Review: Mafia Cards

January 11th, 2010

By Patti Gibbons  Most youth workers are likely familiar with the bluff-and-body-language game Mafia, in which the fate of the town requires the citizens and law enforcement to work together to defeat the assassins before their hamlet is obliterated.  A favorite hang-out time activity of my own students and volunteers over the years, games of Mafia have been known to break out frequently after small groups, late night on mission trips and at camp.  I recently learned about a way to make this low-prep game even simpler.

The biggest challenge to spontaneous games of Mafia?  Having a common set of rules, and the proper number of cards.  My worst evening of Mafia ever happened with a combined group and little scraps of paper to assign roles.  Instead of a fun time of exercising our imaginations and dramatic skills, we got stuck in different interpretations of the game, and ended up with the wrong proportion of characters (because mental math is not my forte).  Can you say “blah”? 

Leave it to a youth worker to come up with an easy way to solve those and other potential issues and make Mafia even easier to play.  As a veteran of Young Life, Paul Moorhead has played a few Mafia games, encountering some of the same glitches I did.  Brainstorming about it one day, he and a former roommate came up with the idea to publish a deck of Mafia gameplay cards.  The Mafia deck includes a set of rules, description of game play and the roles of the various characters.  There's also a handy chart (with pictures!) to help non-mathematical youth workers like me quickly determine the right number of specialized characters for my town!  The rest of the deck is made up of cards depicting the mayor, inspector, angel, mafia and citizens, along with a few blank cards for those local variations you don't want to go without.

As Paul said, “It’s way more fun when you convict that Mafia member and he flips over a Mafia card with a gangster on it rather than a nine of hearts.”

Paul has also established a website, http://mafiacards.com, through which you can order the cards, but also interact about the game via a blog, links, and even find information about Mafia clubs.


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