Board Game Review: One Night Ultimate Vampire – Going Deeper

Perhaps you’ve slain all the werewolves. But now vampires infest your village. One Night Ultimate Vampire takes the central concept of One Night Werewolf and builds a new structure around it. Rather than directly manipulating roles, the new version focuses on manipulating incentives.

The Basics. To begin, you start with a number of role cards equal to three more than the number of players. Everyone selects one and secretly looks at it. Everyone also starts with a “Mark of Clarity” – a small token that provides no special game effect. Then everyone closes their eyes.

The night phase begins with several roles. First, the vampires wake up and notice each other. They may then bite another player by replacing their mark of clarity with a mark of the vampire. All marks are face down. Other characters then wake up in a specified order and each can trade out marks as specified. Then everyone wakes up and views their marks.

These guys get to hand out marks

Then everyone goes back to sleep. Additional characters may then wake up and take special actions. The Marksman can look at one card and one mark from two different players, and the Gremlin can swap two players’ marks or cards. Then everyone wakes up and the real game begins.

At that point, the players must discuss what happened and try to determine who they should kill. At the end of the day (usually six minutes or so), the players all point at someone they want to kill. The player with the most votes dies. If that player was a vampire, the village team wins. If that player was not a vampire, then the vampire team wins.

One Night Vampire may be mixed with One Night Werewolf to create multiple evil teams amongst the village.

Some roles act after all the mark shenanigans is through

The Feel. One Night Vampire is all about the manipulation of incentives. Even though you might still be a village role, your mark might now place you on the vampire team. Or a vampire might be marked as a traitor and try to get his own team killed. Your actual role cards don’t switch all that much. But which team you want to vote for still does.

The result is a bit more obfuscation than was found in the original of this series. A Marksman might be able to say that someone has a village role. But that doesn’t necessarily “clear” them as being on the village team. After all, if their mark is something shady, they may have switched teams anyway.

Untangling the mess is a lot more difficult than in standard One Night. There are more special characters doing special things. And the order can be quite important. Maybe one player gets bit and turned into a vampire, but then gets diseased or cleansed by the priest. But even once the order is mastered, Vampire relies strongly on bluffing and determining whether someone is a liar. Piecing together exactly what happened is often not realistic.

Some roles play by their own rules, totally unconcerned about the vampire infestation

But, that doesn’t mean Vampire chucks deduction and solid play out the window. Instead, it means that players have to have a keen eye and lying becomes even more important. Misinformation and tripping up other players is critical to determining their true motives. Skillful players will lay verbal traps for unwary vampires.

Some groups may pick up Vampire and see a lot of chaos. And there’s a certain set that likes to play that way. In fact, I think Daybreak largely catered to that method. But this title doesn’t have to be that way and the additional layer of deduction can be quite thrilling – even while sometimes mystifying.

The vampire team has access to special powers of its own

In some ways, it’s a little bit more like standard Werewolf. You often make decisions on partial information and allow hunches to guide your actions. Vampire is the same way with players often not being quite sure about what happened. And I think that’s a good thing.

The most boring games of Werewolf are those where the true state of affairs is discovered quickly. Ugh. You end up going through five or six minutes of “night” phase for two minutes of play. Not good. Vampire ameliorates that problem. This complication might masquerade for a time as chaos, but there is definitely a solid bluffing and deduction game as you gain familiarity.

Although it can be combined with One Night Werewolf, my strong preference is to avoid that. Combining them results in a lot of additional rules and bloat for a marginal change in strategic space. As a villager, the vote is less tense because it is more likely that someone else is a bad guy. And finding the right setup of roles can be more challenging. Plus, depending on which three are removed randomly, you can see wild swings in balance.

Plenty of marks to change up the play

Components: 2 of 5. It’s good that the cards are the same as in the original game since that allows them to be played together. But the cards are the same as in the original game – awful. I would much rather have actual cards than huge tiles which are difficult to sleeve. If it is like One Night Werewolf, the ink will wear over time.

Strategy/Luck Balance: 4 of 5. Depending on which three cards are removed, there can be a bit of a power swing from one side to the other. But it isn’t too terrible and does provide significant room for player claims and deception.

Mechanics: 4 of 5. While everything works well, and I do enjoy the way that the Marks influence play, it is still a little clunky. The worst part of One Night is the “night” phase where you mostly just sit there waiting for your turn to come. And Vampire’s version is actually longer. But the experience is mostly worth it.

Replayability: 4 of 5. There are a ton of plays in Vampire. I have over a hundred plays of the original and I don’t see that slowing down. Vampire is likely to be played a little less just because it has to share it’s time with Werewolf now. But otherwise, there seems to be a lot of game in this box.

Spite: 1 of 5. There isn’t really a sense of ganging up or playing “take that” against opponents. Of course, part of the game is about convincing players to kill someone else. So exceptionally thin-skinned players could get upset. But it doesn’t feel mean or vindictive the way it can in other games. And the play time is so short that it rarely matters.

The marks board helps keep things straight

Overall: 4 of 5. Vampire is good. Very good, even. And it provides an excellent change of pace from the original. As someone who very much enjoys the social deduction genre, I have room for both on my shelf. That said, it doesn’t wow me the same way that the original did. Part of that is simply due to coming later. But part of that is also a result of it being a little less streamlined and a longer night phase.

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