What's Eric Playing? #119: Insider Review
I’m still running my second bloggiversary giveaway! I’ve added a new entry option for this review, as well.
So I hardly ever review party games, having considered myself mostly done reviewing them after doing Mysterium, Anomia, Dixit, One Night Ultimate Werewolf, and others. That said, there are occasionally party games that catch my eye. One such party game is Insider, a newish game from Oink Games about words and such.
In Insider, one player is the Master, who knows the secret word. The other players don’t know the word and are trying to guess it. However, unbeknownst to the players, an Insider might be controlling the conversation, guiding the group towards guessing the word. Can you shake off their control? Or are you playing right into their hands?
This game is super easy to set up. First, take role cards for each player:
You should make sure that you include the MASTER and the INSIDER in the roles. Shuffle them up and give each player one, face-down.
Now, take the theme cards:
Shuffle them, and give them to whichever player is the Master (that player should reveal themselves; the Insider should not).
Once you’ve done that, you’re pretty much ready to start:
Gameplay is also super straightforward. There’s a night phase, like other hidden identity games, but this one is super short.
- All players close their eyes.
- The Master opens their eyes and cuts the deck, taking the bottom card from one of the stacks and putting it on top, face-up. This will indicate which word is the selected word, because of the face-up card paired with the number on the back of the other stack. If you do not know what the word means, pick a new word.
- The Master closes their eyes and the Insider opens theirs. They should remember the word. If you do not know what the word means, pick a new word.
- The Insider closes their eyes and the Master reopens theirs. They should reset the play area to its initial state so that nobody can see what the word is. If the word has changed since you last saw it, it means that the Insider didn’t know what the word meant and changed it. All is well.
- All players should open their eyes, and one player should flip the 5-minute timer over to start.
The way the game works is that any player can ask the Master any yes-or-no question about the word and the Master must answer somewhere on the yes-no spectrum (I generally allow “Yes”, “No”, “I don’t know”, but you might allow “Usually” / “Rarely” if you want to make things a bit easier).
- If time runs out and the word is not guessed: Everyone loses!
- If the word is guessed: You must immediately flip the timer back over, and that’s the amount of time you have to guess the Insider!
First, everyone votes on whether or not they think the person who guessed the word is the Insider. If a majority of people vote yes, they reveal their card. If not, then everyone points at who they think the Insider is, One Night Ultimate Werewolf-style. If there’s a tie, the person who correctly guessed the word breaks the tie.
The player who was named the Insider reveals their card. If they’re the Insider, everyone else (including the Master) wins! If they’re not the Insider, the Insider wins! You can kind of just play as many times as you want, since there’s no real scoring thing, or anything.
PLAYER COUNT DIFFERENCES
I think it’s a bit more difficult to figure out who the Insider is at higher player counts since there’s so much noise, but who cares? It’s a party game. I think our sweet spot for it is 6 – 8.
- Generally, avoid consistent strategies. If you’re playing any sort of social deduction game, it’s pretty bad to get into a habit of always doing X or Y, because then it seems to signal that you’re the Insider because “the Insider always guesses the word” or “the Insider never guesses the word” or something in between. To that end, these may be fun ways to change up the game infrequently.
- If you’re the Insider, you should probably guess the word … sometimes. Try to gauge how much you’ve already helped steer the group during the game. This might be the straw that breaks the camel’s back and turns them against you, or it might make them say “ah, the Insider never guesses the word” or something. Just kinda feel it out.
- Sometimes it’s helpful to sit back and watch other people. You might not be contributing much, but if other people are you might be able to figure out who the Insider is. Or is the word easy enough to guess that the real Insider would just sit and wait for everyone else to guess the word? It’s hard to say.
- Don’t always do too much work. If you’re pulling too much weight, people might assume you’re not the Insider, sure, but that’s also a great way to make people think you’re not the Insider if you are. Just keep switching it up.
- Master: pay attention. Your job is basically to say “yes”, “no”, “maybe”, “I don’t know”, and tell the people if they guessed the word. Keep an eye out for who might be the Insider since you don’t have to think all that much. What kinds of questions do you remember? Did anyone get more active as you ran out of time?
- Watch for players who laugh. I’ve had this problem a lot as the Insider; someone will ask the Master a question that is hilarious if you know the word (for instance, the word was underwear and a player asked “can you share this with someone else?” which made the Master uncomfortable) and then you start laughing, which is weird since you totally don’t know the word right??? Yeah, so, if you see a player laughing, they might be letting on that they’re the Insider. Or the Master is just making too many funny faces. Or both?
PROS, MEHS, AND CONS
- Being the Insider is fun. It’s a lot less stressful than being a Spy in Spyfall since you actually know more than the other players. This made me like Insider a lot more than Spyfall, even though I really love it as a short party game. Other people are much happier and less stressed as a result.
- The art style is pretty cool. It’s very minimalist in some aspects and very cool / angular. I like it a lot. The red box is also particularly striking / eye-catching. They did a great job, here.
- Super easy to learn. Seriously, it takes almost no time to learn the game. “It’s 20 questions, but with a hidden traitor and you can ask more than 20 questions.” Pretty much everyone now knows how to play.
- Pretty accessible for most new players. As I mentioned, it’s pretty straightforward what the game is trying to be. It just does it really well. As a result, pretty much anyone can play. I’ve played this with people who do not like party games or social deduction games, and it’s a hit.
- Plays fast. So fast. You cannot have a game run longer than 10 minutes (two flips of a 5-minute timer) based on the rules.
- Not quite as aggressive of a social deduction game as, say, One Night / Avalon. Nobody is calling anyone a liar; you’re trying to figure out who knew more than they were letting on. You also, as I mentioned, aren’t stressed like you are in Spyfall. A lot more people are going to appreciate this, as a result. It feels even more casual than Werewords, which I think has more of a social deduction element to it.
- There’s no good way to play this game in an orderly fashion, so people might get shut out. I think it’s important to make sure that everyone is playing and asking questions and interacting, but since people are just yelling questions at the Master, it might lead to some players getting shut out.
- Some of the words are … kind of ambiguous. I got “university” as my word when “college” was on the same card. Good luck easily disambiguating between those two when you’re trying to play as the Master. We were sunk that round.
- Not all the words are well-known in English. There are some nuanced translation issues like trash box, sure, but we’re still not totally sure what “broad bean” is since apparently I’ve been too lazy to Google it. Oh well.
- I’m vaguely worried that we’ll eventually memorize the theme cards. It seems like it’s possible to do that if you’re not careful, similar to playing Anomia too many times in one night. I think it would be super helpful if this had an app like Werewords, honestly.
- I would love to see more roles. Being neither the Insider nor the Master isn’t bad, but I wonder if there are more fun things you can do?
OVERALL: 8.5 / 10
Overall, Insider is great. Really, I’ve played it like, 20 times in about a week’s span and enjoyed pretty much every game with one specific exception that was unrelated to playing Insider. Regardless, it’s a triumph in a genre that I thought was kind of … played out (social deduction, though it’s a very light version of that). It’s light, neat, and cool, and every time I play it I wonder to myself why nobody had done this before. I’m glad someone did, because Insider is an awesome game in a tiny box. If you don’t already own it, I would highly recommend checking it out!