Dear 100 Hour Board,
How do I become better at games like Mafia?
I want to win.
I am so freaking good at those games. But the problem is, revealing my tactics mean they won't work on anyone who reads this. It also reveals me as somewhat of a manipulative lying psychopath but I promise I only use these skills for good and for winning. If the other board writers promise to look away, lest we play and my methods are rendered useless, I will tell you SOME of my secrets. Just kidding. These tips are GOLD and I'm just arrogant enough to share them on a somewhat secret platform.
Understand how human minds work and use it to your advantage. When the narrator is addressing a group, make a joke. The people being addressed will be more focused on the game and less likely to laugh. Not fool proof, but it gives you a head start on vetting people.
Another beginning tactic is to listen/feel for movement. Also not fool proof and some people think it's cheating. I think those people are wrong but what can you do .
Ask questions. I can't believe how few people do this. "Why do you think he is the killer?" "Why should I believe that you're not?" Look them straight in the eyes and ask questions they will give an honest answer to so you can see what that looks like.
Have side conversations while others are talking. Side conversations build trust and help you get a more accurate read on the player. When they have to talk or defend in front of everyone, they will be nervous and seem guilty.
The more you get others to talk, the more data you can gather on what they're thinking. You can also get really good logic from other players.
If you're the Mafia/Wolf/Bad Guy
First, remind yourself that you are not a bad guy. You're playing a game. A lot of tells come from the subconscious negativity attached to the label "Mafia" or "Wolf" and using the word "kill." That's reinforced by your opponents being "civilians" and "police officers". It's a psychological disadvantage placed on that team because their role is often easier to play.
Try and get people to vote fast. The less time they have to talk about it and watch you lie about it, the better chances you have. People like how it feels to make decisions so they don't usually question it.
Distract people when good logic is being presented against you or your comrades. Make a joke. Ask them to start over. Get up and get water. Sneeze. Anything to keep people from following and thinking about it.
Pick a different role in the game and play it. Pretend to yourself you are that role and be it loudly. The most convincing lies are the ones we believe a little bit ourselves.
Research how to be a good liar and how to read people. It's not that hard once you read up on it.
And last tip--I learned this in a recent game of Avalon-- if you're the mafia, or the bad guy, try not to know who the other mafia is. It makes you so much more convincing when you honestly have no clue who your companions are.
There's a LOT more to it, but I'd say I've shared enough for you to all recognize that I have no problem toying with my friends' psyche to win a game.
P.S honestly, Mafia is a broken game. It's a fun get to know you thing and people still play it, so it's good to know how to win. But it requires almost no risk for the mafia and most of it is super arbitrary guesswork and scapegoating. Psychological bluffing games are way more FUNctional when there is a mechanic in place that forces roles to make decisions that reveal them. Avalon, Codenames, Coup, Secret Hitler etc.
This isn't advice for how to play the game better (Babalugats has you covered on that count), but this question reminded me of a funny story involving Mafia.
There was one year when I was in Young Womens where it absolutely poured for the entire duration of our girl's camp. Because it was raining buckets, we mainly stayed inside our tents, and bided our time by playing many, many games of Mafia. For one of the rounds, I was Mafia. I was successfully killing off the civilians and had narrowed down the population to just a few more players. However, there was one girl in particular who was on to me. She almost convinced everyone I was the killer but another girl was more convinced that someone else deserved to hang, and so I narrowly escaped. I knew that the investigative girl would definitely see me hang if she didn't die now, and so of course I selected her to be my next kill. However, once the town had all awoken again, the narrator described how some other random girl had bit the dust. I still do not know how the narrator made this mistake. Anyways, that was it for me, and investigator girl hung me that round.
Totally not still bitter at that narrator,