The Original Mafia Rules

I found a link to the original rules for the game Mafia. It’s really a fascinating game, and amazing to see how it’s a worldwide phenomenon. I’ve seen it played in middle school, high school, church, youth groups, colleges, companies, internship programs, and so on. There’ s literally no place that Mafia hasn’t been. Here’s the Game Schedule according to the original rules (warning: may have popup ads) written by the inventor of the game, created in 1986 in Moscow.

Sunrise Phase

First step is to divide the players into two teams. Each player gets one card from the prepared and shuffled deck, secretly looks at the card’s color and returns the card to the deck. Then everybody closes their eyes and lowers their heads. Someone starts counting aloud (usually the person who dealt the cards). After number 5, s/he continues to count silently until 15, then s/he resumes counting aloud until 20. During the silent period, the players who got black cards, should open their eyes, raise their heads, and look at each other, then close their eyes and lower their heads again. On count 20, everybody should open their eyes. Now, all players are divided into two teams. Mafia are the players who saw each other and therefore know each other. Honest people are the players who saw nothing, don’t know each other, and don’t know who the Mafia members are. This is the only advantage of Mafia: they know each other. Honest players have to suspect everybody, but they have an advantage of being the majority. The main struggle during the next phase will be between the informed minority and the uniformed majority.

Day Phase

Talk… At any moment, any player may put another player in the “suspected to be the Mafia” position. S/he should (better) provide grounds for the suggestion. Everyone (including the accused) has a right to argue. But when the accuser asks to vote, everyone should vote by raising their hands. If the majority of the players (not counting the accused) votes for “Guilty as member of the Mafia”, the suspected player is “sentenced to death” and s/he is out of the game until the end of the round. If the accuser fails to get the majority on her/his side, the game continues with the same number of players. Accusations may happen any number of times during the discussion. Players who are eliminated from the game do not reveal their identity until the end of the game and should not try to help others who are still in the game. There is no way to know the team identity of the “dead” unless you have the next phase.

Night Phase

This is the only phase when you can find out if all Mafia members have been eliminated. So, once in a while, someone should propose to have a “Mafia Night”. If the majority of the players who are still in the game agrees, the Night begins. Everyone takes a pencil and a piece of paper, and secretly writes on them. Honest people must write “honest” on the note, while members of the Mafia must write the name of the person, whom they want to eliminate from the game. After that, everybody puts their notes in the middle and someone reads them. The number of the notes with the names will reflect the number of survived Mafia members, so the players will know if they have “killed” an Honest person or a Mafia member during the day. If the same name appears on all Mafia notes, the named person is “murdered” and is out of the game until the end of the round. In any other case, the named players survive the Mafia attack and the game continues with the same number of players.

For example, if three members of the Mafia are in the game, there should be three notes with names on them. Only if all three notes have the same name, that person is “murdered”. If only one member of Mafia is still in the game, her/his single shot will be enough to eliminate somebody.

The game ends when there are no shots during Mafia Night or all Honest people have been eliminated. Start again.

The most immmediately obvious difference is that there is no narrator. In all the Mafia games I’ve ever played, the narrator is central to the gameplay. I’ve never seen it played any other way. Using pieces of paper here is interesting. Should we try returning to the original rules, or have we actually improved on it? One difference I am not willing to revert back on is that we have to know the identity of the dead: whether they were Mafia or not. It just adds more dimension to the game and gives the players a much better sense of satisfaction. Don’t you agree?

2 Responses to “The Original Mafia Rules”

  1. William says:

    Actually, NOT knowing who you killed sounds the most appealing in this version. It forces the townspeople to second-guess whether they killed the right person, and therefore prevents the townspeople from killing everyone off.

    The thing I don’t like about this version of the rules is that the mafia has to vote unanimously for a particular person to be killed. Without having a chance to coordinate, it would be difficult to kill people off.

  2. Greda says:


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