It's a dark and eerily still night and you're all alone out in the woods. The only noise is the coarse rustling of leaves as a cold wind reminds you of how insufficient your coat is. Through the bitter chill, you feel eyes burning into your back. You turn, but it's too late. The werewolf the villagers warned you about is upon you!
Or so the story of the game Werewolf goes, anyway. In reality, it was only you and several friends playing the hit social game of deception and community in which players must guess who's been assigned each role before the werewolves make them all into a midnight snack.
Over the last several years, self-contained party games have exploded into a bona fide trend in entertaining, bringing more and more people into Derrick Sheets' Game On Chattanooga store.
"All these party games are easy to teach people. The barrier to entry for them is a few sentences of rules," Sheets says, referencing part of their appeal.
"I think we've always been playing some sort of game when people get together, whether it was trivia or even drinking games," he adds. "We've all been playing social games for a very long time, it's just that now they're getting a bit more sophisticated."
He attributes at least part of the surge in popularity to Cards Against Humanity, the "party game for horrible people." The card game's deck is stocked with unassuming scenarios and raunchy potential responses, offering endless combinations based on both the changing scenarios and the personalities of who's playing.
"I think people want a reason to get together," Sheets says. "Social games like these are a great way to get an activity going."
In addition, social games don't have the atmosphere of competition that many more-traditional board games have, instead focusing on the play itself.
So while the turkey is cooking or after everyone has returned from Black Friday sales, consider a few of Sheets' personal favorites this holiday season.
Codenames is a team-based word association game. Two teams of any number of players try to guess the secret code names of the opposing team through one-word hints given by the team's leader, aka the Spymaster.
"This is one of the games I take to schools. It's got a really good use of vocabulary, and it's fun to see how you relate words compared to your friends and teammates," Sheets says.
Ever played a dated trivia game where every question was seemingly impossible? Then you've experienced a version of Wits and Wagers, which features questions that are intentionally absurdly difficult. But in this trivia game, best guesses are rewarded. Each player submits his or her best guess and then wagers imaginary in-game currency on which is the closest to the actual answer, so there are multiple ways to win.
"That's sort of the downfall with trivia games — they don't age well," Sheets says. "And at trivia nights at bars, if all your teammates are the same age, there's going to be a bunch of references none of you get. This game is probably the best way around all of that."
The rules of Werewolf are simple: The moderator assigns each player a random, secret role in the form of a card, then players simply do what's on the card. The secret werewolves try to stay hidden while killing villagers. The villagers try to determine who's lying and who's the werewolf. Other roles, like a blind seer, a werewolf hunter, the town mayor, the village idiot and the town doctor, all change the game in subtle ways, working with either the werewolves or the villagers.
Sheets says one of the major appeals of the game is just how many players it can accommodate. The moderator can hand out roles to as many as 75 players, making it the perfect game for large get-togethers.