Mafia Card Game (Rules and Instructions)

Are you looking for a card game that would suit a large bunch of players? My Mafia game rules will introduce you to a great option.

When you need a good game night idea, and you expect a large number of guests, the first recommendation that comes to my mind is Mafia (see more big group games ideas here).

This classic game is ideally played with 12 to 16 players, who will be divided into two competing teams trying to eliminate each other.

What makes the game fun and exciting is that no one knows which player belongs to which team, so you’re left guessing and deducting. 

However, my favorite part of this game is the trial, where you can turn everything around with your verbal and acting skills or the basic ability to make others sympathize with you. 

This Mafia Game rules guide will cover the following: 

  • What is Mafia?
  • What you’ll need to play Mafia
  • Mafia game rules
  • How to play the Mafia game (video tutorial)
  • FAQs
  • Other similar games to Mafia (our guides)

Read on and learn how to play the Mafia from the dealing to the final scoring with my step-by-step rules guide.

What is Mafia?

Mafia Card Game Info Image

Mafia is a great party game for large mixed groups of friends or relatives. It does not require special skills or experiences, just some spare time and a playful mood. 

There’s no real strategy to win the game except for being focused, observing the body language of your opponents, and keeping your best poker face on.

Number of Players: ideally, 12 to 16 players

Ages: 7+

Difficulty: Easy 

Length of Play: 20 – 60 minutes

Category: Social deduction party game

Similar to: WerewolfSecret HitlerCoup

Main Objective: Help your team win by identifying the opponents in disguise and eliminating them from the game.

Why We Love It: Mafia is an exciting party game for a large group of friends that doesn’t require more than a single card deck, some acting skills, and lots of creativity.

What You’ll Need to Play Mafia

You only need a standard deck of 52 playing cards to play Mafia. 

Our Pick
Bee MetalLuxe™ Playing Cards – Red Foil Diamond Back, Standard Index
$12.99 $9.48
Buy Now
We earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase at no additional cost to you.
10/24/2023 05:37 am GMT

Mafia Game Rules and Gameplay

In Mafia, players are divided into two teams: 

  • Mafia
  • Townspeople

These two groups have very opposing objectives: While the Mafia aims to eliminate all the Townspeople, the Townspeople try to identify and eliminate Mafia first.

Besides these two teams, you also need one moderator – he will not play the game actively, but his essential role will include narrating and managing the gameplay.

Now let’s move on to the initial setup of the game. The dealing is a particularly specific and essential aspect of the game.

Starting the Game

The moderator of the Mafia game also usually acts as a dealer. But before the dealing can begin, you must prepare your deck according to the following rules:

  • Depending on how many players are playing, one-fourth of the cards dealt should be Jacks(that’s why it’s best played in a group of 12 to 16 players).
  • Your deck should have one less King than Jacks(e.g., if you have four Jacks, pick three Kings).
  • Your deck should also include one Ace.
  • The rest of the deck consists of number cards.

Now the dealer shuffles the deck and deals one card to each player. Players keep these cards secret from each other because they determine their characters in the game:

  • If you have Jack, you’re a member of the Mafia.
  • If you have King, you’re a Sheriff.
  • If you have Ace, you’re a Doctor.
  • If you have any number card, you’re one of the Townspeople. 

As you’ve probably already assumed, the Sheriff and the Doctor are parts of the Townspeople’s team, along with all the players with number cards. 

How to Play Mafia

In Mafia, each round represents one day in the life of a small town. It has two stages: Night and Day.

Night stage

Each round starts with a night when all the people go to sleep by literally closing their eyes

The moderator indicates the members of the Mafia to wake up ad open their eyes. (Usually, this is done by saying, “the Mafia wakes up,” but you can agree otherwise.”)

  • The Mafia members now see each other for the first time. 
  • Their task is to agree on one member of the Townspeople’s team they’d like to eliminate by pointing fingers in silence.
  • The Moderator notes their choice and tells Mafia to go back to sleep.

Next, the Moderator wakes up the Sheriffs.

  • By pointing their fingers, the Sheriffs also pick one player they believe might be a part of the Mafia. 
  • The moderator nods or shakes his head to answer.
  • The Sherrifs return to sleep.

Now the Moderator wakes up the Doctor.

  • The Doctor points the finger at one person they want to save from being killed. 
  • The Doctor may also choose themselves.
  • The moderator nods or shakes his head to reveal whether the Doctor saved the person that was about to be eliminated by the Mafia.
  • The Doctor returns to sleep.

Everyone wakes up on the Moderator’s order and listens to them reveal the following important information about the previous night:

  • Who was killed by the Mafia
  • Whether the Doctor saved them

Note that the victim is the only person Moderator identifies (unless the Doctor saved the victim). Everyone else remains secret. 

If the victim was eliminated by the Mafia successfully, they leave the game.

Day stage

In the day stage of the round, it’s the Townspeople’s turn to eliminate a member of the Mafia through a trial:

  • All the players discuss who they think is a member of the Mafia (yes, including the actual Mafia members who must remain in disguise pretending to be Townspeople).
  • A player who three individual opponents accuse goes on a trial

At this point, the discussion stops, and the trial begins. Besides the defendant, their first accuser will also participate in the trial:

  • The Accuser has 30 seconds to elaborate on why he’s convinced about the Defendant’s guilt and why he must be executed.
  • The Defendant then gets 30 seconds to explain why the Accuser is wrong.
  • All the players now vote with their fingers whether the Defendant should live or die. Thumbs up = Defendant lives / Thumbs down = Defendant will be executed

If the accused player is executed, they reveal their actual identity by showing their card and then leave the game.

If the majority spares the Defendant, the Accuser now stands a trial with the same rules.

This ends the round, and everyone goes back to sleep, moving on to another Night stage.

Mafia Scoring 

The game continues until all the members of the Mafia are eliminated OR until only three players are left in the game, with one of them still being a Mafia.

  • If all the Mafia is killed, the Townspeople team wins the game.
  • If at least one Mafia member remains within the last three standing players, the Mafia team wins the game

How to Play Mafia Game – Video Tutorial 

Mafia Game Frequently Asked Questions

What cards do you need to play Mafia?

The game is typically played with classic poker-style playing cards, but you can play it with any cards as long you can to assign the players all the required roles.

How to play Mafia with fewer or more players?

Some players prefer to assign certain suits to the roles in this game instead of the ranks (e.g., hearts for Townspeople, clubs for Mafia). 

This makes the game suitable for fewer or more players since you are not limited by having only four Jacks, Kings, etc. 

Can players cheat in Mafia?

No, they shouldn’t. Although you are expected to pretend in this game to a large extent, it is not allowed to lie when you’re required to reveal your role in the game.

Other Similar Games to Mafia (Our Guides) 

If you like this original game, see our guides for the following Mafia alternatives, too:

Article by:
Read all the articles (121) written by Lucia Fajnerova