For my first review with GLG, I chose a game that has spent more time on my table being played than it has on my shelf. I first heard about it while listening to the Epic Gaming Night podcast and thought they were somewhat exaggerating how much fun they had with it. After reorganizing my game shelf and realizing I had plenty of room to squeeze in a new game (which is always the goal of reorganizing), I was convinced to pick it up. I’ve owned the game for about six months, and here’s what I think about…
Designer: Mike Boxleiter, Tommy Maranges, Max Temkin
Play Time: 45 Minutes
Player Count: 5-10 Players
Secret Hitler is a social deduction/hidden role/party game set in 1932, in pre-World War II Germany. Each player is assigned a hidden role at the very beginning of the game with an envelope that has a party affiliation card inside – either a “Fascist” or a “Liberal” – and a secret role card – either a Fascist or Liberal character OR you could be the secret Hitler. After players know their roles and party memberships, everyone “goes to sleep” so that the Fascists can wake up and see who their teammates are. In all games with 7-10 players, Hitler simply puts his/her thumb up so that all the other Fascists know who their secret Hitler is. Hitler, however, remains leery of all players because he/she does not know who the Fascist teammates are. After going to sleep with all of the other players, everyone wakes up and the fun begins.
Each round the President nominates a player at the table as his/her Chancellor. After the nomination, all players vote “Ja” or “Nein.”
If players vote the nomination into power, the President then chooses the top 3 policies from the draw stack and chooses two to pass to the Chancellor. Now, the Chancellor must choose one of the two policies to enact and discard the other. Once the Chancellor has played the policy, all other players can begin discussing why the particular policy was played. Did the President give the Chancellor two Fascist policies and leave them no option? Did the Chancellor have an option but choose to cast doubt on the President by playing an unlikely policy?
The game is won when either the Liberals have filled their board with 5 policies, or the Fascists have filled theirs with 6.
The game can also be won by electing the secret Hitler as Chancellor after the third Fascist policy has been played. Players must always question: Is the President nominating a particular person because they are Hitler? Should everyone vote “nein” and not allow them to be Chancellor? If you vote “nein” will the next President be safer or should you try to squeeze by with who is there? It is once the skepticism and fear of others creeps in that the game really takes off.
Things I like:
- I really appreciate how the game pulls you into the 1930s German political setting and makes you truly feel skeptical of every other player. In other social deduction or hidden role games, I feel like you could almost slap any theme to it and it plays pretty much the same. Secret Hitler, however, really pulls you in the time period and makes the game so much better because of it.
- Whenever I tell anyone that the game involves policies, it scares them away…until I tell them they’re not real policies. The policies that you enact are simply “Fascist” or “Liberal” but there is no other information given or needed. Like so much of politics, the policies are often less important than achieving some ultimate goal, which this game beautifully accomplishes.
Liberal and Fascist “Policies”
- Okay, okay, this game has an incredible lying component to it because you never have to tell the truth. It is also nearly impossible to win without lying. Sounds political, right? However, you don’t have to be good at lying in real life to pass as a good liar in this game. In other social deduction games that make you lie, you often do so and then wait to see if someone calls you on your bluff. In Secret Hitler, you lie and you automatically throw shade at someone else at the table. Now, instead of it being just you under suspicion, everyone has to consider two people and decide which they think is the real liar.
- Production Quality. The artwork, the box, the boards, and the placards are incredibly stylized for the time period. When you pass the President and Chancellor placards around, you actually feel like you are in a position of power and it has a cool vibe to it. Another component to the production is that there are different boards with different unlocked powers, depending on how many people are playing. There is also a new app that has recently been released that walks new players through how to play and has some other nice features as well.
- Unlocking Fascism. As the Fascists enact policies, it unlocks different abilities throughout the game that the President can carry out (even if they are a Liberal President). For instance, in the 7-8 player game, after the second Fascist policy is played, the President gets to look at any player’s party membership card – not if they are Hitler or not, just if they are Fascist or Liberal. The President can withhold this information, they can truthfully tell everyone what they just saw, or they can lie to everyone about what they just saw. It simply adds another layer of mistrust.
Things I don’t like:
- Player count. The game can be played with 5-10 players. However, the game really loses steam quickly when it’s played with 5 or 6. Ten isn’t bad, but the placard rarely makes it all the way around the table and people are often left out. The sweet spot is really 7-9 players. I know all games have their ideal number, but it is often tough to get that many people together who all want to play the same game.
- I know I mentioned that the production quality was great, but this is one area that is so important that they kind of missed the mark on. The envelopes begin to show wear pretty quickly, so if you know any of the markings on the envelopes, and you see another player get it, then you will know what their role is. This isn’t a major issue, and it’s solvable, but it’s a bummer that they weren’t a little better.
In the end, this game has everything needed for a good time. I mean, there’s nothing like looking your best friends in the face and calling them a Fascist. Secret Hitler is by far my favorite game to play with my group of friends. Several of them have bought the game before even leaving the house the night we introduced it to them. So, if you have a group of 6-10 people that you can play this with, I really recommend picking up a copy.
Cade’s GLG Rating – 8.5/10
One of our new features will be that if each of us has played the game, the other will chime in briefly for a quick second opinion. So, with that, Dave here. I have to start off by saying that I’m not the biggest fan of social deduction. Secret Hitler is really fun, but it isn’t really my style of game. It definitely gives you more tension than basic social deduction games like The Resistance or Werewolf and it keeps everyone involved. I appreciate that. And like Cade mentioned, the theme and mechanics make it feel like more of a game than just picking some people and voting on who you chose. Overall, this is a fun experience and if you’re into social deduction, then it’s definitely worth checking out.
Dave’s GLG rating – 6/10
Check it out on the Secret Hitler website here.
Check it out on BGG here.