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Quick Guide to Mafia

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Original Publication: Jan/Feb 2012 by Vi
Recovered from Crash: March 8, 2012 by Vi
Revised: February 17, 2013 by Vi

Welcome to!

This is the largest site devoted to playing Mafia (the parlor game) on the Internet, and the home of the authoritative Mafia wiki. This page is going to quickly go through the very basics of what the game is and how it works online. If you want to play with us or have any questions, please join our forum by clicking the link at the top of this page - it's free, easy, and without obligation.

As an aside, Werewolf plays by more or less the same rules as Mafia - basically only the names have changed. There are a handful of commercial games that basically co-opt the Mafia concept with slight changes to the rules, too. No matter what you're playing, this guide should get you up and running.

If there are any specific questions not answered on this page, try looking at the FAQs.

The Big Idea

The basic idea of Mafia is that out of all the people playing, there's a small group of betrayers trying to bring everyone else down. The betrayers are the Mafia, sometimes called "scum" or other unpleasant names. Everyone else is in the Town, otherwise called "villagers" or "innocents" or so forth.

The Town's goal is to get rid of all the scum players. They do this by taking a majority vote each game Day for who they want to get rid of. The Mafia's goal is to outlast all of the Townies until they control the majority vote, at which time there's nothing the Town can do to stop the scum from completely taking over. They can do this by avoiding being voted out and killing players during the Night phases following each game Day. The crowd that starts the game gets whittled down until eventually only one faction remains in the game.

So strategically, the game comes down to Townies finding and voting out the Mafia as often as possible. The Mafia tries to avoid getting voted out and kill off the players who threaten them at Night.

Ground Rules

The role assignments - Town or Mafia - are randomized at the beginning of each game. Players are told their alignment via private message. It is against the rules to show a copy of your Role PM to the other players - what happens ingame is based on how the other players perceive you.

Most online games start during the Day. Players vote amongst themselves for who should be removed from the group. The player who receives a majority vote is killed and their role is revealed for everyone to see. After that, the game goes to Night. The Mafia is able to talk amongst themselves via a secure chat thread and may as a group murder one player of their choice. In addition, some special Town roles (see below) may have actions they may take during the Night, but most Townies simply wait for the next Day.

The cycle of Day and Night continues until either all of the Mafia have been removed from the game or all of the Townies have been removed from the game. In most cases, the game can be called when the Mafia gains veto power over the Day's vote - that is, when all of the Mafia voting together can prevent a majority from ever sentencing one of their own.

Power Roles

Frequently moderators will include "power roles" in games for the sake of variety or making one side or the other more powerful. Some examples:

  • Cop - At Night, the Cop can investigate a player, learning whether they are a member of the Mafia or not.
  • Doctor - At Night, the Doctor can protect a player, making the Mafia's Night-kill fail if used on their patient.
  • Vigilante - At Night, the Vigilante can kill another player.
  • Roleblocker - At Night, the Roleblocker can block a player from using any ability they may have - including the Mafia Night-kill if they block the person who was assigned to carry it out.
  • Doublevoter - During the Day, this person's vote counts for double, giving them greater sway over the majority vote.
  • Miller - A Town player who will a Cop investigation will identify as Mafia-aligned.

If you're interested in what's out there, take a look at the Roles page for some fairly well-known examples. If you really want to go down the rabbit hole, take a look at Category: Roles.

I'm Town! What do I do?

When Mafia is played online, even people who would be poor liars in face-to-face interactions can blend in with the other players. As a result, finding scum tends to involve finding "tells" related to what people do, rather than what they say - things like people avoiding mention of other players (who turn out to be their scumpartners) or jumping on vote bandwagons for reasons that thinly conceal how much they just want to see someone other than them kicked out come to mind.

Some other examples of behavior to watch for are the following:

  • "Lurking", or posting much less than usual so as to avoid notice
  • "Tunneling", or concentrating excessively on a single player out of proportion to what would be necessary
  • "Active Lurking", or continually making placeholder or unenlightening posts

Town players can and sometimes will do some of these things, but scum players have more motivation to do them - tunneling on a player excuses them from looking at other potential bandwagons and may allow them to distance themselves from their scumpartners, lurking and active lurking keep them from being noticed by the other players while the Town turns on itself, and so forth. Obviously if you draw Town, you want to be careful that you don't do these things or people may turn on YOU.

The important thing to remember is that Mafia is a game of finding scum, not punishing what's considered bad play. In other words, the person who commits the most scumtells (the scummiest) is not necessarily going to be scum, and in fact may have actual scum serving them up as a justified bandwagon.

Or perhaps the scummiest player IS scum. You have to use your own judgment to decide what you believe and where you cast your vote.

I'm scum! What do I do?

The Mafia's greatest strength and weakness - indeed, almost the point of the game - is that they already know who the scum are. On the one hand, this is great - they know almost exactly who they have to get rid of in order to win, unlike the Town who has the additional obstacle of finding the scum on top of getting them booted out. On the other hand, they have little real reason to take scumhunting seriously - they already know who the scum are, so many of the hypothetical scenarios and accusations flying around are not particularly interesting and there's little real incentive to participate. However, NOT participating will become noticeable pretty quickly, so the scum have to "fake it until they make it".

How you interact with your scumpartners is up to you or your team strategy. Working together, the team can use their collective voting power to sway public opinion in their favor. Alternatively, they can selectively turn on each other so they don't look like they're all connected. In most cases it's best to keep as many of your teammates alive, so don't actually go all the way and throw your scumpartners under the bus unless you know you'll look more like a Townie for it.

At Night, when deciding who to kill, you'll need to be on the lookout for power roles. Being caught by a power role like a Cop can ruin your whole game unless you kill them before they investigate you.

Game Style

There are several different styles of games online. Some prefer "Silent Assassin", where there is one scum player and usually no power roles. Others like quick and intense games that are over in an hour. On, we play the game relatively slowly, catering to people who spend their days at work or are otherwise not able to leisurely play forum games all day. Day phases take several days, but this is not to be mistaken for a lack of content or commitment - games with over one thousand posts are not uncommon.

It's important to note that on this site, getting involved in a game is a moderately long-term commitment. It's fun and pretty tough, but if you don't see yourself having time to play for the next several weeks, you should probably not sign up for a larger game.

Come Join Us!

If just reading about the game isn't enough, we're always open to new players! A link to our Mafia-playing forum is at the top of this page. If you would like a little bit of a guided tour of the forum that will get you acquainted with where to go and what to do, click here to get started.