Secret Hitler Board Game Guide: Who Can Lie Best? 

If you’ve ever played Avalon, The Resistance, Mafia, or One Night Ultimate Werewolf, the objectives of Secret Hitler will be familiar. It’s a deception game. You try to pass enough Policies for your team to win the game.

Secret Hitler is a hidden-role game. Playing these well means deceiving your friends and lying or bluffing about who you are. It isn’t for bad liars. If you’re as talented at going red-faced and stammering as some of my friends *cough Lucy cough*, maybe Monopoly is more up your street.

If, however, you fancy yourself as a bit of a sly fox, Secret Hitler is definitely for you. I’ll explain how to play and walk you through the basic strategies in this game guide.

Without any further ado, let’s get into it.

secret hitler

Tell Me More about Secret Hitler…

Secret Hitler can ruin friendships even quicker than Monopoly or Risk – that’s saying something! Rather than sit around endlessly waiting for your dad to line those tiny houses up perfectly on Pall Mall, only for the dice to knock them all over the place, you can accuse your oldest and closest friends of being liars and fascists! Perhaps it’s not the best choice for a games night with people you don’t know too well?

By playing Secret Hitler, you’ll discover who in your friendship group is the best liar and the most manipulative. It might have long-term impacts on that relationship, but who cares? – you managed to pass that one Policy you wanted!

It’s set in pre-World War II Germany and is based around electing a government. One of the Fascists is secretly (surprise!) Hitler – hence the name. The roles are randomly assigned at the start of the game.

This aspect is grounded in historical accuracy – Hitler did indeed manipulate his way into politics and government. But, in reality, his involvement and leadership were far from a secret.

Before You Begin

  • Players: five to ten.
  • Game length: officially, 20 to 40 minutes (realistically, I’ve found it’s usually at least half an hour – with some exceptions).

The Liberal team doesn’t know who their teammates are. The Fascists know who’s on their team, but they must keep their allegiance secret.

If there are more than seven players, Hitler doesn’t know who the Fascists are. The player does know if there are only five or six.

Is it your first time? I’d highly recommend the iOS companion app. You don’t need it, of course, but it’ll help you settle into the game.

secret hilter board game

What’s in the Box?

In the box, you’ll find two placards, one for the Chancellor and one for the President. Each has its respective instructions on the back. There’s one Liberal Policy tracker and three different Fascist Policy trackers (depending on the number of players). 

Aside from these, you’ll find zehn (ten) Policy Membership cards (six Liberal and four Fascist). There are also ten Secret Role cards (six Liberal, three Fascist, and one Secret Hitler).

Finally, there are ten Ja (yes) and ten Nein (no) cards. Ah, möchten Sie Deutsch sprechen lernen? Wunderbar. Jetzt können Sie “Ja” und “Nein” sagen.

Ten of each card allows for up to ten players. The precise setup varies according to the number of people at the table with you.

Setup

As mentioned, this varies depending on the number of players. 

  • If there are five or six players, there are only two Fascists.
  • If there are seven to eight, there are three Fascists.
  • If there are nine or ten players, there are four Fascists.

The Secret Hitler makes up one of the Fascists. So, a seven-player game consists of four Liberals, two generic Fascists, and the Secret Hitler (three Fascists in total).

To set up, put one Secret Role card, one Party Membership card (that matches the role), one ja!, and one nein! card into an envelope. Oh, and please don’t forget: there must always be one Secret Hitler! Shuffle the envelopes and distribute them to each player. Everyone must then have a look at their role and keep it secret.

Place the shuffled Policy cards face-down in the table’s center, with space for a discard pile nearby.

Next is the most crucial part of the game (but also the part most likely to go wrong). This is where the Fascists learn everything they need to know. Everyone else has to keep their eyes closed. Either follow the script in the instruction booklet or play the audio corresponding to the number of players from the Secret Hitler companion app. 

In short, everyone closes their eyes. The Fascists open their eyes and see who their teammates are. They also see who the Secret Hitler is. In bigger games, the Secret Hitler keeps their eyes closed and just puts their thumb up. This way, the Fascists know who the Hitler is, but their leader doesn’t know anything. 

Now you should be ready to play.

fascists

How to play Secret Hitler

Each turn consists of three parts: Nominating, Voting, and Legislating. 

Nominating

The first President is picked randomly. The President is the player that “leads” the turn. Their job is to elect a Chancellor to be able to pass a Policy. They may want to pick someone safe or someone they distrust to test them. After this turn concludes, the presidency passes onto the next player (generally clockwise), and they become the new President.

Voting

After the President is selected, they choose to elect a Chancellor. Everyone now votes on whether they agree that the appointed Chancellor should be in power by presenting ja! or nein! cards. 

If there is a ja! majority, they are elected. Likewise, if the nein!s outnumber the ja!s, they aren’t. This is a “failed” vote to be counted on the Vote Track. An equal number of ja! and nein! cards also results in a failed vote. The presidency moves on to the next player, who selects a Chancellor of their choice, and so it continues.

