LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, BOYS AND GIRLS, CHILDREN OF ALL AGES! Welcome to the third SHOWDOWN! here at Boards and Bees. To celebrate, we are pitting not two, but three games against each other in a battle for social deduction supremacy! Who will win the SHOWDOWN? Let’s meet the contestants.
- Designed by Ted Alspach
- Published in 2008 by Bezier Games
- 5-68 players ages 8 and up
- 30 minutes to play
- Werewolves are wreaking havoc in your village! With the help of others you don’t know if you can trust, you must destroy them before they devour everyone!
- Designed by Don Eskridge
- Originally self-published in 2009, now published by Indie Boards and Cards
- 5-10 players ages 13 and up
- 30 minutes to play
- You are a member of the resistance fighting a shadow government. However, your group has been infiltrated by spies, making your task of overthrowing the bureaucracy that much harder.
- Designed by Yasutaka Ikeda
- Originally published in 2005, now published by Z-Man Games
- 4-8 players ages 13 and up
- 45 minutes to play
- An ancient battle between good and evil is taking place, and you are a part! You’re either a Shadow, a Hunter, or a Neutral character with his own agenda.
Here’s how this SHOWDOWN! will work. 11 categories have been chosen in which these three games will be compared. There are four points available in each category, though only one game can have more than one and no game can have more than two. One point will be awarded for an adequate job of fulfilling the category, and a bonus point if one shines through more than the others. A running tally will be kept, and the one with the most points at the end wins the SHOWDOWN! Without further ado, here we go!
COMPONENTS: The components in all three games are certainly good for what they need to be. Ultimate Werewolf has some good art in the card game, but there’s really nothing remarkable about the bits – it’s just cards. So I cannot give that game more than a point. Shadow Hunters has some good anime style art, which is good if you like that kind of thing. There’s also a board that serves no purpose other than to track HPs and give you a place to store the location cards. While convenient to see where everyone is, it’s not really an outstanding component. The Resistance features some gorgeous art and high quality cards. The board in the first edition did a fair job of organizing all the information you needed, but the second edition features boards for every combination of players that gives info specifically for that player number. For these reasons, The Resistance gets the bonus point for this first category. SCORE: Ultimate Werewolf 1, The Resistance 2, Shadow Hunters 1 (An early lead for the Resistance!)
THEME: The theme really drives all three games – UW is about the hunt for a werewolf, The Resistance is about the hunt for spies, and Shadow Hunters is about the hunt for whoever isn’t on your team. And it really comes out in the interaction that this creates – accusing people of being a werewolf, spy, or different roles adds to the fun of all three. So all three games get a point. However, I need to award a bonus point to the Resistance because I think the theme is more evocative. This mostly comes from the art, but it encourages roleplaying more than either of the others. In Ultimate Werewolf, you’re supposed to create a character for yourself, but I’ve never seen anyone do it. In Shadow Hunters, you have to keep your particular characteristics to yourself until you reveal, so the theme doesn’t come out until later. In The Resistance, you can create missions, come up with agent types, and really get into the paranoia that is created. So, bonus point to The Resistance. SCORE: Ultimate Werewolf 2, The Resistance 4, Shadow Hunters 2 (The Resistance charges forward!)
CENTRAL MECHANISM: All three games are social deduction games, which is a genre I really like, so an automatic point to all of them. But, who does it best? Ultimate Werewolf uses open voting and nominations to have people vote for who they think is there werewolf, while The Resistance uses closed voting. Both games, however, suffer from a lack of ways to get information, which makes it incredibly difficult for the good guys to win (unless by lucky chance). Shadow Hunters has hermit cards that you can give to other players to find out more about them. This still relies on luck, but at least you can be observant and find out a little at a time. Logic can be used to some degree in The Resistance as you look at who failed which mission, but it’s still impossible to know for sure without putting all the spies on a mission and have them all fail it. Ultimate Werewolf has no logic at all – you just need to make blind guesses based on who looks shifty. There are roles you can add in to spice things up, something that The Resistance doesn’t have at all (though Resistance: Avalon added some). Still, I think the hidden roles in Shadow Hunters are much better, so Shadow Hunters is scoring the bonus here. SCORE: Ultimate Werewolf 3, The Resistance 5, Shadow Hunters 4 (Shadow Hunters makes a move!)
TIME: This is a tough one to score, as the time for all three really depend on who’s playing and their style of play. An aggressive player in Shadow Hunters can end things very quickly, while passive play can stretch things out a lot. Ultimate Werewolf and The Resistance can be extended by lots of debating. So, while UW and The Resistance are shorter games overall, I’m not going to give a bonus point to any of the three. All of them go fairly quickly, so all three get a point, and that’s it. SCORE: Ultimate Werewolf 4, The Resistance 6, Shadow Hunters 5 (No change in the standings!)
