To be honest, when I heard about Secret Hitler, I was pretty wary. The secret identity game comes to us from the Cards Against Humanity team, so I was worried that it was going to be a lot of shock value and not much substance.
My fears and reservations were completely blown out of the water after I played the game. At this point, Secret Hitler has replaced almost any other secret identity game on my shelf.
What makes Secret Hitler better than most other hidden identity games, is the depth of information you can gather. Unlike the base game of The Resistance, where the only information you get from people are their body language, the votes on whether you approve a mission, and then the pass/fail cards of people on the mission, Secret Hitler offers much more information through their policy card mechanic.
So the way the game works is there are two teams, the Fascists and the Liberals (Hitler is obviously on the Fascists’ team). The Liberals don’t know what team anyone is on. The Fascists know who’s on their team and they know who Hitler is. But Hitler is completely in the dark, and doesn’t what side anyone is on.
The Liberals win if they are able to pass five liberal policies or if they kill Hitler. The Fascists win if they pass six fascist policies, or if they manage to elect Hitler Chancellor after three fascist policies have already been passed.
The game starts with one player randomly chosen to start as the Presidential candidate. They then nominate a candidate for Chancellor. At that point, everyone votes on whether to allow the pair to take office.
This, like Resistance, can give you some information. If you’re further along in the game and everyone is voting to elect this pair, it might mean that one of them is a Fascist! I always try to keep careful note of how people vote in the elections as evidence of what side everyone is on.
So if the pair is voted into office, the President will pick up three policy cards from the stack, discard one, and pass the two policy cards to their Chancellor. At that point, the Chancellor will discard one and enact one policy.
The entire time the President and the Chancellor are considering their policy tiles, they cannot make any faces or say anything to indicate what they drew. But once the policy has been enacted, they can talk all they want about what they drew, and boy howdy can they lie!
So what gives this game so much substance is that the policy deck is not evenly stacked. There are 11 fascist policies and only six liberal policies. So even if both the President and the Chancellor are Liberals, they could conceivably draw three fascist policy cards.
I find that the Fascists are the most successful when they lie about what they drew. Throwing off the count of what’s left in the deck is a really handy way to throw suspicion on other players.
Because of the added layer of information of the policy cards, I find that there’s so much more to analyze and unpack about Secret Hitler than other hidden identity games. There’s even more subtlety once policies start getting enacted.
Depending on your player count, the Fascist policy board will start triggering special powers when policies are passed. These powers can be used only by the President who was in office when they were enacted. These powers include looking at a another player’s party affiliation card, electing another President out of turn order, and killing another player.
These actions are another great way to get more information, but they are dangerous. For one, you can’t be sure of the loyalties of the President, so their information and their actions are questionable!
For another, each fascist policy enacted moves you closer to “Hitler Mode,” and to a Fascist victory. Once three fascist policies have been enacted, “Hitler Mode” is engaged. At this point, if Hitler is elected Chancellor, the Fascists win.
If the pair that was up for election are not voted in, then the Presidency passes to the next player, who chooses a Chancellor, and the vote happens again. If no one is elected three times in a row, the top policy card is flipped over and immediately enacted, which could be great, or could be awful.
The only flaw that I’ve found with the game is that if the Fascists happen to all be sitting next to each other, the game can go a little sideways. If the Fascists are some of the last to have their chance at being elected President, then often times the Liberals just run away with the game, because they have much more control over what policy cards are picked and put into place.
But on the whole, I find that the game stands up well over multiple plays. As you play the game more, you learn the different strategies of all of the sides, which really adds depth to your games. I love the amount of information that you can quibble over and purport to use as evidence.
It’s also incredibly easy to teach, and within minutes people understand the mechanics of the game. It’s really fun to see first time players get into it and start lying their butts off!
Besides the game itself being incredibly enjoyable, the quality of the components is also through the roof. The boards are well-made, and they’re beautiful, with shiny gold accents. The policy cards are thick and really durable. The President and the Chancellor name plates are real wood. All of the components feel nice in your hands.
All in all Secret Hitler is an incredible game for only $35. It lasts about 30 minutes, and is for 5-10 players, though I find the sweet spot is when you have at least 7 players. Right now you can only grab the game if you live in the United States, but you can sign up for a text alert when the game is available internationally.
Review Score: 9.5/10
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