For each failed Chancellor vote, the Vote Counter moves along one. If there are three consecutive failed votes, you must enact the top Policy card in the draw pile – whatever it is.

Legislating

If the Chancellor is elected, the President takes three Policy cards off the Policy draw pile, removes one, and gives the remaining two to the Chancellor. The Chancellor then selects one that will be enacted.

The three cards drawn could be any combination of Liberal and Fascist Policies. Note that the deck is heavily stacked in favor of Fascist laws. There are 17 cards: six are Liberal, and 11 are Fascist.

During this part of the round, the President and Chancellor are discouraged from talking. Everyone should be silent, really. They can discuss what has happened and raise riling accusations at each other at length after. Remember, one or both could either lie or tell the truth. You might not be able to tell until the next round starts.

There are different rules and Powers depending on the number of players. Follow the Tracker on the Fascist Policy card you’re using.

The Powers (see below) are only used after the Policy is placed down. These are either done by the current or the following President.

setup secret hitler

Ending the Round

The round ends when the players either vote against electing the chosen Chancellor or a Policy is enacted. The presidency then moves clockwise onto the next player.

If the President was elected with the Call a Special Election Power, the next President would follow the order before the one-off was chosen.

Ending the game

The game ends when either team wins.

The Liberals win by either:

  • Enacting five Liberal Policies, or
  • Killing the Secret Hitler in their midst using the Execution Power.

The Fascists win by either:

  • Enacting six Fascist Policies, or
  • Electing Hitler as Chancellor (not President) once three or more Fascist Policies are enacted.

Presidential Powers

As Fascist Policies are enacted, Presidential Powers are unlocked. These range from investigating to executing a player and vary depending on the number of players in the game. In a nine- or ten-player game, the President can look at a player’s Party card as soon as a Fascist Policy is enacted. In a five- or six-player game, though, they only unlock a Power on the third Fascist Policy enacted.

Typically, it’s the President who gets to use the Power. It must be used before the next round can begin.

  • With Investigate Loyalty, hand the chosen player’s Party card (not secret role card) over to the President. They’re the only person permitted to see it and can do whatever they want with this information. And so you must decide who to trust – the President or their prey?
  • If the Power is Call a Special Election, the President picks who will be the next President (out of order). After that round, the previous order continues in the usual clockwise direction.
  • If the Power is Policy Peek, the President looks at the top three cards. This lets them know if the following players are lying about which Policy cards are available. Alternatively, they might lie to cause the group to vote against the chosen Chancellor and get the top card automatically enacted using the Vote Tracker.
  • The President might be able to Execute a player. If the player is not Hitler, the game continues. The dead player does not reveal which party they were a member of (unless they were the Secret Hitler). This Power comes up twice in a game – upon passing Fascist Policies #4 and #5.
  • After five Fascist Policies are enacted, the Veto Power is unlocked. As usual, the President draws three cards, passing two on and discarding one. However, if the Chancellor and the President agree, they can veto this round and discard all cards. For this to happen, the President and Chancellor have to agree.

Tips to Know in Advance

Pay attention to who has been Chancellor and selected the enacted Fascist Policies. Sometimes, it’s still beneficial to elect a Fascist Chancellor that you know isn’t Hitler because, well, you know, it’s not Hitler. If you take a chance and elect a new player as Chancellor that turns out to be the Secret Hitler, the game might be over.

If you’re a Fascist, you shouldn’t immediately try to elect Hitler. Everyone else will get more suspicious of them, and they might be killed when the President uses their Power at the appropriate time.

On some occasions, you might want to intentionally fail a Chancellor vote, or even several in a row. It’s a good idea if, for example, the President has used Policy Peek to find out that the next card is a Liberal Policy. If the previous two votes have failed, you could cause this next one to fail to get a beneficial Liberal Policy passed. You automatically get this piece of legislation passed without discarding the others.

Sometimes, it’s even beneficial for the Liberals to pass a Fascist Policy. This might unlock a Presidential Power that would help them to win. For example, the President might be allowed to kill Hitler, bringing the game to a safer and more efficient ending.

The go-to lie in most games is where the President convinces the group they passed one of each Policy to the Chancellor, who then selected a Fascist Policy. Instead, they give over two Fascist Policies and gaslight the other player, framing them! The lesson? Be careful who you trust!

There are only six Liberal Policies in the pack, so you’re closer to winning as you get more down on the table. But at the same time, you’re also a lot less likely to draw Liberal Policies, and if you do, they might get discarded by a Fascist President.

As the Fascists, you are likelier to win by electing Hitler as Chancellor. It’s also a safer way to win as the more Fascists Policies are passed, the more likely it is for Hitler to be killed.

game secret hitler

Common Mistakes to Avoid

Don’t reveal your role! Everyone should pretend to be a Liberal. This might seem obvious if you’ve ever played any deception- or secret role-based game. Still, you’d be surprised how badly some people lie and frantically backpedal when they get called out. Guilty as charged, I’m afraid.

