Werewords — Monster mash

If you take Werewolf and give it a modern twist, with new components and fun visuals then you would get Werewords.

A deduction, deception and hidden-role game at heart, Werewords is a twist on publisher Bezier Games’ most popular series, One Night: Ultimate Werewolf — which is in itself a modernised, visually attractive take on the classic card game that is also called Werewolf. With support for up to twenty players (and perhaps most successful at about six to ten) Werewords makes a great party game, but it’s smarter and less chaotic than most, which means it’s also a great way to kick off a serious gaming night.

Werewords is presented in a very small, snugly packed box which contains a straightforward set of thick cards, various tokens and an instruction manual. This sparseness is largely because a lot of the game is actually app driven, with the generation of secret words presented entirely digitally. The app also features a spooky-sounding narrator who instructs players acting in different roles (which I’ll explain in a moment) of what to do and when, essentially meaning you can learn to play Werewords in just a minute or two.

The basic structure is simple. Each player is secretly dealt a card that only they can look at. On each card is a role such as Mayor, Werewolf, Villager, Seer, Minion and so on. The roles included in each game differ slightly based on variant options and player count, but as a minimum the game requires a Werewolf, a Mayor, a Seer and one or more Villagers. At three players, the Mayor acts as two roles. Most of the other, more complex roles (including additional werewolves) tend to come into their own during bigger games.

Once the roles are set, the application begins to do its work, first asking the Mayor to open their eyes and choose the secret word. Then the narrator asks the Seer to open their eyes and look at the magic word, and then the Werewolf to do the same. By the end of this process, the Mayor, the Seer and the Werewolf will all know the magic word, but they should not know who anyone else is (except the Mayor, who is known to all players).

The app then begins a four-minute countdown, during which the players can ask the Mayor yes-or-no questions that could lead towards the magic word. The Mayor may not speak and can only answer players by handing out basic yes-and-no tokens, as well as a limited number of slightly more detailed tokens with comments like ‘Way Way Off’ or ‘So Close’ written on them. Everyone participates in this phase, including the Werewolf team and the Seer, but whilst the Seer will want to guide the players to the answer, the Werewolf will be looking out for who the Seer is.

If, during the four-minute countdown, the players should guess the magic word correctly, they have a chance of winning. At this point, however, the Werewolf has fifteen seconds to deduce which of the players is the Seer, usually based on the way he or she has been coaching the players (or not) towards the right answer. If the Werewolf correctly identifies the Seer, they win. Similarly, the players don’t guess the secret word, the Werewolf wins by default.

Within the Deluxe Edition I was sent to review, there are a number of additional roles that add a bit more excitement to the game at higher player counts, whilst adding a little complexity to the rules. Roles like The Thing (that goes bump in the night), The Minion and The Masons all add new and interesting variations. The Thing can tap their neighbours’ shoulders, for example, whilst The Masons can attempt to figure each other out, to exclude themselves from each others’ suspicion of being the Werewolf. These alternative roles can be used sparingly at smaller player counts, or to bring the supported player count up to its maximum of twenty.

Werewords is a very simple, enjoyable game overall. I like that Bezier Games has taken a classic formula and smartly introduced small, iterative rules and features that enhance the core experience without making that core experience convoluted. At the average player count of about six to eight, players will be free to choose solely from the traditional roles of the Mayor, Werewolf and Villagers, or introduce one or two other roles to wildly change the experience.

At higher player counts, it does become necessary to introduce the other roles, since there aren’t enough basic Villager cards to support twenty players in the base game, but that’s fine, because anyone setting up a game for such a large number of people will usually be at an organised event where people know the rules or are at least willing to listen to and learn them. I’ve yet to find anyone at any level of experience who didn’t enjoy playing Werewords, even if they are not fans of bluffing games in general.

Most players (myself included) enjoy the puzzle of tackling the different roles. Being the Mayor may seem simple since it’s a yes-and-no game, but using the more descriptive tokens at the right moment is still a strategic choice. The Werewolf will need to mislead the other players without making it obvious, whilst the Seer must do the opposite in order to help the Villagers without revealing themselves. Each of these roles feels very different to play and I enjoy the way in which Werewords is a game of suggested bluffing, rather than overt as it in some directly confrontational games like Coup, for example.

Even though the subject matter is one of werewolves and the supernatural, Werewords uses attractive, slightly cartoonish artwork to present its theme and the app supports several different levels of complexity when it comes to choosing words. As such, I found Werewords to be the perfect game to play with children from about eight years and upwards, and it supports an excellent mix of younger and older players of all experience levels. A mixed audience of children, parents, friends and grandparents, for example, can really enjoy the game, even if they’ve never played before.

With this flexibility and general appeal in mind, Werewords is a game that I recommend to anyone interested in playing lighter games with large groups of mixed ages and abilities. It might only be an occasional game, but the base game is very, very cheap, whilst even this Deluxe Edition is a lot less expensive than most boxed games. Neither takes up much shelf space, but either will provide a huge amount of pleasure for the right audience. Recommended and definitely a favourite among party games in my house.

A copy of Werewords was provided for review purposes. You can find out more about it on the website of publisher Bezier Games.

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