Mafia Rules: Zombies

I enjoy designing new sets of rules for the e-mail-based version of the party game Mafia (also known as Werewolf). These rules are typically centered around a theme, and are often more complicated than the original game. I have a Yahoo! group where I play-test these rules. I’m considering giving the rules a dedicated page on my blog where they can be accessed by others moderating e-mail or forum-based Mafia games.

If you play mafia: currently, they are all written in a way that my players are familiar with. Since I have limited experience with other groups, I’m interested in knowing how well these rules could translate to your play, and what parts you may find confusing.

So far I have posted one other set of rules, Labyrinth.

Here’s another set (which has been play-tested several times with excellent results):

Zombie Mafia Rules

Theme: A zombie outbreak is upon us, and this is a game of survival. This game does not pull its roles from any specific film, show, comic, etc… It pulls from several of them plus some general zombie tropes. I’d wager the things that impacted my thought process the most were: We’re Alive, World War Z, The Walking Dead (tv show), and The Walking Dead (Telltale game)….since the latter two are both based on the same universe, but made by different people they count separately. 😉

Mechanisms: I tried to give the rules a more survivalist feel…and the zombie threat is a pretty real one since I used an infection model. The threat of infection from a zombie increases with every zombie available. Patient Zero (original zombie) will (attempt to) infect one person. If successful, patient zero and the new zombie will attempt to infect TWO people the following night, and the threat grows from there. To combat this terrifying rate of infection, the survivors have some tools at their disposal: 1) lots of protection roles; 2) everyone has a role; and 3) constant, guaranteed recruitment. Every night two random survivors meet up and join forces. Recruitment is a function of the game, not of a person, so it cannot be blocked. Powers will be more useful in teams (especially for distribution of protection), so the creation of these teams as the game goes on will hopefully balance the increased zombie threat.


– 10pm eastern, Monday, Wednesday, Friday

– Results posted the following day

– Hard nightfall (last mod post is ~9pm)

– Voting format: I vote to lynch [insert name]

– Voting is standard; ties are broken with a die roll (see Patient Zero for consequences of ties)

– “I vote no lynch” is permitted (see Patient Zero for consequence of “no lynch”)

– You must post a reason when you vote


– Survivors (innocents): when ALL zombies are eliminated

– Zombies (mafia) : when ALL survivors are eliminated…in zombie survival it’s not over til it’s over, also mechanics like the Pilot and CDC agent may leave things a bit more open

Communicating Teams:

– Zombies

– Survivors as they find each other; when survivors locate each other based on the random nightly recruitment, they will be notified and a team will be created. If someone from one team finds someone from another team, the teams will merge into one communicating group; communicating groups will be formed as needed and randomly assigned numbers or nicknames.

Recruitment Mechanics:

– Zombies infect (recruit) anyone they target who is not part of a current communicating team. If their target is in a communicating team, the target dies instead. If the target was apart of a communicating team, but no one in the team remains, they are recruited. The flavor text behind this is that your fellow groupmates will shoot you in the head before you turn to save you from that fate, and for their own self-preservation reasons.

– Survivors meet with each other randomly. Any survivor can meet any other survivor and join forces. Each night, the moderator rolls to determine which two survivors meet up. If they meet, they join forces and form a communicating team. If someone from one team meets someone from another team, they form a larger team.

Character Roles:

– Roleclaiming (telling the main forum what you are) is not permitted, nor is stating that you have information. However, you may share all knowledge and roles with your groupmates.

– Powers cannot be used on oneself unless specifically stated in the roles.

– You must state you want your power to be activated each and every nightfall. Do not assume I will use your choice from the previous day.

***There will be more roles available than there are people participating. Roles will be randomly assigned from the total pool of roles (minus patient zero), meaning there is no guarantee which roles will be chosen. A list of roles will NOT be published. The only way to find out exactly what powers exist is to meet people or investigate them. Flavor reasoning: during a zombie apocalypse you join up with whomever is available!***

Standard mafia role equivalent(ish) is in parentheses

0) Patient Zero (mafia don)- Patient Zero is the first victim of our zombie plague. At the start of the game, they are infected and their goal is to infect as many people as possible. If a “no lynch” vote is cast by the forum or if there is a tied vote, patient zero takes advantage of the confusion and gets an additional hit (subject to the normal protections).

