Last weekend we reported on how the makers of the board game Secret Hitler were sending every U.S. Senator in the country a copy. But we realized that while the game has grown in notoriety through the news and people playing downloads of it on Tabletop Simulator, there still aren’t many reviews of the physical game. Especially since it isn’t available for sale through retail yet, you need to order it online direct from the company. So we got our hands on our own copy to show you the game that your local senator most likely ignored and sent off for donation.
Secret Hitler is a game for 5-10 players and is meant for ages 17+ because of the complexity and politics involved. The setting for the game puts you in 1930’s Germany, where you play politicians before WWII kicks off. At the time the country was slowly becoming fascist with new policies being passed, culminating with Hitler being elected Chancellor and seizing power by spring of 1933. In this game, you play the role of both Liberal and Fascist politicians (one of whom is Hitler, in secret) trying to pass policies. The liberals only win if they can pass five blue policies or assassinate the Secret Hitler. The fascists win if they can pass six red policies or get the Secret Hitler elected to Chancellor after three red policies have been passed.
For this review, I took the game out to my local nerdy coffee shop, The Watchtower Cafe, and employed the help of some geeky friends. (Thanks to Lucas, Doug, Sarah, Erica and “Punk” for the gameplay) The game itself is kind of a pain to setup at the start, as you need to separate all the cards into plain brown packets. Each packet contains your role card, your party affiliation card, and your voting cards (Yes or No) for elections. Much like One Night: Ultimate Werewolf, everyone closes their eyes and the fascists reveal themselves to each other, as well as discover who the Secret Hitler is (but the SH doesn’t find out who the other fascists are). There’s a cool downloadable app to help with this, totally free and voiced by Wil Wheaton.
Once that’s complete, you then pick a President (a role that goes clockwise) who then chooses a Chancellor (who is elected by the remaining body). From there you pass policies and try to figure out who is on each side of the coin in this incredibly fragile government. In the first test games we did, people were able to grasp the concept pretty quickly, though there were some bumpy rides on policies and failed votes. Tensions also grew when people started getting suspicious of each other and wouldn’t vote people into office, forcing at least two policies directly into action. There’s a lot to be said for a game that can put your friendships through the ringer when it comes to lying. It’s all in good fun, mind you, as the game is rooted in deception and investigation.
The game really heats up when actions start coming into play after the third fascist policy is put down. People get assassinated and paranoid about who is really on their side. Sometimes you really have no control over the policies that get passed your way, and everything makes you look more and more suspicious, even if you’re a liberal who has done one thing the entire game. In the three rounds we played, the liberals were barely able to squeeze out a victory, while the fascists were able to take a game with six policies, and managed to get Hitler elected the second time around.
Secret Hitler is an amazing party game with an intellectual twist. I highly recommend it, especially if you’re a fan of secret role titles like Bang!, Coup, or Ultimate Werewolf. The best amount of fun comes with a full party of six liberals and four fascists, making you analyze each player’s strategy and intent even before the third policy is put down. It’s also a great game for people who love role-playing and are down to cause deception and second-guessing among your best friends. And while it is a very simplified version of events, it’s also a great history lesson about politics. Hitler didn’t rise to real power by winning a raffle or bonking someone on the head, he got there in part because his allies in government were able to deceive and trick well-meaning politicians who thought they could manage and quell the rising fascist movement. A lesson we hope many of the Senators who received copies of the game learn from.
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