Publisher: Vigour Games
Designer: Joey Vigour
Players: 4-10 Players
Playtime: 10-15 Minutes
Play Type: Social Deduction
Night falls…there was an attack on a villager and the town is in a fuss. Being the avid gamer you are, you know that the culprit must be a werewolf. Work with the other villagers to kill the werewolf before it is too late.
GROWL is a social deduction game that combines Werewolf style game play with slightly more strategy. It does this by adding a card deck to the game to help players develop more concrete evidence to support their actions.
Players start game play by handing out a number of bite cards and gold cards equal to the number of players. The ratio of bite cards to gold cards can be found in the rule book. Each player receives one card which they immediately look at. If they received a bite card, they begin the game as a werewolf. If they received a gold card, they begin the game as a villager. Unless there are eight or more players, werewolves are not aware of who else starts as a wolf. Once players are aware of their roll, each player is handed three more cards.
These four cards make up a player’s starting hand. It is possible that a player who was originally a villager may become a werewolf by receiving three bites in their starting hand. However, if a person were to die from receiving three wounds in their starting hand, they will return their cards, shuffle and draw three new cards.
Once all players have their starting hands, the draw deck is formed by dividing remaining cards into three equal piles. Players will place a night card at the bottom of two of the stacks, and a final night on the bottom of the last pile. They then stack the three piles so that the final night card is on bottom, and the remaining cards are faced up.
Players will draw a single card each turn. If the card is a night card, they follow the instructions listed on the card and then proceed to the night phase. If not, the player gives the card in their hand to another player. They may not keep the card. There are five types of cards, and each have a different effect on game play.
- Bite- If a player gets three bites, they become a werewolf. Bites can be counteracted by charms, so players must keep track of the difference between the two numbers of cards.
- Charm- These counteract bites and keep players from turning into werewolves. Players who are already a werewolf and receive a charm will stay a werewolf.
- Wound- Three wounds kill players. A player may counteract a wound with a salve.
- Salve- These counteract wounds. For each salve a player has, it negates one wound.
- Gold- This is a way of determining an overall winner for the game. During the end of the game, the player with the most gold on the winning team is the overall winner.
Night phase happens once each a night card is drawn. During the night phase, players must hand one card from their hand left, and one card right. Humans cannot pass bite cards during the night phase, but werewolves can. Wounds can be passed by anyone. Once all players have passed their cards, they will shuffle the two new cards and add them to their hands. Players should take a moment to note whether they have died during the night or become a werewolf. If they died, they will turn over their status tile to the “I died” side to notify other players.
The game ends after the final night card was drawn and the instructions followed. Then the original werewolves will notify the group by growling and making claw gestures. The turned werewolves will then join in. If there are any humans left, the humans win including anyone who died during game play. If not, the werewolves win.
GROWL’s components are what really drew me into the game. The art style on the cards are colorful and bold, while still keeping a creepy aesthetic. The box is small and portable, with a great interior for keeping all the cards organized and easy to set up. I feel like the interior components were high quality and will hold up to a lot of wear and tear, which is important for the style of game play. The cards are frequently being handled and passed around.
The Kickstarter edition also came with an adorable box cover. I love the spunk that it adds to the game and it makes it really stand out in my collection. My cover came a little derpy though, with the hot glue messily applied on the fabric. It doesn’t affect game play though, so I don’t really mind.
- Quick to Play
- Easy to Teach
- Family Friendly
- More Strategy than Traditional Werewolf
- More Deduction, Less Guesswork
- Night Cards Add Replayability
- Expansions Add Content
- Less Verbal Interaction than a Traditional Werewolf Game
- Player Elimination
- Coins Feel Like an Afterthought
GROWL redefines the werewolf game genre by providing players with concrete evidence to back up their claims. While it is still as quick to teach and fun to play as the traditional social deduction game, players who enjoy more strategy in their games will find it to be a nice balance. The use of the handing players cards also forces players to pay attention not only to what other players are saying, but also what they are doing. This keeps the game play from becoming a large game of he said, she said.
I also love that some of the traditional roles seen in a werewolf game come into play with the night cards. Some of these cards allow players to look at another player’s hand or to save someone for the night. They add variability and replayability, while giving a slight reference to roles like the Seer or the Bodyguard. For players looking to create a more complex experience, there is also expansion content to add to the replayability.
GROWL falls into the pitfall that many social deduction games do. Due to the nature of killing players off, player elimination plays a large part in game play. This can leave players feeling frustrated, especially if they are killed on the first or second turn. Luckily, GROWL is typically shorter than most social deduction games though, and players are able to join back into the fun relatively quickly.
Players who enjoy the very social aspect of werewolf may also be slightly taken aback by GROWL. I find that during game play, there is a lot less discussion than in other forms of werewolf. Players could even play an entire game of GROWL without discussing anything at all, and just relying on their own deductions. While this is a benefit for many players who are looking for a less luck based game, players who are seeking the social aspect of werewolf might find GROWL a little disappointing.
In many cases, the cards add a lot of game play value. However, the gold coins felt almost like an afterthought during game play. I understand that they make sense to help players determine who the wolves are in the beginning, but after that they really don’t do much to expand game play. I would love to see a system put into place that allows players to use those coins in a more meaningful way.
Overall though, I found GROWL to be a huge improvement over traditional werewolf games. I personally really value the ability to use strategy in deduction games, and I don’t always get that in Ultimate Werewolf or Mafia. I see GROWL easily becoming our most frequently played social deduction game for that reason. I would highly suggest taking a closer look at it if you are a fan of werewolf style games but wish there were more depth to them. The retail release of the game will be this week at Gen Con, so it is a good time to look into it!