As an informer, you win by identifying the dissident player and play him or her your card. As a dissident, you win by playing your card to as many comrades as possible so that they may learn the secret word of freedom and vote for it.
The game starts with one of the two words of freedom in play, ”glasnost" or ”perestroika”. Your hand consists of one card only that tells you your current role. The card is played through three distinct phases:
Vote: Selected players vote secretly for or against freedom.
Committee: If the vote says freedom, the selected players vote again but this time openly. If they succeed in identifying the word of freedom all except the informer win. If they fail, the dissident player is revealed and an easier target for the informer in the third phase.
Interrogation: The players take turn to give or receive 1 card until all have 1 card again. The dissident tries to play his or her card to players who have not yet seen the card while the informer tries to play his or her card to the dissident.
Following the design objectives, the rules had to support several aspects and drivers of the gameplay:
The players must be able to acquire incomplete information about the other players' cards
The players must be able to use the information when exchanging cards
The dissident must be able to hide information about his or her card (otherwise all players will get know the secret word)
The comrades must be able to inform each other whether they know the secret word or not
The informer must be able to hide information about his or her card (to confuse the other players)
All players must be able to choose which card to exchange to remove the traces of the card
To accomplish this, three phases were added to the turn; vote, committee and interrogation.
Secret voting is often used in deduction games, such as The Resistance: Avalon, to share incomplete information and Comrade is no exception. However, while Avalon has two sides (good and evil), Comrade has three sides (good, evil and neutral). Should there be three vote options as well? No, since two of the sides are represented by one card only, it would be too easy to draw conclusions from such a vote so I settled with "party" and "freedom".
To avoid a too early and easy freedom victory, I excluded both the dissident (who knows the secret word) and the chairman (who selects the voters) from the vote. Instead, a freedom victory requires comrades that once were loyal with the party (i.e. have not seen the dissident card) but now have been influenced (i.e. have seen the dissident card). A solution that works thematically as well!
But how to create incitements to vote according to your role? For the comrades, it was easy. By linking the freedom vote to the shared freedom victory, the comrades would naturally want to vote for freedom as soon as they know the secret word. Similarly, the dissident would naturally want to vote against freedom, since this would not win the game but rather risk compromising his or her identity. This would also create an interesting voting trend where more and more vote for freedom and where the both the dissident and the informer tries to find the players not voting for freedom (the former to influence them, the latter to find the dissident among them).
How about the informer then? Given that the comrades and the dissident vote fairly predictably, I wanted to allow the informer to vote in both ways, with its pros and cons. By voting against freedom, he or she may fool the dissident to play the dissident card to him or her. By voting for freedom, he or she may reveal the dissident and play the informer card to him or her. However, in both cases it may be the informer that compromises his or her own identity.
But what if the players play "outside their roles" and vote otherwise? Well, why not? This is a bluffing game and they do take a risk by doing so as they may miss a chance of winning (comrades voting against freedom) or even lose the game (informers and dissidents voting for freedom).
OK, enough comrades have been given the dissident card and the game ends. But how can we make this check? Obviously, in a bluffing game we neither can nor should rely on them telling the truth so an alternative mechanism was necessary. One simple option would be to use a code word unique to each gameplay. By using two dissident cards in the game, each with its unique code word ("glasnost" or "perestroika"), the word would remain secret for a player until receiving the dissident card in play. A second open vote would then be held where the players would "prove" that they have all seen the right code word. But in the case of 5-6 players and only 3 votes needed, they would have a fairly good chance to simply guess the right word. A penalty was needed to punish the wrong guess but what?
First I thought of letting the informer win if the guess was wrong. That would certainly deter the comrades but what if the informer sneaked in to the voting to sabotage it? This I mitigated by letting the comrades win if the guess was wrong but the informer was one of the voters. Now it got complicated and why punish the informer for such a good undercover work? Instead, I found a simpler and more elegant solution. Let the comrades agree on having the vote and take the risk of having an informer among them. Instead of letting the game end whether the guess was right or wrong, I could let the dissident be revealed but not captured. The game could still proceed by letting the dissident draw a new card (and having to share it all over again) with the informer having a strong but not necessarily decisive advantage in the following interrogation.
Given the information the players have acquired in the vote and (potentially) the committee phases, they may now use the interrogation phase to fulfill their game objectives. But how should the cards change hands to make the transactions fair and interesting to all? The informer should have a chance to know if his or her card is played to the dissident. The dissident should have a chance to choose whom to give the card. All should be able to make an active decision.
Simple exchanges would only allow half of the players to make a decision and also exclude one player in case of an odd number of players. Instead, I let players with one card give away cards first (with the active decision of whom to give the card to) and then let players with two cards give it to players without cards (with the active decision not only of whom to give the card to but also which card to give).
The rule that the players giving cards to players who already have a card may look at that player's card serves two purposes. First, it will let the informer know if he succeeds in giving his card to the dissident (i.e. and revealing the dissident). Second, it ensures that all players get information about more than one card (even if they get the same card returned). Thematically, it is also a good representation of interrogation as a player "checks another player's papers" before engaging in the transaction. The rule that players with two cards may choose which of them to give away makes it more difficult to trace cards. ("Did he or she keep or give away the card I just gave?")
... and Rejected Rules
The cards may not be revealed but why not let the players speak freely about them?
I imagined a game full of lies and deceptions where nobody would trust anybody. However, you can
trust somebody. If you for example give another player the informer card and that player passes it on to
a third player, both of you will be able to point out to the other players who's the informer and
with good credibility. Moreover, the game of silent signals through voting would be less important.
I guess free speech doesn't belong in a totalitarian state.