Ultimate Werewolf: Inquisition (Game Review)

Ultimate Werewolf: Inquisition box

Ultimate Werewolf: Inquisition

I enjoy Are You A Werewolf?, but it’s definitely not a game I can play very often. It’s long, intense, requires a lot of players, and people are kicked out frequently. “Legend” Dan Hoffman’s Ultimate Werewolf: Inquisition fills a great niche, then, mixing the social game experience with more board game elements. It plays faster, supports a wide range of players, and keeps everyone involved throughout. Effectively, you’re playing a game of “meta-Werewolf“, since cards on the table stand in for the villagers and werewolves who get killed off, while the players divide up into secret teams and try to help their side survive.

The table has two cards for each member of the village, one face up with their power, and another face down and mixed up randomly with the others. During the day, every player chooses one power to use, and then everyone votes to “lynch” one of the face-down cards. This requires “voting cubes”, and the various powers will restore your cubes, give you information, or let you impact the vote. Then at night, one column of face-down cards is chosen, and while everyone’s eyes are closed, the werewolf players get to look at them all and choose one as their victim. Every time a someone is killed, their cards (and therefore their powers) are removed from the game, but remember that players are not connected to specific cards. Even if a werewolf player reveals themself, they remain in the game to sow havoc.

Ultimate Werewolf Inquisition Play

Survivors (and their powers) shown on the left, but their locations are hidden among the face-down cards on the right.

The system is simple, and I’d like to call it elegant. However, it is pretty confusing at first. It’s difficult for new players to grasp everything, with special rules about tracking villagers’ states, handling single-card columns, and very inconsistent iconography for the special powers. The mechanics for choosing the werewolves’ victim every night are a little fiddly, and make it likely that someone will accidentally reveal information during their first couple games. The rule book actually doesn’t help much, with all the information present but easy to overlook. Everything will seem natural before long, but it’s a bumpy start.

Ultimate Werewolf Inquisition CardsAfter that, though, this game is brilliant. It maintains most of the tension of Werewolf, but with activities that give players a lot more choices. Instead of one person being the Seer, everyone gets occasional chances to gain information, and your actions at the table provide more chances to observe behavior and falsify claims. The dynamics of the two teams take on more depth, since the Wolves get a lot more information (viewing columns each night), but the Villagers can act openly. Sometimes it is worth it for a Wolf player to stop hiding their identity and make a surprising move. For the rest of the game they’ll be able to participate, but the Villagers won’t trust them during the important votes. (This is handled much better than in games like Shadows Over Camelot or Battlestar Galactica, which I think let the traitors stay too powerful after revealing themselves.) It balances the social and gaming aspects well.

Being a Werewolf game, victory does sometimes hinge on a single (un)lucky move or a 50/50 choice about who to trust at the end. But if you like that game, you’ll find this one to be slightly less arbitrary, and without the length and player elimination that can make those events so painful. This has all the laughter, tension, and confusion that I would expect. My only real complaint (once every player is familiar with the game) is that there aren’t enough role cards. There are only fifteen roles available (counting the Werewolves and generic Villagers), and a few are similar to each other. I can see how this is a difficult game to balance and add variety to, but even so, I wish I hadn’t seen all the roles within a few games.

That complaint aside, this is the best new social deduction game I’ve seen in years. Take the time to get over the initial learning curve and give it a chance.

Grade: B+

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