Everyone’s huddled around the table for game night. Dice are rolled… cards are shuffled… then someone yells out the winning phrase: “You’re Hitler!”
It’s the newest board game “Secret Hitler.” It’s an unlikely hit game created by a team of Chicago game-makers including Max Temkin, who calls the “Cards Against Humanity” game the “party game for horrible people.”
Secret Hitler began to ship in the summer of 2016 after an online crowd-funding effort for the game brought in more than $1.5 million. Two production runs have sold out, but more are in the pipeline. Another of the game’s creators Tommy Maranges says:
“We’re printing them as fast as we can. We don’t give an exact timeline because we can’t promise nothing goes wrong. But it’s very likely we’ll have games available in the first couple weeks of fall.”
How does one play “Secret Hitler“?
Secret Hitler is a secret-identity game — like Mafia, Werewolf and Avalon, where the purpose of the game is to figure out who’s the bad guy among all the players. It’s set before Adolf Hitler’s rise to power.
Five to 10 people can play, and it starts where all the players are dealt identity cards where one of those identities is Hitler.
Up to four players are fascists: conspirators who often communicate in code to try and obscure the fact that they’re fascists, and to hide which player is Hitler.
The rest of the players are all liberals.
How do you win “Secret Hitler”?
Players need to pass five liberal policies or identify — and in the end assassinate — Hitler before the fascists pass enough of their policies to install Hitler as chancellor.
Very quickly, the accusations start flying. And so do the lies.
WARNING: NINE, NINE, NINE, NINE, NINE!!! The game gets intense.
Maranges says when you’re innocent and accused of being fascist, it can conjure “white-hot, blinding rage. It makes you want to destroy each other.” Temkin saying:
“Players sometimes feel real guilt and anger if they’ve allowed ‘Hitler’ to win. It adds to the sting of the game that you are accused of allowing history to repeat itself.”
Maranges says the game is “a simulator for people who think it would be so easy to spot Nazis” — and a chance for them to see it might be harder than they think.
After developing an obsession with social deduction and deception games, Temkin and Maranges wanted to create their own game, and teamed up with Mike Boxleiter and San Francisco-based designer Mackenzie Schubert on Secret Hitler.
Boxleiter and Maranges got hooked on the game Avalon when they were snowed in at a Super Bowl party in Chicago.Maranges says:
“We started tinkering with the mechanics of the game. We wanted to take it apart and re-engineer it.”
The team then developed prototypes and then spent hours after work playing each new version. But the team says the theme came unexpectedly… Boxleiter binge-watched Steven Spielberg’s TV series “Band of Brothers,” and after hundreds of hours showing the Nazis’ rise to power, the team got their game’s theme. Temkin says:
“The elements of this game are textbook fascism. Once we had the story, it helped us figure out the mechanics. And that’s the sign of a good theme.”
Back in November 2015, the game launched on Kickstarter with the goal of raising $54,000, but the creators thought that might be unrealistically high because Cards Against Humanity raised just $15,000.
But they wanted to be able to pay for what they say as necessary touches: Schubert’s designs include foil inlays, a hardcover box and cards with unusual designs of lizard-like fascists and everyday-looking liberals.
The day they first posted about Secret Hitler, more than 35,000 backers pledged $1.5 million to the game’s production.
Hitler is the focus of the game, but the creators say the game isn’t really about him. Boxleiter saying:
“Hitler is such a compelling figure, he’s a lightning rod of interests and issues helping to drive home that one side in the game is inherently bad.”