Secret Hitler was an extremely popular Kickstarter and shipped out last month. I was able to pick up a copy at Gencon from their booth, because I missed the Kickstarter campaign so I had to go hunting for a copy. I honestly don’t even remember where I first heard of this game, but I somehow landed on their website and from the illustrations [by Mackenzie Schubert] alone I was hooked. I couldn’t tell you what it is exactly but I just love the style and aesthetic of the game’s artwork. It’s distinctive, iconic and thematic. If you want to look at what you’re buying you can take a look inside the box here, but outside of that let’s dive right in!
Designer: Max Temkin, Mike Boxleiter, Tommy Maranges. Illustrated by Mackenzie Schubert.
Time: 45 mins.
Secret Hitler is a social deduction party game in which players have hidden roles and identities. You are either a liberal or a fascist and as such wish to get policies of your own persuasion enacted. Players form a cabinet and vote to elect a chancellor and a president who then enact policies. So choosing your leaders and trusting them is a big deal. The more players you play this with the more there is to figure out, which for me is a good thing. This game is a riot, but only with the correct group of people. I’ve had a blast playing this game every single time, but just know that things will obviously get very dark very quickly, which if that’s your humour style then this is the perfect game for your group.
The game is played over a couple of phases, where the current President chooses a candidate to be Chancellor and then the whole group votes the two into power or votes no. If too many pairs are voted against then the government makes no progress and the country is thrown into turmoil. You enact the top policy of the deck which is a coin flip that is weighted towards the fascists. I didn’t think this would come up when I was reading the rules, but low and behold in my very first game this happened. It didn’t happen in either of the subsequent games but it can happen, so watch out because it can be a nasty surprise. More often than not however the two will be voted in, the President draws three policies and then discards one. The Chancellor receives the two remaining policies from the President and enacts one of them, placing it on the corresponding board. If the liberals enact five policies they win. If the the fascists enact three policies and then get Hitler voted into power then the takeover is complete and they win the game. If Hitler is ever assassinated then the liberals win also.
Everything about this game is off the chain. The artwork, as I’ve said, is impeccable. The cards are good stock and the envelopes are heavy brown paper. There’s multiple boards that have metallic embossing on them and the President and Chancellor plaques are big wooden pieces, which was a huge surprise for me, they also have rules summaries for the players on the back which is a great little feature for new players.
Like all good social deduction games, the mechanics are light enough where the game is really centered in the bluffing and accusations. The game has more fascist articles than liberal ones. This is something I always explain to new players because there are regularly times when the President [a liberal] will draw three fascist articles and basically have no choice about what to do. The Chancellor [who could be a fascist or even Hitler in disguise] can then use this as a great line of defense: “the President gave me only fascist policies; he’s the fascist!” etc.
On top of that the closer to the end of the game the more tension there is, each vote is sweat inducing and the knives come out very quickly. Eventually through the play of fascist articles the President is granted emergency powers that can include inspecting peoples loyalty, or even assassinating them. Things get pretty savage in later stages of the game, but the game is lighthearted enough where no one should get their feelings hurt, but just be aware that all feelings, political sensitivities and the like should be checked at the door.
This category only loses one point because people are just so unpredictable, so formulating a strategy is at times difficult. There’s a lot you can do as a player to try and hide your identity and that’s where strategy comes into the game, but a lot of the game comes down to how you formulate your arguments and with whom you try and get in line with. This game isn’t some deep strategic war game that burns your brain from analyzing the board and a million chits. That being said for a social deduction game it’s got about as much strategy as you can pack into one. Hence it rates highly.
This game is replayable because every single different person will bring new and different challenges to the game. But outside of that if you never changed up your group, you would arguably have even more replayablility because you would quickly have meta layers of the game within your group. “Well, he acted this way last time doing this thing, therefore..” and so on. I find this to be the case with another game we love called Sheriff of Nottingham by Arcane Wonders. We all know each other’s past strategies and tells, so there’s extra layers of deception and double and triple bluffing to get past which makes that game infinitely more enjoyable. The same thing happens with Secret Hitler, that second game you play with the group people are even more suspicious and guarded.
Final Thoughts 19/20
If it’s not obvious enough I love this game. I’ve bought a lot of games this year and Secret Hitler is one of my favourite. It always goes down well and the production is off the chart. I was told on YouTube that some of the secret components should have been thick cardboard like the articles, and they were disappointed that they were just regular cards. I had no idea as I didn’t follow the kickstarter campaign, but in my brain having bigger chunkier pieces in those paper envelopes would be much more cumbersome. So I don’t have a beef with that. If you want to accuse your friends of being members of the NSDAP and have fun doing it then this is by far the ultimate party game for you.