Mafia is a common game that has been used and known by just about any group I have been around.  It is a great starter game for groups of about 8-15.  If you have more and a lot of time, it works also.  Otherwise you can break in to more than one game.  We mentioned Mafia in our post on the game of Wink and in our top games as part of our starting a youth group from scratch series.

Mafia is a killing game, so if you are against that.  Please check out our Wink game instead or you can be creative and change roles/stories in this game.  I will start by telling you how we typically play it, go through some pointers, and some substitutes you can use as well.


Start with everyone in a circle, spread out a bit if you can.  You will need a deck of cards and will have ready the following:

1 Ace for every 8 people

1 King

1 Queen

1 Jack (optional)

Random numbered cards for the remaining number of people

The role of each person will be given to them by the card that they receive.  The roles are assigned as:

Ace = Mafia

Mafia are the enemy.  It is everyone against the Mafia.  It is the Mafia’s role to try and kill everyone in the town before they are killed.

King = Sheriff

The Sheriff has a special role of being able to find out if certain people are the Mafia or not.  They can use this information in discussion to put the Mafia to death.  The role is important and should be protected.  They can pick one person each round, finding out if that person is Mafia or not.  They are to help the townspeople find and kill the Mafia.

Queen = Medic

The Medic has a special role of being able to save one person each round.  They can save themselves and protect their position or they can choose to save someone else if they know they are in harms way.  If the Mafia happens to kill the person that the Medic chooses to save in the same round, that person is saved for that round.

Jack = The Village Idiot

Again, this position is optional.  The village idiot is simply someone everyone laughs at.  They have no official role and no special privileges during the game.

Numbered Card = Townsperson

Townspeople are general people that have no other special role than their voting power.  They should strive to protect the valuable assets of the sheriff and medic if possible and work together to defeat the Mafia.

The game actually work very easily.

There will be one moderator that is not playing the game, but pushing the game along.

  • The moderator will pass out the cards to everyone, giving them their role.  Make sure they do not share their card or role with anyone else.  You can collect the cards or have them put them away.
  • Have everyone go to sleep (close their eyes and put their heads down).
  • Have the Mafia wake up (open eyes and put head up).  The Mafia will choose someone to kill.  If there is more than one Mafia, they must agree on one person.  Once they choose someone, have them go back to sleep.
  • Have the Sheriff wake up.  The Sheriff will point to someone that they would like to know if they are Mafia or not.  The moderator will nod yes or no, letting them know if the person is Mafia or not.  Have the Sheriff go back to sleep.
  • Have the Medic wake up. The Medic will choose someone they would like to save.  They point at someone and the moderator will acknowledge them.  They moderator will not tell them whether or not the person they chose was killed until later.  Have the medic go back to sleep.
  • Have the Village Idiot wake up. When the village idiot wakes up, everyone laughs in their sleep.  Have the village idiot go back to sleep.
  • Now that you have gathered all of the information, the whole town can wake up.  If the person that was killed was saved by the Medic, tell them there was an attempted homicide.  It is up to the moderator if they want people to know who it was on.  If the person was not saved, then they are dead and out of the game.  A good moderator makes up a quick story of how the person was killed by the Mafia.
  • Now is the fun part.  The town must meet (including the Mafia because no one knows who the Mafia is) and decide someone in the town to accuse as the killer and have them killed as well.  So it is a simple process.
  • There is an accusation – Someone accuses one person that they think it is.
  • The accuser says why they think the accused is the Mafia
  • There is a second accusation – No explanation is needed
  • The person who is being accused gives their defense.
  • The town votes.  A majority rules and the person is killed if the majority raise their hand.
  • If the majority does not vote for the accused, then they are safe the rest of that round.
  • Go until someone is put to death or no one gets put to death (hardly ever happens)
  • Then start all over with the townspeople going to sleep.
  • The game is played until all Mafia are dead or the Mafia can no longer be voted out because of numbers.


  • In my experience it is best to keep the game moving quickly.  Get the routine down and your head and push it along, but still allowing time for discussion.  It is pretty easy to cheat in the game and people who play it a lot tend to get bored and cheat more.  The game is most fun when you have people who know how fun it is to discuss and trick other people and the mind games go crazy.
  • Experiment with numbers of Mafia, Sheriffs, and Medic’s.  Depending on the size of the group, you will find that some numbers work much better than others.
  • For younger youth, those who are killed early in the game can ruin the game.  Pull out the duct tape and tape their mouths shut (don’t do that, I think it would break your Diocesan Safe Environment policies).  Seriously though, find a way to keep them entertained.  At least have an extra adult around to ask them to stop talking if they are giving information away.


  • You do not need cards.  You can walk around the circle and pick a mafia, then say you are picking a sheriff and tap someone on the head, etc.  Do not leave this game out because your church budget does not call for a deck of cards!
  • You can play with a ton of people and make it a large game.  Just be sure there is something for those who are killed early to do.
  • The more people you have the more Mafia you can include and have extra Sheriffs and Medics.  You can also choose to kill two people at a time from the town if needed.

Make the game your own and have a great time!