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The Mafia Series: Mafia

Updated on May 16, 2014


Firstly, if you don't know what mafia is, or how to play, see my previous hub.

The goal of the mafia (not the mafia game, but the actual mafia players) is to kill townspeople until the number of townspeople are less than or equal to the number of mafia players remaining in the game.

In the night, the host will ask the mafia who they want to kill, and they must agree with a majority (if there are two mafia, both must agree), on who they want.

Sounds simple enough, right? However, there is an incredible amount of strategy that goes into being a member of the mafia. Firstly, mafia are always in the minority, meaning every mistake is amplified. Secondly, mafia are the only ones who can't use true logic during the day to accuse people, since all true logic would point back to them.

In order for the mafia to win, not all mafia need to remain alive, but the at least one member must, and the more mafia, the easier it is, because remember that the goal is for the townspeople to have a lesser or equal number of people remaining as compared to the mafia. Therefore, if you have three mafia members left, you can win while there are still three townspeople left. However, if only one mafia member remains, he/she must kill at least all but one of the townspeople.

Basic Strategy

Being a mafia member means answering two questions:

1) Who do I kill?

2) How do I keep myself from being killed?

The answers to these questions are not simple, but there are some basic strategies that are useful for beginning players.

1) Who do I kill?

Firstly, know that you can kill whoever you want. You can even kill a fellow mafia member if you have majority support (I've seen this strategy used effectively only once, so I don't recommend it). And also know that anything I tell you isn't "capital T" Truth. However, with my experience playing this game, I can tell you some beneficial tactics in this area.

In the most general sense, you want to kill whoever the doctor is not going to save. Now, let's unpack this statement. First, this won't help you on the first night. You don't know who the doctor is, let alone who he/she will save (although, they'll likely save themselves).

I'll get back to the whole doctor thing shortly, but let's go in order, starting with the first night. First night, who do you kill? Basically, there are three choices (assuming you're familiar with the group--if you're not, then eenie meenie miney mo should do you fine).

Choice one is to kill a skilled player. This is the type of player most likely to use logic and reason (or maybe even intuition) to figure out who the mafia are. If you kill this player, then it reduces the chances of people being able to figure out you're identity as mafia, since it removes a skilled player from the game. However, there are drawbacks. One is that if the doctor is going to save someone other than themselves, then it's going to be a skilled player, meaning this tactic may fail. Drawback two is that if there's even one other player who's paying attention, they'll realize the mafia must be competent and/or skilled to have taken out a skilled player, and (considering that you're a skilled player for having read this hub) they'll begin to suspect you.

Choice two is to kill a non-skilled player. The reason you would do this is because it draws little suspicion. People won't know for certain whether or not you were targeting the player because they weren't skilled, and probably no one will suspect you (unless a townsperson thinks you intentionally selected an unskilled player to not draw attention, and therefore suspects you). The drawback is that it's one less (pardon the expression) "useful idiot" for you to manipulate during the day. Also, you leave alive all the skilled players that are most likely to kill you.

Choice three is to kill a person at random. The in between choice. You get the best of both worlds, but also the worst of both worlds. The one major upside to this is that it will definitely arouse no suspicion. No one will know who killed a player who is neither skilled or unskilled. If anything, they'll likely believe it was a less skilled mafia who did it, which will deflect attention away from a skilled player, such as yourself. The drawback is that, again, all the skilled players most likely to kill you are left alive.

But let's move past the first night. Let's say that you've started figuring out who the doctor might be, and who the inspector might be, and maybe one mafia has been killed--whatever the case may be, we're in the middle of the game, is my point. Who do you kill? You kill the person the doctor is least likely to save. How do you know who the doctor will save? It depends on the scenario.

If the group knows the identity of the doctor (mafia included, and also meaning that the doctor knows the mafia knows), then go for someone other than the doctor, because the doctor will most likely save him/herself. If you do this and the discover the doctor is in fact not saving him/herself (because the host says the person you targeted was saved) then still don't go after the doctor, because know he/she will probably go back to saving him/herself out of fear. You may miss a glorious opportunity (and if you have enough turns left in the game, then I'd even suggest going after the doctor just once, just to keep him/her honest, or, best case scenario, catch him/her slipping) but you have to play the odds and go after other players.

If you think you know who the doctor is, but you think the doctor does not know that you know, then go after the doctor. You have a decent chance of killing him/her, and if you don't, then go after him/her again the next night. If you still fail, then the doctor either 1) actually knew that you knew 2) Had just been saving him/herself every night anyway 3) Got lucky those two nights, but will now be scared into continuing to save his/herself every night, leaving you free to attack others.

If the group knows the identity of the inspector, but not the doctor, target someone other than the inspector. The doctor will believe they are safe and save the inspector (probably), so just target someone else (if you secretly believe you know who the doctor is, then kill him/her).

If the group knows the identity of both the inspector and the doctor. Target the inspector. The doctor will probably be scared and selfish (unless you have reason to suspect otherwise) and therefore save him/herself. This is not guaranteed to work, but again, we're playing the odds. If it doesn't work, attack whoever you want. The doctor will be under tremendous stress and there's no telling what they'll do.

If you don't know anything, then you're back to the first night, and follow those corresponding tips.

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.


Basic Strategies (Con't)

2) How do I keep myself from being killed?

This, for me, is the most difficult thing. As a townsperson (including inspector, doctor) you can just use logic to make accusations in the day. However, this doesn't work so well as the mafia. How do you find "evidence' for your accusations, when all the evidence theoretically points back to you?

