There used to be a tradition my friend group in the last city I was in had. Once we got bored of skulking around our usual haunts we’d get together and have a board game night. Usually it was something simple, but on certain occasions one of us would bring over a serious game. I’m talking D&D, Call of Cthulhu, or in this case Secret Hitler.
I was the one who decided on this game. I shelled out $35.00 USD on Amazon, well worth the price as the quality is incredible. The concept didn’t seem too difficult and from what I’d read about it people would get very into it. I did not understand the full consequences of my friends getting into a game like this. Therapy may be in our future, in a group setting of course.
I will say this, before I continue with this review, I 100% recommend this game for certain friend groups. I do not recommend to strangers, as your opinions of them may be tarnished very quickly. Also, don’t drag kids into this. It’s a loud violent political debate in board game form, it’s not for children.
The concept of this game is quite simple. Trust no one.
The hardest part of learning a new game is generally figuring out the rules and in certain scenarios which rules you’re going to obey and disobey. House rules are common and it makes jumping into a game with an established group pretty difficult, luckily we were all new at this so that conundrum didn’t come up. The rule set for Secret Hitler is hard to argue with anyways.
First off you’re going to want at least seven players. It’s possible to do it with less, but I recommend fully to go with at least seven. There’s rules for less players, but it’s well worth it to have a large group.
Secret Hitler is themed politically, so there are basically two teams. Liberals and fascists. Both are trying to win, obviously. The Liberals win by getting five Liberal policy cards on the board or assassinating the Secret Hitler via political policies and the Fascists win by getting six Fascist policy cards on the board or electing their Secret Hitler as chancellor after three Fascist policies are in play.
In a given game the teams are set up like this. At the beginning a packet of role cards are shuffled and passed out to determine, well, your role. In a game of seven you will have 4 Liberals 2 Fascists and 1 Secret Hitler.
After the packets are sent out everyone closes their eyes. The Fascists then open their eyes and show their Fascist cards to each other, while the Secret Hitler keeps their eyes closed but shows the card to the fascists. This means the two fascists will know what everyone is, but no one else knows anything besides their own role.
Once the game begins the players elect two positions. A Chancellor and a President. The President chooses their Chancellor and the players vote if they want them in charge. The President, once elected, draws two policy cards and does not show anyone what they are. They then give them to their Chancellor who chooses which policy to enact, either Liberal or Fascist. They cannot show anyone their cards, besides the one they place on the board, but after the policy is in play they may say the choice the President gave them.
The Presidency then goes around the room, generally clockwise, with the players voting whether or not to elect them and their Chancellor.
As Fascist policies stack up certain abilities are granted for one time for the President whose Chancellor enacted them. Such as being able to see another person’s role or to assassinate a player for the rest of the game. So there is a reason even for Liberals to enact Fascist policies as Liberal policies do not grant any powers.
This may seem complicated, but it plays very smoothly once you get going. The main thing to focus on is the fact that no one knows what anyone’s intentions are besides the Fascists. Here is where the meat of the game is: distrust.
I’ll relate my experience the first time playing this particular game. I was given the Liberal role, meaning I knew nothing at the start of the game. I was third in round as president with two Liberal polices enacted from the first two rounds of Presidencies. No one was to be trusted or distrusted at this point. Once my term as President came around, I elected my Chancellor and I drew two policy cards. One Liberal and one Fascist. I handed them over to my Chancellor and they put down a Fascist card. Well, they’re obviously a fascist right? Problem is only I knew that.
They told the group that I handed them two Fascist cards. I told the group the truth, one Liberal one Fascist. I instantly became angry and called out my Chancellor, a trusted friend, a Fascist. They did the same back, No one else in the group knew who to trust, they just knew one of us was a Fascist.
The next round came around, this time another Fascist card was placed down. This one gave the power of seeing the role of one player to the president. They could not show the card to anyone else, but they could tell the group what they saw. I was chosen as I was distrusted from the last round. The President told the group I was the fascist.
Yelling pursued immediately. I could not believe a friend of mine would dare slander my name like this. We argued back and forth, no one in the group knew who was telling the truth. The whole game went into chaos with us yelling terrible things at each other and accusing one another of Fascism. It was a great time, to be honest.
The gameplay really is that simple, it’s all about slandering and for the Fascists to get their policies enacted and causing distrust against everyone. I won’t go into the details of the rest of the game, but being said the Liberals lost as the Secret Hitler was eventually elected as chancellor after another Fascist card went down. No one saw it coming. It was brilliant. With the caveat of knowing that friends, I’ve had for years, are that great at lying and manipulation. It was somewhat disturbing to be frank.
It’s as easy as that. For those that wish to test the integrity of their friends, I can recommend no better game. The game plays nice and quick, with each game lasting only about 15-20 minutes in our case. A lot quicker of a way to get angry at your friends besides Monopoly. For those that are afraid to see the depraved capabilities of their loved ones, stay away.
Being said, I had a lot of fun with this game and want to go again next time I get a chance. The quality of the cards and board are great as well. It’s a deceivingly simple, yet brilliant, set of rules that plays on some primal levels of the brain and there’s a lot of strategies to try out, especially as a Fascist. It’s not a bad political simulator actually in that way.
Secret Hitler creates a very odd dichotomy between bonding and hatred within the players. Especially at the end when all the cards are put literally on the table and you find out that your friend wasn’t lying to you while you were screaming slurs and calling them a Fascist to everyone. Sorry about that, I just thought you might be Hitler is all. Can you blame me?
Secret Hitler also has a great moral for the players, even the most trustworthy of people can end up being secretly a Fascist. Or worse. A Secret Hitler.