by Kit
Published: Updated: 866 views
Sent in by Jon Hyde

Here is a game which I learnt about a year ago and my youth group love. It is called Mafia and is a logic game but quite active and fun. It is quite long to explain and involved but once you get the hang of it is fantastic. You might need to play it a couple of times before you really get into it!”

Jon Hyde

This has similarities to Heads Down, Thumbs Up, but more complex.

You will need:
1 or 2 packs of playing cards depending on number of players.

There are four different characters in the Game.

  • The Civilians, 
  • The Mafia, 
  • One Medic and 
  • One Detective.

The characters are assigned to the students by giving them a playing card, the picture on the card dictates what identity they possess throughout the game. 

Number Card = A Civilian
Jack = Member of the Mafia 
King = Medic 
Ace = Detective

Before you start you have to work out how many people are there and adjust a deck of cards so that there is one card per person.  If you have a large group (20+) then you should have 4 members of the Mafia, if you have less than that you should have 2 or 3 members.  The pack should then consist of 1 King, 1 Ace, 2-4 Jacks and the rest normal number cards.

You also need one person to be the leader of the game (most likely yourself).

The object of the game
To catch all the Mafia!

You start off with everyone in a circle and deal out the cards to each member of the group, so nobody can see what anybody else was given.  They must keep their cards and identity secret from everyone around them for the duration of the game.

The game is played in four turns
Universal Round > Mafia Round > Detective Round > Medic Round. 
Once you have been through all the four different rounds, you restart at the Universal Round.

The Universal round:
Players can get up and converse with each other normally but trying to keep their true identity a secret.  After a short time, 1-2 minutes the leader must quiet the group down and everybody returns to their seat. All players then get to decide on one person who they think is a member of the Mafia. Do this by the leader walking around the room and placing their hand on each person’s shoulder as you go round. Anyone who thinks that that person touched is a member of the Mafia must raise their hand.  Each person can only vote once.  The person getting the most votes gets a short time to defend themselves, you then revote that person, if they still have a majority vote they are jailed and have to show the group their card.  They then move away from the group and are out of the game. That is the end of the Universal Round, everyone must shut their eyes now and peeking is punishable by death!!

The Mafia Round:
You then say ‘Mafia only open your eyes’.  The members of the mafia open their eyes and silently they nominate one member of the group to be assassinated. Once you are sure of their decision you get them to close their eyes and that is the end of the Mafia round.

The Detective Round:
Then you say ‘Detective only open your eyes’.  They then get to silently choose one member of the group and you can, silently, tell them if they are or are not a member of the mafia by shaking or nodding your head.  They then close their eyes.

The Medic Round:
Then you say ‘Medic only open your eyes’.  They then get to silently choose one member of the group.  If they have chosen the person who the Mafia has chosen that person is saved from death.  The medic closes their eyes and that is the end of that round.


After the Medic closes their eyes, you then say ‘everyone open your eyes’ and if the Medic has not saved the Mafia target you then tell that person that they have been killed, if the Medic has saved the person, then you say ‘No-one was killed, the Medic was successful’ or words to that effect.

You continue on with the game starting again with talking and Universal round and continue in rounds until all the Mafia have been caught or there are only 2 or 3 people left and the Mafia outnumber the Civilians and there is no way of the Civilians winning.  If the Detective and/or the Medic get killed then you miss out their turns from the sequence.

There is only one exception to the sequence of the rounds.  Right at the start, on the first Universal turn, no-one gets voted to be killed.  But they get to chat for a couple of minutes, this is because some people are just really bad at hiding their identities and it is obvious who they are.

The Detective has some tactics which will help him/her. If on the Detective Round they choose a person sitting next to them the leader will tell them if they are or they are not Mafia. They then know for sure that if they are not Mafia they can trust them. On the next Universal turn, they can say to that person “I know you are not Mafia because I am the Detective and I have checked you out, don’t tell anyone else until I have checked them out.”  The Detective continues checking people’s identity moving away from them around the circle until they find someone who is Mafia, by that time you have a good majority of people who can vote to jail them.

By watching how people vote, you can build up an idea of that players identity, if you see them voting for the same person as two or three other people every time there is a good chance that they are the Mafia and are trying to work with each other to reduce the number of civilians.

You can play the game without the Medic, which speeds the game up a bit. Without the Medic you can get through the game rounds quicker and also you can not bring anyone back from the ‘brink’!!

This game is definitely for an older group, but I have found that if there are a couple of younger students in the group, they do make it a bit more fun as it can get a bit tense at times.  Also my advice is to have some other activity going on in another room or somewhere in the background for those people who are murdered or in jail early on in the game as each game can take a while.

Jon Hyde

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