Game Review: Secret Hitler

How do I know they are safe? Who can I trust? How can I beat this? All of these are probably thoughts that have gone through your head since COVID-19 entered our lives. We’ve heard them all. What better way to get through the fear, than by creating more drama and playing one of our favorites, Secret Hitler (with less than 10 people, of course). I hope these “less than 10 people” comments keep going after COVID is in the past, so we can look back and laugh about it. For now, stay home and stay safe, so we can send this virus packing and resume the things we used to love to do. Now, on to what you actually came to read about. Secret Hitler.

A social deduction game that will make you question your trust in all who are playing. You don’t know always know who is on your team, and therefore have to blaze your own path. The two teams – Fascist and Liberals – race to enact as many “policies” (essentially flipping over some cards) as possible. Fascists have to get 6, Liberals only 5. But, in the entire deck there are far more Fascist cards than Liberal…causing drama for those who swear they are Liberals but in fact laid down a Fascist card.

  • Time to set up: After determining how many people are going to be playing, you can figure out which board to use (there are 3 different options for 5-6 players, 7-8, and 9-10). Most of the time (every time) we have to look at the directions to see how many players there should be on each team. Finally, sorting and randomly giving out party affiliation cards is the last thing you have to do to be prepared to blend in or figure out the Fascists. All of this should take about 5 minutes tops. It may take a little longer if it’s your first time playing.
  • Duration of game: This varies greatly depending on how many people are playing and how the teams are split up. The more people playing, the longer it usually takes to make decisions and pick people. This isn’t always the case, but long, heated discussions usually occur more often when there are more people involved in the game. We would say that each round lasts anywhere from 5-30 minutes. This is a wide window of time because we have played rounds that have been quick and some that have gone on forever due to extensive deliberation and campaigning. We would say the average time per round is closer to 15-20 minutes.
  • Number of players that are needed/can participate: 5-10 players. A warning: the number of people that play can greatly affect a team’s odds of winning. With certain amounts of players, one party affiliation (team) will outnumber the other, and other times the teams will be even. It just depends on how many people you have playing.
  • Where can it be played? We recommend playing at a table. The board is central to knowing what’s going on in the game, so a table works best. However, any flat surface should do.
  • How to play? There are lots of details that we can go over, but we’re just going to give you the gist of it so you can have an idea of how the game is played. Like we said above, depending on the amount of players, the make-up of each team will vary. Each person will receive an envelope that has 2 cards in it. One that separates the two teams with a party affiliation and another that says your role. If you are Liberal, your role card will also say liberal. If you are a Fascist, then your role card may say fascist or Hitler. There is only one Hitler on the Fascist side. To begin the game everyone will close their eyes and only Fascists will open their eyes (except Hitler) and acknowledge each other. Then, Hitler will put his thumb up (eyes closed still) to let the Fascists know who he is. He won’t know who his fellow Fascists are, but they will. The President placard moves clockwise to the next player, who is the new Presidential Candidate. The Presidential Candidate chooses a Chancellor Candidate by passing the Chancellor placard to any other eligible player. The Presidential Candidate is free to discuss Chancellor options with the rest of the group to build consensus and make it more likely the Government gets elected. Once the president and chancellor are elected, the president picks up 3 policy tiles and determines 2 of the tiles that will be passed to the chancellor. The chancellor will then choose one of the remaining tiles to place down on the board. The rest of the game consists of people trying to get voted into the presidency to enact Liberal or Fascist policy on the board. The team that can fill their side with policies first wins. There is a lot more to the game, but even this most basic explanation is longer than you would ever want to read. So we’ll leave it at that.

Backyard Buffs’ Rating: 16

Creativity/Originality: 4. Although the game is similar to many other games labelled as “social deduction” games, Secret Hitler has a little bit of a different feel. Games like Bang and Coup are similar but there’s a team dynamic in Secret Hitler makes it so much fun! When I first heard the title of the game, I was a little skeptical, but the theme is definitely original. 

Durability (packaging or game pieces): 5. The game has no fault in this category. The box is super sturdy and the pieces are built well. Our pieces have held up well despite being slid and tossed around. The box is actually really really hefty; to the point that I’m actually bringing it up. Probably the sturdiest game box I’ve ever seen. The only downside to any piece of the game is the tan envelopes that the role/party affiliation cards go into. If you look at the pictures above, you may notice some grease marks from the many sweaty hands that have touched these light colored envelopes. It’s not a big deal, but it is something that we felt we should bring up. Besides that, the durability is awesome!  

Friendly for all Ages/Skill Levels: 2. This game would be very hard for anyone under 12 to even understand. The box recommends 17+, but we say that it is reasonable for ages 13+. It can be a very confusing game where you have to be willing to get involved and do some investigating to try to figure out what is going on. It’s what we refer to as a “lying” game. As a Fascist, your goal is to earn the confidence of other players and mislead them into thinking that you are on their side. Not only would this be hard for kids under 13, but it requires a certain skill that even gives adults a hard time. 

Fair Pricing: 5. Secret Hitler goes for $35.00 on Amazon and that’s the cheapest you’ll likely be able to find it for. After we played this game for the first time, we had to go out and get it so we could play it with all our game night friends. It’s the game we play at least 30-40% of the time so we think it’s well worth the money. 

Conclusion: If you play this awesome game with your grandma who lived through WWII you might have to reassure her that it has nothing to do with Nazi beliefs or behaviors. If you’re not very good at games where you have to lie or hold up an “alibi”, it might be a little tough to get into. That’s understandable. Working as a team to figure out how to win is probably the best part and what sets this game apart from all the other social deduction games out there. If you’re not sold on this one yet, find someone who has it, play it, and then order it for yourself. Right now, I’m sure the last thing you want to think about is the coronavirus. So, do yourself a favor and try something new!