The rules of Secret Hitler

The year is 1932. The place is pre-WWII Germany. In Secret Hitler, players are German politicians attempting to hold a fragile Liberal government together and stem the rising tide of Fascism. Watch out though—there are secret Fascists among you, and one player is Secret Hitler.

OVERVIEW

At the beginning of the game, each player is secretly assigned to one of three roles: Liberal, Fascist, or Hitler. The Liberals have a majority, but they don’t know for sure who anyone is; Fascists must resort to secrecy and sabotage to accomplish their goals. Hitler plays for the Fascist team, and the Fascists know Hitler’s identity from the outset, but Hitler doesn’t know the Fascists and must work to figure them out.

The Liberals win by enacting five Liberal Policies or killing Hitler. The Fascists win by enacting six Fascist Policies, or if Hitler is elected Chancellor after three Fascist Policies have been enacted.

Whenever a Fascist Policy is enacted, the government becomes more powerful, and the President is granted a single-use power which must be used before the next round can begin. It doesn’t matter what team the President is on; in fact, even Liberal players might be tempted to enact a Fascist Policy to gain new powers.

OBJECT

Every player has a secret identity as a member of either the Liberal team or the Fascist team. Players on the Liberal team win if either:

  • Five Liberal Policies are enacted OR
  • Hitler is assassinated.

Players on the Fascist team win if either:

  • Six Fascist Policies are enacted OR
  • Hitler is elected Chancellor any time after the third Fascist Policy has been enacted.

SET UP

The 11 Fascist Policy tiles and the 6 Liberal Policy tiles are shuffled into a single Policy deck.

Each player will receive a Secret Role card. The table below determines the correct distribution of roles.

# PLAYERS 5 6 7 8 9 10
Liberals 3 4 4 5 5 6
Fascists 1+H 1+H 2+H 2+H 3+H 3+H

WHY ARE THERE SECRET ROLE AND PARTY MEMBERSHIP CARDS?

Secret Hitler features an investigation mechanic that allows some players to find out what team other players are on, and this mechanic only works if Hitler’s special role is not revealed. To prevent that from happening, every player has both a Secret Role card and a Party membership card. Hitler’s Party Membership card shows a Fascist party loyalty, but gives no hint about a special role. Liberals who uncover Fascists must work out for themselves whether they’ve found an ordinary Fascist or their leader.

For games of 5-6 players: the Fascist player and Hitler player get to see and identify each other. Liberals know nothing.

For games of 7-10 players: the fascist players get to see and identify each other, and know who the Hitler player is. Hitler and Liberals know nothing.

GAMEPLAY

Secret Hitler is played in rounds. Each round has an Election to form a government, a Legislative Session to enact a new Policy, and an Executive Action to exercise governmental power.

ELECTION

At the beginning of a new round, the President placard moves right to the next player, who is the new Presidential Candidate.

2. Nominate a Chancellor

The Presidential Candidate chooses a Chancellor Candidate by selecting any other eligible player. The Presidential Candidate is free to discuss Chancellor options with the table to build consensus and make it more likely the Government gets elected.

Eligibility:

The last elected President and Chancellor are "term-limited", and ineligible to be nominated as Chancellor Candidate.

ON ELIGIBILITY:

  • Term limits apply to the President and Chancellor who were last elected, not to the last pair nominated.
  • Term limits only affect nominations to the Chancellorship; anyone can be President, even someone who was just Chancellor.
  • If there are only five players left in the game, only the last elected Chancellor is ineligible to be Chancellor Candidate; the last President may be nominated.
  • There are some other rules that affect eligibility in specific ways: the Veto Power and the Election Tracker. You don’t need to worry about those yet, and we’ll talk about each one in its relevant section.

3. Vote on the government

Once the Presidential Candidate has chosen an eligible Chancellor Candidate, players may discuss the proposed government until everyone is ready to vote. Every player, including the Candidates, votes on the proposed government. Once everyone is ready to vote, the Ballot cards are revealed simultaneously.

If the vote is a tie, or if a majority of players votes no:

The vote fails. The Presidential Candidate misses this chance to be elected, and the President placard moves to the next player. The Election Tracker is advanced by one Election.

Election Tracker: If the group rejects three governments in a row, the country is thrown into chaos. The next policy is revealed and enacted. Any power granted by this Policy is ignored, but the Election Tracker resets, and existing term-limits are forgotten. All players become eligible to hold the office of Chancellor for the next Election. If there are fewer than three tiles remaining in the Policy deck at this point, they are shuffled with the Discard pile to create a new Policy deck.

Any time a new Policy tile is played face-up, the Election Tracker is reset, whether it was enacted by an elected government or enacted by the frustrated populace.

If a majority of players votes yes:

The Presidential Candidate and Chancellor Candidate become the new President and Chancellor, respectively.

If three or more Fascist Policies have been enacted already:

If the new Chancellor is Hitler, the game is over and the Fascists win. Otherwise, other players know for sure the Chancellor is not Hitler.