ACCESSIBILITY: These are all fairly easy to teach. However, I think Ultimate Werewolf wins simply because it’s the easiest to grasp. Some players are werewolves, the rest are villagers. The villagers need to find and kill the werewolves, werewolves need to pick off all the villagers without getting caught. You can amp up the difficulty by adding roles, but right out of the box, it’s very easy to understand. The Resistance is a little tougher with the more complex voting rules, and Shadow Hunters is tougher still with the different roles and cards to draw. I think non- and casual gamers could all pick all three up, but Ultimate Werewolf gets the bonus point. SCORE: Ultimate Werewolf 6, The Resistance 7, Shadow Hunters 6 (Ultimate Werewolf pulls into a tie for second!)
REPLAYABILITY: All three are inherently replayable simply because of the different playing styles of different groups. You can play all three again and again with different people and get a different experience. But what about playing with the same people? To me, I think The Resistance starts to feel the same after a while. The Resistance wins the first mission, the spies sabotage the next two, the Resistance wins the fourth, and the spies win the game in the fifth. That’s been 75% of my games. Ultimate Werewolf can be frustrating, particularly since players get eliminated and certain people might get picked on earlier than others. It also feels the same, though the roles can change things up. Shadow Hunters, though, feels different to me every single time, even with the same players. The hidden roles really add an element of intrigue into each game, and the neutrals in particular make everything quite unpredictable. I also feel it’s well balanced for each grouping/individual, which means that no one faction has won more than any other in games I’ve played. The Resistance usually goes to the spies, and Ultimate Werewolf usually goes to the werewolves. So, all get a point, but Shadow Hunters gets the bonus. SCORE: Ultimate Werewolf 7, The Resistance 8, Shadow Hunters 8 (Shadow Hunters catches the leader!)
SCALABILITY: Since a lot of games have low player numbers (usually not more than five or six), it’s nice to have some games to go to that fit larger groups. All of these games play well with big groups, though I would say Shadow Hunters plays best with 6 (and I highly recommend AGAINST playing with 4). I’m not sure what the best number is for The Resistance (BGG says 7), and Ultimate Werewolf is playable by up to 68 (BGG says it’s best up to 16). So I’ll give them all a point for being good games for big groups, but I have to give a bonus to Ultimate Werewolf for its size. SCORE: Ultimate Werewolf 9, The Resistance 9, Shadow Hunters 9 (A three-way tie!)
STRATEGY: Let’s get this out of the way first: there is NO strategy in Ultimate Werewolf. You have no way of knowing who to trust in the early part of the game, you just have to start killing people. So I’m not giving UW any points for this category. The Resistance has a little more strategy that mostly boils down to logic – trying to figure out who to trust, or how to narrow down your choices. Shadow Hunters has different ways to play based on who you are – when do you reveal, how do you try to fulfill your win condition without letting others know who you are, who to give hermit cards to, noticing how others are playing. So a point to The Resistance and Shadow Hunters, with a bonus to Shadow Hunters. Despite having dice rolls and random card draws, I think there’s more strategy involved due to the variable victory conditions. Plus, having the neutral characters and a Shadow character that can lie makes things more complicated. SCORE: Ultimate Werewolf 9, The Resistance 10, Shadow Hunters 11 (Shadow Hunters takes the lead!)
FUN FACTOR: With the right crowd, all three of these can be a lot of fun. With the wrong crowd, they all may fall flat on their face. But I think they’ve all got their merits. However, as I mentioned previously, UW and The Resistance often feel the same after the while, and even kind of stressful. I have more fun with Shadow Hunters. It gets the bonus. SCORE: Ultimate Werewolf 10, The Resistance 11, Shadow Hunters 13 (Shadow Hunters extends the lead!)
VALUE: Ultimate Werewolf is a $25 game, which seems a little excessive for being a box of cards. Shadow Hunters is a $40 game, and the current second edition includes the expansion. As there are more components, that’s more reasonable, but I think it’s still kind of high. The Resistance is $20, and packs a lot of game into its box. While I think that all of these are fairly good values, I’m going to give the bonus to The Resistance because I think you get more for your money. SCORE: Ultimate Werewolf 11, The Resistance 13, Shadow Hunters 14 (Coming down to the wire!)
ORIGINALITY: I can’t give Ultimate Werewolf any points here. Its big innovation was adding a whole bunch of roles to the game of Werewolf, which originally came out of the public domain. Because it’s not an original property, we’ll just call it for Ultimate Werewolf and congratulate it on its runner-up status. The Resistance adds a clever theme to the Werewolf style of game and some novel voting mechanisms to make for a more original product. Shadow Hunters takes the idea of social deduction and adds factions, locations, and hidden roles. Both get a point for originality, but the bonus point is going to…Shadow Hunters! Probably the biggest deciding factor here was the addition of the Neutral characters, who are not involved in the fight between Shadows and Hunters, but have their own objectives. It adds so much more depth to the game, and why I won’t play with four (no Neutrals in that version). FINAL SCORE: Ultimate Werewolf 11, The Resistance 14, Shadow Hunters 16 (We have a winner!)
So Shadow Hunters joins Core Worlds and Innovation as winners in the SHOWDOWN! I have to say, I was pretty sure Shadow Hunters would win, but I didn’t think it would be this close. The Resistance is a great game that I enjoy a lot, but I like Shadow Hunters much more. Ultimate Werewolf is fun too, but I would definitely choose The Resistance over that one.
Thanks for reading!