This is a game that I co-created with several friends during a late-night gaming session in 2003. We had been playing Mafia with five people, a setup I don't particularly recommend, and one of our players fell asleep. The four of us remaining invented this game to play instead.

Rules - Four players.

One of the players is a undercover detective who is trying to bust a major crime organisation. In a recent raid, the police have captured three people. You know that one of the three suspects is "The Don" - the kingpin of the organisation you're trying to take down. Of the other two, one is an underling working for him, and the other is an innocent townsperson who just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Choose one person to play the detective. Ideally they should sit in a large comfy chair, with the other three players facing him, so he can easily see their faces. Also the room should also be lit with a single anglepoise lamp behind the detective's chair, this is entirely for atmosphere, but makes the game more enjoyable.

Deal out three cards to the other players, at random, to determine who each player is. We use playing cards for this, the king of spades is the don, a small black card is the underling, and a small red card is the innocent townsperson.

The Detective should then stand with his back to the players and give the following instructions:

The purpose of all this is to give the players the information they need to play. At this point, all three of the suspects appear identical, they only differ by what they know about themselves and the other players. The underling and the Don know what role everyone has, the townsperson meerely knows that they are the townsperson and the other two are mafia.

The detective now has as long as they like (generally about 15 minutes) to question the suspects as he sees fit. He can ask them any question, and there are no rules dictating what any of the suspects have to say, they can lie or tell the truth as they like. He is not allowed to take suspects away for individual questioning, but they should comply with simple instructions like "all of you close your eyes, and point at who you think the Don is"

When the questionning is done, the Detective picks one person to arrest for the crime of being the Don. If he is right, the detective and townsperson win. If he is wrong, the underling and the Don win (even if the underling was chosen.) At this point, shuffle the players around so a new player is the detective, and play again.

Five players

For a five player variant, add another card representing a second underling to the group. The second underling opens their eyes when the mafia people open their eyes, and the Don waves, so that the underlings know who he is. The twist is that the new underling is a disloyal underling on the side of the detective and the townsperson, who wins if the Don is arrested. Note that the Don doesn't know which of his underlings is disloyal.

Back to Socks and Puppets