The party game Mafia with the original rules

21. July 2016 - Alexander Schmidt

Party Game Mafia – How to Play the Thrilling Deduction Game | Game Rules


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Suspense and fun when unmasking murderers! One of the most addictive board games is the party game Mafia. It remains exciting and varied even the umpteenth time. Here are the original rules.

In most parlour games, the number of players is limited to 3, 4 or up to 6 people. Fun for an unlimited number of players is offered by one of our favourite board games, also known as Werewolf, Wolf Moon or Murder in Palermo.

The party game Mafia is best suited for larger groups of 6-20 players (theoretically even more). And it is all the more fun the higher the number of players! The basic idea behind it is simple. You play in two groups against each other: the mafia and the blameless citizens.

The special thing: In the party game Mafia, you only know at the beginning which team you belong to, but not who is your friend or who is your enemy! Suspense and thrills are guaranteed!

The Making of the Party Game Mafia

The party game Mafia was invented in 1986 by a young psychology student named Dimitry Davidoff in Moscow. For one of his seminarsDimitry Davidoff developed an interactive experiment with the other seminar participants.

This is how the game idea for the party game Mafia was born. Since then, the game has spread across the globe and countless variants have emerged from the original game.

Davidoff’s Original Mafia Game

Number of players: 6-20

The basic principle of the party game Mafia is that Team 1, the “Mafia” and a small informed minority compete against Team 2, the citizens and uninformed majority of players. The players discuss together which of them might be a mafiosi, which of course each player denies.

Each team has an advantage and a disadvantage. The Team Mafia knows which players belong to its own team and which are its opponents, for this it is always in the minority. In the Team Honest Citizens everyone only knows that they themselves are innocent. Citizens can’t be sure of any of the other players whether they might not belong to the mafia. For that they are in the majority.

This principle has been retained in all variants of the game. These are Davidoff’s original rules. Copyright 1987, 1992, 1998, by D. Davidoff.

The Object of the Game

Welcome to the party game Mafia, a role-playing game in which players impersonate either blameless citizens or mobsters! For the honestcitizens, the aim of the game is to stop the mafia before it eliminates all citizens. The mafia members, on the other hand, must try to keep their identity secret at all costs. They also try to manipulate the honest players so that they destroy themselves through false suspicions.

Whatever team you belong to: in the party game Mafia, it is thus in the interest of every player to be considered innocent. For the citizens, it is also a matter of discovering who really belongs to the mafia and making them harmless. The Mafiosi, on the other hand, try to direct suspicion as skilfully as possible onto innocent citizens, so that they hunt each other down.

Preparing for the Game

You can design your own creative playing cards for the party game Mafia.

Your own painted playing cards for the party game Mafia

Make 20 cards from cardboard that look the same on the back. Mark the front of 6 cards with a black symbol or colour them black, the remaining cards are red or show a red symbol. Also prepare paper slips and pens that are identical in size, colour and shape. You need at least 6 players for the original Mafia game. Then take as many cards as you are players.

  • 6-7 players = 2 Black cards + the others red
  • 8-10 players = 3 black cards + the others red
  • 11-13 players = 4 black cards + the others red
  • 14-16 players =5 Black cards + the others red
  • 17-20 players =6 black cards + the others red

The black cards represent members of the mafia, the red cards represent honest citizens. All players should know how many black cards are in play and therefore how many mafiosi there are.

The Party game Mafia Can Begin…

In the party game Mafia, you go through 3 phases: a preparation phase and two alternating phases day and night. This continues until one of the two teams – ”honest citizens” or ”mafia” – has won.

Preparation Phase: Sunrise

First the cards are dealt, everyone looks at their card and then puts it aside without telling the other players which team they belong to. Then everyone falls asleep – that is, all the players close their eyes and bow their heads.

One of the players counts slowly and evenly from 1 to 20, only saying the numbers 1-5 and 16-20 out loud. In between, the player continues to count silently in their head. During this short quiet phase, the Mafiosi wake up: they open their eyes, raise their heads and recognise each other, then go back to sleeping position..

Of course, the Mafiosi should try to do this as silently and inconspicuously as possible, so that the honest citizens don’t notice who is a Mafia member!

At the number 20 all players open their eyes and it becomes day.

1st Phase: Day

Now the hot discussion between all the players begins: who belongs to the mafia and should therefore be executed to protect the public? Every player has the right to express suspicion, but should also justify it!

For example, I heard rustling to my left in the sunrise phase, therefore I suspect Jutta to be a mafia member. But maybe I’m a mafioso myself and I’m just saying that to divert suspicion onto a blameless citizen? For the citizens, the tag phase is about assessing who of the other players is really a Mafia member. For the Mafiosi it is about not getting caught.

