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Top 5 Board Games with a Traitor

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Top 5 Board GamesCooperative board games are one of my favorite genres to play. I enjoy a sense of teamwork and group celebration on a hard earned victory. But sometimes, I just want to be sneaky. While it’s fun to be the bad guy, it’s even more fun for your fellow players to be unaware of your deception.  Enter the traitor role. The traitor mechanic hasn’t been as fully embraced as the cooperative game mechanic in board gaming. I’m not sure why, but there are nowhere near as many games with a traitor as there are with fully cooperative mechanics.
But in your hunt to find a great traitor game, I’m here to help. I’ve spent time digging through the piles of games that will let you embrace your inner turncoat and there are, in fact, quite a few gems out there. So without further ado, here are our top 5 board games with a traitor (with a couple of honorable mentions):

Honorable Mention: Police Precinct

Police Precinct Box CoverPolice Precinct is a new game to hit the market this year. Player take on the role of cops trying to solve a murder, while also trying to keep the streets safe from crime. Players move about the city looking for clues and evidence in hopes of catching the murderer before he makes his escape. During the hunt, more crimes and emergencies will appear to distract the police from their main objective. Players have to work together to stop the crimes in the city and complete the investigation before time runs out.
But what about the traitor?
One of the cops may in fact be a dirty cop. When using this optional rule, players are dealt a card at the start of the game letting them know if they are a dirty cop or not. It’s the dirty cop’s job to make life miserable for the other players.
While there is not really anything new with the game mechanics in Police Precinct, the theme is a breath of fresh air in the very crowded fantasy/scifi genre. If you like the theme, then this one is worth checking out.
Buy Police Precinct

Honorable Mention: Panic Station

Panic Station Box CoverIn Panic Station, players control two characters sent out by the government to investigate the presence of an evil alien life form. Players will take control of a human trooper and an android as they explore the base looking for the xenomorph’s hive. Players have to work together to clear the base of threats and, once they locate the hive, exterminate it. Take down the alien hive and the players win.
But what about the traitor?
One of the players will be infected and known as the “host”. The host’s job is to try and infect the other players and stop them from destroying the hive. Each player has infection cards (only the host’s are real). When you enter a room with any other player, you have to swap one of your cards. If you encounter the host and he gives you an infection card (and you don’t have a counter card), you become one of the infected. If you are unsure of someone’s loyalty, you can also just blast them in the face with your gun instead of swapping cards. I suppose that becomes a viable option one the paranoia fully sets in.
While still a decent game, Panic Station suffers from some odd game/theme mechanics and some rulebook ambiguities. One of the oddest is the gas can. The can is required to destroy the hive, but a gas can card can be given to a host to stop from being infected. I understand how that works with the game mechanics (giving up the gas is hard because it’s so valuable to win), but thematically it doesn’t make a lot of sense. Just something to keep in mind when checking out this game as there are more things along that vein. Still, if you are looking for a paranoia game that plays in under an hour, you can do worse than Panic Station.
Buy Panic Station

5. Saboteur

Saboteur Box CoverIn Saboteur, players take on the role of dwarves digging for treasure (shocking I know). Players must lay down cards to build tunnels to get from their starting point to the treasure cards. If players don’t want to lay a tunnel, they can also play actions cards that will have various in game effects. If the players reach the actual treasure (there will be some decoys on the board), they get to split the gold found.
But what about the traitor?
Of course there is a traitor, the game’s name is Saboteur. At the start of the round, each player is dealt a role card: Miner or Saboteur. The saboteurs must make sure the miner’s don’t reach the goal cards. They are encouraged to keep their role hidden to make it easier to disrupt the dwarves plans. The best saboteurs will play a few helpful tunnels before stabbing a dwarf in the back. If the saboteurs can drain the draw deck of cards before the miners reach the gold, they win the round.
Saboteur is played over 3 rounds as a semi-cooperative game. At the end of the third round, the player with the most gold wins. I like that Saboteur plays quickly and easily. It makes it easier to take a betrayal if you haven’t just invested 4 hours into a game. You can get a full game played in about 30 minutes. And for a price point under $15, it’s hard to find a better deal for a traitor game. Also, the game is already has an expansion out: Saboteur 2! The expansion will add more cards, roles and players to the base game.
Buy Saboteur

4. The Resistance

The Resistance Box CoverThe Resistance is a card game where players are trying to complete a series of missions. What the actual missions are, doesn’t really matter. Each round, the mission leader must choose some of the players at the table to go on the mission in the hopes that they will succeed. Choose the right players and the mission will pass and the players will get a victory point. Gain 3 successes and the players win.
But what about the traitor?
The traitors are the heart of The Resistance. While most of the players are trying to complete the mission, there are a few players who are secretly spies trying to disrupt that attempt. Every round begins with some discussion, after which the leader will decide who goes on the mission. Once on the mission, the players chosen to go will secretly decide whether the mission passes or fails (based on the result of a secret vote). The spies will want to make sure the mission fails, without blowing their cover.
Social deduction is the name of the game here. Players have to use their gut, deduction and instinct to try and ferret out the traitors. This make the Resistance a great social game. It can accommodate up to 10 players is is incredible easy to play. A great choice if your group is looking for a more social game than traditional. I should note that The Resistance is clearly inspired by the very old game Werewolf, and is better game in my opinion (which is also why werewolf isn’t on this list).
Buy The Resistance

