Understanding Your Mafia Group’s Meta Game
If you read any online gaming forum for longer than a few hours, you’re likely to stumble onto the concept of the metagame. In this context, metagame usually refers to the popular strategies, or common choices that players make.
Those aware of this may choose to play in such a way that they counter the popular meta, even if their choices appear suboptimal when judged against the base set of rules of the game.
Once enough players adopt this new playstyle and itself has become the more popular option, the meta is said to have moved and a new counter-strategy will arise. For this reason, a game’s meta evolves over time, even if the rules and mechanics of the game itself have remained stable for a long period.
In roleplaying games, metagaming broadly refers to using knowledge from outside the setting of the game itself to gain an advantage within it. For example, if you know that your Game Moderator likes to include more puzzles than fights in their campaigns, you may choose to put more points into intelligence than strength when creating your character.
When playing Werewolf in person, the most common example of metagaming would be to use noises overheard during the night phase to work out the role of a player.
Playing using such tactics goes against the spirit of the game, which is framed around using social reads to find the traitors, not having better hearing to detect slip ups from the Moderator.
Good and Bad Meta
Werewolf online straddles the line between roleplaying game and strategy game, so you will likely hear ‘meta’ used to mean either context, which is sometimes a good and accepted thing, and sometimes very much not so!
It's important to know the difference between the two when you're new to the group so you don't ruffle any feathers.
Examples of Bad Meta
Obviously, playing Werewolf online means that there are no footsteps of the Moderator to hear during the night phase, but there are other aspects that go against the spirit of the game. Specifically when playing on werewolv.es, the majority of games are anonymised. Giving away information that identifies the real player behind the avatar gives those that know the player an unfair advantage when it comes to working out whether they have been shifted or not. (Avatar swapping is a mechanic somewhat unique to werewolv.es - it allows some roles to steal the identity of another player and effectively hide in a new body. In fact, this mechanic was introduced purely because the author was tired of the meta of getting killed in most games N1 by the werewolves.)
Referencing spelling or grammatical errors in hidden text would be another example of bad metagaming. You would be gaining the trust of someone who had noticed the same error before - hinting that the only way you could know this information is because that is truly your role. You could consider this to be similar to saying “I had the villager card with the torn corner” in real life. Whether playing Werewolf online or in person, it’s a game of your word vs theirs and such claims are unsporting moves to use against the evil players, who already have a difficult enough time constructing their lies.
Examples of Good Meta
Acceptable meta is that of general strategy.
Since werewolves often target the talkative players, a seer should check less talkative players as they’re more likely to be killed during the night. Protection roles will consider talkative players better prospects.
In groups that play in person regularly, there are individuals that are often early targets, or there werewolves will target players that won a previous game that evening. Such players are usually a good candidate to protect early game.
In the Manchester Werewolf Group, it became common for the Seer and other investigator roles to check the players sitting next to them to pass information down the line.
Being Aware of Your Groups Meta
If the werewolves lean too heavily into common kill patterns, it becomes easier for the village to deny them kills or to gain lasting information. So a game of rock/paper/scissors can emerge as the werewolves choose their kills (often to calls of “that’s a weird kill!” when they choose to go off-meta!).
As a werewolf, knowing who a real seer would check is paramount to making your fake claims believable. On the other side, if you’re a vanilla townie trying to decide between two conflicting seer claims, you need to think about who is giving the more reasonable checks when making your decision on who to back.