Mercury Fund director Aziz Gilani says he uses it in board meetings because the premise isn’t who’s right, but who is most persuasive. Ali Syed of Justworks said it helps with pitch competitions. But mostly the 30 or so people who convened to play Werewolf at Techstars Wednesday night had no objective but to bullshit each other, catch each other in lies, and have fun.
Werewolf is the parlor game of choice in the tech world, and while games can last only about a half hour, players can go all night.
At the onset, each player gets a card and is either a werewolf, a villager, a seer, a priest…that’s the basic premise. There are variations. Werewolves kill. Villagers die and lynch suspected werewolves. Seers can identify werewolves, and priests can save people from death. The last two, considered “special characters” have some immunity because the villagers want to protect them. Anyone, including werewolves, can claim to be a special character. In fact, lying is encouraged.
Only the werewolves and the game director, in this case a commanding Brian Fryer of Evosure, knows who the werewolves are. At “night” everyone closes his eyes and makes noise—in this game a tribal drumming on the table—and Fryer cries “Werewolves wake up!” The werewolves, by mutual silent consent, pick a villager to “kill.” Fryer orders the werewolves back to sleep. “Seer wake up! Who do you want to see?” The seer silently accuses someone of being a werewolf and Fryer signals whether he is correct. “Priest wake up! Who do you want to priest?” The priest can choose to protect himself or another. When it’s time for the villagers to wake up, the newly dead villager must leave the game and the rest make accusations about who the werewolves are. If they spot them, the werewolf is killed, unless he can convince the villagers that he is not, in fact, a werewolf. Villagers are often wrongly accused.
In the first round, three Techstars villagers died and Gilani was accused of being the werewolf and given a chance to speak in his defense. Considering Mercury Fund paid for the game, one would have thought that would have counted, but no.
“I say it’s Andy (Aguiluz, expansion management consultant for Techstars.) Three Techstars people have died and nobody’s more anti-Techstars than she is!” he argued.
Aguiluz was, in fact, one of the most proactive werewolves. But the vote was taken and Gilani was killed.
“Okay, if you want to kill Van Helsing, go ahead,” he said, leaving the table.
Later, Jason Seats was accused of being the werewolf. “I am priest,” Seats pronounced with conviction. “And I am very good at this game. I am impenetrable at night.”
Yet the villagers voted to kill him.
“Wow,” someone said. “Not so impenetrable.”
Other arguments included “I can’t grow enough facial hair to be a werewolf.”
The game broke into screaming accusations and counter accusations at times and occasional statements of “These villagers are stupid.”
The first time he played, Nick Spiller of the UT Freshman Founders Program said, he was the seer. Seers are a special target for werewolves because they can identify them. Spiller announced his seer status in the first round and was too humiliated to come back and play for awhile. It was a rookie move.
“It was a kneejerk reaction,” he said in his defense. “I was in possession of this information and I shared it. But in this game, you have to prove yourself.”