The Resistance is a game of social deduction and espionage, released in 2009. The Resistance: Avalon is a very similar game (thus the grouping together of reviews) released in 2012. Both are for 5-10 players, designed by Don Eskridge and published by Indie Boards & Cards (who did Coup – set in the same world as the Resistance) and retail for about $20. For the most part the base rules are the same: I will make mention where they diverge.
What’s in the Boxes
Each has character cards to establish each player’s role (The Resistance has 10, one for each player, while Avalon has 14 to allow for some additional (optional) role options), 10 Quest/Mission cards for players to establish the outcome of the mission, 5 team tokens, 20 vote tokens, 5 score markers, 1 leader token, 1 round tracker, 1 vote tracker, and 3 double-sided tableaus to keep track of things (one each for each player count)
Additionally, the base Resistance has 15 Plot cards while Avalon has 1 lady of the lake token and two loyalty denoting cards, all used for optional rules.
How the game plays
You are a team of resistance fighters/ Arthur’s Knights who are planning a series of missions to overthrow the government/quest for good. You have been secretly infiltrated by loyalists/Mordred’s men who know who each other are, but no one else does/Only Merlin does. Over the course of five missions, whichever side gets to 3 wins first wins the game: a mission is lost if any loss cards are played during it. To determine who gets to set the team, since you are hippies/Knights, a team leader chooses a team and then the members vote if that is the team to send. If the vote fails, the vote indicator goes up (5 failing votes and The Corp/evil wins) and the next player in line tries to assemble a ragtag team of freedom fighters/Knights. Once the team is selected each team member gets two cards: succeed or fail, and puts one of their choice into the middle, thus determining the mission’s outcome. Additionally, for Avalon, at the end of the game if the minions of Mordred can assassinate (choose who has that role) the Merlin, they win anyways.
The culmination of all of these mechanics is a very tense bluffing/logic game: who can you trust to send on the mission? Each mission vote leads one side or the other closer to victory. If the loyalists can correctly determine who the traitors are they can easily pass all of the missions. Otherwise they are doomed to failure. This is of course a game best for social groups. Often it’s the dynamics of the group more than the logic of the game that determine who wins and who loses. If your group is the type that is at each other’s throats this might be the perfect game for you, since that paranoia of who can you trust is the mainstay of the game.
As you play the game, your group will likely find that one side or the other does the lion’s share of the winning as you get more accustomed to the flow of the game and start to understand the patterns. As such, each game provides a number of optional rules that can be incorporated into the game to rebalance the scales. Most make it easier/harder to determine the various allegiances running throughout the game. In any case they inject a nice element of change into the game if your group has found it getting stagnate.
I really enjoy both games. With a large regular group, these types of games that not only allow a large number of players but also leave everyone involved at every stage are great. Too often we’ll be playing a game and two or three people will be playing with their phones or lose track of whose turn it is since they’re not engaged. As long as everyone’s paying attention and understands what’s going on you get into a great social argument with your friends. Even if not, when that third person opens their eyes and you get to yell at them for not reading their card correctly, or forgets that you’re the other traitor, thinking it’s someone else at the table, and starts acting weirdly but you can’t say anything for fear of tipping your hand you’ll end up with great stories at the end of the night. I think I prefer Coup simply because it has less room for people doing stupid things and messing you up, but I would certainly recommend either of these games. Additionally, if you haven’t seen it, Wil Wheaton’s Tabletop did an episode of The Resistance and it was quite engaging.
(The object is to get Tabletop to link to us, Jay, not the other way around. – Chris)