A basic game of Mafia requires a moderator and a large group of players. Some of the players are secretly assigned to be mafia members – the rest of the players are innocent townspeople. The townspeople try to determine and eliminate the mafia members. Players converse until someone nominates a player to be eliminated and the nomination is supported by a majority vote.
After a player is eliminated by vote, the game enters “nighttime” phase and the following actions occur:
The game returns to “daytime” phase during which the players converse until someone is eliminated by majority vote. An eliminated player reveals his identity (mafia or townsperson) and does not have active participation for the remainder of the game. “Daytime” and “nighttime” phases alternate until either the mafia members or the townspeople are totally eliminated.
Mafia games may include special roles. These include:
gestures toward a player (possibly himself) that he wants to save. If the saved player is the player selected by mafia members earlier in the night then the hit is nullified.
Special roles are popular in games with a large group of players (16-30). These games are often run on internet bulletin boards over many weeks. The most popular version played at NPL conventions begins with 11 players – 2 mafia, 1 knight commandant and 8 normal townspeople. Roles are determined with playing cards. A pack with two spade cards (mafia), the king of hearts (knight commandant) and eight red-suit cards (townspeople) is standard. The player eliminated before the first nighttime phase becomes the moderator for the remainder of the game.