Social deduction games, in which one player works against the rest, are full of excitement and suspense. They’re extremely popular among serious and casual gamers, and they’re perfect for a party.
Avalon features the best of social deception games, including interaction among players and a great bluffing mechanic. Not to mention the game is set in the court of King Arthur, which just adds to the fun.
But there are plenty of games that might appeal to you, depending on your preferences.
I’ve broken down the features of some of the best social deduction games so you can find the right one to break out at your next game night with friends.
Social Deduction Board Games: At a Glance
What makes social deduction games so fun? There are many reasons you might want to play this type of game, but below I’ve listed a few considerations when choosing the best game.
If you’re playing with children, I recommend Crack the Code, A Fake Artist Goes to New York or One Night Ultimate Werewolf. Those games are fun for the whole family, young and old.
You might be drawn to a particular theme. Secret Hitler, The Resistance: Avalon, and Battlestar Galactica have unique themes that might appeal to you.
If you’re short on time, you might go with One Night Ultimate Werewolf, Deception: Murder in Hong Kong, Crack the Code, or A Fake Artist Goes to New York.
However, if you prefer longer gaming sessions, I’d recommend Secret Hitler or Battlestar Galactica.
Social Deduction Game Reviews
The Resistance: Avalon: Best Overall
Time: 30 minutes
The Resistance has been one of the most popular hidden role games since its debut in 2010. The Resistance: Avalon is a stand-alone version that offers a twist to the theme and gameplay.
Set in Arthurian times, Avalon pits the forces of good and evil in a battle to control the future of civilization. Players are brave knights who are loyal to King Arthur, who represents the bright future of Britain.
However, hidden among the brave warriors are evil players who serve Mordred. These minions are few in number but know who the others are.
The good guys are represented by the blue team, while the bad guys are the red team.
Merlin knows who the traitors are, but he can only speak in riddles. If the bad guys correctly name him at the end, the loyal servants lose.
Avalon is a social deduction game at its best. It scales well to a large group but has a minimum of five players.
This game has similar mechanics to Mafia or Werewolf–hidden roles, closing your eyes, a narrator, etc. But it doesn’t have the player elimination element, which I think makes it better.
The quest giver is randomly chosen, and that player’s responsibility is to select other players to go on a quest. Everyone votes on the quest team, either yes or no.
If the team is approved, they are given two cards: success and fail. If you’re a good guy, you MUST choose success. If you’re on the red team, you can choose whatever you want.
The cards are then shuffled and revealed. If even one player chooses a fail card, the quest fails. The rounds continue until either the good or bad guys win by achieving enough victory points.
Speaking of the cards, although they feature beautiful artwork, they feel lightweight and possibly lack durability. I would use plastic sleeves to help preserve the quality.
Even though Avalon is a stand-alone game, you can combine it with The Resistance, ramping up the competition and the fun!
Buyers jokingly warned that this game could make you lose your friends. Its intensity and exciting gameplay make it one of the best social deduction board games on my list.
- Simple rules, easy to learn
- Exciting gameplay
- Scales to a large group
- Can be combined with The Resistance
- Fun theme
- The cards feel a little thin
Secret Hitler: Best for Older Players
Time: 45 minutes
Set in the Weimar Republic during 930s Germany, Secret Hitler is a game of political intrigue and betrayal. It’s a fun board game for history fans or a group of friends.
Players are divided into two groups–liberals and fascists. The fascists are only known to each other, and they coordinate to sow distrust and install their cold-blooded leader.
The liberals are the good guys, and their job is to find and stop the Secret Hitler before it’s too late.
This game is played in rounds. For each round, players elect a President and Chancellor who will work together to enact a law from a random deck. If the government passes a fascist law, players must try to figure out if they were betrayed or simply unlucky.
Secret Hitler also has government powers that come into play as fascism advances. The fascists use those powers to create chaos unless liberals can pull the nation back from the brink of war.
The game has artwork that reflects the era, and the game pieces are top-notch. The plaques for the President and Chancellor are made of real wood, while the boards have a foil inlay.
Buyers went wild over Secret Hitler. They found it highly entertaining, although they did warn about the noise level. When the accusations start flying, it gets loud!