LEGISLATIVE SESSION

During the Legislative Session, the President and Chancellor work together to enact a new Policy in secret. The President draws the top three tiles from the Policy deck, looks at them in secret, and discards one tile face down into the Discard pile. The remaining two tiles go to the Chancellor, who looks in secret, discards one Policy tile face down, and enacts the remaining Policy by placing the tile face up on the corresponding track.

The chat for the President and Chancellor is disabled. Attempting to telegraph the contents of your hand using randomness or any other unusual selection procedure violates the spirit of the game. Don’t do it.

Discarded Policy tiles are not revealed to the group. Players must rely on the word of the President and Chancellor, who are free to lie.

ABOUT LYING: Often, some players learn things that the rest of the players don’t know, like when the President and Chancellor get to see Policy tiles, or when a President uses the Investigate power to see someone’s Party Membership card. You can always lie about hidden knowledge in Secret Hitler.

If there are fewer than three tiles remaining in the Policy deck at the end of a Legislative Session, they are shuffled with the Discard pile to create a new Policy deck. Unused Policy tiles are not revealed.

If the government enacted a Fascist Policy that covered up a Presidential Power, the sitting President gets to use that power. Proceed to the Executive Action.

If the government enacted a Liberal Policy or a Fascist Policy that grants no Presidential Power, begin a new round with a new Election.

EXECUTIVE ACTION

If the newly-enacted Fascist Policy grants a Presidential Power, the President must use it before the next round can begin. Before using a power, the President is free to discuss the issue with other players, but ultimately the President gets to decide how and when the power is used. Gameplay cannot continue until the President uses the power. Presidential Powers are used only once; they don’t stack or roll over to future turns.

PRESIDENTIAL POWERS

Investigate Loyalty

The President chooses a player to investigate. Investigated players show their Party Membership (not Secret Role!) to the President. The President may share (or lie about!) the results of their investigation at their discretion. No player may be investigated twice in the same game.

Call Special Election

The President chooses any other player at the table to be the next Presidential Candidate. Any player can become President—even players that are term-limited. The new President nominates an eligible player as Chancellor Candidate and the Election proceeds as usual.

A Special Election does not skip any players. After a Special Election, the President placard returns to the right of the President who enacted the Special Election.

If the President passes the presidency to the next player in the rotation, that player would get to run for President twice in a row: once for the Special Election and once for their normal shift in the Presidential rotation.

Policy Peek

After selecting the Policy deck, the President sees the top three tiles.

Execution

The President executes one player by selecting them. If that player is Hitler, the game ends in a Liberal victory. If the executed player is not Hitler, the table should not learn whether a Fascist or a Liberal has been killed; players must try to work out for themselves the new table balance. Executed players are removed from the game and may not chat, vote, or run for office.

VETO POWER

The Veto Power is a special rule that comes into effect after five Fascist Policies have been enacted. For all Legislative Sessions after the fifth Fascist Policy is enacted, the Executive branch gains a permanent new ability to discard all three Policy tiles if both the Chancellor and President agree.

The President draws three Policy tiles, discards one, and passes the remaining two to the Chancellor as usual. Then Chancellor selects one, and then both the President and Chancellor vote on whether or not to veto the results of this election in secret. If so, both Policies are discarded and the President placard passes to the right as usual. If either do not consent to veto, the Policy is enacted.

Each use of the Veto Power represents an inactive government and advances the Election Tracker by one.

STRATEGY NOTES

  • Everyone should claim to be a Liberal. Since the Liberal team has a voting majority, it can easily shut out any player claiming to be a Fascist. As a Fascist, there is no advantage to outing yourself to the majority. Additionally, Liberals should usually tell the truth. Liberals are trying to figure out the game like a puzzle, so lying can put their team at a significant disadvantage.
  • If this is your first time playing Hitler, just remember: be as Liberal as possible. Enact Liberal Policies. Vote for Liberal governments. Kiss babies. Trust your fellow Fascists to create opportunities for you to enact Liberal Policies and to advance Fascism on their turns. The Fascists win by subtly manipulating the table and waiting for the right cover to enact Fascist Policies, not by overtly playing as evil.
  • Liberals frequently benefit from slowing play down and discussing the available information. Fascists frequently benefit from rushing votes and creating confusion.
  • Fascists most often win by electing Hitler, not by enacting six Policies! Electing Hitler isn’t an optional or secondary win condition, it’s the core of a successful Fascist strategy. Hitler should always play as a Liberal, and should generally avoid lying or getting into fights and disagreements with other players. When the time comes, Hitler needs the liberal's trust to get elected. Even if Hitler isn’t ultimately elected, the distrust sown among Liberals is key to getting Fascists elected late in the game.
  • Ask other players to explain why they took an action. This is especially important with Presidential Powers—in fact, ask ahead of time whom a candidate is thinking of investigating/appointing/assassinating.
  • If a Fascist Policy comes up, there are only three possible culprits: The President, the Chancellor, or the Policy Deck. Try to figure out who (or what!) put you in this position.