- 7+ not including the narrator
- A deck of 52 standard playing cards
Based on which card you are dealt, try to “kill” all the other players or catch the murderer!
At the beginning of the game, every player will get one card, which will represent their role. We start by setting aside one ace (mafia card) for every three citizens (i.e. if 12 people are playing, we need 3 mafia cards. If 16 people are playing we ned 4 mafia cards). In addition to the mafia cards, we need one queen (the doctor), one jack (the detective). All the other cards will be assigned to citizens and can be any card except an ace, jack or queen.
The narrator will then put these cards into a pile, shuffle, and deal one card to each player at random. Everyone will secretly look at their cards and assume their roles without telling anyone. At the Narrator’s instruction, everyone will close their eyes except for the narrator. Next, the narrator will instruct the members of the mafia to open their eyes and quietly see who else is in their gang. Once mafia members have seen and acknowledged one another while the remaining player’s eyes are closed, the narrator will instruct the mafia members to close their eyes again.
Next, the doctor will follow this same process. The narrator will instruct the doctor to secretly open their eyes to identify themselves to the narrator and close their eyes once finished. Lastly, the detective will open their eyes to identify themselves to the narrator and then close their eyes again. At the end of this process, only the narrator should know each player’s role and the mafia members should know who or isn’t a mafia member.
The game proceeds in “night” and “day” rounds. Each night, everyone closes their eyes and goes to sleep. The narrator will then ask the Mafia to wake up, open their eyes, and silently choose a person to kill by pointing at them. The decision needs to be unanimous with more than one Mafia member. They will then go back to sleep, and the Doctor will wake up, pointing to one player to save. The Doctor will go back to sleep, then the detective will wake up and choose one player to investigate by pointing. The narrator will then indicate to the detective in privacy with a thumbs up or down whether the detective has successfully selected a member of the mafia.
At the end of the night, everyone opens their eyes. The narrator then describes what happened the night before by saying which player died (whoever was selected to be killed by the mafia), whether the doctor was successful in saving them (i.e., the doctor pointed at the same person the mafia members pointed at), and whether the detective discovered one of the mafia. Creative storytelling can make the game even more exciting!
Without revealing their roles, all the living players then discuss and take a vote on which person to put on trial. If a majority votes for one player, that player is executed, reveals their card, and is dead for the rest of the game. Players who are killed by the mafia or by the vote are not allowed to speak or influence the game in any way. If a player is saved by the doctor, they continue to play normally. In the discussion, the doctor cannot reveal who they chose to save, and the detective can decide whether to reveal what they learned or not. However, they cannot identify themself as detective if they reveal what they have learned. This allows for false leads and an interesting discussion!
The game ends when either all of the mafia members are identified, or the mafia equals or outnumbers the remaining players.
Mafia Tips & Strategy
In mafia, the detective is the only one who can definitively say whether another player is in the mafia or not since they are told by the narrator. Therefore, it is up to them to convince the other players who is a Citizen and who is not. If you’re in the mafia, you’ve got to convince everyone you’re not in the mafia, even if it means ratting out other mafia members. Be careful who you trust!
Mafia Variations and Alternate Rules
- Adding Jokers: You can also add a Joker to the starting pile. Whoever receives this card is the Serial Killer. They go after the Detective each night and choose someone to kill. They cannot be killed by the Mafia, so if they are chosen, nothing happens, but they can be put on trial and executed by the other players. In this version, a thumbs up from the Narrator to the Detective only means that the player selected is in an “evil” role but does not distinguish whether they are Mafia or the serial killer. The Serial Killer wins the game if they are the only person left at the end of the game.
- Murder: A simpler version of Mafia better for smaller groups, this game does not involve rounds of voting. Everyone still gets one card, and in the deck there is only an Ace and a Jack. The Ace is still the Murderer and the Jack is still the Detective. The players will look at their cards, then begin making eye contact with different people around the table. The Murderer will wink at players to kill them. When a player is killed, they wait for an indeterminate amount of time before revealing they have been killed. The Detective’s job is to catch the Murderer winking and identify them by calling them out or pointing a finger gun at them. If they are the Murderer, the Detective wins. If they are not, that player also dies and the game continues. If the Murderer kills everyone except the Detective they win. You can also say the Detective can only accuse so many people.
Mafia Example/ Demonstration
For example, let’s say that Players 1 and 2 are the mafia members in a game of 8 people. During their turn, they choose to kill Player 3. Player 4 is the doctor and chooses to save Player 5. Player 6 is the Detective, and chooses to investigate Player 7. The narrator gives the detective a thumbs down. Everyone then opens their eyes and the narrator says:
“Last night, Player 3 was found with concrete slippers down by the pier, but the Doctor was out of town and couldn’t save them. The local police put their best detective on the case, but they couldn’t find a lead.”
The players then discuss and vote to put Player 8 on trial. They flip their card to reveal they are a citizen, and the next round begins without the two dead players.
If Player 4 had chosen to save Player 3, the narrator would say so and Player 3 would not be dead. The Narrator would also say the detective was successful if Player 6 had selected Player 2.
What happens if the Mafia kills the Doctor or the Detective?
The mafia can kill the doctor or detective. It is still possible for a group of citizens to vote the mafia members out without either of the roles, but it is difficult without those special roles!
After everyone votes, what should we do if there isn’t a majority?
If an agreement can’t be reached, nothing happens. Nobody is put on trial and executed, and the next round begins.