Secret Hitler — one of GenCon 2016’s biggest releases — puts players in the role of Germany’s politicians circa 1930. Most are Liberals, opposed by the Fascists and Hitler who are hidden from the Liberals. At low player counts Hitler knows who his on his side but with more than 6 players he must play without knowing who his allies are. It’s a sleek and gorgeous game that is easy to learn and engaging enough to play over and over.
It came out with a lot of fanfare and to critical acclaim (ourselves included.) It’s safe to say this is one of the best games of this genre on the market. I’m a big fan myself; while I don’t usually go in for social deduction and bluffing games, Secret Hitler is one of my favorite games. I’ve played it a bunch of times yet I’d have played it even more if it wasn’t for one thing: the theme.
The theme is controversial, to say the least, though Goat, Wolf, & Cabbage do an admirable job of treating it with respect and cushioning the sting. The Fascists and Hitler are portrayed as Lizard People rather than humans. The mechanisms do a decent job of portraying the difficulties of the Liberal party and giving a light peek into the insidious, secretive way Hitler came to power. The Liberals are also framed as the good guys, with one of the victory conditions being the successful assassination of Hitler. Despite all that, there are still plenty of reasons that many people might – and do – refuse to play.
You can’t get away from the fact it gamifies the rise of one of the most evil men in history. Someone will have to be that person and a few people will actively help them win. It’s easy to see why someone might object to playing, even if it’s a game. Fortunately, the team behind Secret Hitler released it under a Creative Commons license that allows people to make their own versions. With a little effort and some quality time with a pair of scissors, these geeky rethemes might help you bring this game to your table in a more comfortable setting.
Emmet Byrne at The Crafty Players created “Secret Voldemort” for his wife, and it looks fantastic. In this Harry Potter retheme, Fascists became Death Eaters and The Order of the Phoenix takes over for the Liberals. Emmet weaves little touches from the Wizarding World throughout: Avada Kedavra takes over for the assassinate power and even the laws are replaced. Dolores Umbridge and her Educational Proclamations take center stage as this retheme sees Voldemort attempting to become headmaster of Hogwarts.
I like how it didn’t go for a literal swap of the government of Germany for the Ministry of Magic. As Emmet points out, the ministry did fall so giving this the higher stakes of Hogwarts itself is a great touch. Files are available on this blog post.
Tom Reuhl took this game to a galaxy far, far, away with his Secret Sith retheme. Given that the appointment of Palpatine to the position of Chancellor is an almost direct allusion to Hitler’s rise to power, this is an excellent setting to choose for a retheme. Liberals are replaced with Loyalists, represented by Bail Organa. In a nod to both the Darth Jar Jar theory and Secret Hitler’s Lizardmen cards, the Imperialist cards feature a smiling Jar Jar Binks.
As in the Harry Potter retheme, little thematic touches abound. The original voting cards say “Ja” and “Nein” with the English translations in a small text underneath. Tom’s voting cards say Aye and Nay in Aurbesh, again with the English translation for those not fluent in Star War’s alphabet. Files for Secret Sith can be found here.
If you’re worried about missing your shot to play Secret Hitler then look around, look around, at how lucky we are to have BGG user Justin Ross. His retheme takes us back to the birth of the US, when the world turned upside down. Rather than trying to take control of the government, the player in the role of Hamilton is trying to become Secretary of the Treasury or pass pro-Federalist articles.
Assassination is present, though it’s a Character Assassination that can eliminate Hamilton’s political standing (the Reynold’s Pamphlet perhaps?) rather than a duel to the death. The Hamilton Musical is a pop cultural phenomenon; I imagine that this is the kind of retheme you’ll be back for more of. Just watch out for Aaron Burr, sir. Files here-note: you will need a free BGG account to download them.
Which retheme is your favorite? What other theme would you love to see? Let us know in the comments!
Featured Image Credits: Tom Reuhl, Emmet Byrne, Goat, Wolf & Cabbage
Image Credits: Tom Reuhl, Emmet Byrne, Justin Ross