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The Mafia Game

Updated on April 17, 2014


General Overview

I have played many variations of this game. I'm not even positive all the versions were called mafia, although the concept was the same. Scratch that, the concept was similar. Although the storyline of the game was the same, I will not disparage this mafia by saying it's concept was the same as the other varieties.

My point is, you probably know this game, but you probably don't know this game. If you've ever played that game where everyone closes their eyes, then the host "randomly" ;) selects people to be "mafia," or "killers," or any variation of that, and everyone else has to then figure out who the mafia are/is, then you've played this game.

The first time I played, the rule was that if you wee winked at, then you were dead, and the players had to figure out who was doing the winking. See some problems?

1) It's incredibly easy to cheat and wink at people when you're not actually the mafia. The host will bust you at the end, but the game's already been ruined. (The version I'll tell you about corrects this).

2) It's incredibly easy to pretend you weren't winked at, or that you didn't realize you were winked at. The only one you can be caught is if the mafia reveals they are the mafia and accuses you of cheating, and at that point, the game is ruined.

3) Just don't look at anyone. If you just stare at the ground, then you can't die. If no one else thinks to do this, eventually it will just be you and the mafia, and then you know who the mafia is. (Granted you have to look up to do this, but you get the point.)

I've played a version where the rules were essentially the same as the version I'm about to tell you, except that the host selected the mafia, removing any element of randomness. Plus, if you're the new guy in the group, say good-bye to being mafia or having any sort of special role. My version corrects this.

I've heard of a version where cards are distributed to the players, but no one closes their eyes at night, meaning the strategy is severely cut back from the game.

But enough on this. If this hasn't made any sense to you thus far, it is about to, for I am about to explain to you the correct way to play the game which, from this point on, shall be known only as...Mafia.

Society of the Machine

When a power hungry robot named Sudokus tries
to take control of the galaxy, Earth becomes the
last safe haven. It is then up to the humans, and
what else is left of the rebellion throughout the
solar system, to try to halt Sudokus’s progress. But Sudokus won’t easily be stopped, as he is fighting for more than imperial gains. He is also fighting to preserve his immortality.

Follow Leon’s journey as he attempts to save
himself and his planet from being forever ruled by
a machine while simultaneously trying to answer
the question of whether the corruption of a robot
would be any worse than the corruption of the
people in power on his own planet

Society of the Machine

Society of the Machine: Leon
Society of the Machine: Leon

Like Science Fiction? Like supporting independent creators? Please consider purchasing my book.



If it's unclear, you are the host in these instructions. The host is not part of the game, and does not have a card. Rather,they hand out the cards, and generally run the game. Although not a part of the game in terms of outcome, the host is the most necessary part of the game, as the game couldn't run without them.

How to Play Mafia

The Game is easiest to explain when you're actually playing, but even explaining why that is involves explaining the game, so, here goes nothing.

The first thing you must understand is that the game requires cards to be played. However, if you shouldn't happen not to have cards, you make up for this by marking napkins or loose pieces of paper. You may not substitute cards by saying, "Everyone close your eyes and I'll tap your shoulder if you are the mafia/inspector/doctor/etc...". If you do this, you are in for a long night of people saying "What am I again?" or "Oh, sorry, I thought I was the doctor," or you yourself asking, "Ummm, doctor, where are you?". No, cards are definitely required.

You have cards. That's nice, but you also need people. The bare minimum is eight (8) people: one host, and seven players. However, the game will be significantly more enjoyable with Nine (9) players: one host, and eight players. More players will continue to make the game better, up until around fifteen (15) players. Once you get past twenty (20), the game will begin to deteriorate as it will take too much time for all the players to come to a consensus about anything.

Unrelated to mafia, I believe twelve is a beautiful number. I think our world would be better in base twelve, rather than base ten. The only reason we are in base ten, is because we (most of us, anyway) have ten fingers. But if you think about it, twelve is such a better number. Ten only has a few factors: one, two, five, and ten. Twelve, conversely, has: one, two, three, four, six, and twelve. Anyway, the point is that for the sake of these instructions, we will assume that we have twelve (12) players.

When playing Mafia, no more than one third (1/3) of the players should be mafia. I could just say one third (1/3) of the players should be mafia, but aside from some numbers not being divisible by 3, the other problem is that it's less precise than that. For example, eight players will certainly take two mafia, and ten (10) players will certainly take three mafia, but nine (9) players could take either two or three. It depends on the skill level of the players, and whether or not the group would rather make the game easier for the mafia or for the townspeople (of course, you should ask them this before handing out the cards). In our scenario, we have twelve (12) players, so let us say that we have 3 mafia (I prefer err on the side of the townspeople).

Now, we're getting into the meat of the game. From your deck of fifty-two cards, you will have to select twelve. Mafia and townspeople should be different colors. Generally, mafia is black, and the townspeople are red. Therefore, three of the cards you select should be black, and the other nine should be red. For right now, don't worry about what specifically to make the cards in terms of face or suit, just make sure the black cards are only number cards.


Day and Night

Terms I and others often overlook in explaining the game are "day" and "night". It is easier to understand day and night if you physically turn on and off lights (on for day, off for night) although this obviously isn't possibly if playing outside.

Day is when everyone has their eyes open. It is when the host explains what happened during the night, and, based on that evidence, players try to make an argument about who they believe should die. Day ends when a majority (not a plurality) of people decide upon one person to kill.

