Board Game Mechanics 101: Social Deduction
The last time we talked about worker placement, the bread and butter of many a modern day board game. Today we will talk about the method of play that has even taken the non-gaming crowd by storm, social deduction.
Social deduction is a game mechanism that makes the interaction between the players the clues to try to deduce the goals of the other players.
In the current market, social deduction games are usually played in 30 minutes, with larger groups of 6 or more people and are lighter on rules. The emphasis is focused more on the emotion the game is suppose to bring out, this usually being suspicion.
Resistance is probably the game that set off the social deduction craze in modern times. It is often played by groups of all types and is a good example of a rules light game that emphasises the bluffing aspect.
The game is one of resistance members and government spies. Resistance members need to win 3 out of 5 missions to succeed. Every turn the current “leader” picks a number of people to be in a team to go on a mission. Then a majority vote is conducted on whether to approve the team or not. After which, if the team is allowed to go on the mission, they will each have to give a card that is mixed up. If there are no crosses in the revealed cards, the team succeeds if not the mission is failed.
As you can see, most of the information you get is from the discussion of who to choose to go on a mission and how the person voted. Also when the spies choose to fail missions to prolong the bluff and give fewer clues to the resistance members is also interesting as the spies are always outnumbered.
It is a pure social deduction game and thus why it is a good starting point of reference for budding designers of the genre.
Related: Board Game Mechanics 101: Worker Placement
The next game is Coup. Coup took the social deduction aspect and made it part of the rules of the game rather than as a facilitator of the game. This is because in Coup there are 6 roles in the game, each with their different powers.
Now instead of the norm, Coup allows you to say you are any role in the game during your turn and if no one challenges you, you are allowed to do the role's action. If you are called out and you were bluffing then you lose 1 of your 2 influence cards but if you were not bluffing, then you would show your matching influence card and still do the action but then they would lose 1 influence card. If you lose both cards then you are out of the game.
Coup plays a lot different than The Resistance as in The Resistance you need to convince a majority which is usually the swing votes in the group. Whilst in Coup, all it takes is one player.
Now if you got a grasp on social deduction, you can now mix it with other mechanics. A great example of this is the use of hidden roles. Hidden roles takes social deduction and adds it into a game with more structure rules.
Ankh-Morpork does this by issuing you a role card that only you would see at the start of the game. The card will tell you what is your role in the game and the only special way you can win before the standard end game and then points are tallied.
Thus as a more tactical game, information is gained more from observing a player's actions during their turn. Such as where he places his worker pieces, who the player is attacking or defending, etc.
Social deduction is probably the cheapest games to design as their tendency to have fewer rules means there is a higher likelihood that the game needs fewer pieces that need to be manufactured in the final package.
So if you want to make a game that is truly for one and all due to its wide appeal, social deduction is probably your best bet but beware as the genre is crowded for the fact it is easier and cheaper to design for.