Murder Mystery Party Game: How to Play Mafia

By now, it should be no mystery that our Spring 2015 issue has arrived – and that within it we featured how to throw a murder mystery party. There, we wrote about two party games one might play at such an event. The first was for smaller gatherings — a role-play game based on the popular Hasbro board game Clue.

For larger parties however, we suggested starting up a game of Mafia. And as promised, here is a detailed instruction on how to play. (To some, this game may also be known as Assassin).

At the start of your party, assign roles by writing them on slips of paper or index cards and placing them in a bowl for guests pick out of as they arrive. There should be an investigator, a doctor, three mafia and a moderator (typically assigned to the party host). The remainder are civilians. Once all guests have arrived, instruct them to privately look at their slips of paper. Then, lights out.

The first night

The moderator begins the game by instructing all players to close their eyes and dimming or turning off the lights in the room. She then tells the three mafia to open their eyes and thus reveal their identities to each other. Then, they must silently choose their first victim. Once selected, the mafia close their eyes and the moderator taps the victim’s shoulder twice to signify that they have been killed.

Then, the moderator asks the investigator to open her eyes. She is given the opportunity to accuse one player of being in the mafia. If wrong, the moderator gives a thumbs down. If correct, the moderator gives a thumbs up and the investigator may then approach the mafia member and direct her to jail (a designated place in the room). The investigator closes her eyes.

Next, the doctor is told to open her eyes and given the task of selecting someone to save. If the doctor happens to choose the mafia’s victim, the moderator then taps the victim’s shoulder again to signify they have been saved.


The first day

The lights are turned back on and all players are told to reopen their eyes — except the victim, who may no longer speak. The moderator tells all that the investigation is now underway. This means that all players, while intermingling as they would at any party, may now begin questioning others and posing accusations. For example, you may wonder: Is anyone acting different than usual? Are two people who never usually talk having a conversation? You may even pose direct accusations, such as asking someone straight up if she is in the mafia.

Once an accusation is made, the accuser must get others to back her up on that accusation in order for it to be taken to a vote. At this point the moderator steps in and conducts a trial. The accuser states her reasoning for why she believes the accused is a member of the mafia. Next, others may come to the defense of the accused. After all accusations and defenses have been heard, the accused may defend herself. Then, the vote is cast by a raise of hands and majority wins.

If the accused is found guilty, she must reveal her identity. Regardless, that person has been eliminated from the game and must go to the jail. Poor luck for any party who declares the doctor guilty. The game now carries on into the second night.

If found not guilty, the accused gets to keep her identity hidden and play carries on into the second night.

The second night

The game cycle restarts in the same way as the first night. The mafia are awakened and choose a victim. The investigator makes an accusation and/or an arrest. The doctor is given the opportunity to save someone, and so on into the next day.

The second day

The moderator reawakens all players and reveals what happened the night before (i.e. if someone was killed, saved or revealed as a mafia member and sent to jail).

The second day of questioning and accusations begins and is concluded once a trial has been held.


The game continues thus in a series of nights and days until one of the following occurs:

1. All mafia are sent to jail, either by the investigator or guilty verdicts.

2. All civilians are killed by the mafia or eliminated from the game.



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