Top 10 Board Games for Betraying Your Friends
There’s a tabletop game on Kickstarter at the moment right now called ‘Secret Hitler‘, a game based around advancing your teams agenda without knowing exactly who else is on your team. Also one player is secretly Hitler. One of the selling points is how intense and paranoid the players get not knowing who they can trust and who’s going to stab them in the back.
I’ve backed this one because I love this kind of thing in my games. In the six months we’re waiting to secretly be Hitler I’ve got another ten games with clever traitor mechanics to make your friends hate you.
10. Heroes Wanted
Wait, traitor mechanic in ‘Heroes Wanted’, that brightly coloured and whacky superhero romp? Well…technically not. But let’s not forget that the game gives you points for punching out the other player’s hero if you’re bored smacking around the bad guy’s minions and this can be the most shocking and offensive betrayal of them all. You’re in this together, every nutty superhero is there for the same reason and having Cyborg Insect turn around and uppercut you for a couple of extra points is downright hurtful.
‘Coup’, along with list contender ‘Spyfall’, is a game that tests your ability to bullshit your friends and family. You get two cards with characters on them and each character gives you an ability you can use to screw over another player. On your turn you declare what action your going to take without revealing your cards – hence the potential for bullshit. Other players can call you out at this point, but there are steep penalties for being wrong. Cue the shifty eyes and long lasting grudges.
8. Shadows Over Camelot
A hefty chunk of my game collection is made up of Days of Wonder games because they always look so darn pretty. ‘Shadows Over Camelot’ certainly looks very pretty, which is misleading because it’s downright evil. Evil captured in a couple of stacks of cards and a bundle of miniatures. The players take on the role of King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table as they protect the land from a ridiculous number of threats. Sir Lancelot is being a prick, the Black Knight is running around, the Grail is being corrupted, Excalibur is literally floating away down a river, there are 2 flavours of invading armies, an army of catapults outside the castle and a fucking dragon. You don’t have the resources or the strength to deal with all of this, so you have to work together to hold the darkness back until you have enough points to declare yourself winner. It’s downright frustrating.
Oh, and one of your number might be a traitor. Might be. So not only are you side-eyeing everyone trying to work out who is working against the team, the sense of paranoia might be for naught. Damn this game.
7. Game of Thrones
If there’s one thing Fantasy Flight does well with their licensed properties is that they capture the tone of the source material. In their board game adaptation of ‘Game of Thrones’ they put each player in charge of one of the six major houses of Westeros shortly after the death of King Baratheon and leaves them to battle it out for control. Politics plays as much a role as strategic thinking, so expect to enter into shaky alliances and short term agreements over military support to get an edge. But as they said in South Park, much of ‘Game of Thrones’ involves walking through gardens and talking about betrayal. You all know that these alliances aren’t going to hold up…it’s just down to who makes the first move.
6. Betrayal at House on the Hill
It’s right there in the title! This is a horror movie compendium in a board game box. Players are a group of explorers checking out the big, creepy house on, well, the hill and at some point one of the team will be revealed to be a traitor who has lured you to your doom. Who is the traitor? Why have they done it? It might be you and you won’t know until the right set of random events line up. The betrayal can come in many forms including zombies, demons, werewolves, aliens and more. My personal favourite was when an alien infection was being transmitted from person to person without knowing who had it, The Thing style. I was given the task of creating the cure by the survivors, who did not suspect I’d already been infected. Although developing the cure went against the goal of my game, I played along until I had the cure…then I gave the cure to my dog and sent him running! Mwahahahaha!
‘Kremlin’ takes the expression playing politics to a much more literal level. Russian politics is portrayed as rife with backstabbing, accusations and shipping people out to prison camps, and players lurk in the shadows pulling the strings. The crux of the game is not revealing who you secretly control during the shuffle of characters through the Politburo. You might invest all your time building one character up through the ranks at great personal risk and sacrifice only for an opponent to step up at the last moment and take all the reward. It’s a crafty game to say the least.
4. One Night Ultimate Werewolf
There’s more than a couple of ‘Werewolf’ style games on the market and they’re consistently popular, but few give you the capacity to mess with your friends like ‘One Night Ultimate Werewolf’. Everyone gets a secret role that places them on the side of the werewolves or the innocent villages, each of whom has their own set of instructions that involves sneaking a look at other roles, swapping roles around or trying to take the fall for the real villains. It’s a short, intense game that piles lies upon lies and breeds distrust.
3. Battlestar Galactica
Goddamn Cylons. For those not familiar with the source material, Cylons are evolved artificial intelligence creations of man who have decided that they’d rather run the show. They can perfectly replicate human bodies, and often the undercover Cylon agents won’t know that they’re Cylons themselves. In the board game every player takes on a character from the rebooted show, and will receive a secret card to indicate whether they are a jolly human or an evil Cylon sent to prevent the remaining members of the human race from surviving. Just to mix things up, everyone gets a second card halfway through the game, which may inform them that they were playing the wrong side from the beginning. Either way, someone at the table is a traitor not just to you but the entire human race.
2. The Resistance
Each player in this game is a member of a resistance group and trying to overthrow the government, so it could be said that everyone is a traitor from the beginning. But…some of the people in this resistance are government operatives and are out to be betray the traitors! During the game the players set up missions and vote on whether or not they go ahead, with every move and every word coming under intense scrutiny. There’s no dice rolling, no drawing cards…just careful plotting and deep suspicion.
1. Dead of Winter
Now, if you want a genuinely paranoid experience try putting yourself in a survival situation with your friends where there isn’t enough food to go around. And zombies are outside. Each player gets a small band of survivors during a zombie outbreak and you’re all holed up together to wait out the winter. You’ll need to risk the undead and the weather to scavenge supplies from the nearby town so you’ve got enough food, weapons, fuel and whatnot to survive week to week. That’s the main goal. Every player will also have their own secret goal to complete, one that may not go along with the goals of the group as a whole. Raised voices are expected when there’s a flu outbreak in the colony and someone’s suspected of hoarding medicine because they’re secretly a hypochondriac, or maybe someone has been holding out on the food because they think they’re going to be kicked out to fend for themselves. You may all be working towards the one goal of survival, but you won’t trust each other.