The OP looks fantastic, good job. Board games deserve more of a presence on this forum, and have rapidly overtaken videogames as my hobby of choice over the last couple of years.
In order of complexity, here are three of my favourite board games from my favourite genre: Traitor/Deception games!
One Night Ultimate Werewolf
A great place to start is a relatively new title called One Night Ultimate Werewolf
, which is a very cheap game that can taught in five minutes and played in ten. The game also scales quite well with the player count, I had great fun with both 4 players and 8.
Each player is secretly given a role at random. Everyone then closes their eyes during the 'night' phase of the game, and one by one each role is called out to open their eyes and perform an action, after which they close their eyes. Once the day begins, villagers are tasked with finding out who the werewolves are, whereas the werewolves have to lie about who they are, and blend in with the crowd. Along with the regular villager and Werewolf roles, there are a bunch of unique roles that have special powers. Some roles get to peek at other players roles, some get to swap other players role cards around, some don't even get to see what their role is etc. Werewolves get to look at each other and silently use hand gestures to construct and collaborate on a lie. Once the 'night' phase is over, a heated discussion ensues, which culminates in the lynching of one of the players. Villagers win if a werewolf dies, and vice versa.
The best part is that every round ends in laughter, as either someone gets away with murder, or a hapless villager is unknowingly thrown under the bus. The aim of the game is to follow the thread of what happened during the 'night' by using scraps of information gleamed from the different roles, but the trick is that some of the information is untrustworthy, and some of the roles can interact in hilariously chaotic ways.
It's super simple, but has a surprising amount of depth. The game is like a packet of Doritos, each bite-sized experience leaves you hungry for more. I've played this game for consecutive hours with both a complete newbie group, as well as some slightly more experienced folk, and both loved it.
One of the great things about this game is that it is easy to start off playing with just the basic roles, and then layer in the complexity as everyone gets familiar with how the game plays. Each round takes about ten minutes tops, and even then you can adjust the discussion time to make it shorter if you want to.
The multitude of extra roles are all really interesting as well, and each game can be drastically different depending on which ones come out. For example, one of the roles is called the tanner, who unlike every other player, is suicidal and wants to be killed. If they do happen to be killed, they win and everyone else loses, werewolves and villagers alike. It's a great addition because when it is in play sometimes you are unsure if someone made a bad play by claiming a role that they obviously aren't, or if they are just pretending to make a mistake so that they will be targeted for execution. It is simply brilliant.
I've had a lot of success pulling this game out with multiple groups of friends, especially those with no prior experience with modern board games. The few people who weren't quite as enamoured with it were either uncomfortable with lying, or really bad at it. They were in the minority though.
A step up in complexity and play-time is Resistance and Resistance: Avalon
. I can only speak from experience with regards to the Avalon version of the game, but the consensus seems to be that it is a superior game to the original.
In any case, Resistance Avalon is a popular 30-45 minute game that has similar mechanics to werewolf, in that the aim of the game is to either root out the traitors or hide amongst the innocent. The game is played in multiple rounds, where a sub-section of players are chosen to go on a mission. The success or failure of the mission can be used as information for deducing who is on which side. The twist with Avalon is that the team on the side of good have one player, Merlin, who knows exactly who the bad guys are. However, if the bad guys correctly guess who Merlin is at the end of the game, evil wins the game. Therefore the role of Merlin is to very subtly push your team towards choosing an all-good team, without being too obvious. It's a very interesting juggling act that adds a lot of depth and layers of deception to the game. It's a more complex game than One Night Ultimate Werewolf, and tends more towards the strategic side of the strategy/chaos spectrum. It's still fairly easy to teach, and is super fun to play, though it might not be have the wide-reaching appeal of One Night Ultimate Werewolf.
Finally, we have come to my favourite game of all time: Battlestar Galactica
. Don't let the license fool you, this ain't your run of the mill cash-in garbage designed to rob fans of their hard-earned. This, my Ameritrash-loving friends, is legit
BSG is a relatively complex game that takes around 3 hours to play, and works best with 5 players. I bought this game on the back of widespread critical acclaim, having not seen much of the source material. Despite this, the theme shines through in the mechanics so clearly that I consider myself well-versed in the characters of a television show I have never seen.
At the start of the game everyone picks a character to inhabit. Then they also secretly pick up a loyalty card which tells them if they really are a human player, or if they are in fact a Cylon traitor.
The aim of the game is for the humans to survive long enough to reach a new home planet. Resources are constantly being lost, and it is simply a matter of getting to the end of the journey without any of the resource bars hitting zero and with the ship intact. Cylons are given multiple ways in which to secretly sabotage, and correctly placed suspicion can make or break games.
What's special about this game is the stories that it generates, and the roleplaying it engenders in people who have no idea what roleplaying is. There is always shouting, and there is always laughter, it is as intense as it is unforgettable.
Who can forget the time that we wrongfully imprisoned the admiral based on dodgy advice given from Gaius Baltar, who has the once-per-game ability to look at other player's loyalty cards.
Or what about that time that my girlfriend swore up and down to my face that she was innocent, and that if we didn't let her out of the brig we would be run down by enemy raiders, as she was the only pilot left. Of course, we let her out, but you can guess how that one ended.
Each game generates a story like this, and the post-game chatter is fascinating as you learn who trusted who, and how decisions came about.
And the ending, by god the ENDING
. The game doesn't end when you figure out who the Cylons are, it simply changes pace. The tone ramps up beautifully, from quiet suspicion at the beginning of the game, to apologise-to-the-neighbors yelling
in the midgame, to a finish whereby every single dice roll or decision becomes immensely important. When you have one fuel left, your ship is in tatters and all you need to do is get the god-damn FTL room repaired so you can jump away to safety, it feels like an episode of Star Trek. Actually, maybe it's an episode of BSG, but what would I know.
There's so many moving parts to this game, but it all comes together smoothly, and the different mechanics interact in interesting ways. I don't know what else to say really, it's simply a source of endless surprise. Despite racking up a huge amount of plays, each game I discover new tactics and circumstances.
I could gush about this game all day. Needless to say, if any of this sounds interesting to you, I wholeheartedly recommend you picking it up. Just be prepared to spend a fair amount of time learning the rules, and don't you dare invite people over to play unless you have read the rule book cover-to-cover multiple times.
I own all three expansions, and would recommend the latest one, Daybreak, as your first choice after you have exhausted the (fully-featured) base game. Daybreak fixes a lot of the issues that the first two expansions introduced, and stands very well on its own.The expansions add new characters, new modules that you can mix and match, new ending conditions, new boards, new powers, and plastic model components instead of cardboard ones. The other two expansions are well worth getting if you play the game as much as my group does, but I wouldn't consider them essential.
So there you have it, these are my favourite games with a traitor mechanic. I have also purchase a copy of Archipelago after Shut Up and Sit Down gave it a glowing review, but have yet to get it to the table.