Wednesday, December 26, 2007


With such a large family it's difficult to find games that we can all play. Mafia is one such game that must be played with lots of people. At least 9 makes it an interesting game, plus a narrator or host.

Developed in the Soviet Union in the Psych dept of a university (according to Wikipedia), it's a fascinating game to play and to watch as various forms of group dynamics and social psychological interaction take place. Essentially, 1/3 of the players are Mafia, cops are a third of the size of the Mafia, and if you're generous, one nurse. We had 14-15 people play, so 5 Mafia, 2 cops, and one nurse. My brother, the narrator, also created a storyline based in Oakland.

Game play goes like this. A number of cards are designated the various roles. Each person picks a card and doesn't reveal their card to anyone. They then put it face down on the ground in front of them. At Sundown, everyone puts their heads down/closes their eyes. The narrator then asks the Mafia to awaken to acknowledge who each other is. Then after they close their eyes, he asks the Cops to awaken, followed by the Nurse, so that the narrator knows who picked what. Only you know the people in your own group, except for the innocents who know nothing.

First Sunrise, everyone wakes up. Anyone can accuse anyone else of being Mafia. Once a 2nd for the accused is gathered, arguments ensue and the accused has final say for defending themselves. Arguments are rather silly sometimes, "it's just a feeling," "he looked suspicious," etc. Later on, people are watching voting patterns and reactions of players after certain votes, so those observations come into play. A vote is taken and majority rules. If a majority believe they are Mafia, then their card is revealed and they "die" or leave the game. If not, their card stays face down.

At the next Sundown, the Mafia are awakened and silently choose a victim to kill off. The Cops are then awakened and choose one person to see their card. The Nurse can then choose someone to "save" ala Survivor immunity idol.

At Sunrise, the one the Mafia chose is revealed, unless the Nurse saved them. Arguments then open to accuse another supposed Mafia person. At this point the cops may know who the Mafia is, but must play a careful game to not reveal themselves too much, as Cops make a nice target for the Mafia.

In our game play, the Innocents (non-Mafia players) win when they off all the Mafia. The Mafia win when the Mafia is equal to the number of Innocents playing the game.

Actually, both games I ended up being part of the Mafia. First time around it was pretty kick back as the general innocent populous went around accusing everyone who wasn't Mafia and we as the Mafia simply joined the voting crowd.

The second game was a bit trickier and I had to vote against two of my Mafia team members. I had to, as they say in the movies, "It's nothing personal, it's just business." You could tell that the younger players took it more personally then the older ones. But hey, the game is Mafia vs Innocents and you can't save everyone. As the Mafia, you have to make sure you don't get into a voting block. When I was being accused I used the argument that I voted off my fellow Mafia twice, why would I do that? Well, obviously that's not really a good argument, because I was still Mafia, but for the moment of emotional spontaneity it worked.

The hubby thought about playing, but decided to videotape the group dynamics instead. Plus if he was in the game, and I was Mafia and he wasn't, we would have offed him first thing. Do you really want people who can read you still in the game? Plus he would have been viewed as "too smart". Sorry, honey, you'd have to go. Nothing personal, just business, why don't you take a nice fishing trip on the lake. My cousin's husband was in the game as well, so we took him out quickly. We told him later, it was for the insurance money.

Unfortunately for the Innocents, even with only three Mafia left, too many Innocents went bye-bye either by us or by vote.

Playing Mafia is almost like a giant game of Clue. My brother first introduced us the game about 6 years ago. One time we had some 25 folks playing, people were losing their voices. It was crazy fun!