Werewolves of the Dark Arts should be played with a circle of chairs place around an open space. Each player should be able to point to every other player without bumping their neighbors. They should also be able to make eye contact with every other player. The GM should be able to access the middle of the circle easily and be able to step out when needed. A table off to the side is recommended for convenient deck setup and delicious snacks.
For your very first game, please see Werewolf 101 for the basic of basic information and instructions on familiarizing yourself with a Werewolf/Seer/Villager game.
At its most elemental, Werewolves of the Dark Arts requires only three different types of cards (also called roles): Villagers, a Seer, and some Werewolves. It is recommended that beginner groups start with only these three essential cards until you become comfortable with the flow of the game. Work in special cards only after your group is comfortable with how they play.
Select someone to be the Town Mayor (the neutral moderator or 'GM') for the current round. This selection can be done via group consensus or random chance. A scratchpad may be useful for the GM when running large games or games that include many special cards. Of course, make sure none of the players can see the GM's notes! A laser pointer is also recommended for GMs. (If your group does choose to use a laser pointer, avoid green due to its tendency to reflect off card sleeves.)
A deck needs to contain exactly as many cards as the number of players (excluding the GM) because each player only gets one card and remains in that role for the entire game. Unlike some other card games, the content of the deck will change every game, and it's up to the GM to decide which roles are used. When working in special roles, ensure that everyone playing is familiar with the roles included in the deck before they are dealt out. Familiarizing players and answering questions beforehand will help keep a player from giving their role away by asking a rules question once the game has started.
For 7 to 16 players, two Werewolf cards are recommended. For larger games, add a third Werewolf. There should always be a Seer card in play. An odd number of players is recommended but not necessary. This makes voting on who to lynch slightly easier.
Please see the Deck Building Page for an in-depth look at how to setup a deck, complete with suggestions for both newbies and experienced players. [*ms note - currently missing / under construction, werkin' on it!]
The rules for Werewolves of the Dark Arts are very simple:
Because there are no restrictions on the speech of living players, there's not much that would be considered 'cheating'. It is important to remember that a player who is caught lying is not cheating! However, players who try to peek at other player's cards, players who try to secretly show each other their cards, or players who try to watch nighttime activities when they are a character who should be asleep are considered to be cheating. It is up to the discretion of the GM or group about what to do in these situations.
* The only time a living player's card may be revealed during the course of the game is if there is a Shaman, Crazed Shaman, or Oracle in play. Please see the Totems page for more information.
** The only time a living player should touch their card is when moving due to the Master of Teleportation
The deck is built. The roles and rules are explained. The round is now beginning, and the cards are shuffled and handed out face down to the players. Players receive a single card that they secretly view and then place in front of them when they have confirmed their role. Players should try and remain poker-faced when they look at their cards so the other players can not deduce what their role may be from their reaction. Players may not swap cards if they get a role they don't like; if the GM catches players doing this or a card is accidentally revealed, cards must be collected and dealt out again.
Using either the Town Mayor or the Double-Backed card (available in the printed version), cover up the bottom of the deck so no one can peek at it. If playing with a regular and experienced group, the Town Mayor card can also be shuffled into the deck to select the Town Mayor at random.
That's the whole setup. Shuffle and give each person one card. Easy, right? You bet. Let's play!
The first step in playing is the Identification Phase. This is done only once at the beginning of each game. All of the players go to sleep (close their eyes), and specific roles are called on by the GM. Beginner groups should call every role* during this phase and not just the roles that need to identify other players. This is to make sure that everyone knows what card they are.
Once the Identification Phase has been completed, the village (that's all of the players as a whole) wakes up, and the game enters into a Day and Night cycle.
* Villagers and Heretics should never be called to wake up during the Identification Phase.
During the Day Phase, the villagers wake up to find that one of their own has been murdered during the night. The Town Mayor (GM) indicates who was killed and reveals that person's card. That person is now dead and their card is placed back with the rest of the game's cards.
On the first Day Phase, the GM instructs the village that the Town Mayor has been killed by Werewolves. The Town Mayor card should never actively be in play - it is used to designate the GM and is always the first character to be killed in every game. The living villagers, hysterical from the loss of their leader and the sight of Werewolf evidence, have chosen to resort to lynching. This first Day Phase is usually the most difficult as there is little or no information for the villagers to go on as to who could secretly be a Werewolf.
For information on how the accusation process and lynching works, please see the Day Phase page. The act of lynching is the last thing to happen during the Day Phase; when they're done murdering their own, everyone in the village immediately goes to sleep for the Night Phase without any further discussion.
During the Night Phase, all of the players put their heads down and close their eyes. The GM will call upon the various special roles to allow them to use their various night time abilities. It is critically important that the Night Phase activities remain silent. A player making a selection should communicate with the GM through pointing and the use of thumbs up and thumbs down. The Werewolves (or Scryer and Seer) can also communicate with each other with glances, nods, sign language, or other methods provided that they do not make any sounds.
The order in which the roles of the night are called is very important, as are the semantics behind what is said at night. For a full list of scripting for each nighttime role, see the Night Phase page.
Night then becomes Day, and the cycle repeats itself until...
When a condition for winning has been met, the GM will lead the group through the Final Reveal Phase.
The players that win include all roles that share an alignment with the winning group. This winning group also includes players who have died in that session. Every player, even the basic Villager, can perform an important function that helps lead their side to victory, and their sacrifice could have been pivotal to the winning group's success. When the Villagers win the game, all cards with the daytime background and purple night background also win. For example, if the Villagers win, the Witch and Seer win as well. If the Werewolves win the game, that means all cards with the evil, dark night background win.
The basic condition for the Villagers winning is that the Werewolves are all eliminated. The basic condition for the Werewolves winning is that they can take the village by force, which happens when the number of remaining Werewolves meets or exceeds the number of remaining non-Werewolves.
Some cards have special conditions for winning or some can not win at all. All of these cards have a pink rainbow background and do not share their winning status with other pink cards unless stated otherwise. It is up to the GM to keep track of which wildcards are in play and their winning conditions.
Please see the Final Reveal Phase page for more information.