mileage on this advice may vary wildly.
- Remember the order in which roles take their actions. A lot of players (especially new players, sorry) forget this, and this is an easy way to disprove claims. If someone is saying that they swapped their role with someone via the Robber after the Troublemaker swapped, they are either lying or forgetful, as the Robber always goes first. That being said, keep in mind that a Doppleganger can change things up.
- Don’t always share all the information you have with the table. If you give the Werewolves more information, it helps strengthen their claims since they can make more internally consistent arguments. Plus, it also helps roles like the Drunk. Since they don’t know what their role is, if you as the Seer state that you saw a “good” (non-Werewolf) role in the center, a Drunk will usually claim that is the card they swapped with, since it’s known to be good. Sometimes people will say that they were the Troublemaker but will only tell you who they swapped later, for instance.
- It’s okay to lie if you’re on the Village team. As the Troublemaker or Robber, it’s often helpful to lie about who you swapped / swapped with. This causes that player to potentially believe that they’re no longer a Werewolf, so they might either reveal that they were originally a Werewolf or tell you who their partner was. Either way, that’s helpful information to trick someone into providing. I wouldn’t recommend this with Robber unless you have another player who can back up that you’re not actually a Robber who stole the Werewolf.
- Use the tokens to indicate what people are generally believed to be. I find this is a helpful visual tool so that we can see who has claimed what and if that’s likely or even feasible. Sometimes it is! Sometimes it’s not. I also think that’s how the game’s supposed to work?
- Beware the Tanner. Normally someone suspicious that got caught in a lie might be a Werewolf. Sometimes, however, they’re just the Tanner trying to appear to be a Werewolf so that you will kill them instead. They’re sneaky. Speaking of the Tanner…
- Tanner: Make sure you’re not lying too well. There are very few things sadder as the Tanner than claiming Drunk and that you swapped with a good card in the center and every other player is like “yeah, that makes sense.” At that point, nobody suspects you of being a Werewolf, which is a bummer. That being said, also don’t be too obviously lying, or people will assume you’re just the Tanner trying to get yourself killed.
- Seer: Always look at two cards in the center. I haven’t heard a lot of convincing arguments for why, in most games of vanilla One Night Ultimate Werewolf, the Seer shouldn’t just look at both center cards. If you have a strong feeling on this, lemme know in the comments! I’d love to be proven wrong.
- Werewolves: Generally, try to synergize. Either have one claim Robber and say he stole X role from you or another claim Troublemaker and that he swapped you with someone else or something where you corroborate each other. Generally, players look favorably on corroborated stories, so they’re more likely to believe that you’re telling the truth. It also helps if you’re Lone Wolf and you try to claim a role in the center that you saw, but it means you’ll likely conflict with the Seer.
- If you’re going to lie, prep your story in advance. You know what roles are in play, and if you’ve got a consistent story it’ll be that much harder to contradict you. If someone does, prepare for a fight. You might lose, but who cares? This game takes like 10 minutes to play.
- People have biases. Exploit them. My group, for instance, tends to really like plausible stories and preferences earlier claims to later ones. So, in order to lie well, you should just claim a role early and give enough information that it’s plausible that you were that role. Easier said than done, of course, but play a bit with your group to try and figure it out.
A lot more of this is subject to the roles in play and your group. Just try to have fun with it.
Pros, Mehs, and Cons
- So. Fast. You really can’t hate this game too much when it takes 10 minutes (unless you just generally don’t like social deduction games)! It means that you can play a round while another player uses the bathroom, or you can quickly add new players in. It’s a great game to have going at a board game night or party because of the short time per round.
- Reasonably easy to pick up. Once you understand what the roles do, their names become fairly intuitive and you start needing the guide less.
- Comes with a really solid free app. The app is great and if you’re going to play you really need to get it. Seriously. When you do, try the Disco music.
- Nice art. I like it a lot, actually.
- Very fun, but heavy on bluffing. This is much more a “catching other players in a lie” game than say, Spyfall. That might not be a great feature for everyone, but I like it a lot, mostly because of how fast it is.
- You end up with fun stories. I really enjoy when a game has a “oh, and then this happened” moment that you can talk about after the game ends. A perfect lie at the right time led your team to success? A Werewolf tried to lie and got shut down instantly? Anything can happen. A lot of fun.
- I am told it’s fun to watch. My housemate isn’t a huge fan of bluffing games but still enjoys watching the arguments and deductions happen, since you can see who wakes up and does what during the night. I’ve spectated a few rounds and it’s pretty fun. Maybe worth streaming via Twitch?
- The cards / tiles / whatever wear really easily. Just something I’ve noticed. I should probably get sleeves for them or something, but the paint’s wearing off of a few of my role cards already.
- Villagers are really boring. That’s just my opinion. I never play with them because I think they’re just crushingly unfun. Everyone wants to be special, after all.
- Seeing a Werewolf in the center as the Lone Wolf is really disappointing. You have a 1/3 chance of that happening (since if there is no other Werewolf in play it must be in the center), but it still sucks when it does.
- Fairly random. A lot of the game is made or broken by your group, the roles in play, who gets what role, and who you arbitrarily decide to swap or look at or copy. This game has a lot of entropy to it, and it’s fairly chaotic. That’s not for everyone.
- Very easy to unbalance. There are a lot of variables, so it’s sometimes difficult to find a good mix of roles such that Werewolves are winning a reasonable percentage of the time. I think the expansion (Daybreak) fixes that, a bit, but also adds more complexity (as expansions can do).
- Some rounds you will just lose. Sometimes the Seer looks at your card and you’re a Werewolf and nobody swapped your card. The town kills you, you die, and you lose. That sucks, but at least it’s a short game. I think usually if that happens without any discussion it usually means that either you got really screwed or you didn’t bluff well or quickly enough. Sometimes, though, you just get unlucky.
- Everyone messes up at least their first game. They open their eyes at the wrong time, keep them open for too long, forget their role, play the wrong role, forget to perform their role, out themselves as a Werewolf or Tanner, or any other conceivable round-ending mistake. You just have to deal with it for the first game. This makes it hard to sell new players, imo, since you’re generally having to tell them “you probably won’t understand your first game, but just play like 3 rounds”. It also makes it really hard for Team Werewolf to win if the new player is on Team Werewolf, from my experience.
Overall: 8.75 / 10
Overall, this is one of my favorite party games. Usually I’ll throw it on as the party starts to die down, and we’ll just play it until we can’t. I like the role combinations, I like the bluffing, and I like the chaotic and frenetic nature of the game. That being said, I think Daybreak is a massive improvement (whereas I hear One Night Ultimate Vampire adds a bit too much to the game), so keep an eye out for that review in the future. Basically, if you enjoy role-based bluffing games, there’s no reason not to add this to your collection, unless you already own it.