Mafia is a game of intrigue, deduction, and deception. There are two basic teams: the "town" and the "mafia." The town is always the larger of the two groups (typically three times the size of the mafia). The town's objective is to root out the members of the mafia hidden amongst them, before the mafia destroy them and seize control of the town.
The game is divided into day and night phases. During the day, the town investigates amongst itself, and each town player can cast votes against the players who they believe are mafia members. Meanwhile, the mafia will also control their own votes, and will be trying to blend in and do their best to pretend to be participating in the hunt for the mafia. A majority vote results in that player being lynched, eliminated from the game, and his of her alignment as mafia or town revealed. Then, the game will proceed to the night phase. During the night phase, the mafia will secretly select a target of their own to kill, and players on both teams will use any other special abilities they possess. The game ends when either all of the mafia have been rooted out, or there are so few townies left alive that they can no longer achieve a majority vote to eliminate the mafia.
Any number of other abilities may also be used, though these are specific to each game. One of the more common roles with abilities include Cops, which can investigate the alignment of a player each night by sending that name to the mod. The mod will then respond to that player with a result of Innocent or Guilty – an indicator of whether or not a player is a member of the mafia. Another common role is the Doctor, who can send in the name of a player at night with the hope of defending them. If that player would have been killed that night, the Doctor's ability prevents the kill.
Many Mafia games have storyline and themes that make them very interesting to play in. Game mods often go to great lengths to make games saturated with flavor, which often bleeds into game mechanics. Thus, every game is different, and some of them are very complex. Strategies and counter-strategies have been developed for hundreds of situations, and yet, the thrill of uncertainty that made the original game so exciting to play is still present. Go sign up for a game, and see what the craze is all about!