Reviewed by Chris Wray
WEREWORDS (Bezier Games, 4 to 10 players, ages 8 and up, 15-30 minutes; 19.95; Deluxe Edition $24.95)
Werewords was a big hit when it arrived two years ago, and it has been receiving renewed attention in recent weeks due to its Spiel des Jahres nomination. I’m a big fan of the game: I have 45 logged plays of Werewords and an additional 48 plays of the Werewords: Deluxe Edition, which was released last year and includes additional roles and features.
Werewords is an awesome mashup of a word game and a social deduction game, and it has often been described as “Twenty Questions” meets “Werewolf.” The theming is nominal: the Mayor of the village has found a magic word and, if everybody says it together, the Werewolves will be banished from the village. Unfortunately, knowing this magic word has rendered the Mayor speechless so that he may only answer yes/no questions with the use of tokens. The Seer knows the word but she must hide from the Werewolves and the Werewolves know the word but are trying to lead the Village astray.
Werewords uses a free app — available on both iOS and Android — to facilitate gameplay. To set up, take the Mayor card, Seer card, Werewolf card, and Villager cards so that the total number of cards is one more than the number of players. Each player takes a card, looks at it. Then the Mayor flips up his or her card and takes the remaining face-down card.
At this point, players will begin relying on the app and the night phase begins. All players shut their eyes and the Mayor wakes up and selects his role on the screen (Villager, Seer, or Werewolf). Yes, the Mayor may also be the Seer or Werewolf! And the Mayor doesn’t necessarily have to tell the truth.
The Mayor then chooses his word from a list of 1-5 words with players being able to customize the difficulty of the words available. There are four levels of word difficulty: Easy, Medium (the default), Hard, and Ridiculous. There are tens of thousands of words in the app and users can also type in custom words.
The Mayor goes to sleep and then the app tells the Seer to wake up and view the word.
Then the Seer goes back to sleep and the app tells the Werewolf to wake up and view the word. The night phase is now finished.
During the day phase, the app runs a timer. Players ask the mayor simple “yes” or “no” questions to try to identify the word such as, “Is it an item?” or “Is it bigger than a breadbox?”
The mayor hands a player a token to answer each question. The tokens are “yes,” “no,” “so close,” and “maybe.” Players should only ask one question at a time, and the Mayor may only communicate by passing tokens.
If the villagers guess the word, the Mayor presses the “Correct” button on the app. The Werewolf shows his card. The Werewolf still has the chance to win if he can guess the Seer, but if not, the Village team wins.
If time runs out, or if the Mayor has to press the “No More Tokens” button, the Village can still win if they guess the Werewolf in a vote after one minute of discussion.
At higher players counts, or with with the Deluxe Edition, additional roles can be worked in.
The production value is solid and it is certainly better in more recent editions (and the Deluxe Edition). The use of tokens is also a nice touch. It makes it easier to track who has been asking a lot of questions, and what kind of answers they have been getting. Gameplay morphs as you play, and based on who you play with. My advice: don’t let a player go silent, even if they normally play that role in social deduction games. Everybody needs to talk so you can get a feel for what their role is so if you see somebody without tokens, make them speak up.
I’m a bit of a social deduction aficionado: I’ve collected and played dozens and dozens of them. And Werewords is brilliant, an awesome mashup of a word game and a social deduction game. It is worthy of its Spiel des Jahres nomination, in part because it is streamlined and approachable but also because of the innovative use of the app. With so many words included, Werewords has a high degree of replayability. Throw in the fact that gameplay lasts less than ten minutes and you have a game that will work in a variety of gaming situations with gamers and non-gamers alike. Werewords is incredibly engaging: we had laugh-out-loud fun with this, and if your group loves social deduction games, I expect they will too. It’s my pick for SdJ, and I wish publisher Bezier Games and designer Ted Alspach best of luck in this awards season. – – – – – Chris Wray
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