Number of Players: 5-15
Time: 60-120 minutes
Game Type: Deduction/Mystery/Teams
Gamer Type: Casual
As we enter into the Halloween season, let’s look at a spooky-themed game. The Salem witch trials were one of the best examples of big government gone bad; innocent people were killed and there was not a major outcry to fix the problem. Pique Games took on the challenge of showing how dangerous a “democracy of the fearful” can be. This bring us to their newest offering “Burn the Witch.”
In Burn the Witch, you play the townsfolk in a village beset by real witches. Well, in this case, the town does not want witches there – so the only solution is to burn them. See how mob rule works! Every player is in control of a household. Some households have witches in them, which makes the player a sympathizer. Some do not have witches in them, which makes the player a hunter. Your goal is to see that your faction wins. 8 of 10
The artwork for the game is realistic, with a little bit of symbolism added. This really draws the player into the game, which makes the game more fun. The voting box (which is the vehicle for movement) is simple and plain, just like it would be for an ad hoc lynch mob for a town burning its citizens. The box is a standard small-medium box, which should fit well on your shelf. The one critique I have is that the cards use real religious symbols that don’t line up with the history of American witch trials. 7 of 10.
The cards are the randomizer for this game; this means that you are doing most of the randomization during set up. Players will either be zealots or sympathizers (covens). The one really neat aspect of the game is the “closed eye” session where the sympathizers know who each other are. This really helps for the distortion and is something left out of many social deduction games. The voting process is always secret (a big factor in mob rule). If the vote is to execute, then the executioner has to pick someone with a specific trait; if it is not to execute, well, it is a mob so the executioner executes whoever they want. This gives it the feeling of the mob rule, where you have control… until you don’t. 8.5 of 10.
Strategy in social deduction games is always kind of odd. Offense in this game is a “kill ’em all and let God sort them out” kind of approach, hoping you will kill the witches before you kill enough innocent people to end the game. Defense is in ensuring that your favorite traits (i.e. the traits your people have) are not chosesn for execution. Engine building is not really present, though you can set up those processes in the other players. Witches can rush the executions, pushing for executions of those who do not have the traits within their own house and causing hexes on other players. (everyone is kind of the bad guy in this game). 6 of 10.
Pique brings a cool game to the table. Witch hunting games are the vogue now with the Witcher series in full swing. Pique brings balance to the table by still attacking the things that go bump in the night, but also pointing out that mob rule is a lousy way to run anything, especially a judicial system. Some people may be offended by the subject matter, but realistically, the game does look at a social event that happened and points out that there are problems on both sides (assuming hexes are real). Pique brings this to the table in an even-handed way, so 9 of 10 for taking on a tough topic with a graceful hand.
This is a fun game for big groups of people. If you take it too seriously, you are missing the point. Chaos is never a good form of government, but it can be a good engine for a game. This game looks at a real problem we have in the world, teaching kids that raw democracy is the best way to run things; when has that ever been a good thing for a country? As the USA moves from a republic to a democracy, chaos ensues. As France becomes more of a social democracy, chaos ensues. Canada, well, that is a nightmare now. Representative democracy with a strong judiciary keeps mob rule from taking effect and this game shows the dangers of mob rule. If you do not like the witch theme, then maybe this one will suit you better:
First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a socialist.
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.
Anyway, the game earns a 39.5 out of 50.
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