Review -Secret Hitler

On a Friday Night, my friend Matt wanted the gamers to try a new game that was made available on Kickstarter via print and play. He said that he wanted to play test this hidden identity game and see if it was worth playing or even purchasing.

To give you a bit of context, I used to like hidden identity games. The first game I played, and even started moderating was Werewolf. Whether I was on the good side and was trying to identify tells that people were making as they were lying, or (my favourite) on the bad side trying to scheme my way in advancing the bad team’s plans, I thoroughly enjoyed these games for its rich conversation, even though there were moments where you would just yell out of frustration.

But then these types of games became repetitive. The same cycle would occur for each round of the same game. There would be a round of random accusations where people would justify that the person next to them because of some mild hunch they had, or because they had talked in a certain way to another player, or because they had just stayed quiet throughout the game. There was very little concrete information for people to go on, and players were making accusations out of weak assumptions.

In other words, I got ousted a lot…

So at the gaming table, Matt pulls out a box that was designed to store keyboards, and  had printed out black and white versions of the game cards. With a little glue, some lavender construction paper, and a bit of time and ingenuity, Matt managed to replicate the  fully functioning print and play game “Secret Hitler”. Once we got the game going, just like with any hidden identity game we play, people started yelling, screaming, accusing and ultimately trying to complete their team’s political goals.

Just like any other Friday Night…so was his time and effort worth it?

photo-originalSecret Hitler is a Kickstarter board game created by Max Temkin and has been fully backed, raising over 1.3 million dollars in funds. The game is expected to to be delivered to its backers in April 2016. The game takes place in Germany in the 1930s and is based on the political agenda of Hitler and his rise to power at that time. In the game, players are given secret roles; they either represent the Liberals or the Fascists. The Liberals want to enact Liberal policies and stop, and even kill Hitler, while the Fascists want to enact Fascist policies and make Hitler the chancellor. Whichever political party is able to complete their objective first wins the game.

To start, players are given envelopes which have a role card, a political party card, and a voting ballot card. Once players know their roles, every player closes their eyes. Then, when instructed, who ever received the role of Hitler will put his or her thumb up while everybody’s eyes are closed. The Fascists then will open their eyes, acknowledge each other and also know who Hitler is. The Fascists will close their eyes again, and then all the players will open their eyes.

One person is then appointed as president. This person gives a placard to whoever they want as chancellor. Players now vote on whether or not they like the current political landscape. If they do, the president will draw three policy cards and select two to give to the chancellor, while the other card is discarded face down. It is then the chancellor’s responsibility to enact one of these two policies, while discarding the other card. The policy cards either say Fascist or Liberal, so whatever card is revealed by the chancellor is the policy that has been enacted. The presidency is passed to the next person, and the actions are then repeated.

The twist in this game is in this enacting of policies. The three policy cards were drawn at random and can be any number of Liberal or Fascist policies. It is up to the group to decide whether or not the President or the Chancellor were telling the truth in what cards were drawn. A Fascist policy could have been enacted simply because all the cards drawn were Fascist and the government didn’t have a choice. Or it could have been possible that during the discarding phases, that either the president or chancellor put Liberal policies into the discard pile, and thus advancing the Fascist political agenda. The debate then begins, with people making accusations and using their powers of observation to deduce who is telling the truth. 41b9be58f0f9e44bba0e608bff704fe7_original

Another interesting thing about the game is that as more Fascist policies start coming into play, the more special abilities that the Liberals get. Players may be able to nominate a new president out of turn order, or investigate another player’s identity, or even kill another player, and hope that they have successfully assassinated Hitler. Keep in mind that placing these powers in the wrong hands may hinder the Liberal team.

Secret Hitler puts a different spin on a popular genre of gaming. It has the similar undertones of many of the popular hidden identity games out there. I have mentioned in a previous post that the key to any of these games is its ability to allow players to gain information. Werewolf, for instance, has its first rounds of blindly accusing and lynching players, which lacks substance until players start using special abilities of the different roles in order to provide more information to the team. Not only that, the lynching and killing off of players mean that some people will not be doing anything for long periods of time, which is one of the reasons why I loathe this genre of gaming. Secret Hitler has rounds of blind accusation, but the policy legislation for the president and chancellor provide opportunities for players to gain important information, not to mention engage players for the most of the game until you’re killed off due to an assassination.

I must admit, out of all the hidden identity games that I’ve tried so far, Secret Hitler had to have been one of the most intense games I’ve ever played. I can recall watching players yell at each other, trying to convince the group that one person was lying, while the liars kept manipulating and persuading others that they’re doing what’s best for the Liberal party. I remember players begging the president that they want the chancellorship. I also felt that both sides are balanced during gameplay. The Liberals have a higher player ratio during the game, and have additional powers that can aid their political endeavours. The Fascists have the knowledge of who is on their team, who Hitler is, and even have the majority of the policies being Fascist.

However, I find that this game is not as unique as the game developers claim it to be. The random allegations, the finger pointing, and the deception are all still there just like Secret Hitler’s predecessors. Eventually, the game will be repetitive, and then I foresee the game being boring because people are once again are figuring out naturally how people are reacting when put in their respective roles.

All in all, if you want a game that will provide an enthralling and in depth experience, Secret Hitler is definitely a game to get. If you and your friends are committed to yelling at each other, manipulating each others thoughts, and testing personal relationships then grab yourself a copy of Secret Hitler.

Pros:

  • Well balanced hidden identity game with an infamous historical theme.
  • Print and play version available (who doesn’t like free stuff? And if you don’t like it, don’t buy it)
  • Great social game for a group of friends who want to break the ice

Cons:

  • The issue of playing with friends who know your manipulation techniques already.
  • If you don’t like the backstabbing and manipulation, not the game for you.
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