WitchHunt is an evolution of the folk game known as Mafia or Werewolf. In these games, a "village" of players race to identify a team of traitors hiding among them who are gradually eliminating members of the village.
WitchHunt gives each player a unique (but simple) ability, which provides unique vantage points that stimulate discussion. The game also gives powers to the dead players, preserving the tense experience of a shrinking village without obnoxious player elimination. These factors create a highly inclusive social game, in which all players share in an emergent narrative where everyone has a clear impact on the outcome.
I was always fascinated by "mafia-style" social deception games, but shared in the gripes many others have. After all, what other group game makes most players cannon fodder and begins with a popular vote for someone who doesn't get to play?
WitchHunt evolved over the last 8 years to target a growing list of design goals; every time one would be achieved, another would be added:
-Non-degenerate competitive play between the two teams at all player experience levels
-Unique roles for every player, with similar power levels and meaningful gameplay for either team
-Game-altering decisions for the dead players of each team
-Retain support for extremely large games (20+ players)
-Preserve the player experience of rising tension in a shrinking town
-No randomness beyond the initial card deal, including arbitrary pre-game decisions
-Richer, non-random "Day 1" discussion
-All decisions should be significant to and have a clear link to the game's outcome
-Discourage passive Witch-team play
-Discourage self-reinforcing "meta"-based community behaviors
-Encourage three- and four-player "standoff" final-decision endgames
-Encourage all players to emotionally invest in the game's outcome
-Affect limited rubber-banding, de-emphasizing early town votes in favor of later ones
-Simple, concise, and intuitive rules
-No rules that are subjective, seat-order dependent, or vote-order dependent
-Short days and shorter nights; minimal private actions
-Game length that scales sub-linearly with player count
I am proud not of these accumulated design goals themselves, but of the hundreds of games played they enabled to become great stories for players--stories that pull in every player and are retold years later. If you ask many of our playtesters for their favorite five WitchHunt stories, you will probably get ten; this is the best indication of the game's success.
I want more players to create more stories!
Henry Payne, a fellow WUSTL alumni, was running regular games in Chicago and urged me to publish. He became so involved in getting people to play the game that we became partners. His experience in business, consulting, and product management has proven pivotal to making a great game into a great product.
In 2013 I used my savings to hold an art contest to identify the best artist to empower player stories; there were over 50 applicants, but aspiring illustrator Laura La Vito swept it. (It wasn't even close. Every single playtester juror voted for her entry as the #1 choice.)
So I do the design and web app programming, Laura does the art and visual design, and Henry does the other important stuff. (Like reminding me to submit to IndieCade!)
Now fate finds us all in Chicago, working to finally answer the FAQ: "How can I buy a copy?"