26 September 2017
We’ve got 20 Questions for this snappy game of word deduction
At some point in your life, you’ve probably played a game of 20 Questions, the quick party game that involves figuring out a hidden answer by asking simple yes/no interrogations. Is it an animal? Does it have wings? Is it smaller than a loaf of bread? Does it live in the woods? Is it furry? And so on. (I was thinking of a badger, if you’re wondering.)
As he once did for another party favourite, Werewolf, Ted Alspach has now put his own lycanthropic spin on 20 Questions with Werewords, which sprinkles hidden roles into the question-and-answer mix.
One player is the mayor, who knows the hidden word and can only answer questions with 'yes/no', 'maybe' and ‘so close’ tokens. Meanwhile, at least one werewolf (which can be the mayor) also knows the word, and is trying to mislead the guessing players without giving away their ulterior motives. There’s an extra gang of different roles and talents – the seer, beholder, doppelgänger and minion all make a return from One Night Ultimate Werewolf – that can added to the roster to help and hinder the players and werewolves, depending on how many people are playing and your personal preference.
It’s a very simple setup made easier by the free companion app that you’ll need to play. The mandatory app provides a choice of words for the mayor, commands players to open and close their eyes at the right points, and can also provide some atmospheric background music as the four-minute timer for each round ticks away. It works well, and there’s a nice amount of customisation for word lists and game setups, although the commentator’s performance is laid on a little thick at times. It’s a shame that it can’t be played without the app, but the 10,000 built-in words and ability to add custom lists of answers far outweighs the negatives.
The word choices range between easy and ‘ridiculous’, throwing up everything from Bambi and April O’Neil to a police car and knob. (We’ll let you decide which type.)
Because the majority of the game consists of asking questions, deliberating over the werewolf is somewhat sidelined until a 60-second round of voting after the main round if the group fails to get the answer right. It makes the game a less intimidating experience for newcomers to the social deduction genre, but also takes some of the excitement and tension away from the more exciting deception-and-debate elements that more hardcore fans may expect. As it takes only a few minutes to play and can be explained in a couple of sentences, it’s a good gateway introduction for the genre, but it’s unlikely to hold your attention for as many plays as more intense and complex games about lying such as The Resistance or Deception.
As with Bezier’s past One Night and Werewolf games, the art and style is an acquired taste – the cartoonish look doesn’t really do it for me, but it’s innocuous enough to ignore and enjoy the game. (Most of the cards spend the whole time facedown anyway.) Regardless, the components are lovely: the role cards and answer tokens are thick chunks of cardboard that feel like they will resist the giveaway scuffs and creases that often ruin the cards of other hidden-role games.
Werewords is a fast, friendly and easy-going social deduction effort. It doesn’t have the most riveting hidden-role gameplay around, but evolves the 20 Questions formula enough to offer an interesting and enjoyable few minutes. Just don’t be surprised when you find yourself moving on to something a little more substantial.
Dialling back the more confrontational accusations and deceit of its Werewolf siblings, Werewords is an even lighter social deduction game that’s ideal for players looking to fill a spare few minutes, but not those looking for something they’ll stick with for a long time. Is it still a laugh? Absolutely.
Genre: Social deduction
Time: 10 minutes
This review originally appeared in the August/September 2017 issue of Tabletop Gaming. Pick up the latest issue of the UK's fastest-growing gaming magazine in print or digital here – or subscribe to make sure you never miss another issue.
Sometimes we may include links to online retailers, from which we might receive a commission if you make a purchase. Affiliate links do not influence editorial coverage and will only be used when covering relevant products.