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Case study: You are a part of a game, say 'Mafia', if you know how it is played. Here, a moderator selects a 'Mafia' and a 'God'. The Mafia can kill anyone, the God can save anyone. All happens under the strict moderation of the moderator and everyone is supposed to keep their eyes closed. At the end a voting is done by the participants to find out who might be the Mafia among them. Since the Mafia has the power to kill anyone, naturally the team wants to kill the Mafia.

Question: When you cast votes to find out the Mafia, what's the correct usage - 'vote for the Mafia' or 'vote against the Mafia'?

Key point here might be the fact that the Mafia is someone you are trying to find out and hold as the convict. It's the negative character here.

  • In another board game, the more logical 'accuse' is used. That might be what you mean here. – Edwin Ashworth Aug 31 '14 at 7:15
  • Would you vote for the accuse or vote against the accuse, if you understand my question. – bassyc Aug 31 '14 at 7:18
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    I'd almost certainly say 'I think it's ...'. – Edwin Ashworth Aug 31 '14 at 15:37
  • I accuse x of being the Mafia. – SrJoven Oct 30 '14 at 11:30
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The given phrases, vote for the Mafia or vote against the Mafia, are difficult to choose between. The point of this vote, as I understand it, is to point out the players who are killing. So the voter is "voting for the idea that another player is the Mafia." (This is where the suggestion of accused in the comments comes from: The voter is accusing someone of being the Mafia.) But on the other hand, the voter is "voting against a fellow player" because the player with the most votes is typically ousted from the game.

If the player is ousted after the vote, I recommend another phrase: vote out, defined by MacMillan Dictionary to mean

to remove a person or political party from a position by voting

In this case, the players are voting to remove some player from the position of "active player." Some use cases:

  1. Players are now deciding who to vote out of the game
  2. Player A is voting out Player B
  3. Player B was voted out

If Mafia can also vote, then I would say he's voting against another player. (And Thesaurus.com's synonyms to "vote against" brings up words like expel, banish, and blackball, which sound like what's happening in the game.) So to keep things simple I would use vote against (another player) for all voters.

But there are valid uses with for. I can see "Vote for who you think is the Mafia" being another way of saying it. With that setup, I would ask Player A which player he voted for.

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