The minimum recommended age is 17, although some played it with slightly younger teenagers. Due to the subject matter and intense gameplay, this is not a kid-friendly option.
Several buyers felt that the game is more fun with more players, making it great for a party. Secret Hitler handles up to 10 players, so it works with a crowd.
However, be aware that the theme and deception might be a turn-off for some people.
Even though the historical context is oversimplified, if your main goal is to play a fun game, you can’t go wrong with Secret Hitler.
- High-quality components
- Intense and entertaining
- Quick setup
- Easy to learn
- Some might not enjoy the theme/title
One Night Ultimate Werewolf: Best App-Supported Game
Time: 10 minutes
Based on the classic social deduction game Werewolf (a.k.a. Mafia), One Night Ultimate Werewolf takes intrigue and deception to the next level.
In this hidden role game, each player gets a unique role: Werewolves, the tricky Troublemaker, the helpful Seer, or one of a dozen villagers, each with their own special abilities.
Throughout one night, players use their abilities to aid them in their quest. The next morning, players have five minutes to discuss what happened during the night phase and then determine who the werewolf is. If the villagers can’t guess correctly, the werewolves win!
This game is app-supported, so you will need to download the free One Night app. It will walk you through the night phase in minutes. It can also function as a timer and play optional background music.
Several reviewers noted that the cards are flimsy and easy to bend, so I recommend investing in some card sleeves for reinforcement.
This is a great social deduction game for kids as well as adults. It’s easy to learn and plays in as little as 10 minutes, so you don’t have to commit to a long gaming session.
One Night Ultimate Werewolf has lots of player interaction, so it’s fun for a group. You can also combine this version with other versions (ONUW Daybreak and ON Ultimate Vampire) for epic battles!
If you enjoy social deduction games, you’ll love One Night Ultimate Werewolf.
- Easy to learn
- Fast-paced gameplay
- Great table talk
- Cards are flimsy
Deception: Murder in Hong Kong: Best Card-Based Game
Time: 20 minutes
Deception: Murder in Hong Kong features beautiful artwork and clever gameplay. A team of investigators is trying to solve a murder, but it appears as if the killer is hiding among them.
At the start of each game, each player receives a set of cards that feature one-word clues, much like Cluedo cards. The murderer secretly picks one of each category to be the “true” answer.
The Forensic Scientist has the solution but can express the clues only using special scene tiles. Meanwhile, the investigators attempt to interpret the evidence. The killer must throw the others off their scent.
To win, the investigators must not only deduce the truth from the clues of the Forensic Scientist, but they must also see through the misdirection by the murderer and the (optional) accomplice.
Deception: Murder in Hong Kong is fast-paced and accommodates a lot of people, so it’s ideal for a game night with friends.
The forensic scientist is pivotal in this game, so I would go with someone more experienced for that role.
The game is great for player interaction, which was one of the features reviewers enjoyed the most. This is great for tabletop gaming among friends.
- High replay value
- Engaging, intense
- Good for a group
- The cards could be bigger
Battlestar Galactica: Best Heavy Game
Time: 2-3 hours
Based on the hit Syfy Channel TV show, Battlestar Galactica is an exciting game of betrayal, politics, and survival in outer space.
Players take on the role of their favorite characters from the show, each with their own special powers. Serve as Admiral of the Colonial Fleet, President of the Colonies, or a hot-shot Viper jockey.
But beware! One or more of your fellow players are secret Cylons who want to destroy the human race.
To start, everyone draws a card that tells them if they’re a Cylon or not. On each turn, players move their characters around the ship and take actions on the spaces.
As the game progresses, enemy ships and raiders arrive to attack Colonial ships, which can deplete fuel and population from the fleet. If the fleet runs out of resources (fuel, food, morale, or population), the humans lose the game.
As crises continue to mount, players discuss who didn’t contribute enough to root out the Cylon. And to complicate matters, everyone must draw another Cylon card halfway through the game, meaning a person could switch teams!
This game features a specific theme, but you don’t have to be a Battlestar Galactica fan to enjoy playing the game. Some of the terms might need explanation, but the mechanics are much like other games in the social deduction genre.
