Lupus in Tabula
("Werewolves at the Table") is a new version of the classic Mafia/Werewolf game, produced by daVinci Games and Mayfair.
Playing Time: 20-60 minutes
Difficulty: 1 (of 10)
Unlike almost all of my reviews, this is not a playtest review, because I rarely get 9-25 people together to game. However, I have chatted with people who do play Werewolf games and have also compared the game to other versions on the market.
Lupus in Tabula comes with:
Cards: Lupus comes with: 27 role cards (3 of which are blank); 26 angry mob cards; and 10 summary cards (only 5 of which include English text).
The role cards each depict a certain type of player (villager, werewolf, seer, etc.) along with an icon at the top left to identify what the role is. The angry mob cards are used for voting, and just depict an angry mob (with a ghost on the back, for when that player dies). Finally, the summary cards identify all the role icons and also lists the sequence of special powers.
Each card is printed on medium-weight coated, linen-textured cards with rounded corner. They have all attractive, cartoonish art on them. Particularly notable is the fact that among the dozen peasant cards there are six different pieces of art, and even the repeats have been colored differently. This eye to detail is really nice.
The only problem with the cards is one typical for daVinci releases: internationalization. The individual role cards don't list the actual names of the roles, nor do they describe their powers in the least. The game would definitely have been easier to play if they had, though with a gamemaster describing things in Lupus, it's probably not an entirely serious issue.
Rulebook: The rulebook is a large black and white rulesheet printed in four different languages.The English rules take up half of one side of the rule sheet. They're unillustrated, but still pretty easy to follow. There are also some tips and variant rules.
Overall, Lupus is a well-produced game available at a very reasonable price. The game's only issue is usability, with regard to the role cards having no real information on them. On balance, the game still earns a "4" out of "5" for Style.
In Lupus in Tablua if you're a werewolf you're trying to kill the humans, and if you're a human you're trying to kill the werewolves.
Setup: The game begins with choosing a moderator, then handing out role cards to all the players. Two or three players will be werewolves (depending on total player numbers), one player will be a seer, a number of players will be villagers, and some players may have special roles (more on them later). These role cards are kept secret.
Order of Play: The game play is broken into two broad parts, which repeat in order: day and night. Each night someone is eaten by a werewolf, then each day someone is lynched.
Night: In the basic game, there are two phases during the night: the seer phase and the werewolf phase. The night begins with everyone closing their eyes. It's generally suggested that people hum, tap, or whatever during the night to cover up accidental noises.
The Seer Phase. The moderator then asks the seer to open his eyes and to silently select another player. The moderator then gives a thumbs up or a thumbs down, depending on if the player is a werewolf or a human. The seer then closes his eyes.
The Werewolf Phase. The moderator then asks then werewolves to open their eyes. They identify each other, then silently select a player who they kill. The werewolves then close their eyes.
(The first night the moderator is "killed", allowing everyone to play a full round of the game; this is a change from the rules in older Werewolf games, and probably a good one.)
Day: Everyone now opens their eyes and the moderator identifies who has been killed; that person may no longer talk. The rest of the players now discuss for three minutes who they think are werewolves. The seer may be able to give some pointers, but if he's too explicit, he will become a target for the werewolves. Likewise, other players (usually the werewolves) can pretend to be the seer (but this of course has its own dangers).
After the discussion, each player takes his angry mob card and places it in front of another player. The two players with the most votes (or more in case of a tie) are nominated. Then, the nominees gets to make a speech to defend themselves, then everyone gets to vote one more time, on who should be lynched out of the nominees. The "winner" is lynched and out of the game.
(The nominee process is also new for this version of the game; most Werewolf variants just have a one-step voting process.)
Now, a new night begins ...
The Lupus rules say that cards are not revealed when people die. This seems to vary from one version of the game to another. (In this case it's also important for one of the special roles.)
Winning the Game: The humans win if all the werewolves are eliminated. The werewolves win if the number of humans drops to the number of remaining werewolves (in which case the werewolves openly kill the remaining humans).
Special Cards: The game can work exactly as described for 8-15 players. However, there are also special roles cards, most of which act toward normal human victory conditions, but which have special powers, thus giving more players the opportunity to have a unique play each game. Here's the special characters included in Lupus:
- Medium: Human. During night he learns if the last person lynched was
human or werewolf.
