Thinking & Engaging
Thinking & Engaging

With an elaborate story, participants will pay attention to their surroundings as they try to solve a murder mystery all while trying to avoid being taken out themselves.  


  • Deck of cards for groups larger than 7 (see ‘Modify’ section)


‘Mafia’ presents a conflict between two groups: the Mafia (the informed minority), and the civilians(the uninformed majority). Originated by Dmitry Davidoff of the USSR in 1986, this popular game has many variations and can be played by a group of seven or more people. The game has two phases; night, when the Mafia might secretly “murder” an civilian, and “day” when civilians vote to eliminate a Mafia suspect. The game ends when all the Mafia members are eliminated or there are more Mafia members than Innocents. The instructions below are given for a group of 7. For larger groups, see the ‘Modify’ section.


  1. Gather the group to sit in a circle.
  2. With their eyes closed, assign roles to each participant using a signal:

    - 1 shoulder tap: a civilian (3 participants)
    - 2 shoulder tap:s member of the Mafia (3 participants)
    - 3 shoulder taps: civilian doctor (1 participant)
  3. After assigning roles, have the group open their eyes. Instruct them to keep their identities a secret.
  4. Night Time:  As the Moderator, begin the night cycle by having all players close their eyes and put down their heads. At this time, each class of players will be given an opportunity to make a decision but the result of that decision is not revealed until ‘day time’. After everyone is “asleep,” the Moderator instructs the Mafia to wake up and choose a victim. At this time, the Mafia members will be able to see all their fellow members.

    - The Mafia collectively and silently chooses a civilian victim by pointing. The Moderator confirms the Mafia’s selection by pointing to the civilian victim and receiving a head nod from each Mafia member. The Moderator then instructs the Mafia to “sleep” again.
    - The Moderator then wakes up the Detective, who points to someone they suspect to be a member of the Mafia. The Detective then goes back to “sleep.”
    - Lastly, the Moderator wakes up the Doctor who will choose a person to save by silent pointing. The Doctor can choose to save himself or another person. The Doctor then goes back to sleep.
  5. Day Time, Part One:  The Moderator tells the players to open their eyes and then announces the goingson of the previous night.

    - Announce to the group the Mafia’s target and that they have been killed off.
    - However, if it turns out that the Doctor chose to save the same person that was targeted by the Mafia, nothing will happen to the victim. If the Doctor was chosen for death by the Mafia, and s/he did not choose to save him/herself, they are out of the game and the other civilians can no longer be saved.
    - If the Detective suspicion is correct, announce that that Mafia member has been sent to prison and is eliminated from the game. If not, the Detective now knows the identity of another civilian and is closer to solving the case.
  6. Day time Part Two: The players discuss recent events. Players do not show their cards, but try to convince others they have a certain role. If the discussion reaches a point where a player has a suspicion, the game moves on to the accusation.

    - Accusation: Whoever has a suspicion may accuse another player of being a member of the Mafia. This accusation must be seconded by another player. Additionally, the accuser must explain the reason behind the accusation. Other players may then tell if they believe the accusation is just.
    - The Moderator calls for a vote and participants indicate whether they believe the accused is guilty or not. It may be required that the vote be anonymous or not.
    - If it is not decided that the accused is not guilty, accusations begin again. Again there is a defense and vote. This continues until a player is declared guilty and leaves the game. If the majority voted the initial accused player guilty, the night round begins again.


  • The Moderator should be a great storyteller in order to maintain interest and tension throughout. Consider: instead of accusations and discussions taking place during the day cycle, the Moderator tells a made-up story. If the innocent was killed, the story tells who was killed and how without (of course) revealing the killer. If the innocent was saved, the Moderator tells how and the extent of their injuries.
  • For very large groups, try having two teams of Mafia that compete.
  • For groups of 7 or more, divide the deck of cards as follows:
    - King: the Detective
    - Queen: the Doctor
    - Cards of one suit (such as hearts): Mafia members (one for every three Innocents)
    - Miscellaneous cards (no hearts): the civilians
  • Additional roles for larger groups:
    - The Barman – a Mafia member who may cancel the effect of another player’s ability every night
    - The Vigilante – an Innocent who may kill a player every night
    - The Magician – on the side of the Innocents; can choose to kill one person who they suspect is Mafia each night or can save one person from being lynched by signaling to the Moderator; can do each of things only once
    - The Lycan – an Innocent or a Mafioso; appear to be Mafia during the night; this role helps the Mafia; if killed, they are revealed to be a Mafia member.
    - The Peeping-Tom – allowed to open their eyes at any moment; knows who is who in the game; very likely to be killed for this knowledge
    - The Grandma with a Shotgun – an innocent who visits during the night and kills any player they wish; if investigated by the Detective, they die, but if the Mafia attempts to kill her, a random Mafia is killed; cannot be killed by the Mafia; no one knows if deaths are caused by her or another player
    - Cupid and the Lovers – Cupid is on the innocent team and picks two people to be the Lovers the first night, one of whom dies immediately; the other dies of a broken heart. Alternatively, the Lovers can be awakened by the Moderator during the first night and told of their roles. If one is a victim, the other dies also.
    - The Informant – gets to know who the Mafia is but their identity remains unknown. During the first night cycle, the Moderator lets the Informant see who the Mafia members. The Mafia members keep their eyes closed and raise their hands. The Informant helps the Innocents, but need to do so secretively or is likely to be killed.
    - The Armor – this player cannot be killed by Mafia and only be voted off
    - The Bandit – has no voting power; knows who the Mafia is; works to aid the Mafia
    - The Lawyer – chooses someone to defend; that person cannot be voted out the following morning
    - Rambo – able to throw a “grenade” at someone and kill that person and the two people sitting on either side
    - The Bus Driver – can blindly change two players’ roles
    - The Other (Alien) – Looks like an innocent. Awakens after the Doctor and Mafia have finished their parts. If the Alien is picked for killing, the Moderator advises the Other secretly. At this point, the Other attempts to be hung. If successful, the Other stays in the game (or wins). If hung before activation, the other is out of the game.


  • There are no foreseeable safety concerns for this activity.


  • Were there any gestures or behaviours that gave away the murderer?
  • How did you avoid being winked at?
  • As the murderer, how did you avoid being discovered?

Obtained from: