The COVID-19 pandemic created a lot of winners (e.g. Amazon, Spikeball) and losers (e.g. airlines, extroverts). Among the former was social deduction game Among Us. Like most indie games, it languished in obscurity after debuting on Steam in November of 2018. However, the developers didn’t quit. Their determination was rewarded when big name Twitch streamers picked it up this summer, catapulting the game into mainstream success.
The premise is simple. You and up to nine other players are tasked with preparing a spaceship for departure. There are leaves to be cleared, wires fixed, asteroids shot, and so on. But not everyone wants the mission to succeed. At least one of the players is an impostor, secretly working against everyone else. Their job is to kill the crewmates before the crewmates can eject them, winning when numerical parity is achieved. Think of Among Us as a cross between Mafia and Battlestar Galactica: The Board Game.
Among Us is easy to learn, but difficult to master (I’m still learning). Over the course of almost 300 games, I’ve noticed some common crewmate mistakes. Assuming that you’re already comfortable with the maps and completing tasks, avoiding the following will greatly increase your chances of ejecting/immolating/defenestrating the impostors among you.
Not Using Discussion Time Wisely
After a body is reported or the emergency button pressed, all living players are convened for a discussion. The discussion/voting period is one of the crew’s most valuable assets.1The other being numerical advantage. It’s the only time that crewmates can properly communicate with each other.
Take this opportunity seriously. I once played with a crewmate who pushed to end discussion whenever no hard evidence was forthcoming. Although such egregious examples are rare, more insidious ones happen frequently. It’s common for someone to waste thirty seconds describing every task they did before getting to the relevant information. Or pursuing a fruitless line of questioning while the person who reported the body is trying to share valuable information.
Discussion phase should be used to ask for everyone’s whereabouts, the path they took to get there (“pathing”), any vitals/door log/security camera information, who the deceased was last seen with, vouches, etc. In later rounds, crewmates can use the time to coordinate their actions (e.g. “let’s stick together”, “you get lights, I’ll camp button”) once they have a better idea of who can be trusted.
Not Using Your Button (Wisely)
In standard games, every player may press the emergency button once. Doing so triggers a discussion phase. Many crewmates forget about this utility and take it with them to the grave.
Not only do emergency buttons give the crew more discussion time, they can spell the difference between victory and defeat in later rounds. If the Polus vitals board shows only five heartbeats with two impostors remaining, crewmates may not be able to locate a body before an impostor secures the winning kill. With a button press in hand, a crewmate could (and probably should) just go next door to office and halt the killing spree.
Emergency buttons are also crucial after voting someone out on six (i.e. six players remaining) or four to take stock of the situation. While it is the impostors’ game to lose if the wrong person is voted out on six or four, misplays happen. Crewmates can take advantage of a mistimed sabotage if they still have an emergency button.
With that in mind, crewmates should take care not to waste their button. Consider the following scenario: with five players and one impostor remaining, the lights go out and someone dies. If the crewmates still have a button, they have a free shot on four. If their first guess is incorrect, one crewmate can fix the lights while the other one waits by the emergency button, pressing it as soon as the lights are fixed.2In standard games, the emergency button cooldown is always slightly shorter than the impostor’s kill cooldown. It is also assumed that the final impostor has been narrowed down to one of two people.
Being Too Afraid to Vote
New players are often gun shy, preferring to wait until hard evidence is available before voting someone out. The crew rarely has that luxury though – bodies are usually created sans witnesses, without being discovered for awhile, or discovered at all. So they sit in awkward silence for a bit before voting to skip. A few skips later and the impostors win.
Like poker, Among Us forces crewmates to make correct decisions under time pressure with imperfect (or misleading) information. To do so, they have to make inferences.
Inference is derived from the Latin inferre, meaning “to carry or bring into”:
A guess that you make or an opinion that you form based on the information that you have.Inference (Cambridge Dictionary)
Initially, crewmates are only comfortable making obvious inferences like “People seen leaving a room containing a dead body are likely guilty”. With time, equally accurate conclusions can be drawn from far weaker information. And sometimes, you just have to take a chance. It is not okay to skip on six with two impostors remaining and I’ve seen many a skip on four end in tears for the crew. If there is only light suspicion on a player, it is safer to skip when possible. If that player is lightly suspicious three rounds in a row? Send it.
A word of caution: impostors will use actions and words to encourage faulty inferences. Always assign a degree of confidence to your inferences and keep an open mind.
Forgetting Information From Round to Round
Beginners tend to treat each round as its own game. Once voting phase ends, everything up until that moment is forgotten. This is a grave mistake.
