Bruno Faidutti’s game design credits include Mystery of the Abbey, Citadels, and Ad Astra. Besides designing games, his passions include reading books.
The following interview is about Secrets, a card game he co-designed with Eric Lang.
Jason (GameGobble): Secrets is a social deduction game that has a fun theme, simple mechanics, and lots of bluffing. I understand you co-designed the game with Eric Lang. Could you share some background on how you two got to work together? Did the game idea come first or the partnership?
Bruno: I would not say that Secrets has simple mechanics. They are more complex than that of the many social deduction games, such as Werewolf or Mascarade. It is still, however, a fast-paced and fun game.
The more games I design, the more troubles I have remembering exactly the design process of each one of them, but I’m sure the partnership came first. In 2015 or 2016, Eric and I met at GenCon and decided to design a few games together. We discussed a few ideas, and two games came out of them, Dolores and Secrets – who was first called Which Side are You On and whose original setting was workers unions and strikebreakers, not something very commercial.
Jason: Players may be able to deduct the intentions of others, but the game is designed to keep full knowledge of everyone’s hidden roles until the very end. Was this effect difficult to achieve? What were some of the design challenges and how did you overcome them?
Bruno: Once more, I don’t recall all details but clearly the idea from the start was to have not only secret roles but also changing identities. It’s something I had already done in Mascarade, but we wanted a true team game with some possibilities for bluffing.
A design challenge we faced was to introduce catch-up systems. In the first version of the game, a player who had accumulated a lot of points was almost sure to win and the game was just about joining their team. The Assassin rule (giving secret negative points), the mutual cancellation of identical characters and the hippie rule all address this same issue.
Jason: Secrets is a game that’s played in teams, except the Hippie role. Players are trying to score the most points, except the Hippie role. How did the Hippie idea originate and what was the intended impact?
Bruno: See above!
Jason: Some describe Secrets as very chaotic — for example, team play is an important factor for winning, but the teams themselves can change during the game. Talk about the overall gaming experience you and Eric were trying to create when developing Secrets.
Bruno: I know many consider my games “chaotic,” but I think this word is a misnomer. In fact, my so-called chaotic games are more about control than any other, but the point of the game is less to use control than to get it. Eric and I completely agreed about that, which is probably why this game feels so Faiduttian when there’s actually as much of Eric in it as there is of me.
Jason: What is one thing you want gamers to know about Secrets?
Bruno: We wanted to make it the gamers version of Mascarade. I think it works, but it doesn’t sell as well!