Children, Teens, Adults
This game shows the negative impact of distrust and lack of role-clarity on collaboration within a team. Participants are assigned a secret role to play (Mafia, Police, Doctor or Townspeople), and “good” and “evil” try to eliminate each other. It is based on a game originally invented by psychology student Dimitry Davidoff in Russia in1986. (A variation for young children is described at the end.)
If you would like to connect this game to a biblical lesson, you can choose from the following (depending on what point you would like to make):
- Psalm 133 (It is good for God’s people to live together in peace.)
- Proverbs 3:29 (Do not plot harm against your neighbor, who lives trustfully near you.)
- Proverbs 12:22 (The Lord detests lying lips but delights in the trustworthy.)
- 1 Corinthians 12:12-31 (One body but many parts)
o Deck(s) of playing cards – one deck for every 8 to 12 people (If your group is larger than 12 people, you will need two decks. If it’s larger than 24, you will need three, and so on… However, if you have a total of people that is bigger than 12 but too small for two groups, you can just play with one large group.)
o Flipchart or whiteboard and markers (optional)
o Prizes for the winners (optional)
o Take out the following playing cards from each deck:
o 2 Aces – representing the Mafia
o 2 Kings – representing the Police
o 1 Queen – represents the Doctor
o Enough number cards for the rest of the people in each group (For example, if you have a group of 8, you will have 2 Aces, 2 Kings, 1 Queen and 3 number cards. If you have a group of 12, you will have 2 Aces, 2 Kings, 1 Queen and 7 number cards.)
o Shuffle the cards up for each deck, but keep the decks separate from each other.
Use the following script (or modify to suit your needs):
- “We are going to play The Mafia Game.”
- “First, I need to divide you into groups.” (Divide the participants into groups of 8-12 people each, and have each group sit in a circle, facing each other.)
- “Everyone in your group is part of a town.”
- “There are both good people and bad people in your town.”
- “During the game, we will have both day and night in your town.”
- “Each day and night together are a round of play.”
- “I have a deck of cards for each group, and in this deck are four kinds of cards – Aces, Kings, Queens and number cards. I’ve taken all the extra cards out.”
- “I am going to come to you and ask you to draw one card from the deck.”
- “You can look at your card, but please do not let anyone else see what you drew.”
- “The card you draw will determine which role you play in the game.”
- “There are four roles.” (You may want to write these roles on a flipchart or whiteboard so that participants don’t forget what the cards mean.)
- “If you draw an Ace, you are part of the Mafia. Your goal is to eliminate the Townspeople, the Police and the Doctor during the night.”
- “If you draw a King, you are part of the Police. Your goal is to figure out who the Mafia are and to persuade the Townspeople to eliminate them during the day. You probably will want to keep your identity a secret so that the Mafia doesn’t get rid of you first!”
- “If you draw a Queen, you are a Doctor. Your goal is to protect people from the Mafia during the night. Each night, you can choose one person to protect – it can even be yourself!”
- “If you draw a number card (no matter what number), you are one of the Townspeople. Your goal is to eliminate the Mafia during the day.”
- “I am the Narrator, and I’ll be giving you instructions.”
- “We will have both days and nights in each round.”
- “During the night, everyone will close their eyes and put their heads down.”
- “I will give the Mafia, Police and Doctor roles the opportunity to wake up at night and do their work.”
- “The Townspeople will stay asleep all night.”
- “When I say it is day, everyone will lift their heads and open their eyes.”
- “During the day, everyone can pretend to be a Townsperson, because no one will know what your real role is.”
- “Everyone will get a chance to try to convince each other who to eliminate.”
- “If you are eliminated, you will have to leave the circle without telling your identity, but you will be allowed to watch the rest of the game with your eyes open.”
- “Does anyone have any questions about how the game is played?” (Answer any questions. Then, have each person draw one card from the deck(s). Remind them to keep their card and their role a secret.)
- “Let’s play! Please do what I tell you when I tell you, and be sure that no one hears you if you are doing your work at night!”
- “It is nighttime, so everyone please go to sleep.” (Everyone puts their head down and closes their eyes.)
- “Mafia, please wake up.” (Only the member(s) of the Mafia quietly open their eyes. As long as there is more than one Mafia member, they must unanimously choose a person to eliminate by pointing to someone in the group. The Narrator must remember the person chosen.)
- “Mafia, please go to sleep.” (The Mafia close their eyes and place their heads down again.)
- “Police, please wake up.” (The member(s) of the Police quietly open their eyes and point to one person, who they suspect is a member of the Mafia. The Narrator gives a thumbs-up if they are correct and a thumbs down if they are not, but even if they are correct, the person is not eliminated. The Townspeople have to be persuaded to eliminate the Mafia.)
- “Police, please go to sleep.” (The member(s) of the Police close their eyes and place their heads down.)
- “Doctor, please wake up and choose someone you would like to protect.” (The Doctor wakes up and silently points to someone they would like to protect for that day. It’s okay if he/she chooses himself/herself.)
- “Doctor, please go to sleep.” (The Doctor closes his or her eyes and puts his/her head down.)
- “It’s morning. Everyone please wake up.” (Everyone opens their eyes and raises their head.)
- The Narrator announces the person who was eliminated by the Mafia.
- Unless the Doctor protected that person, he/she MUST quietly leave the circle.
- This person may not speak to anyone for the remainder of the entire game, but he or she may now keep his/her eyes open to watch everything.
- The townspeople (along with the Mafia, Police and Doctor who may pretend to be Townspeople) then nominate and vote on people who they suspect are part of the Mafia.
- Each person nominated may make a defense and plead their case, but they cannot show their card.
- The ONE person receiving a majority vote (which must include at least 50% or those voting) is eliminated.
- After someone is voted off, the day is over.
- The day may also end without any elimination if the entire group decides not to eliminate anyone.
- The Narrator again gives the instructions for the Nighttime, and the cycle repeats.
- The game continues until:
- A. All the Mafia are eliminated (the Police, Doctor and Townspeople win!)
- B. All the Townspeople (at least the ones with number cards) are eliminated (the Mafia win!)
- Once the game is over, award prizes to the winners in each group if you would like.
- Then, have the group sit together to discuss the following debriefing questions. (You might want to put these on a flipchart or whiteboard.)
- How difficult was it to collaborate when you weren’t sure whom you could trust?
- How difficult was it to collaborate when you weren’t sure what role everyone was playing?
- Were you ever wrong about who the Mafia members were? What problems did that cause?
- What types of problems does lack of trust cause in our organization?
- What types of problems does lack of role clarity cause in our organization?
- What are some ideas for how we could solve trust and role-clarity issues?
Variation for Children – “Predator”
Instead of Mafia members, there are “Predators,” and instead of police there are “Hunters.” Usually three separate Predators (Lion, Wolf, Bear) are chosen and instructed to “wake up” separately at night and attack someone (it’s possible that they will attack each other). Instead of using cards, you can just tap them while their heads are down (“If I tap you now, you are the Bear.”)