How to Balance a Game of Werewolf or Mafia
Ensuring Balance is Important for Fun
Like most people, you probably like winning games. However, would you like to win all the time? You may be tempted to answer "yes", but would you eventually become bored if there was no challenge for you anymore?
There's research to suggest that satisfaction comes from engaging in an activity that is challenging yet just within grasp of your expertise. In a game context, this means
there's a real chance of losing. Continually beating a 3 year old at chess isn't really going to feel like an achievement for an adult.
Equally however, there is little joy in continually being beaten by someone that eclipses your skill. After the novelty of player her had worn off, you are very unlikely to enjoy the prospect Serena Williams consistently destroy you in a game of tennis.
Games that are too easy or too hard simply aren't enjoyable, although there is a gradient for this and some people will prefer more challenging roles and setups, where as some players will prefer easier ones.
A Dirty Little Secret About Game Enjoyment
The Most Basic Variant - Mountainous 4:1 or 5:1 Villager:Werewolf
The easiest to explain setup is one that only contains villagers and werewolves (or town and mafia, if that’s your theme).
In this type of game, reveal role on death is often used as a feedback mechanism for players to get some concrete information as the game progresses. Without it, there is little anchor for players to base their decisions on.
Ironically, although this kind of setup only includes two types of role it may actually be harder for players to get to grips with, as they may not know where to start with their accusations. When playing in person, people will often begin their guesses by looking at body language, or drawing suspicion from who would be most likely to target the player that was eliminated during the night phase.
This is the game in its purest form. There is little to be learned from in game mechanics and everything must be inferred from social reads and deduction from which people are voting with each other during the day time. There is no game mechanic logic that the wolves need to keep track of and to balance with their lies, so this type of setup is favourable for players that are new to playing evil because they do not need to construct a fake role claim at any point to win. They just need to be smooth, and sweet talking during the day phase.
The village is likely going to eliminate the wrong people during the first few rounds as it starts to find its feet. I n order to compensate for this the ratio of villagers to werewolves is advised to be a little higher than games that involve roles. For this kind of setup you want around 4-5 villagers per werewolf player in the game. You may feel the need to tweak these numbers as your games go on, adding and removing the number of villagers depending on which side is winning the most in your group.