Hidden identity board games, which are board games that involve at least one player having a secret identity that is unknown to the rest of the players, are super amazing. They are stressful, fun, and force people to stretch their brain and look for clues in the way other people are behaving.
I will warn you, though: emotions do sometimes run high when players are accusing others of being a traitor! Here are my favorite hidden identity games.
Secret Hitler has been a major success, but I have to admit, when I first heard about the game, I was skeptical. It’s made by the company that makes Cards Against Humanity, so I was worried that the game was going to try to capitalize on a shocking and funny name and not have any real substance. But boy was I wrong. The game puts everyone on two teams, the Fascists, the Liberals. The Fascists know who each other are, and they know who Secret Hitler is, but Hitler doesn’t know who the Fascists are, and the Liberals don’t know who anyone else is.
The way the game works is that every round a president and a chancellor are elected. The president picks their chancellor and then the whole group votes on if that pair gets elected. If they are elected, the president draws three policy tiles, discards one, and then passes the other two to the chancellor. The chancellor then discards one and enacts one of the policies. While they are choosing policies, neither the president nor the chancellor can talk or make faces. But once the policy is enacted, they can talk about what they drew and what they were given.
The Fascists win if they are able to pass five Fascist policies or if they are able to get Hitler elected chancellor after they’ve passed three Fascist policies. The Liberals win if they pass five Liberal policies or if they kill Hitler.
What makes the game even harder, is that besides the fact that the Liberals don’t know who to trust, the policy deck is stacked in the Fascists’ favor. There are 11 Fascist policies and only six Liberal policy cards. So even if two Liberals get elected, they might draw three Fascist policies, which then throws suspicion on them, even though they don’t deserve it!
Secret Hitler is a fresh take on the hidden identity genre. I personally think that this game is a straight up upgrade to the hidden identity game standard of The Resistance. Secret Hitler is well constructed, super fun, and has great replay value. Not only is the game awesome, but the components are also super high quality. The president and the chancellor both have actual wooden plaques to put in front of themselves. The policies are thick cardboard, and the policy track boards are high-quality with metallic embellishments. It’s an extremely good value, especially when the game only costs $30.
Secret Hitler is for 5-10 people. Unfortunately you can’t get it quite yet, but you can go to the website and sign up for an alert that will tell you when the game is available.
Battlestar Galactica is a fan-freaking-tastic game. Everyone plays as characters from the show, and at the beginning of the game everyone gets a loyalty card, which tells you if you are a cylon or a human. Throughout the game, you’re constantly attempting to put out fires as the cylon fleet catches up to you and attacks. You’re also having to deal with crisis cards, which could be something like a riot or a bomb that went off.
Each round a player draws cards into their hand. There are different categories of cards, like engineering cards, each of which are color coded and have number values on them. Each character can only draw certain colored cards. These cards are most often used to help (or hurt) during crisis card checks. The cards also have actions that you can activate. Once a player has drawn up, they get to perform an action like attack the cyclon ships or activate the FLT drive to make a jump.
At the end of their turn they must draw a crisis card. The crisis cards will have a number on them and the required card colors. People then go around and decide if they are playing cards into the crisis pile. Any cards of the correct color add to the value and any cards of the wrong color subtract from the pool. If you manage to reach the required number, you pass the crisis and sometimes something not horrible happens, or sometimes you even get something good out of it. But if you fail, something awful happens, like your morale, population or fuel level goes down. If one of the morale, population or fuel meters ever get down to zero, the humans lose and the cylons win. The humans only win if they are able to survive long enough to make enough jumps to make it to their final desination.
What makes the game even more interesting is that there is actually a second loyalty card phase. Halfway through the game, all of the players are dealt a second loyalty card, meaning that even if you weren’t a cylon initially, you might become one then. This makes it even harder to tell who is a cylon and who isn’t.
There are many other nuances to the game, like a cylon can reveal themselves and then they’ll have special powers and take different actions on their turn. The president and the admiral of the game also have special powers and roles they perform.
