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Bluffing and social deduction games are my favorite types of board games because they emphasize one of the best aspects of board games: social interaction. Whereas some games can be “multiplayer solitaire,” bluffing and social deduction games are the complete opposite—impossible to play alone, and that’s a huge part of what makes them so awesome.
But there are plenty of sucky bluffing and social deduction games out there. While I haven’t played all of what’s out there, I’ve played a decent share of them, and if you’re looking for a good one to add to your board game collection, here are the most fun ones I wholeheartedly recommend.
Note: Not all bluffing games involve social deduction, and vice versa. I’m lumping them together because, regardless, they tend to focus on the same ultimate experience for players.
In The Resistance, there are two dystopian factions: the Resistance (the good guys) and the Spies (the bad guys). The thing is, identities are hidden. Every round, a player is appointed leader and they must decide which people to send on that round’s mission. The Resistance wants missions to succeed while the Spies want missions to fail. You can see where things get tricky.
The base game of The Resistance is pretty good, but you really need the Hidden Agenda expansion with the Assassin module to kick the fun into overdrive. The Resistance: Avalon is basically the same game (base game plus Assassin module) except re-themed as a fantasy game.
Fake Artist Goes to New York is insanely fun and funny. Each round, everyone collaboratively draws a randomly decided-upon object, one stroke at a time. The twist? One person doesn’t know what that object is, but they need to convince the others that they do. After a few rounds, everyone votes on who they think is the fake artist based on how each person contributed to the communal drawing.
For people who want some bluffing and social deduction but not too much, you can’t do much better than Deception: Murder in Hong Kong. This is a full-on social investigation game where one player plays as the Forensic Scientist who’s trying to lead the Investigators (everyone else) toward the truth of a particular murder plot. However, there’s a hidden Murderer among the players who’s trying to lead the Investigators astray. Lots of fun, and more logical exercise for your brain than most bluffing games.
4. Spyfall 2
Spyfall 2 is another odd-man-out sort of bluffing game. Every player except one is made privy to a particular setting (e.g. Theater, Polar Station, Hotel). Players take turns asking each other questions to suss out the odd man out, but they need to be careful because they don’t want to give away where they are. If the odd man out can guess the location before players can pin them, they win. Quick to play and unexpectedly humorous!
Here’s the main thing about Coup: you can take any action even if you don’t have the card for it, as long as you aren’t caught doing so. If you are, you die. And if someone tries to catch you pulling an action while you do have the card for it, they die. There’s a ton of bluffing in this game—in fact, one might even say it’s a game of nothing but bluffing—and that’s what makes it so exciting. It’s quick to play, and there are variants out there for those who want a more logical, skill-based approach to Coup after the initial fun wears off.
Skull is a mixture of bluffing plus pushing your luck. Each player has four cards: 1 Skull and 3 Roses. Everyone takes turns playing one of their cards face-down in a personal pile. At some point, anyone can declare a number—this is the number of Roses they think they can flip over across everyone’s piles. Other players can then bid above him, higher and higher until nobody wants to push it any further. If they can reveal that many Roses without revealing a Skull, they win. If they reveal a Skull, they lose. Simple, fast, and a great way to kill time.
Cockroach Poker has nothing to do with poker. Rather, everyone has a hand full of bug cards and takes turns passing cards to other players. When passing, they do so face-down and name the bug on the card—they could be lying, or they could be telling the truth. It’s up to the receiving player to call them out on it, or take the card, peek at it, and pass it on to somebody else while naming the bug on the card. If someone is correctly called out, they keep the card. Once somebody has collected a set of bugs, they lose. This is bluffing at its purest.
Two Rooms and a Boom is an excellent game for large groups—we’re talking ten or more players. Players are given secret identities with one person being the President, one person being the Bomber, and everyone else having roles that are on the same team as either President or Bomber. Players are split between two rooms (yes, two physically different locations with no cross-communication) and every round some players are swapped between rooms. If the President and Bomber are in the same room after five rounds, the Bomber’s team wins. Otherwise, the President’s team wins.
More Board Games for Large Groups
Notably missing from this list are Secret Hitler and One Night Ultimate Werewolf, which are both fan favorites of many. I personally hate both games because they don’t provide enough information for proper social deduction. Too much chaos for my liking, and I feel like the results of both games are always random and pointless.
For more large-group fun, check out the best party board games for big gatherings!