01 March 2016
Is this new take on the social deduction genre an offer you can’t refuse? Millie Lavelle finds out.
A waiter whispers into the Don’s right ear just as your fellow mobster takes a cigar box off him. “Please, continue in my absence, I just need to take this call from el Presidente,” says the Don, leaving you and the rest of the Family at the table. You watch as your ‘associate’ inspects the contents of the cigar box before he finally passes it to you. You reach for a cigar but something sparkling catches your eye… diamonds! So this is why the Don closely guards the box. Maybe you could help yourself to a couple? After all, you’ve been loyal to the Family for years, surely no one would suspect you… plus your associate is a loyal follower of the Don too, so he would never suspect you either and you could both blame everyone else. Then again, he was scrabbling about in the box for a while… did he take a diamond? You suddenly realise the whole table is watching you… do you take a precious jewel or stay loyal? And even if you stay loyal can you prove you’re not a thief?
Normally when dealing out the roles for a social deduction game, there’s always a few people who hate the idea of being on Team Evil, but the random assigning of roles in these games is, in most cases, part of the blind set up that precedes the 20 minutes of lies and confusion.
Mafia de Cuba is a game that aims to take away this random element and give players the option of choosing their roles. As the cigar box is passed around the table, each player takes either a character token or steals some diamonds. Along the way, you inspect the remaining contents of the box and gather your own little nugget of information to give the Don in the final hunt for thieves.
As a result the game becomes one of misinformation and misdirection for the thieves, while those loyal need to help the Don complete the information and trip up the dishonest players in their lies. Did James really forget to count the diamonds, or is it just because he stole too many and can’t work out what number to say? You know there must be an FBI agent up that end of the table, so James could be trying to get caught and trap the Don. So many pieces of the puzzle, wrapped up in your friends pretending to be mobsters.
The player choice element doesn’t always work though and it’s something to consider if you’ve hooked players into trying the game based on this twist. If they receive the cigar box too late in the round, they might be forced to steal diamonds, and they’re back to being on Team Evil, without the support of knowing whom their co-conspirators are.
But Mafia de Cuba provides all the right things for a great social deduction game. Confusion, lies, bluffing, tense moments of truth and heaps of laughter. Add those to such a simple set up and it’s easy to forgive this beautifully produced game its downsides.
The element of choosing your role is what stands Mafia de Cuba apart
from all the social deduction games that are appearing on the shelves of your local games stores right now. It’s a great spin on the traditional setup but one that makes it best for those comfortable with this style of game. It’s also best when you embrace the theme, so dodgy gangster accents are essential.
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