The game is truly fabulous. If you love the show, you need to own this game. It perfectly captures the stress and the suspicion. Battlestar Galactica is hands down one of my favorite games. The only downside to the game is that it takes about 2-3 hours to play, and I think it plays best at the max player count of 6. But if you can carve out the time to play it and get six people together at once, I highly recommend this game.
Battlestar Galactica retails for $49.95, plays for 2-3 hours and is for 3-6 players.
In New Salem, there are two teams, witches and puritans. What makes this game interesting, is that only one person actually wins the game. In a lot of hidden identity games, the whole team wins, but in this game, if the puritans beat the witches, then only the puritan who scored the most points actually wins or vice versa.
The way the game works is that everyone is building up the town. When you play buildings in front of you, they will have certain symbols on them and they’ll also say if they add despair or hope to the town. The witches want to add despair, because they only win if there is the required number of despair present at the end of the game. Both puritans and witches can use hope to activate abilities, which I’ll talk about a little later. But as you’re trying to get your team to come out on top, you’re also trying to play building cards that match the symbols that your character wants. You score points for buildings in front of you that match your symbols, and you’ll score more points if you build out the entire building tableau (which is three cards that make up all parts of the building).
You’ll also be able to spend hope to do things like look at people’s role cards and put players on trial. If at the end of the game the puritans are on trial, it adds despair to the board. But if the a witch was successfully put on trial, it removes despair. Depending on the player count, the witches want to end the game with a certain number of despair. If they get it, the puritan team loses and the witch with the most points wins. If they don’t have enough despair, the puritan with the most points wins.
The way that you get the building cards is by card drafting. So you have a certain number of cards in your hand, you pick one and then pass the rest. Then you continue to do that until you are out of cards. Again, you’re trying to collect building cards that both match your symbols and create a tableau.
For me, this game is what you’d get if Seven Wonders and the Resistance had a baby. I love the fact that you’re having to balance not just putting either despair or hope on the board, but also trying to accrue the most points. It’s a really interesting line that you have to walk between trying to help your team as much as possible and trying to help yourself. You’re also trying to figure out what team the other players are on. If you’re a witch, you don’t want to make it too obvious who you are by putting down only despair buildings, because you don’t want to puritans to put you on trial.
New Salem is super easy to learn, plays in about 30-45 minutes, is for 3-8 players and costs $34.99.
Mascarade is a party game where often you won’t even know what your own identity is. At the beginning of the game, everyone is given a role card. Each of these roles have different powers. For instance, the queen is able to take two coins from the bank. If you’re the king, you get three coins from the bank. If you’re the witch, you can swap your coins with another player.
So initially everyone knows who they are and who everyone else is. But then the swapping happens. On a player’s turn they can do one of three actions: claim a role and do that role’s power, swap a card with another player (or pretend to swap cards, tricky tricky!), or look at their own card.
When someone claims a role, if someone else doesn’t believe them, the challenging player must also claim to be that role. Multiple people can challenge the current player. Then all players involved in the challenge must reveal their cards. If they are not who they were claiming to be, they must pay a fine of one coin to the court. If one of the players is actually the role they claimed, they can immediately take that character’s action. So even if someone is not the active player, if they challenge and they are the role they’ve claimed, they can immediately use that character’s action.
If no one challenges the player, then that player gets to take the action of the character they claimed without revealing their card. So they might be totally lying or they could be telling the truth.
The first four actions of the game must be the swap action, because that ensures that people don’t always know what their role is. The only other time a player is required to take the swap action is if their card was revealed during the turn immediately before their turn.
The point of the game is to get at least 13 coins. The moment a player is able to do that, they win. The game is fun and fast-paced. More often than not I completely lose track of who the heck I am and just bluff my way through the game. It’s certainly a challenge to try to keep track of who everyone could possibly be. This is a great game for a lot of players, and it has an infinite amount of replay value.
Mascarade is for 2-13 players, takes about 30 minutes to play, and costs $24.99.