- Freemasons: Humans. The two freemasons open their eyes on the first night to identify each other.
- Possessed: Human. Sides with the werewolves without knowing who they are.
- Werehamster: "Human". Can't be killed by werewolves, but is killed if selected by the Seer. Is the only winner if he is still alive when the game ends.
- Mythomaniac: Variable. On the second night points toward another player. If they are a werewolf or a seer, he becomes that role. Otherwise, he stays a human.
Life & Death:
- Bodyguard: Human. Secretly protects one player at night, who is actually safe if choosen by the werewolves.
- Owl: Human. At night chooses a player who will automatically be the second nominee for voting the next day.
Variant Rules: The rules have one variant for 'ghosts' which allow dead players to vote once the nominees have been selected. They still have to close their eyes at night, just like the other players, they don't get their special abilities any more, and they still can't talk.
Relationships to Other Games
The game of Lupus in Tabula apparently dates back to a game called Murder which first appeared in the 1960s and featured one murderer, one detective, and a number of potential victims.
The modern game of Mafia was probably invented in 1986 by Dimitry Davidoff. It included two gangsters, one angel (or alternatively a knight-commandant), and a bunch of innocent citizens.
Andrew Plotkin rethemed it to Werewolf, probably around 1997.
Lupus in Tabula is an extension of the core Mafia/Werewolf game with one notable addition: nominating potential lynching victims before the final vote. In addition, as with most of the Werwolf games that support more people, Lupus has a number of special roles. They're a fairly standard combination of special info, special victory, and power over life and death, though the Owl is a nice addition because it takes special advantage of the nomination process used in this version of the game.
Lapus in Tablua is one of three Werewolf games that I'm aware of that are currently in professional production. The other two are The Werewolves of Millers Hollow by lui-meme and Are You a Werwolf? by Looney Labs.
Of the three, Are You a Werewolf? is a plainly produced version of the game without the whistles and bells of special characters. It's also a cheaper version of the game ($4).
The Werewolves of Millers Hollow, on the other hand, is a very comparably produced version of the game. It's about the same price ($11) and also is a full-color production. Of the two, I like Lupus in Tabula better, because: it's slightly cheaper; it supports up to 7 more people; besides the role character cards you also get those lynching cards; and I find the role cards slightly more intuitive (like Lupus, Millers Hollow has no names on the roles, but the artwork on the latter is so abstractly artistic, that the Millers Hollow cards are harder to figure out). The Millers Hollow cards also have a few roles that I find overly complex (though I'd say the same of Lupus' werehamster). About the only reason that you might choose The Werewolves of Millers Hollow over Lupus in Tabula is that the card artwork on the former is very, very pretty.
Werewolf has probably also encouraged other hidden-role games, but the only one I'm particularly aware of is Bang!, also produced by daVinci Games.
The Game Design
Lupus in Tabula's main selling point is that it can support large numbers of players: 25 to be precise in this version of the game, and you could add more if you wanted (starting with those 3 blank cards in the box).
Lupus manages this by keeping a large number of people involved at any time. During the night there's some waiting around as individuals take their turns, but it's fairly short. Then, during the day, everyone gets to participate at once.
Traditionally most of the members of the Werewolf/Mafia family of game have two flaws:
Only a Few People Get to Be the Werewolf: This game works fine for a play or two, but afterward some people will start to get antsy because they keep having to play villagers. Like most versions of this game, Lupus solves this problem with extra roles that are essentially humans with special powers. As I said above, some of them are a bit complex, but the rest are generally nice adds that will give players a good feeling about being special in a game (though, perhaps, too many of them add special steps for the moderator to run through at night).
Players Are Knocked Out of the Game: Day by day, players are totally knocked out of the game. This is the most troublesome for people who are knocked out early, but Lupus tries to make sure everyone gets at least one day to play by having the moderator knocked out on the first day (though this gives the seer an extra question, which can be troublesome). Also, the ghosts variant has the potential to at least keep players somewhat involved, though I don't think it's sufficient.
Overall, Lupus in Tabula is a very good game if you want something for a large group to play. It earns a high "4" out of "5" for Substance.
Lupus in Tabula is a variant of the classic Mafia/Werewolf game that's been played at parties for the last decade or so. It's very well produced and tries to correct some of the game design issues with the original game, and overall looks like the best high-quality edition of the game currently on the market.