The Hungry Gamer Reviews Conspirator
Before I begin, I was provided a copy of the game in exchange for an honest review. This is NOT a paid review.
If you would prefer to watch a video of this review you can check it out below.
I was in high school. Mr. Yim’s math class to be precise. Either we had finished early, or we were so annoying he did not want to teach us anymore that day, but he introduced us to a game that was new to us called Mafia. That was my first experience with social deduction games, and we loved it. We played it so much the the rest of that school year, it eventually became not much fun for me, as the joke became to kill me off first every single night, but I was obnoxious…so I suspect I had it coming.
I did not think about that game again for years, every now and then it would pop up with kids that I was teaching, until eventually it made it big, in the form of Ultimate Werewolf, and its 47 billion variants. I do not know if that is the most popular social deduction game, but it is certainly the one people know the most. Though, at its core (to be fair I have not actually played it) it is the same as Mafia.
I was definitely interested in trying out Conspirator, a new social deduction game that claims its roots in Mafia, rather than Werewolf. I also will not lie, when at first glance I thought that it was merely a re-skin of Mafia, but I am happy to say that I was incorrect, there are subtle differences, and one major difference that I think makes the game. (Sorry you will have to wait to learn what it is!)
This review will assume that you already know how social deduction games work, so I will not talk about how to play the game, rather I will highlight the differences between it and Mafia, and, my understanding of, werewolf.
The big challenge with reviewing Conspirator is that it needs a minimum of 8 players, and can take a maximum of 35. That is not an easy task! However, luckily for me I happen to have easy access to multiple large groups of “people” who are prone to stabbing each other in the back and getting each other in trouble. Yep. That’s right. Middle School students.
As we wrap up the school year, I have the occasion to play games with the kids on Friday’s, if we have finished all of our work, and over the past few weeks I got the chance to play 4 games with the various classes, and got a great feel for the game. The kids love it, they constantly ask me to play it, and I constantly have to repeat. “If we finish all of our work, and you aren’t obnoxious then we can play on Friday.”
So what do I think?
Everything that is fun about Mafia, is fun here as well. The mystery of who is going to bite the big one during the night, the incredible joy when the guardian saves you from being killed, the excitement when the Sentinel discovers one of the conspirators. All that is fun in the original game and it remains fun here. It has all the delightful roles of the old game, and has a few new variants added here as well.
While the variant roles are fun and delightful, I want to highlight what really makes this game different. The Monarch. This is the point of the game. The Citizens (all with the cross) want the Monarch to remain and the Conspirators killed, and the Conspirators (all the cards with the little blood droplet) want his or her majesty to be without enough support to remain in power-though they are not bold enough to outright kill him/her.
At the start of the game when roles are passed out, the Monarch is the only one that announces their role. They are immune to being killed, and when it comes time to decide who to execute in the aftermath of the night they have a huge responsibility. You see, unlike most of the deduction games where a consensus must be reached, in Conspirator, the Monarch decides. They listen to what the townsfolk have to say, and what they think, but at the end of the day they get to condemn whomever they want. They can listen, or go off on their own. The only thing that can prevent them is the judge, who can stop a condemnation once per game.
To me, this makes the game. This is what realizes the theme of the game, and this is what makes it exciting to me. Now you are able to develop a story. In the games I have played I have seen tyrants, which made you feel the conspirators were actually out to save the country, and games where the Monarch listened to advice and thought long and hard about killing a single one of their citizens. It is great fun to watch.
The components. They are sufficient. The cards are not great quality, but they are not bad, and at the end of the day you do not actually use them much. You pass them out as a way to determine roles and then, in theory they are never actually touched again. So this is not really an issue.
The rules are printed on the cards as well. So rather than there being an actual rule book, or sheet, you have to flip through 4 or 6 cards to get the rules. I would not say this is a good or bad thing, it is just different, and worth noting.
Finally the artwork. It is fine, it is sufficient, but it is not exciting. I think there is certainly room for lots of improvement here, but then again I suspect that would drive up costs, and again, you do not actually use the cards much after you have learned your role, so I am not sure how much value there is to it.
My only complaint, and this is more of a complaint that comes with the genre itself, rather than this particular offering, is that the game is so very reliant on having a good moderator. If you do not have someone who can keep the game moving, narrate events in a creative and entertaining way then the game simply will not work. Sadly, there is really no way to know if someone will be able to do a good job of it until they have tried it out, and a bad moderator will not only make the game not fun, but can easily drive people away from the genre all together.
Bringing it all together
This is a good variant on Mafia. It is simple to play, easy to learn and is good fun. The areas where it differs from Mafia are very well done, and really make the game pop. The components and art are adequate. The only real challenge with the game is that it is, as are all of these type of games, on having a good moderator. They will make or break the experience for everyone involved.
Make me read all that and you will be the next victim!
*Variation on Mafia, but where it varies are the places it shines
*Adequate component quality and artwork
*Easy to learn, simple to play
*Inexpensive at only $15
*Game only works if you have a good “moderator”-though this is a genre wide challenge