Night is when the majority of the game takes place. When night commences, the host should turn off the lights and announce that it is night. He should then ask the mafia to open their eyes and agree (with a majority, through non-verbal finger pointing) on who to kill. Once this person is noted, mafia should close their eyes. Then the host should ask for the doctor to open their eyes and decide who they want to save (again non-verbally). Once the person is noted, the doctor should close their eyes and the host should ask for the inspector to open their eyes and (non-verbally) point to one person who they want to know is or is not the mafia. If the person the inspector points to is mafia, then the host should nod their head yes (non-verbally), and if the person is not mafia, the host should shake their head no (non-verbally). After this, the inspector should close their eyes. The host should then announce day time and turn on the lights.

Almost Ready to Begin

You have twelve people situated in a rough circle, and twelve cards in your hand, three black, nine red. You're almost ready to hand them out, but first we must address those red cards, and more related, the rules of the game.

First, let's finish composing the deck. Of the twelve cards, we already know three are black number cards. Now, add to that seven red number cards. This gives us ten of our twelve cards. For the last two cars, one should be a red ace, and one should be a red jack. Now that the deck is compiled, I'll give you a luxury I currently lack. Hand out the cards, one card to each person, at random. Once they have the cards, you may explain the following rules to them. It is easier this way, because then each person only has to learn their specific role.

The red ace is a special card. The person who has this card is the inspector. In the night (see right) the inspector can select one person to find out whether or not they are the mafia. By pointing (non-verbally) at the person, the inspector is implicitly asking "Is this person the mafia?". Without speaking, the host will nod yes, indicating, "Yes, the person you have pointed to is a member of the mafia," or they will shake their head no, indicating, "No, the person you have pointed to is not a member of the mafia." The inspector, and no one else, now has this knowledge. How to use this knowledge is an article all it's own. For now, just understand that it is not necessary that the inspector disclose or not disclose this information, but if the inspector is killed either in the day or in the night, then they can no longer share the information with the rest of the group.

The red jack is another special card. The person who has this card is the doctor. In the night,the doctor can choose one person to "save." To save a person means that if the person was targeted to be killed by a mafia (or anyone else, but that will be explained later in the series), then the doctor negates that and the person will live. Note: The host, in the subsequent day, should announce that "a cloaked figure saved them." Which leads me to my next point.

Everything must be kept secret. When someone dies, then you say the mafia killed the person, but other than that, the host never says who was targeted, and the host under no circumstance say who was doing the targeting. When the doctor saves someone, the host doesn't say who the doctor is, or who they saved. The host should never reveal who the inspector is, who the mafia is, who the townspeople are--nothing.

Lastly, the mafia are the black cards, as already established. In the night, the host asks them to open their eyes, and, in our scenario, two of the three mafia must agree on someone to kill by (non-verbally) pointing. If there were four mafia, three of them would need to agree. If there were five mafia, still three of them would need to agree. For six mafia and up, only a plurality need to agree. If, and when, there are two mafia, then they both need to agree. If, and when, there is only one mafia, obviously they need no agreement.

Now you are ready to play. Everyone has their card, and everyone knows their role. Explain the rules to them, announce night, and let the game begin. Stayed tuned to this hub, as I will later explain more roles that you can add, and specific strategies for playing.


Hosts the game. Hands out cards, calls for votes, announces day and night, explains to the group everything that happened in the night.
In the night, the inspector gets to ask the host whether or not a certain player is a mafia member
Red Ace
In the night, the doctor gets to save one person (including himself) whom he believes the mafia has targeted for death.
Red Jack
No ability. Must work to eliminate mafia (through voting) during the day
Red Number Card
In the night, the mafia come to a consensus about which player to target for death.
Black Number Card
Time Bomb
When the time bomb dies (in the day or night) they can choose any other player to die with them
Optional (Generally Red King
In the night, the vigilante can kill any player who they believe is in the mafia (ONE TIME USE ONLY).
Optional (Generally Red King)
When the Baker dies, the townspeople must kill all mafia in the next x nights, or the mafia automatically win (x is determined by the total number of players in the game)
In the first night, Cupid chooses any two players (may include him/herself) to "link" so that when one of the linked players dies, the other linked player automatically dies with them.
Optional (Generally Red Queen)
These are just a few of the most common roles. Other roles include Hypnotist, Dentist,Boss, and so on. The host may create other roles if all players understand the game and consent.

Ace of Hearts


This is an introduction to a longer Series. In the next installments, I will talk about specific strategies for specific Roles. Next installments topic is Strategy for the Inspector. These strategies have come from some a diverse array of experienced players and from my own observations. The strategies will not always work, or may only work once, but they're still an invaluable part of a mafia player's arsenal and have gotten me and countless others out of seemingly impossible situation. Truly, it is these strategies that differentiate


Which Role Do You Prefer?

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Contact Information

If you are looking for a writer, please contact me via my social media, or through hubpages. I have experience in many different areas with strengths in journalism and creative writing.

Please consider checking out the book Society of the Machine and feel free to offer me any feedback, positive or negative. Be on the lookout for the sequel as well, which is likely to come out this summer (as of now, untitled).

For more of my writing, keep posted to this hubpage, or check out my work for The Griffin at


I am a writer. I have substantial experience in journalism, and my passion is for creative writing. When it comes to writing, I've dabbled in everything.

I am a reader, a hockey player, a part-time musician, and an English major at Canisius College.


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