Citizens or mafiosi may also say nothing at all and stay out of the discussion. But perhaps that is precisely how they attract suspicion? The special attraction of the party game mafia is that there is no way to know for sure whether someone is guilty. Rather, it comes down to knowing people and intuition. In addition, the ability to lie, or to recognise lies, is very helpful.
How long you discuss and the tag phase lasts is up to you. But at the end of each day all players must agree on defendants they suspect of being a member of the mafia. This is done by majority vote. If the votes are tied, nothing happens.

For inspiration on persuasive arguments, I recommend the movie The 12 jurors! When a defendant is determined, the verdict is passed and the suspect is executed: that is, he is out of the game. However, the executed player may not reveal which team he belonged to or help the other players!.

2nd Phase: Night

The day is followed by the night in the party game Mafia. The night is particularly dangerous, because nowthe mafia starts to murder! Each player writes something face down on a piece of paper. The citizens all write ”honest” or ”citizen” on their slip of paper, the mafiosi the name of a fellow player they want to murder. Then the slips of paper are collected and shuffled in the middle of the table and one of the players reads them out.

The number of slips with names tells the citizens how many Mafiosi are still in the game. This lets them know if they have caught a mafia member or executed an innocent person in the tag phase. If the name on all the name slips matches – and only then – that person is murdered: that means that person is out of the game..

This is why it makes sense for the Mafiosi to inconspicuously agree on a victim in the course of the game, for example by glances or gestures. However, they also run the risk of giving themselves away. If only one of the names does not match the others, the named players are spared and are at the same time recognisable as citizens.

If only one mafia member is still playing, however, a name slip is also enough to murder someone. Then another day dawns and the discussion about who belongs to the mafia and who does not begins again. The game ends when there are no names left on the slips (but only ”citizens”) or all citizens are dead and the mafia members remaining in the game reveal their identity. Then the cards are redistributed and a new round begins.

Tips for Beginners

  • Game leader: If one of you has played the game before, but most of your group has not, designate that person as game leader for at least the first round. The game leader explains the rules and supervises the game.
  • Handwriting: Notes and pens should look identical. It is best if everyone writes in block letters or you agree on symbols/letters for each player so that the reader in the night phase does not know who wrote which piece of paper. We simply stick a strip of masking tape with A, B, C, D, E on each player’s chest to minimise the risk of the handwriting giving away too much. If you are playing with a game leader, he or she should also do the reading aloud.
  • Roles and additional rules: When you have had some practice, you can start to vary the game to your liking with additional rules, e.g. by introducing special roles.

Party Game Mafia with Score

If you play several rounds, you can also note down points for each player. Only the players who have survived get points. Surviving Mafiosi each get as many points credited as Mafiosi participated in the game. Citizens are each credited with the number of points corresponding to the remaining number of surviving citizens.
Example: There were 10 players: 3 mafiosi, 7 honest citizens.

  1. 2 mafiosi survive: each gets 3 points
  2. 5 citizens survive: each gets 5 points
  3. 2 citizens survive: everyone gets 2 points

Variants of the Party game Mafia

There are now many variants of the party game Mafia. Since the invention of the game, a real fan community has formed, which has developed several additions and variations of the party game Mafia.

The most popular variant is to assign special roles such as detective, soul saver, terrorist, bartender, Judas, Cupid or little girl.

Other variants are: President Mafia, Train Mafia, Schizo Mafia, Time Travel Mafia, Quantum Mafia, Pentagram Mafia and many more. Our top 5 of these variants is in the works :-).

Purchase Version: The Werewolves of Bleak Forest*

A creative buy variant from the party game Mafia is called The Werewolves of Düsterwald.

The Werewolves of Düsterwald

Those who want to save themselves the trouble of making all the cards therefore don’t have to dig deep into their pockets. Of the various versions available for purchase, I recommend the inexpensive and imaginatively illustrated version entitled The Werewolves of Bleak Forest.

Asmodee - Lui meme 200001 - Die Werwölfe von Düsterwald
Asmodee - Lui meme 200001 - Die Werwölfe von Düsterwald
Auszeichnungen Spiele:Nominierungsliste "Spiel des Jahres"; Autor Spiele:des Pallières, Philippe
8,51 EUR

In this version, the mafia are replaced by werewolves, the citizens by villagers. There are also a number of additional roles with special rights or abilities (all for the citizens’ team) such as Witch, Hunter, Cupid, Thief, Girl and Seer..

There are now also 4 expansions under the names: New Moon, The Community, Characters and The Pact. These provide further special roles, event cards, houses and occupations for the villagers. By combining these elements, countless variations of the game are thus possible.

Have fun with the Party game Mafia and its variants!

On our leisure ideas portal you will find many more tips for a game night. Plus, browse activities to do with friends, partner and family!

Never miss out on more tips and ideas from Abenteuer Freundschaft by simply following us on Facebook and Instagram and subscribing to our newsletter 😉

Image source Cover image: Mafia by Brandon Bailey at CC-BY 2.0

*There are affiliate links in this article. This means that if you order a product from amazon via one of these links, Abenteuer Freundschaft will receive a small commission without the product becoming more expensive for you.


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