Firstly, you must act normal. Neither stand out nor stand down. One easy way to get yourself killed is to not say anything. At some point (inevitably, early on), someone will say, "Hey, this person isn't saying anything--they're mafia." And they're usually right. I've also seen many (bad) mafia, when accused say, "Alright, kill me and see if I'm mafia," to which the townspeople reply, "okay." No townsperson worth anything will ever say it's okay to kill them. They will fight until the bitter end to save their lives. I've also seen people say, "That person is being way too accusative--they must be mafia." And they're usually right too.

Therefore, you must make a few well-placed, well-sounding accusations. Keep this in mind when targeting the first person on the first night. Target someone who you can use to frame someone else. Perhaps pick a person who has a close friend (or enemy) in the group, and then, in the day, say, "Person X and person Y are close friends, therefore, person Y is mafia and killed Person X." Someone may then turn around and say that this looks like a frame job, and then accuse you, but again, we're playing the odds.

First night is easiest because no one knows anything, so anyone you accuse is unlikely to backfire, and people won't blame you as much for a reckless guess. On later nights, you have to have more "evidence." This section has already gone on long enough, so I won't lay down every single piece of false evidence you can use (be creative, make up your own), instead, I'll just leave you with this piece of advice: every time you target someone, know how you can frame someone else for it.

I lied (a little). In the final section on advanced tactics, I'll talk a little more on ways not to get killed, as well as ways to win the game in general.


Do You Think it's Ever Beneficial for The Mafia to Kill One of Their Own Members?

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Hopefully you don't notice that the diamond cards don't come in black.
Hopefully you don't notice that the diamond cards don't come in black.

Advanced Strategy

Vote Against Your Interests:

In theory, mafia should vote together to maximize their collective voting strength. But that's theory. In reality, doing so could raise suspicion. A good player will recognize when the same three players (or however many mafia there are) continue voting together, and will come to the conclusion that they are mafia. Therefore, it is wise to not only break the voting pattern, to avoid this, but to go a step further, and vote against your fellow mafia players. Even go so far as to accuse them, if you can afford it (i.e. it won't cost you the game). That way, when people start accusing you, you can say, "How can I be mafia, if I've been voting to kill mafia all along?" Of course, just because you say this doesn't mean people will believe you, but it's better than nothing.

If you're a real risk taker, accuse a fellow mafia who no one expects. Best case scenario, your accusation builds no momentum, but later, that person is killed, and then you brag about how you were first to accuse them. Worst case scenario, you get a mafia needlessly killed. Either way, you get suspicion off your back (unless someone suspects you of using this tactic).

Claim Doctor:

Now, if you've been keeping up with the series, you may be asking, "Isn't this a death sentence?" Yes, yes it is (almost always, anyway). If you claim doctor, the real doctor will expose you, but that's why this tactic is also good. By coming out as "doctor," you force the real doctor to come out. The best outcome of pretending to be doctor is that the real doctor decides not to come out, in order to protect their identity, and, as a result, you masquerade for many turns with a token of immunity. The other option is that the doctor comes out, you die either that day or the next (depending on who the townspeople believe), but then you're other mafia members now know who the doctor is, and can avoid him if they think he'll save himself, or target him if they think he won't.

Claim Inspector:

Isn't this the same as claiming doctor? Sort of. The difference here is that you can back it up. If you claim inspector, then you actually know who all the mafia are. Even the real inspector probably doesn't know this (yet). If you want, you can sell out one or two of your fellow mafia, then gain the trust of the townspeople. The drawback here is that the real inspector will come out at some point (probably--do I need to keep adding these clarifications?), and even if the townspeople accidentally kill him, then they'll still kill you next. However, if the inspector is dead, that's a huge win for the mafia (assuming you haven't sold out both/all your fellow mafia). You can see how this is a delicate strategy. You'll probably have to sacrifice a player for it to work, and you'll probably die, meaning you lose two mafia. However, in exchange, you have a decent shot at killing the inspector.

If I'm wrong, kill me next:

This one is simple. Make an incredibly bold (or not) accusation, and be so "sure" that you say, "If I'm wrong about this, then you can kill me tomorrow." There's a decent chance that people will say, "Well, if he's willing to put his life on the line, he must know something." If no one recognizes the trick you're pulling, then you'll get to kill that person (maybe the doctor? The inspector?) The drawback is, you're going to die next round. (Except in one case, where the townspeople were so inept, that they forgot to kill the mafia player--who had pulled this trick, as well as claiming to be both inspector and doctor).

Useful Idiots:

What people really want is for everyone to agree with them. People tend to think they are right in their accusations, even if they're dead wrong. Therefore, people tend not to question why someone agrees with them, they're just happy that they do. Therefore, it's quite easy to build a "superficial majority." Let's say that the townspeople are divided on who to kill. Two people want to kill person X, so you jump on board, and say, "I agree with those two people. I also think it's person X." Now you're up to three votes (let's say it's the first night and you need six votes). Now you get the other tow mafia to join you (risky, I know) and you're up to five votes out of six. Now, just to get things over with, one more person joins in and you've gotten a townsperson killed just by jumping on the bandwagon, and the original accusers praise you for joining them. People will eventually catch on if you just keep bandwagon-ing, but at least you've gotten someone killed.

Remember: the goal of mafia is not to avoid getting killed necessarily, but to kill townspeople. Therefore, calculated risks are sometimes better than taking no risks. If you have to sacrifice yourself to kill the doctor, then do it. Same goes for the inspector. Try to survive as long as possible, but seize opportunities when they arise. Mafia are always fighting an uphill battle, and you'll need every trick you can get in order to win.

How to Play Mafia


A quick youtube search of "mafia card game" will show you just how many variations of the game there are. This is a version essentially identical to the one that I am describing. (Note that the bit at the end about how the mafia wins is wrong.)

Stay Tuned

In the next installation, I will discuss in depth how to be the best possible townsperson. It may not sound flashy, but townspeople have a difficult and important job.


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