How well do you know a stranger? How well do you know your friends? How well do you know your family? How well do you know yourself?
Most people who play social deduction games are driven to ask themselves these questions, many times finding that the answer is, “Not well enough.”
As you review this article, ponder how you might be able to incorporate social deduction into your games or improve on current social deduction games. What thoughts come to mind?
Overview of Social Deduction
As mentioned last week, bluffing can often play a significant part in social deduction games. Social deduction is all about discovering hidden information through interacting with others. This can apply to free-for-all, team, and cooperative games, and the amount of attention you need to pay to those around you varies; but in all of these games, knowing something about the people you play with and being a good judge of character helps a lot.
Social deduction games have a lot of potential because (except in the case of solo games) people like interacting with each other! Though interaction inevitably occurs in most games, social deduction games add the aspect of reading others’ character and using social knowledge as a competitive advantage.
These games bring groups together, and can often be accompanied by many laughs, gasps, and enjoyable moments of discovery. If you want people to just have fun together playing the games that you design, consider adding an element of social deduction!
Important Considerations with Social Deduction
One thing to keep in mind is that though social deduction games can occasionally be played at a low player count, these types of games usually work best with higher player counts and larger groups. This is important when thinking about your intended audience.
For example, if you are hoping to create games for small groups, social deduction might be a difficult mechanism to incorporate, though sometimes it might be fun to do just for the challenge. On the other hand, if you are wanting to create games that appeal to large groups and gatherings of friends and family, social deduction is almost certainly a mechanism you want to consider and explore as it is a great way to include more players without drastically increasing the average play time.
Another thing to keep in mind while designing a game with social deduction is the question of what is unknown?
- Are players trying to discover other players’ identities, as in Coup, Secret Hitler, Saboteur, The Chamelion, One Night Ultimate Werewolf, Saboteur, and The Resistance?
- Are players more interested in other players’ intent, as in Dead Last, Dixit, Fun Employed, and Codenames?
- Or do players work together to find hidden information such as in Clue, Escape Room The Game, Just One, and Liar’s Dice?
- Should bluffing play a role in your game?
Along with these considerations, make sure to think about what kind of emotions you hope to create with your social deduction game. Do you want to encourage a game of suspicion and mistrust, hilarious misunderstandings, focused interest, or suspense?
Asking yourself what kind of experience you hope to create for your players is almost always a worthwhile question that helps encourage intentional game design. Along with helping refine the mechanics, asking yourself this question might help guide you to an appropriate theme that will enhance, rather than detract from how your game plays. What helps you be more intentional in the game experience?
Cautions and Tips for Using Social Deduction
One of the biggest cautions and downsides with social deduction games is that, by definition, they are nearly impossible to play solo.
Within some social deduction games solo variants might possibly be created that include the deduction aspect, but they can be quite difficult to create while remaining true to the theme and feel of the original game, as the whole mechanic of bluffing and reading other players doesn’t work well if there is nobody to bluff to or interrogate.
If you have any ideas of ways that a social deduction or bluffing mechanic could work in solo variants, please share in the comments! I and likely many others would be quite interested to explore more ideas along that line of thinking sometime.
What are some interesting ways you have seen social deduction be used as a part of a game? How else can social deduction be incorporated to enhance gameplay? Please comment below and share your thoughts!
Social deduction is entails discovering hidden information through interacting with others. In social deduction games, knowing something about the people you play with and being a good judge of character can make all the difference.
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Other Tabletop Game Mechanics to Explore
- Action Drafting Mechanic
- Alliances Mechanic
- Auctioning Mechanic (Part 1/2)
- Auctioning Mechanic (Part 2/2)
- Bluffing Mechanic
- Board Game Mechanics: An Overview
- Component Drafting Mechanic
- Cooperation Mechanic
- Dice Rolling Mechanic
- Direct Conflict Mechanic
- Elimination Mechanic
- Engine Building Mechanic
- Finance Mechanic
- Irregular Turn Order Mechanic
- Memory Mechanic
- Negotiation Mechanic
- Random Selection
- Social Deduction Mechanic
- Tile Placement Mechanic
- Unique Abilities Mechanic
- Worker Placement Mechanic
Are there other game mechanics or topics that you would like to see explored further? Please comment below with any requests!