|Components & Design
A most peculiar word it was, too. A word so ordinary anyone in the village might have said it hundreds of times, and yet, if all the villagers were to say it together, this word would drive the werewolves from the village. Alas, so great was the word’s power that it struck the poor mayor speechless. Just as he was worrying how he could now tell this word to the people in the village a bone chilling howl filled the air. The werewolves were coming. There was no time to waste. With a few quick gestures the mayor told the town clerk to call a village assembly. Then he looked around the room, and he saw the bags of red and green buttons that his wife used to sew Christmas costumes. Those buttons would have to speak for him. The villagers would ask him question to be answered with yes or no, and he would present them with green button, or a red one. But they would have to hurry. The moon was full, and the howling was coming closer.
An introduction to applied occultism – how to play Werewords
Werewords is a new game from the ever popular Werewolf franchise. Unsurprisingly, it is a hidden identity game. Equally unsurprisingly, given the name, it’s a word game. And if you think those things don’t mix, like I did, think again.
You set up the game, like any other Werewolf game, by dealing out role cards. The standard game has the Mayor, who will know the magic word and answer the villagers’ questions, the Seer, who also knows the word but lives in fear of the Werewolves, a number of Villagers and one or more Werewolves, depending on the number of players. The Mayor’s role is doubly unique. Not only does he answer the other players’ questions about the secret word, he also has a second role card. The Mayor may me a Villager, a Werewolf, or even the Seer. A Werewolf Mayor? That’s a convincing argument that democracy has failed…
That’s it, all ready to go. The companion app, which is absolutely required to play Werewords, will take on the role of the moderator and give all players the information needed for their roles. After all players close their eyes for the Night Phase the app will first wake up the Mayor who must pick the magic word. The app presents a list of five options, the Mayor picks one of them to be the magic word. After the Mayor goes back to sleep the app wakes up the Seer, who may see the magic word, and then the Werewolf or Werewolves, who may see the magic word and, if there’s more than one lycantrophe, each other.
To make Werewords work for any level of skill you pick the level of difficulty for your magic word, from easy to ridiculous. Easy to hard are entirely reasonable skill levels, and if you play at a level you consider realistic for your group you’ll generally have a challenging and exciting game. Ridiculous difficulty is just aptly named. I consider myself to have a decent general knowledge. Even though I’m not a native English speaker, when I sometimes get a world list where I don’t know any of the words I think that maybe this level is just there as a joke. Never mind that, though, you don’t have to play with ridiculous words.
When the night is over and all those who should know the word do, the Day Phase begins. It’s a pretty short day, too. The companion app timer defaults to four minutes – you can change it to be shorter or longer, though. During that time, all the other players ask the Mayor questions about the magic word. Yes, all the other players, including those who already know it. The Mayor answers those questions with Yes/No tokens or the occasional Maybe token.
The Villagers are obviously the ones honestly looking for the magic word. They ask question to find it. But what do the Seer and the Werewolf do? They try to guide the Villagers. The Seer wants to subtly steer them towards the magic word with their questions, the Werewolf away from it. Neither can be too obvious, though. Depending how the game ends, knowing their identity can snatch a victory from the jaws of defeat – or the other way round, if you’re on the wrong side.
If the villagers guess the magic word, then the Werewolf has one chance to guess who the Seer is. If they get it right, then the Werewolf still wins the game, otherwise the Villagers do. If the Villagers do not guess the magic word, then they have one chance to find a Werewolf. If they do, they win the game, otherwise the Werewolf wins.
That’s all nice and well when the Mayor is a Villager. If they have another secret role, things change. A Mayor Seer makes the game plain harder for the Villagers because they lack positive guidance without much compensation. This tends to be the most boring option there is. A Mayor Werewolf is way more fun. They have to answer the villagers questions – but they don’t have to tell the truth. A lying Mayor can be a nightmare for the Villagers, but if they overdo it they’re also easily discovered. This combination makes for some intense games.
This wouldn’t be a proper Werewolf game if it didn’t have a bunch of extra roles to mix in. Compared to other Werewolf games these roles are pretty tame. The Masons are Villagers that know each other. The Apprentice takes over for the Seer if the Seer is also the Mayor, and so on. It’s probably good that the extra roles are relatively simple, you don’t want to keep track of complex abilities while hunting for a word with a tight time limit. More unfortunate is the fact that many of the extra roles only make sense with large groups. With four to six players they unbalance the game pretty quickly.
Is there a bad moon on the rise? Our Verdict
Let’s go for the were-elephant in the room first: there is a companion app that you can’t play without. I’ve complained about that in the past, and I’ll keep complaining about that. “My phone is empty” should not be a reason not to play a boardgame. However, there are good companion apps and bad companion apps, and the Werewords app is almost all good. Short of adding your own roles to the game it lets you customize everything. Which roles are in your game, the timers, the level of difficulty, it even lets you make your own word list.
It even does the one thing that I’ve been saying boardgame companion apps should copy from video games and offers access to community content. The browser for community word lists might not be the most convenient, but if you want a Greek Mythology word list it’s there. Or a space themed one. Or many more. As always with community content the quality varies, but most are really good. Plus, you can find word lists in many languages that don’t have their own version of the game. That brings me to my one complaint about the app: if you belong to that small niche group that plays the game in two different languages and you want to play with the official word lists you must install two different apps. There is no way to get the official German lists in the English app, or vice versa. That’s rather annoying, but it won’t concern most players.
Enough about the app, though. Werewords is an excellent mix of hidden identity game and word game. The mechanisms mesh incredibly well, and thanks to the secondary victory condition of finding the Seer or the Werewolf the game is about more than just guessing the word. There is a lot of subtle strategy where you try to lead the Villagers your way, but you can never be too obvious about it for fear of being discovered. You also have to pay attention to the other players’ questions since you may have to figure out who the Werewolf or the Seer is to win the game.
I can’t in good conscience call Werewords my favorite word game right now, Decrypto is a very tough competitor. I can say, however, that both games will have to share that position. Decrypto is still unbeatable for a word game that requires deep thinking and witty, obscure word connections. For a wilder, more party game experience, though, it’s Werewords all the way.