3. Shadows Over Camelot

Shadows Over Camelot Box CoverIn Shadows Over Camelot, players must work together to defeat the evil that is encroaching on the land. Each players is assigned one of the Knights of the Round Table, each with their own special ability. On a players turn, they must advance evil and then go questing. Questing will involve drawing cards, moving to locations and playing cards to attempt to finish a quest. Shadows over Camelot has a lot of moving parts, but is still very easy to learn and play. It actually is a fairly tough game to beat too, the approaching evil is no push over. Players will often feel up against a wall and must work together to defeat the evil. It’s rare in a game of Shadows Over Camelot where we don’t’ feel like we are just barely treading water.
But what about the traitor?
Playing with the traitor is actually optional, but highly encouraged. At the start of the game, each player is dealt a loyalty card. The card will secretly tell the player if they are the traitor or not. There are actually more cards than players, so you won’t even know if there IS a traitor. This leads to lots of suspicion, meta-gaming and social deduction. Did that player just sit and draw cards on his turn because he’s the traitor or did he really just have no actions to do. Is that player just bad at this game or actively working against us? Figuring out who the traitor is (or if there is even one) is a lot of fun. While you can play the game without a traitor, and it would certainly be easier to win, it’s way more fun with one. Days of Wonder produced an absolute gem with Shadows Over Camelot and it should be part of everyone’s gaming collection.
Buy Shadows Over Camelot

2. Betrayal at House on the Hill

Betrayal At The House On The Hill Box CoverBetrayal is a game that starts out fully cooperative and ends up being only semi-cooperative. In Betrayal at House on the Hill, players spend their time exploring rooms of an old mansion. The house is unknown at the start of the game, meaning the players draw new room tiles as they enter them. The main goal for the first half of the game is to explore the house and try to build up your character’s skills and items. This exploration phase is fairly tame, but still quite enjoyable. It’s the second half, however, where things get interesting…
But what about the traitor?
It would be hard to have a game called Betrayal at House on the Hill without a traitor. Yes, one of you will betray your fellow party members. But which one? At some point during the game (decided by an in game dice roll), the haunt begins. At that point, the players consult a chart to find out which scenario they will be playing and who the traitor is. The traitor has his own book that will explain his job and so do the rest of the players. There are over 50 missions that can come up, ensuring you shouldn’t see the same mission very often.
Betrayal is a ton of fun to play. The best part is no one can know who the traitor will be until it happens. That nice little girl you just gave an item to might turn around and use it to stab you in a few turns. The random party member that turns on the rest is an interesting dynamic that adds a lot of tension to the second half of the game. There have been games when the player with the most health and items suddenly turned on the party, much to the  chagrin of the rest of the players. With some great components and a play time in under an hour, Betrayal is a great choice for gamers and non-gamers alike. Note: Be sure to get the green box 2nd edition of this game. The first edition had a LOT of typos in the rule book and scenario books.
Buy Betrayal at House on the Hill

1. Battlestar Galactica

Battlestar Galactica Box CoverIf you are a board gamer and a fan of the TV show Battlestar Galactica (BSG) you need to own this game. Seriously. Go buy it right now…I’ll wait…Done? Good. It is rare that a board game so perfectly captures the essence of the source material the way BSG does. BSG puts the players in the role of the crew members of Battlestar Galactica. They are attempting to keep galactic and the human fleet alive as the make continuous FTL jumps towards a new home world. Hard choices and easy to learn game play are hallmarks of this great game. Sacrifices will constantly have to be made and the perusing Cylons can be relentless in their quest to wipe out humanity.
But what about the traitor?
Well you can’t have a BSG game without the human’s arch-nemesis, the Cylons. And Cylons there will be. At the start of the game, each player is dealt a secret loyalty card from a large stack of them. Since there will be many more cards than players, no one will necessarily be a Cylon at this point. Since playing BSG involves a lot of difficult choices, it won’t take long for accusations to start flying. Trying to root out those evil cylons is a hard task. Sometimes a hidden decision has to be made, and the other players won’t know if the decider was a Cylon or just picked the better of two evils. We’ve played games where a human player was launched out of an airlock because we thought she was a Cylon (she wasn’t). Oops.
To compound that, halfway through the game, another round of loyalty cards are dealt out. So you might have been 100% sure that the player next to you was human, perhaps not anymore. You yourself might have been working hard to help the human, only to now realize your on the other team. This concept will seem quite familiar to any fans of the TV show.
Speaking of the TV show, Battlestar Galactica just oozes theme. The tie in was so well done, that as a fan of the show, I can’t play it enough. The game designer did an amazing job tying it to the source material. The game plays extremely well and you don’t have to even have any knowledge of the TV show to enjoy it. So if you aren’t even a fan of the TV show, you’ll have a great time in this game. Hard choices, great components, easy to learn game play and a fun night of accusations and betrayal. What more could you ask for? Pick this one up today, you won’t regret it.
Buy-BSG

So we hope you found something that can scratch your itch with our top 5 board games with a traitor. Did we miss anything? Let us know in the comments below.

6 COMMENTS

  1. I would absolutely add Diplomacy to this list, at least as an honorable mention. It doesn’t have the assigned traitor mechanic like the rest of the games on this list, but the entire game is built around never knowing whether someone is your ally, enemy or something in between.

  2. I like your lists. I did find one typo in Shadows Over Camelot (near the end) you said “tow in” in stead of “to win.”

  3. Personally I’m not a fan of Shadows Over Camelot. I get that the game has an important place in the evolution of cooperative and hidden traitor games but as is stands the game is average to me. That being said BSG was my first hobby game when I got into the hobby. That may influence my thoughts.

    I am a huge fan of The Resistance though. Especially with expansions or the Avalon version.

    • Have to agree. I find Shadows pretty average. Resistance and Avalon are still amongst the best on this genre though. I consider Resistance to be a milestone in the evolution of the genre.

  4. Resistance, BSG and Betrayal are solid picks, and at the time of this writing great games like CS Files/Deception, Spyfall and Dead of Winter weren’t made yet. But I find EFTAIOS a glaring omission from this list, and I’d rather have BSG Express/Darkmoon over BSG at this point.

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