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Adam Trachtenberg is the Director of the LinkedIn Developer Network, where he oversees developer relations and marketing for the LinkedIn Platform. Before LinkedIn, Adam worked at eBay in platform product management and marketing. Even earlier, he co-founded Student.Com and TVGrid.com. Adam is the author of PHP Cookbook and Upgrading to PHP 5. He lives in San Francisco.

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Werewolves of Edinburgh

Thanks to Ewan, I played an amazing game of Werewolf at ETech.

The great thing Werewolf is that it’s always different. I’d played it a few times previously at FOO Camp, and it was fun, but this may have been the best game yet.

As in the typical game of Werewolf, the villages were grasping at straws to identify the werewolves. In fact, since I was a werewolf, I knew they were even worse than normal because they hadn’t come close to naming either Weston or me and were generally fighting back and forth among themselves.

In situations like that, all a werewolf needs to do is sit back and let the villages lynch each other. You contribute just enough to the conversation to keep yourself from getting on the inevitable “now we’re going to kill you because you haven’t said a word all game” list, but you don’t need to be too aggressive and risk getting tossed.

In those cases, I first kill off the smart people (sorry Dick) and then the “quiet, but not too quiet people”. I actually try and keep as many suspected werewolves around because it confused the shit out of the villagers. They don’t know what’s going on because everyone is a suspect. If you kill off potential werewolves “to send a message,” you just end up eliminating a likely lynchee — or someone’s that’s likely to convince the crowd to lynch a villager.

In this case, I also killed off David early on because he knows me pretty well, and that seemed a little risky to me. I was thinking about keeping him and trying to use that to my advantage, but then he got accused — which gave me a chance to defend him under the “I’m a good friend of David, and he got incorrectly nailed last game for acting in a similar manner” line. Of course, that just made it smart for me to kill him one or two rounds later.

Fortunately, in turns out that was a good thing to do. As part of Jane’s PhD research, she added in “blink” and “wisdom” cards to try and capture first and last impressions. It turns out David correctly nailed me in his blink card. After the game, he told me that he was able to guess me because of how I reacted, but only because he knew me so well. (As it turns out, nobody else named me in their blink cards.)

Two people named me in their wisdom cards. I talked to one of them, and he said “It was pretty obvious, I accused you and then I died the next turn.” I actually agreed with him, but I had deferred to Weston’s judgement during the night. People forget that the werewolves can’t actually talk to each other, so you need to come to some form of emergent strategy without communicating. However, nobody left alive caught on, so this ended up as a great call on Weston’s part.

But I can’t forget about Ewan. About halfway through the game, Ewan gets up and declared “I’m the seer and he’s a werewolf!” This had me a little worried until I realized that Ewan wasn’t pointing a me or Weston, but to an innocent villager! Later on Ewan names three villagers, including myself.

The village ended up lynching the so-called-werewolf, who somewhat lamely protested that, actually, thank-you-very-much, he was the seer. Later on, they lynched Ewan. The remainder of the game was spent trying to figure out if Ewan was the true seer, or actually a werewolf pretending to be the seer. Either way, the town was sure they had killed at least one of the werewolves when in fact, both of us were alive.

Apparently, nobody ever expects the “crazy villager” strategy. :)

It turns out, that solely by chance, Ewan had actually named the seer as a werewolf. However, we must have killed all the people he asked for information about, so he had nothing to share on his way out, thus totally muddying the waters. I had somewhat guessed this because I knew Ewan’s “werewolf” was a fake, but I really didn’t believe it until much later in the game when nobody came forth as a seer.

From there, it was all about not saying anything stupid, which is actually much harder than it sounds. (Right Cal?)

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