BITE Playtest

The next game coming down the pipeline is a social game called BITE. It grew out of wanting to write something that could be played during a Halloween party without pulling everyone away from socializing or grabbing something to eat. It’s a Werewolf or Mafia-type bluffing game played in shifting pairs, with players chatting and then playing action cards on each other. We started calling it “Speed Dating for Vampires.”

Players are secretly given a “role”, or class/character. This gives them their action cards (some unique to a specific role) and assigns them to one of two opposing factions, humanity or the forces of evil. Some players will switch back and forth throughout then 8 to 12 turns of the game based on the actions of the other players. At the end, the side with the majority of living players declares victory.

Roles follow classic horror conventions: Villagers can pry for information, flee from monsters, or band together and form a mob. Hunters can discover the roles of other players and kill them. Vampires convert other players to evil and distribute additional cards to let their vampire spawn also convert others. Priests can redeem bitten humans, but cannot pray away the wickedness of werewolves, vampires, or other roles that are inherently evil.

Other roles focus on manipulating or communicating with ghosts (dead players), converting others to their heinous cult, protecting other players with their magic amulets, or cursing their enemies to play cards at random.

The Playtest

Despite some scheduling difficulties, we moved forward with the playtest. We had a chance to run it twice with eight players, so my notes reflect those conditions.

The core gameplay works: Vampires, Hunters, The Beast, and a Priest all work with Villagers rounding out the village. Our initial play had the Hunter devoured by the Beast on the first night, which was a setback for humanity. Shortly thereafter, the Priest got Bitten and refused to Redeem any of her fellow night-monsters. Meanwhile, the dead Hunter petitioned other villagers on his behalf, so the first mob of the night tore the Beast apart right before the Town Hall on Night 4.

Heading into the back half of the game, the vampires tried to lay low, with the Bitten Priest taking a lot of attention by trying to Bite a few folks who Fled and spread the word. Once a mob got going, the vampires voted with the crowd to destroy her to avoid some suspicion, but it was too late to convert some new villagers who were fleeing at a moment’s notice.

It seemed like an evil victory, but the last person Bitten got bit by a vampire who didn’t have any cards left to give him, so he didn’t turn evil. It’s a situation that is intended in the game, that later generations of vampires can bite fewer of their peers than elder Vampires, but needs to be called out in the book. Since no cards changed hands, that Villager survived and the game ended with 3 living humans, 2 vampires, and 3 ghosts.

The second game had perhaps too eccentric a makeup of roles in too small a game. With a Heretic and an Occultist on the evil side and a Warden, Witch, and a Priestess with three Villagers on the other side, there wasn’t a lot familiar to hold onto. With no one killing each other (without Beasts and Hunters) and with a more limited spread of evil (due to Corruption from the Heretic, which converts a single user unlike Bites which are exponential) it was a more low key game with more confusing roles. It was too much too fast compared to the accessibility of the previous game and struggled to get up to speed. Notably, we had to wait for the mob to turn on an innocent Villager before there was a ghost to get the Occultist to set off a Haunt (basically a ghost mob), so it took until the seventh of eight nights before the body count really picked up. It was an evil victory right at the end because of the ghost mob killing off two people. One Witch survived for humanity, four bad guys made it, and three ghosts.

The Reviews

Strong points? The game can be adjusted for more strategy or more casual based on the group and role selection by the mayor.

I will update some verbiage in the book about Town Hall, Town Meetings, and the role of the Mayor, but those are clarifications, not changes. There’s going to be a provision for odd numbers of players where there’s a rotation of players with the Mayor, so I need to write something for them to be doing.

A couple of cards need editing, and the timing of mobs needs clarifying. I need to write up some more about the good vs. evil, how to pick roles for a group, and knowing when you’ve switched teams. I need to re-write or eliminate some of the most confusing roles, but I have some ideas for expanding or adding a few that will lead to a more dynamic game experience. It needs a lot of playtesting, though, and my work schedule currently doesn’t permit 8-24 person parties every weekend until I sort this all out. If you have such an opportunity in the next few months, let me know through the contact form and I can ship you the latest copy of the game for playtesting. You just have to agree to ship it back! If you live within an hour of Kansas City, MO, I’ll personally deliver it and talk it over with you.

A good bit of advice that I received on this one is that some players either won’t have pockets or won’t have pockets big enough for poker-sized playing cards. I’m considering the price of custom lanyard pouches with the box art printed on them big enough to serve as a pocket for cards that players can wear around their neck. I think I can offer it as a stretch goal or add-on available through the website.

All in all, it went from an idea to a playable prototype on the first go. I’m glad it has made it this far and I’m excited to see where it leads from here!


2 thoughts on “BITE Playtest

  1. Val Phillips Reply

    J,
    Have you considered an app for players to use or even take a pic with their phone for reference?

    We are hosting a game night for 8 later this month and if it goes well I’ll be in touch to play test for you.

    Val

    1. J Lindemann Reply

      I’m pondering an app for Mayors to help manage the game. Countdown, reminders of what parts happen when, announcing the end of the night via church bells, that sort of thing. A rulebook reference for players would be a good thing to add.

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