One Night Ultimate Werewolf is a social deduction game on speed. Your friends will become killers, enemies, maybe friends again, very confused, then (hopefully) victorious – all within a few minutes. If you want to put on a poker face without learning how to play poker, then you’ve come to the right place. One Night Ultimate Werewolf is filled with deception, detective work, and drunks – but is it still worth playing after almost ten years in our board game collections?
Long story short, we still rank One Night Ultimate Werewolf as one of the best board games around. While it isn’t without flaws, it’s a must-have for fans of imposter games. It’s a real catalyst for chaos, so it’s a hard recommend for lovers of funny board games. And lying skills aside, it’s incredibly simple to learn – making it ideal in collections of board games for adults or family board games.
Read on for the full One Night Ultimate Werewolf review. Beware, though: you’re walking into wolf country.
What is One Night Ultimate Werewolf?
One Night Ultimate Werewolf is a condensed version of a board game by the same publisher, Bézier Games: Ultimate Werewolf. Ultimate Werewolf itself is an adaptation of the game ‘Mafia’, which has been pitting tabletop fans against each other since the ‘80s.
The core concept is simple. Most players in the group will be on the ‘villagers’ team, while a handful will be on the ‘werewolves’ team. These roles are assigned in secret at the start of the game. The werewolves will know who their allies are, but the villagers will be left in the dark – having to rely on their role’s specific abilities and the testimony of others to flush out the enemy.
Once roles are assigned, the werewolves choose to kill a villager during a ‘night’ phase where everyone’s eyes are closed. The villagers then have time to discuss who their main suspects are. A game of Werewolf closes with a vote – who do you want to execute for their crimes? If the villagers correctly lynch a wolf, they win; if not, the werewolves do.
Many versions of the game take place over several rounds, with the villager count getting slimmer every night. One Night Ultimate Werewolf instead takes place in a single night, meaning the whole thing can be over in ten minutes or under.
What’s so great about One Night Ultimate Werewolf?
That snappy playtime really can’t be undersold, and it’s the main reason we’d recommend One Night Ultimate Werewolf over other versions of the same game. Ultimate Werewolf, Werewolves of Millers Hollow, and several other Mafia-likes all suffer from one fatal flaw: if you’re killed off early, the rest of the game is incredibly boring. No one is stuck twiddling their thumbs in One Night Ultimate.
As well as being quick to play, the game is easy to learn. The core box only comes with 12 possible roles, some of which have basically no additional rules attached at all. Even if someone can’t remember what the Doppelganger does, there’s a free companion app that reminds players when to act and what to do as they play.
The app has the added bonus of removing the game master from Werewolf. Traditionally, you’d need a player to oversee the game rather than play it, calling out different roles, moving role cards, and announcing who’s been shredded to bits in their sleep. If you’re playing with a really large group, it’s still worth having a game master, but the app takes one worry off your mind if you can all fit comfortably around the same table.
One Night Ultimate Werewolf’s physical design is visually endearing, and it’s highly portable. The only components are cards and tokens showing different roles, meaning everything (as well as any expansion cards) can comfortably fit in one tiny box. If you are thinking about expansions already, One Night Ultimate Werewolf: Daybreak is our top pick.
One Night Ultimate Werewolf is approachable and convenient. It also happens to be wickedly fun. Despite its simple concept, a game where you either have to solve a murder or lie your way out of hanging for one is addictive. Some players will be trying to scientifically trace their way back to the killer, and others will be sowing the seeds of distrust to throw others off their path.
This makes One Night Ultimate Werewolf sound strategic, but in truth, chaos rules the roost. Some roles in the game are designed to deliberately confuse players: the Tanner wants to be killed, for example, and the Troublemaker swaps other players’ roles around just for kicks. Your role could change in your sleep, and you might not even know it. You’ll need to dodge death and stay on the winning side, even if who that side is for you suddenly switches.
With only five minutes to discuss who you think the killer is, One Night Ultimate Werewolf quickly devolves into panicked shouting. It’s tense, it’s silly, and it’s thrilling. This is a ten-minute game that begs to be played over and over.
What’s wrong with One Night Ultimate Werewolf?
It’s not all sunshine and lycanthropy, though. While addictive, One Night Ultimate Werewolf doesn’t have the replay value or crunchy appeal of big strategy board games. We’d argue it’s also far easier to suss out than other versions of the same game.
What we mean by this is, if enough people in a game of One Night Ultimate Werewolf tell the truth, it becomes fairly easy to suss out the werewolves. This feels like a much more scientific, probability-based game than something like Werewolves of Miller’s Hollow. It also doesn’t do the werewolves any favours like in Blood on the Clocktower, a social deduction game that actively helps its villains come up with a plausible lie.
Randomness is an element of board games that fans typically look down on, but a game like One Night Ultimate Werewolf relies on it to make the social deduction varied and engaging – and other games in the genre handle it that little bit better.
A real howler
Werewolf is one of the most refined versions of a decades-old social deduction game, and despite its simple concept it remains replayable. Compact and chaotic, you’ll be pointing fingers at friends again and again.