You might say I am a fan of social deduction games. They can be exciting and really get a group activated. Their success is often related to the gaming group dynamics, but there is enough variety in the genre that it isn’t difficult to find one that will suit most groups. (Watch for my related article on the varieties of social deduction games).
I had been thinking about introducing a group of my friends (4 other couples) to hobby gaming, but did not have much indication that they would be interested; other than they generally like to have fun by socializing with a fair dose of kidding thrown in. For this group I figured a typical, safe starting place like Dixit (for this many people we play teams). A few have artistic leanings and occupations so the artwork would be the hook and they should have some creative clues. Based on the dynamics of the group, though, I really wanted to check their interest in a social deduction game.
We invited them all over for a happy hour at our house and I was prepared to have Dixit and several other games ready to spring on them. Here’s where the story gets interesting…
I drove up to the house the day of the party and noticed that a pink flamingo (the plastic variety) had planted itself in my yard. I was certain that one of these friends had placed it there and was pretty sure which one it was. So I drove over to the house of one of the friends, whom I was pretty sure wasn’t responsible. He wasn’t home, but a pink flamingo very much like the one in my yard was planted in his yard.
I repeated the procedure at two other houses, equally infested. One was the home of my suspect so I didn’t stop. At the other, I found the couple home. We discussed the flamingos briefly and planned to say nothing about them at the party.
As the party started and people were arriving, I clued the couple who were my first visit not to say anything either. The trap was set for the trapper. When everyone arrived and we were all enjoying the conversation, the few of us who agreed to say nothing watched and waited for the suspect to finally lose control and have to mention it himself. Ah, but one of the other couples didn’t know the second gag and after about half an hour asked, “John, did you notice there is a flamingo in your front yard? We have the same in ours. Where do you suppose they came from?”
What ensued was 30 minutes or more of lively social deduction, complete with accusations and assumptions, denials and deceit. And still, no one fessed up. The party went on with the flamingos surfacing periodically throughout the evening. In the end the mystery was solved to the satisfaction of most, but without the satisfaction of a confession.
I didn’t bring out any games that night; we had played the best social deduction game I have witnessed to date and there was no rules explanation.
Since then (about 6 months ago) I introduced the other couples to several games and we have gotten together with at least some of them specifically to play games every month. We have played Dixit which has been a hit as expected, some other light card games, Bang, The Dice Game, and of course Resistance Avalon and Coup are the must-plays every time.
I have a few games in development that include social deduction and one for which it is the primary mechanic. As I develop them I will naturally compare them to other games in the market, but the true test that I have achieved something worthwhile is if they can compare to fun realized in the real deal. So far, none of them have any flamingos; maybe I should reconsider.