1) Country Sheriff (mayor)- A noble soul who is always trying to do the right thing. He never asked to be in charge, but people listen to him. He is the lone voice that beats back the savage tendencies of people forced to their limits. He is the one that says “Hold on, a darn second, maybe he was not actually bit. Give us a minute to sort this out.” Each night, the Sheriff may opt to e-mail the moderator and request that the lynch be stopped.

2) Scrappy Nerd (detective)- Every party needs a computer whiz and electronics genius, who is also small and scrappy and has ninja-like properties that allow him to get places undetected. Each night, Scrappy Nerd can investigate one person to find out their role. Knowledge is power.

3) EMT (doctor)- No one is actually lucky enough to find a doctor during a zombie apocalypse, but EMTs are better anyway since they can run zombies over with their ambulance. Each night, the EMT may protect one person from zombie infection (recruitments and kills).

4) Scientist (roleblock)- The scientist uses logic, experimentation and his knowledge of biology to outwit/mislead/distract the zombies (and others). Each night, the Scientist can prevent one person from taking their action (roleblock), this includes zombie kills if their target is a zombie.

5) Child- If the child is a member of a team, other team members will receive the name of the first zombie that targets the child each night, regardless of the success of the action.We tend to keep a better eye on our young,

6) Crazy Lucky- The crazy lucky guy has a 50% chance of escaping any bad events (vigilante hits, zombie recruitment, zombie kills, even lynching!) and he cannot be roleblocked.

7) The One with the Camper (watcher)- You have a vehicle that can fit lots of people, so naturally, it’s been turned into a fortified tank for transporting all survivors looking for a better place to hole up. The top of the camper gives a nice view of the surrounding landscape. Each night, the Camper Guy can send the mod a name of a person he wishes to keep an eye on. He receives all the names of the people who interacted with (targeted) his target (not the roles, just the names). If his target is in a team, he receives the name of one team member.

8) The Chef- Decent food is critical during a zombie apocalypse. Candy and potato chips stolen from convenience stores can only get you so far. Fortunately, the chef knows how to turn canned cream of corn and squirrel meat into mom’s chicken pot pie. Each night, the Chef can choose 1 person to treat to a healthy meal. That person is protected for the next two subsequent nightfalls (not the current nightfall) from zombie attacks (they have enough energy to outrun them).

9) Psychologist (detective)- The psychologist is able to pickup on patterns and trends among the survivors that others cannot see. Each night the psychologist can investigate one person. The psychologist receives back two pieces of information: 1) if they are a zombie or survivor (but not the exact role) and 2) whether or not they have a hidden zombie trait.

10) The Soldier- Your odds of surviving increase when some has access to guns, knows where to find more, and knows how to use them. The Soldier is in charge of the armory. Each night, the soldier may issue up to two guns to anyone he chooses. he may give both guns to the same individual, or one gun each to two different individuals.  Survivors receiving guns protect themselves from a zombie attack once per gun. The gun is used only when an attack happens, and remains with the survivor until it is used. Zombies cannot benefit from guns.

11) The Redneck (doctor)- He may act like ass, but he’s great with his hunting bow. He waits until the very last second to send the head shot that saves you. Each night, the Redneck can protect one person from zombie attacks (only).

12) The Ex-Con (vigilante)- She doesn’t hesitate with her gun. Sometimes she kills survivors, but are any of us really that innocent? And they shouldn’t have been in the way, anyway. Each night, the Ex-Con can place a hit.

13) Pilot- Who knew the chubby guy who has a desk job is also a licensed helicopter pilot?  Each night, the pilot can save himself PLUS two additional people from any zombie attack. However, if more than one zombie successfully attacks the helicopter (more than one person on the pilot’s save list would die/be recruited), ALL three people die. If any zombie is willing invited on the plane (so, listed on the pilot’s save list for the night), the pilot and other remaining player die. If the strong zombie attacks the helicopter, all three people die. The helicopter and the elevator cannot be used at the same time by the same team (you can’t be in an elevator AND in a helicopter).

14) Facilities Operations Manager- He maintains the generators, fixes the water pumping station, and knows his way around an apartment complex. Also, in a pinch, he can get the elevator up and running, saving us from a zombie horde. The Facilities Guy automatically protects his entire team (by shooing them in an elevator) when there is a zombie attack. However, if the elevator is overwhelmed (more than one successfully attacking zombie or the strong zombie), all attacks proceed as normal. The helicopter and the elevator cannot be used at the same time by the same group (you can’t be in an elevator AND in a helicopter).

