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How to Play Mafia

With nothing more than a deck of cards and a few friends you can throw your own mafia murder mystery party.


  • Step 1: Designate a moderator Designate one player to be the moderator. The moderator takes a card from the deck to represent each other player.
  • TIP: One-third of the cards should be black number cards, indicating mafia. The rest of the cards are red number cards and indicate citizens, plus one red King to be the detective and one red Queen to be the doctor.
  • Step 2: Deal the cards Pass out the cards randomly; face down, one per player. The players look at their cards, but keep them face down and secret for the duration of the game.
  • Step 3: Sleep Announce that it is nighttime if you are the moderator. Everyone closes their eyes. No peeking!
  • Step 4: Mafia wakes up Announce that the mafia wakes up. The mafia players open their eyes, acknowledging each other, and determine with hand gestures which of the civilians will be killed. Note the mafia and the victim if you're the moderator.
  • Step 5: Investigate Announce, "the mafia sleep and the detective wakes up." The mafia closes their eyes and the detective opens their eyes. The detective indicates to the moderator a player who he suspects is mafia and the moderator responds with a thumbs-up or thumbs-down.
  • Step 6: Save Announce that the detective sleeps and the doctor wakes up. The doctor points to a player or themselves and the moderator confirms whether that is who the mafia voted to kill.
  • Step 7: Announce daytime Announce that it is daytime if you’re the moderator, and the town wakes up. Everyone opens their eyes and the moderator reveals who has died in the night. The dead player can't talk or gesture for the duration of the game unless they're the person the doctor indicated.
  • Step 8: Accuse Accuse a player of being a member of the mafia if you're a citizen. The accused must then be seconded by another citizen. The accused is allowed to plead their case, and then the players vote and majority rules. If the accused is killed, they reveal their card.
  • TIP: Use the information from your investigations as the detective to accuse members of the mafia, but do not be too obvious or the mafia will kill you next.
  • Step 9: Win the game Continue rounds of the game until one side wins. The citizens win if they manage to kill all the mafia, and mafia wins if they manage to kill all the citizens.
  • FACT: In 1966, decks with nothing but the ace of spades were scattered in the jungles and used as psychological warfare against the Viet Cong.

You Will Need

  • 7 or more players
  • Deck of cards

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