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Digital Subscriptions > Tabletop Gaming > February 2019 (#27) > Through the Ages

Through the Ages

We take a close look at the games that will leave you asking whether your friends are really who they say they are

HIDDEN IDENTITIES

In most games, everyone plays by the same rules. Whether it’s following directions on a space or meeting the material requirements to build or purchase something, many games force players to use the same mechanics to meet their goals. But what if nobody else even knows what abilities you have, or how you might be able to affect the game? That’s the nature of games about hidden identities. There’s a power dynamic unique to the genre that’s brought to life by the unknown. Speculating what everyone else at the table is capable of becomes a game in itself, and those variables often shape the feel of a session.

It’s tough to nail down an exact origin for hidden identity games, but a good place to start is in 1951 with Who?, a game published by Parker Brothers. In Who?, players randomly draw a secret identity card and move around the game board while trying to deduce their opponents’ identities. You can only move onto spaces marked with the starting letter of your role – I for investigator, D for doctor and so on – so you need to pay attention to how the other players move.

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