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Game review: Hoax and Mafia Vendetta: Hidden roles can be exciting
Everyone is suspect in Mafia: Vendetta, a party game of bluffing and suspicion. Designed for seven to seventeen players, in Mafia: Vendetta some players take on the roles of Mafia members, others become the civilians of a crime-filled community. Every night the Mafia kills another person, every day the civilians have a chance to discuss the murder, choose suspects, and condemn one of them to death. Since every role is secret, you never know who is an innocent bystander, and who is part of the Mafia. If the Mafia kill off enough civilians, the community becomes a permanent haven for crime, but if the civilians rid their community of the Mafia, they win. - photo by Ryan Morgenegg
In the board gaming world, the year 2015 contained a number of fantastic social deduction and hidden role games. Fantasy Flight Games recently joined the party with two new titles: Hoax and Mafia Vendetta. Are they any good? Read on.

In the game Hoax, players are family members of a rich industrialist who has died. The goal is to inherit his fortune by exposing the identities of the other family members. But every player has a secret identity. Hoax accommodates from three to six players and lasts about 10 to 20 minutes.

To start, each player is dealt a secret identity. There are seven secret roles: the ex, the lover, the son-in-law, the distant cousin, the chef, the gardener and the butler. Each role has a privilege that they can perform such as stealing resources from other players. The three resources in the game are cash, prestige and evidence.

One of the actions a player can do on a turn is claim the privilege of a role. They can be honest or bluff. By being honest, a player claims the privilege of his or her true identity. By bluffing, the player claims the privilege of any identity in the game he or she is pretending to be.

Other players can call out "hoax" when someone is claiming a role and a quick thumbs up or down vote is taken. If the voting challenge fails, the person gets to continue and perform the action. If the voting challenge succeeds, the person being challenged can produce the claimed role and win the game or back down and take a false claim token and be penalized by never being able to claim the false role again that game.

Another action a player can complete is the investigation of another player. To do this a player must surrender one of each resource. He or she then receives four role cards from the person being investigated. One of the cards is the true identity. This action can be done as many times as can be paid for.

The final action that can be completed on a turn is to accuse someone of being a certain role. Caution is recommended because either the accuser or the person being accused will be out of the game. If the accuser is right, the player he or she accused is out of the game. If the accuser is not right, it's game over for him or her.

The game progresses until only one player is left or if one of the instant win effects of the game triggers and the game is over. Only one person can win. The components of the game are well done containing reference cards, role cards and evidence tokens. The artwork is excellent.

Overall, Hoax is a solid game. It is different from other secret role games by the gathering of evidence tokens to expose other players. It is a little longer than most social deduction games for the same reason because it takes time to gather evidence to investigate and it takes several investigations to determine secret roles. The cost is reasonable at $12.95. Click here for additional information.

Many people who have played social deduction games remember playing a homegrown game called "Mafia." Fantasy Flight Games has packaged the game in a box for the mass market with great artwork, cards and player aids called Mafia Vendetta. This version can play from seven to 17 people and takes about 20 to 45 minutes depending on the size of the group. It's great for parties.

In this game a facilitator is chosen to be the storyteller of the game. He or she will not actually play in the game but will guide it like a referee. Everybody else is considered a player and is dealt a secret role card. In general there are two teams in the game, the mafia and the civilians. Players will receive a secret role card that places them on one of these two teams.

The main concept of the game is bluffing as players try to figure out who is on what team. Only when a person is eliminated from the game does he or she actually reveal his or her true identity.

The flow of the game is led by the facilitator and goes from night, dawn and day. The night step allows players to use special abilities and the Mafia chooses a victim. The dawn step is when the facilitator announces what transpired during the night. During the day step, players vote to determine which player to kill.

This version of Mafia is cool because many of the role cards in the game have special abilities. For example the judge's vote to kill someone during the day step counts as two votes and the nurse role allows a player to protect another player from being killed. The facilitator knows who everyone is and applies the powers without revealing identities where required.

If the civilians can eliminate every member of the mafia, they will win. If at any time, the number of mafia members equals or exceeds the number of civilians, the mafia team wins.

The game includes three alternative modes that can be played. One of the modes introduces a third team called the Yakuza. Another mode increases the difficulty by not allowing eliminated players to reveal their identities when they die.

If a gamer enjoys playing a homegrown version of Mafia, this would make an ideal gift with its wonderful components and alternate modes of play. It's exciting that Fantasy Flight has given flesh to the time-tested hidden role genre with this edition of Mafia, but that is something Fantasy Flight Games excels at. This game would be a winner at social gatherings. Click here to find out more.
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