Basque Country is probably my favourite place in Europe. Not only is the food amazing, and the people welcoming, but this northern corner of Iberia, has a wild feel. The land is mountainous and rocky. The forests are lush and full of moss. Wild horses and feral cattle roam the highlands. Vultures soar on thermals, scouring the land for carrion. The wild Atlantic Ocean lashes the coast. And wolves return from the east. The stone, fortified Romanesque-villages, their churches like castles, appear to merge with the landscape. Basque country is a land with a proud folk history and culture. It is home to Europe’s only pre Indo-European language and their folk history is imbued with the narrative of fierce resistance to foreign rule. The beautiful mountains and valleys evoke the image of the Basque outlaw, his beret, his rifle and his wineskin. It was when traveling in Basque country that we learned to play the wolf game.
For the game you will need:
- At least nine people
- A pack of cards (or a pen and scraps of paper)
- An open fire, hot food, plenty of wine and a remote location (optional)
- Good acting skills and a vindictive disposition
To begin the players must nominate a narrator. The narrator then randomly and secretly gives the remaining players a card, allocating their roles. Players are divided into 3 wolves, 1 child, and 1 witch; the remaining players are farmers.
The narrator then introduces the first phase of the game, and may say something like, “darkness falls on the village. The shadows lengthen, and the village goes to sleep.” All the players then close their eyes.
The narrator introduces the second phase: “But something terrible is happening in the village and wolves have come down from the mountains. Wolves open your eyes!” The three players who have been dealt a wolf card open their eyes, and the player dealt the child card may try and sneakily look while pretending to still have his or her eyes closed. “Wolves,” the narrator continues, “choose a victim to kill and eat!” The wolves decide silently among themselves who from the village they will kill.
“Wolves are you sure?” The wolves nod.
The narrator introduces the next phase: “wolves close your eyes. Witch open your eyes.” The players follow the narrator’s instructions. “Witch, you must know who has been killed.” The narrator points to the hapless victim, which could be the witch theirself. “Witch you have the power of life. Will you bring this person back from the dead? Know that you can only do this once.” The witch nods or shakes her head. “Witch, you have the power of death. Will you kill another of the village? Know that you can only do this once.” The witch shakes their head or makes a sign of killing and points to a victim. “Witch,” the narrator closes the phase, “close your eyes.”
Final phase: “Dawn comes to the village, the cock crows and with it terrible news. Somebody in the village has been killed, torn to shreds by ravenous evil wolves. Everybody open your eyes!” All the players open their eyes and the narrator points out the person/people who have been killed in the night. They then leave the game, reveal their role and get some wine. The remaining players must then all discuss among themselves who is a wolf, and should therefore be killed. If consensus cannot be reached, a majority vote is sufficient to eject the unfortunate victim from the game. The narrator should not intervene in the discussions. Once the victim has been decided the narrator speaks: “the people of the village have spoken. You, stand accused of being a wolf. Do you have anything to say in your defence?” The victim of village justice speaks once in his or her defence. “Would anybody like to change their vote?” If there is still a majority that favour the killing of the victim then the person is removed from the game and their identity is revealed.
The phases of the game are repeated until either all the farmers have been killed ensuring a wolf victory or all the wolves have been killed ensuring a farmer victory.
1: Hunter: the hunter acts as a witch and has his or her own phase; the hunter cannot bring a player back to life, but can once in the game kill one of the village.
2: the lover: the lover acts as a farmer but with one additional role. He or she writes on a piece of paper one of the group. If he or she is killed then the person whose name is written on the paper is also killed.