The Departed Mafia

3:15 PM Shanky 2 Comments

One of the important value-add through my MBA at IIM Lucknow was the introduction to a game called Mafia and redemption from the stupid Mafia wars on FB. The new mafia is a game involving real smart, enthusiastic people. That’s it! No boards, no dice, no cards, no timekeeper or any other equipment/prop. Its a simple yet powerful game and you will be so engrossed that you will forget time passing by you, tapping your shoulder and saying a quick "hi". This was one of the biggest tactics used by us to have breakfast which is ever so elusive otherwise. "Let’s play Mafia all night, then have anda maggi from GnB at 7" someone would suggest and then after furious messaging you have a gang of 6-9 students playing mafia with mild music in the background, alcohol is optional. "Enough of the teaser!" you say. Ok. Let me introduce to you, the best strategy/psychology based game ever - Mafia!

This game involves an imaginary village with lush green fields, prosperous and dutiful citizens and one banyan tree. Yes. Banyan tree is a must; where else will you gather for the night meetings? Now, their peace is being disturbed by the presence of 2 Mafias (This can vary depending on total no. of players) camouflaged as villagers among them. Every night the village headman, also known as coordinator of the game, brings the entire village together to identify the mafia members through logic and reason. During night, everyone sleeps (just close your eyes but be attentive!) while the Mafia is awake. The Mafia takes advantage of sleeping villagers and scheme to kill a person. They identify the target to the headman and go to sleep. The headman asks only the doctor/witch/angel of the village (A villager with special power) to wake up and gives him/her the choice to redeem/purify one of the villager. Now, if this person identified by the doctor/angel is same as the mafia target, then he/she is spared. On the other hand, if that person is not the same as mafia target, then the target dies and the one chosen by the angel gets nothing. When dawn breaks, the headman asks everyone to wake up and announces the actions from previous night without revealing the identity of the perpetrators. Usually this is followed by pandemonium - Villagers desperately trying to find the mafia and the mafia trying to defend them. Then there is voting to find the accused (like Jury style justice in US) and the headman eliminates the person with maximum votes to the cheers of others "Let’s kill the mafia bitch!" and declares the dead person's identity. Yes. Mafia also votes. Dude, democracy man... Come on da! Ok, now this is one day in the village. The days passby until all the villagers are killed or all the mafia are killed and depending on that we have the group winner. 

You may ask why the headman is not revealing the identity of the mafia. One, this is a game, stupid! Two, he is elected by the people but paid by the mafia. Got the flow? *wink wink nudge nudge*, huh... huh? The roles are assigned by a fair means (which is random chit picking). Also you can get imaginative and improvise on the roles, add some new characters and give them powers. But worry not, whichever role you play, you will enjoy this game. The amazing thing about the game is the worry/excitement that villagers display to choose the accused in the morning. Also, every action you take during the day has repercussions in the night, just like in real life. Finally, the discussion, alliance formation, argument and final decision of choosing the accused is awesome. The reason behind the choice can be as lame as "On the basis of Maslow's hierarchy law and the porters five force model he is the mafia, I think" or as logical as "I heard him move when the headman asked mafia to wake up, he is the mafia!". What? You are going to play now? Wait. Wait. I want to tell more. 

When a game is so close to real life, can't a movie be so close to a game? There might be many movies that have taken this game as the base. But The Departed is one movie which really kicked some serious ass and which I loved a lot. Martin Scorsese is a wizard in Hollywood churning out magical movies. He has some great movies to his credit and The Departed would have been just another day in office for him. My humble opinion is that this movie loosely adapts the game. Maybe I am wrong and it is just two scenes that inspired me to write this post. The movie is about a mole (Matt Damon) in Massachusetts state police dept and a counter-mole (Leonardo DiCaprio) in one of the city’s gangs planted by the police dept. The gang is headed by Jack Nicholson who had planted Matt in the police ranks. In essence, in the movie, there are two villages - Policeville and Gangstaville. They have their own set of villagers, mafia and coordinators. Information flows on both sides and both sides get to know they have a rat in their ranks. This is when things get interesting.

Now, everyone is under scrutiny and everyone is tensed about his fate after inquiry. The game actually reveals itself so clearly in one of the scenes where DiCaprio, one of the latest recruits of the gang, is questioned by Jack. The answers, logic and the body language that DiCaprio brings in that scene is tremendous! Partly because of his skills, partly because of the director and partly because of the nostalgia (about the mafia game) that the scene brings out, it easily scores a perfect ten for me. There is another scene in a deserted theatre where Matt Damon tries to convince Jack that he can find the rat in the gang's ranks. This scene is another gem which again replicates the scheming sequence of the game. One big difference between the movie and the game is the absence of a doctor/angel. Though one can argue, the two officers who trained Di Caprio could be considered as one. These two mini mafia games collide to form one big mafia game like how the 3*3 squares form the su-do-ku puzzle. Before you even realise, truth reveals itself and there is a mega explosion - of blood and awesomeness! 

PS: For a 7 member group - Have one headman, one doctor/angel villager, 3 normal villagers and 2 Mafia men. You are free to improvise on the schema, no copyrights involved!

For complete rules, tips & tricks - check the wiki page - Mafia (party game)

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  1. Coincidentally, I played this game only a week before with around 9 people, and it was SOOO FUN!!!

    The only low-points for me is the initial chance that is taken in guessing the mafia and some of the 'all the time silent' participants who do nothing but vote.

  2. That is why you need to have enthusiastic people :) But, yes the initial round involves mostly guess work or at best "I heard a sound" or "he has smug look" kind of theories. But it is fun man... Awesome fun!


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