15) The Survivor (sneak)- The hider selects a person, and if that person goes “out” (aka does an action), the hider may hide in that person’s house and is safe for the night (no zombie attacks and no friendly fire). He cannot hide at the camps of people he shares a camp with (his teammates).

16) The Hunter (tracker)- The hunter knows how to track his prey. Each night, the hunter may select one person to track. At the end of nightfall, he will receive an e-mail saying who his target visited (aka targeted) along with the name of one teammate.

17) Marine (doctor/vigilante)- An expert marksman with an aggressive attitude. Normally, the Marine acts in a protection role. Each night he may name one person to protect from all zombie attacks. However, if he has information about a specific person being a zombie (from a detective or child power, indirect info from other roles does not count). He may choose, instead, to be a vigilante for the night.

18) CDC Infectious Disease Specialist- The CDC Agent is working on a vaccination- he just needs to stay alive until it’s done and can be distributed. The CDC Agent plays a sort-of side game where he needs to correctly guess the permutation of ingredients A, B, C, and D. Each night, he sends the moderator his guess for the correct order of the four letters. When he gets the first letter correct, he will lock it in place and be notified. Letters can only be locked in order (so you can’t lock the second letter until you lock the first). The CDC agent will only be notified if he gets the full permutation correct, or when he locks a letter in. Only one letter can be locked in each night. When the agent guesses the complete permutation, he can begin distributing vaccinations. He may distribute up to two vaccinations a night. The vaccinations will cause permanent immunity to the zombie recruitment, and slowly begins to reduce the infection rate of zombies by one attack per night (to a minimum of 1). If the CDC Agent attempts to vaccinate a zombie, he will die. If both the lab technician and the agent are in play, information on locked letters and successful permutations will be shared between them. They are subject to roleblocking. If they die, vaccinations stopped being dispersed and infection rates cease slowing.

19) Lab Technician- Effectively the same as the CDC Agent. If both are in play, information on locked letters and successful permutations will be shared between them. They can both distribute vaccinations. They are subject to roleblocking. See agent for more details.

20) The Dog- Loyal with the potential to be noisy, the dog will happily distract the zombies away from humans. Each night, the dog can roleblock the target of her choice. If attacked by a zombie, she will die. Everyone knows pets can’t become zombies.

21) Amateur Radio Operator- A ham radio operator has managed to get their equipment working. Each night, the ham radio operator may reveal the suspected identity (role or team) of an individual (including their own) to all other innocent TEAMS (innocent communicating groups consisting of 2+ players). Messages can only consist of name/role.

Zombies: Every zombie gets one attack action per night which they submit separately, to me. They may discuss who they will attack. Attacks against lone survivors will cause recruitment, attacks against teams will cause death. Attacks can be blocked with roleblocking and protection. The number of attacks may be impacted by the leader (increase),  the actions of the CDC agent/lab tech or the voting method of the group.

Zombie Genes/Roles:

– 30% (rounded down) of the total population has a hidden gene that codes for a mutation should the zombie infection occur

– Traits are assigned randomly at the start of the game; with multiples of each trait allowed and the possibility of some not existing in the game

– Traits are kept secret until a survivor is recruited into a zombie

– Traits have no mechanical value until you are a zombie

– Powers are subject to roleblocking

Possible traits:

1) Keen Sense of Smell- This zombie can find the particular types of people he is looking for. He acts as a detective in addition to his kill power.

2) Leader- This zombie is able to organize other zombies. This results in one bonus attack per evening. It counts as an attack by the leader for mechanical purposes.

3) Strong- This zombie is particularly strong. It can overwhelm the helicopter and elevator on its own.

4) Tank- This zombie knows how to take a beating, it does not die on it’s first lynch/hit/etc…it dies on its second.

5) Fast- This zombie is quick, which is disorienting. It prevents you from doing what you had planned on. This zombie can roleblock in addition to his kill power.

Nightfall order:

Crazy Lucky

The Dog


Fast Zombie

County Sheriff








Patient Zero

[Zombie 2, Zombie 3, etc…in order)





Scrappy Nerd




Nosy Zombie


Lab Tech


Radio Operator


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