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Wolves, Witches and Fortune Tellers: A Standard Games Night in France

My arrival in Tours was with the excitement and expectation of a repeat of Fresher’s week in Edinburgh. I envisioned student halls filled with newbies, parties and a generally social atmosphere. What I got was quite different. There were no parties, the kitchens in most halls were locked from 11pm every night and I didn’t even know what my neighbour looked like for the first two months, never mind knowing her actual name. The building, like most other student halls in Tours, became a ghost town at weekends as all the local students went home and any noise made by the more social students was met by passive aggressive posts on the building’s Facebook group. Basically, these halls were for all work, no play. That said, while it may sound like I was living in a depressing institution, there was actually a surprisingly active social scene in my building in the form of games nights or soirées de jeux.

My first soirée de jeux was around two weeks into my stay in France and I was perhaps a little over ambitious in my French skills. I arrived expecting a vaguely familiar game, thinking that I would figure out what was going on fairly quickly. As I walked into the room I spotted Jenga and Monopoly and breathed a sigh of relief. But… that relief was a little premature. Next thing I knew, a game called Les Loups-Garous had won the vote for that evening’s game and I was knee deep in supernatural French vocab. I could, probably should, have moved over to the snacks table and avoided the ensuing confusion, but I did not. What followed was what I can best describe as wink murder with added fortune tellers and of course les loups-garous (werewolves).

Another post has already gone into the actual rules of the game so I’ll keep it short. Each player is given a scrap of paper with their character on it. Most people are villagers and some of these have special powers such as the hunter (le chasseur), the witch (la sorcière), the fortune-teller (la voyante) and so on (there are A LOT and we only played with a few – they decided not to overwhelm the foreign girl aka me). Then there are the werewolves. The aim for the villagers is to unmask all the werewolves and for the werewolves to kill off all the villagers . The game then alternates between day and night. During the night everyone closes their eyes and the werewolves wake up and the villagers with special powers are called upon to use their powers.

Much more than this I cannot say. I became seriously puzzled over whether or not I was supposed to open my eyes. I eventually took to peeking to establish when “daylight” was upon us. I’m pretty sure some players thought I was cheating but in my defence, closing your eyes in a room full of strangers who have just fallen deadly silent is surprisingly unnerving. I understood slightly more during the “day”: I had to point at whomever I suspected to be the loup-garou and so I would quickly fling my arm in anyone’s direction and hope others were doing the same. My technique worked surprisingly well. In fact I was the last one standing in a few rounds. Beginner’s luck served me well! Despite my confusion I did actually have a great night and made a few friends (even if they did think I was a cheat).

Lucy Hibbitt, Tours

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