Remember who is on your team when you’re a Fascist! The number of times we had to restart because people forgot who was on their team was surprising. This will happen more often during your first few games – but man, is it frustrating to finally get an exciting role and then to have to reshuffle everything because Reuben has a sieve for brains.

Don’t push too hard or be too vocal with either role. You might think you are being subtle, but you probably aren’t. Other players quickly pick up on little ticks and quirks, especially over multiple games.

Long-Term Goals to Consider

Play the long game. Gain the other players’ trust if you’re a Fascists. There’s no point in rushing through the three Fascist Policies if your decisions are always shot down. You should play it slower.

Sometimes, winning as a Fascist involves betrayal and sacrifice. All’s fair in love and war, as they say.

Try to frame that one player who is oblivious to everything going on and let them talk themselves into a corner. Easy prey is fair game in Secret Hitler.

If you are the Liberals, remember you’re on the back foot. Your opponents have more information than you do. Trust no one.

hitler secret

Alternatives You Might Also Like

Avalon or The Resistance

avalon

These games also have a voting system, and the aim is to Succeed or Fail Missions or Quests. I enjoy these games because none of the characters die. On the face of it, that might not sound so exciting, but it’s pretty irritating if you’re killed right at the start. As a result, you won’t spend the game sitting out as a frustrated onlooker unable to contribute.

In short, Avalon and The Resistance come with just as much fun but perhaps slightly more involvement and participation.

One Night Ultimate Werewolf or Mafia

One Night Ultimate Werewolf

These two are essentially the same game – the villains are to kill the rest of the group before they’re caught and voted out. It has the drawback of potentially sitting around longer if you die first.

However, rounds tend to be shorter than Secret Hitler (depending on the number of players), and there are more roles with extra powers. This adds an extra little something to whether you are just “good” or “evil”. 

The biggest downside to these games (as well as Secret Hitler and the other alternatives listed on this page) is you need to get a large enough group together who are willing to play a deception game.

Among Us

Among US Imposter

Among Us (the online game) has a very similar deception-based objective. Sabotage the innocents going about their tasks while occasionally committing murder and getting away with it. It is also easier to catch a player in the act of slicing another player in half. 

Among Us is a good alternative if the Steam Tabletop Simulator mod doesn’t cut it for you.

Conclusion

Secret Hitler is a fun deception/secret-role game. Crucially, it’s easy to pick up and play, with each game taking about 40 minutes. At first, it might seem complicated, but you’ll pick it up after a round or two. And if not, you can just play your own House Rules (whatever you think is best rather than the exact rules in the booklet).

One of the reasons that Secret Hitler is brilliant is the printable version. It’s available on their website and is free to play (provided you don’t make any money from it). For most people, this a much cheaper option than actually purchasing the game. However, if you want it, it’s available on Amazon. For a card game, it’s definitely on the expensive side.

The companion app makes things flow much better, especially at the start. It’s set up with audio files for different numbers of players. There’s even a tutorial on their official YouTube channel, voiced by Will Wheaton of Star Trek and Big Bang Theory fame.

However, you might struggle if you’re like me and all your friends are suspicious of you anyway. Whatever you say will be questioned. If the group can’t decide on a viable suspect to kill, you can almost guarantee it’ll be you.

secrt hitlr

Frequently Asked Questions

Question: Does the Secret Hitler Fail Vote Track reset after each enacted Policy?

Answer: I’ve played both ways, but I think you should reset it, yes. That’s what the rules recommend.
The rules state that you only reset the Vote Track after the vote fails three times in a row – not three times in total. The unlocked Presidential Power is also meant to be ignored when a Policy is automatically enacted.
I personally prefer this method. By resetting the Vote Track after each enacted Policy, there’s more time to work out who has which role. If the Tracker isn’t reset, it adds more pressure on the Liberals to accept any old Chancellor.
If you want the game to be shorter, don’t reset the Vote Track after three non-consecutive vote failures. You could also use the Power unlocked after the Policy is automatically enacted.

Question: What if I am a terrible liar in Secret Hitler?

Answer: Well, you probably want to play a different game! It’ll all be over pretty quickly otherwise. In my experience, it takes some of the satisfaction in working out who is evil away if they’re grinning from ear to ear every time a Fascist Policy is passed!
If you’re stuck playing Secret Hitler anyway, try always lying. That way, when you need to deceive people in future games, it’ll throw them off. Your teammates will hate you but, hey, they’re making you play against your will anyway!

Question: Does Secret Hitler have an online version?

Answer: The only online version I’ve seen (but haven’t played) is a Tabletop Simulator mod on Steam. You can play this with a group of friends, but Tabletop Simulator comes with a lot of available games. You might already have Secret Hitler without realizing it.

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