As the above trailer shows, in a futuristic Moscow, Mafia has become “the most popular television show ever.” Eleven contestants gather in a set that looks like Who Wants to be a Millionaire by way of the Matrix trilogy and Tron to play Mafia while the rest of the world eagerly watches. Eliminated players are apparently subjected to some sort of VR hallucination based on their worst fears. It’s all magnificently unexpected and absurd, and you are best just watching it yourself. While you might be inclined to think this is a joke, the production values are actually quite high. Slash Film reports that the film had a budget of $10 million to $15 million.
Mafia is a classic social deduction party game of hidden roles and bluffing, first created in the USSR by Dmitry Davidoff in 1986. At the start of the game each player is secretly assigned a role, with an uninformed majority of villagers and an informed minority of mafia members. The game is divided into alternating day and night phases. During the night, the mafia members silently elect to kill one of the innocent villagers, while during the day all of the players discuss whom to eliminate on suspicion of being in the mafia. The game is won when either all of the mafia have been eliminated or the mafia outnumbers other players.
A standard party game and rainy day summer camp activity for people who grew up in the ’80s and 90s, Mafia serves as the foundation for a wider range of hidden role and bluffing games that are currently flourishing. The game itself has been re-themed around werewolves instead of mafiosi, and published variants such as One Night Ultimate Werewolf maintain the same basic structure while adding additional mechanics and hidden roles to complicate the strategy. It has also served as inspiration for more modern hidden role party games such as The Resistance, Coup, Two Rooms & a Boom, and Spyfall.
According to the trailer, Mafia hits theaters on Jan. 1, 2016. What other folk and party games would make good fodder for an inexplicable film adaptation? Red Rover? Capture the Flag?