Using information from past rounds is key to making good inferences. Perhaps taking too long to complete admin card swipe is not enough to vote someone out. Someone who took too long on card swipe, was present during a stack kill in round one, and last seen with Cindy before she became a hambone in round two is a prime candidate for the lava pit though. Consider the following example:
With one impostor remaining, Hong’s body was found in aptly-named Death Valley on Polus. Alex said he was with the group fixing lights, but others remember him being the last one to arrive. When asked for his path, he explained that he finished a few tasks in O2 before heading up the hallway. Although Shana remembered seeing Alex in O2, no one saw which direction he entered Electrical from. Furthermore, there were four people doing the refuel task in Storage when the game started, one of which was Alex. It is unlikely that four people had that task. Finally, Alex hesitated a little when suspected impostor Tony was being voted out last round. Thus, Alex likely lied about going to Electrical via the hallway.
Without information gathered during previous rounds, the fact that Alex arrived late to Electrical late would not have been sufficient evidence to vote him out.
The objective of each round should be to gather clues that can be used later in the game, like a good detective would in a mystery novel. If you have to decide between two people in a final three and one of them was vouched for after a double kill in round one, your decision should be easy.
Examples of important information to remember include suspicions, vouches, clears, voting patterns, and claimed tasks. If you want to get sweaty, take notes.
Blindly Rushing Tasks
The game may be called Among Us, but some crewmates seem to be playing Task Simulator. They methodically and dutifully work their way down the task list, oblivious to everything else. Not that rushing tasks is necessarily bad, mind you. Completing tasks is an important component of a crew win because a steadily-rising taskbar puts pressure on the impostors. Plus, you don’t need to figure out who the impostors are if the crew completes all of its tasks.
However, you are doing the crew a disservice if you focus on tasks to the exclusion of everything else. If you’re always on your own, others will be suspicious of you. And you raise the risk of dying in a secluded corner where no one will find the body.
The aim should be to complete tasks quickly without taking unnecessary risks or neglecting detective duties. You should be sticking with others for safety3In a ten person game with two impostors, seven of the other players are friendly. That means there’s a 78 percent chance the other person is on your team. Keep that in mind before you start running away from everyone you see., checking rooms for bodies, and periodically jumping on cams/vitals/admin. Save high risk tasks, like asteroids in Weapons, for the start of rounds when you know that the impostors are on cooldown.
Remember, you can always rush tasks after you’re dead. It’s easier as a ghost anyway. You don’t have to bother with those pesky walls or worry about whether Maria is waiting to snap your neck for the third time tonight.
Being Too Afraid to Die
It makes sense that crewmates would try to stay alive. Living crewmates are usually better than dead crewmates. Usually.
However, when the rest of your team has deemed you highly suspicious, your continued existence is a detriment to the crew’s victory chances. Experienced impostors will ensure you survive to serve as a scapegoat during future votes. Imagine being in the final three with an impostor and a fellow crewmate who’s suspected you from the beginning. Now imagine being in the final four with an impostor who knows he can easily create that final three, even if it means killing in front of you.
As a distrusted crewmate, the best thing you could do for the team is get yourself killed. Death during action phase is the most ironclad evidence that you’re not an impostor, allowing your teammates to suspect someone else.
Not Playing to Your Lobby’s Skill Level
Once players learn optimal play, they strive to always play that way. This is good for avoiding bad habits, but it will cost you games at lower levels. What is optimal at one skill level is suboptimal at others.
During one game, I was killed in Weapons. An experienced player pointed out that X was last seen walking with me out of Office, but he didn’t push it very hard. After he died next round, I asked him why. He said that it wasn’t necessary because the crew would remember what he told them and use it to vote out X with six remaining. I chuckled and said that they’ve probably forgotten already. To his chagrin, I was right.
Behaviors that are extremely suspicious at higher levels, such as wandering aimlessly, can be completely innocuous at lower ones. Keep that in mind when you’re making inferences.4This is why beginner lobbies favor the impostors and vice versa.
Lobby experience level is also a consideration during action phase. If you’re the only experienced crewmate in a beginner lobby, you need to prioritize staying alive. The impostors may even come out ahead on a one-for-one trade with you.
The Biggest Mistake I Have Witnessed…
Cheesy, I know. But at the end of the day, Among Us is a game. If you’re starting to tilt, it’s time to take a break. Besides, you’ll play better when you’re not angry. And resist the urge to flip out on teammates when they make a mistake. Have a good-natured laugh with them and get set for the next one.