Buyers had high praise for Battlestar Galactica. They found it challenging and entertaining. This is a heavier game published by Fantasy Flight Games, so there’s a learning curve. But if you have the time, it’s a lot of fun.
Some reviewers felt the game lacked balance. It’s extremely difficult for the humans to win. Despite the imbalance, buyers loved the game.
All in all? This is the perfect social deduction game for sci-fi fans.
- Engaging sci-fi theme
- High-quality game components
- Expansion packs available
- Takes a long time to play
- Lacks balance
A Fake Artist Goes to New York: Best Party Game
Time: 20 minutes
Published by Oink Games, A Fake Artist Goes to New York is a social deduction game with a fun artistic twist.
Each round, a game master writes down the secret drawing prompt on the dry-erase cards, except they write “fake” on one of the cards. The cards are then distributed to the players, and the game master reveals the category related to the prompt.
Players then take turns adding to the group’s drawing one line at a time. After everyone has had two turns, it’s time to determine the fake artist.
The game master calls a vote, and players point to who they think is the fake. If there is no majority vote, the fake wins the round.
If the players identify the imposter correctly, that person has one chance to guess the secret drawing prompt. If they get it right, the fake wins the round.
If you’ve ever played Chameleon, this game has similar mechanics. Players must make their clues obvious enough that no one suspects them, but vague enough to keep the fake from guessing the subject.
The game comes with a drawing pad, 9 dry-erase cards, 10 color pens, a whiteboard marker, and an eraser.
Reviewers found this game to be loads of fun. They enjoyed the interaction, the hilarious drawings, and the variability.
Some weren’t big fans of the tiny drawing tablet. It’s more portable but difficult to see. Also, colorblind players might find it difficult to distinguish between the markings of each player.
A Fake Artist Goes to New York is expensive, considering what you get. Several people said you could take the same concept and use your own pens/paper.
But the replayability and convenience of a boxed game might make it worth the expense.
- Plays well in small or large groups
- Simple rules
- Expensive for what’s included
- Not ideal for colorblind players
Crack the Code: Best for Children
Time: 15-45 minutes
Crack the Code by What Do You Meme? is a social deduction game geared toward younger players. It’s one of the few games specifically targeted toward children.
In this guessing game, players split up into teams of detectives and accomplices. Accomplices draw a rule card that they must follow for the entire round.
Detectives must ask the accomplices questions to try and guess what the group is up to. But they only get three tries to guess the rule, so they have to pay close attention!
With over 200 rule cards included, this game is fun to play over and over. The sample question cards are helpful for inexperienced players, displaying 10 questions to get them started.
Crack the Code doesn’t have the betrayal/traitor mechanism that other social deduction games have, so it’s great for children who may not be up for combative play.
For smaller groups, you can choose one detective and let the rest be accomplices. For larger groups, you might prefer the team vs. team mode.
The instructions mention guessing before time runs out, but there’s no mention of a specific time limit or a timer included.
You can play without a time limit or decide upon a time limit and use your phone or an hourglass timer from another game. An easy fix.
Crack the Code would be great for kids’ parties, youth group activities, or a family game night.
- Easy to learn
- Accommodates small or large groups
- High replay value
- Quick gameplay
- No timer included
What to Look for in Social Deduction Games
Social deduction board games should have plenty of player interaction. The game just isn’t as much fun if you aren’t conversing with (or deceiving!) other players.
A good social deduction board game should also include a hidden role, many times working against the rest. But hidden roles aren’t exclusive to “evil forces.” It might also be a protagonist with a special secret power or a secret location.
Many games include a bluffing mechanic. A character might lie to conceal their identity or thwart the plans of the others.
Obviously, deduction is a must-have feature of social seduction games. Figuring out who, where, when, what are all key questions that players must figure out. The better the challenge, the more entertaining the game will be.
Finally, a few games might include player elimination. This is not a requirement for a good social deduction game, but it’s common. Games like Mafia and Werewolf are notable examples.
Social Deduction Games: Final Thoughts
If you’re looking for the best social deduction game, I would grab The Resistance: Avalon. It has all the best parts of classic social deception games while featuring simple rules. It’s wildly entertaining for all ages.