Giant Fire Breathing Robot
It’s no secret that I love hidden role games. But many of them also tend to incorporate that dreaded mechanism - player elimination. The Resistance, however, brings a fantastic, intricate, and devious hidden-role game to the table without eliminating any players.
The Basics. The players are under the rule of an evil, authoritarian government. Fortunately, they have formed the "Resistance" in order to combat and overthrow that government. Unfortunately, their resistance has also been infiltrated by several spies who are loyal to the government.
At the beginning of the game, players are dealt cards to tell them whether they are a member of the noble resistance or a filthy spy. Then, the players close their eyes and the spies are given an opportunity to open their eyes and recognize one another. Thereafter, the game begins.
A leader is chosen and that leader has to send a certain amount of people out on a mission. So the leader selects (for example) three individuals. But, because the resistance is loyal to its democratic ideals, the entire team (spies and all) vote on whether they think this is a "good" team. If the vote is negative, then there is no confidence in the leader, leadership passes to the next player, and a new team is assigned by the new leader. If the vote is affirmative, that team attempts a mission.
Each team member gets two cards: the "I complete my mission for the resistance" card and the "I sabotage this mission for my government" card. Resistance members must play the good card. Spies can play either. They can gain trust by playing the good card, or break up the mission by playing the bad one. If even one bad card is thrown (no matter the number of players on the mission), the mission is a failure. The game is played best of five missions.
The Feel. Paranoia, suspicion, and doubt reign throughout the game. Resistance members will be looking for body language cues and voting records to suss out potential spies. Spies will be doing their best to act like resistance members to avoid detection. Accusations, defenses and conspiracy theories abound.
Resistance is a game about information. In the beginning, the spies have a tremendous advantage because they know the identity of every player. Resistance members have to gain that same information through votes and mission results. Unlike Werewolf, there are no special roles and no moderator.
Played just as the base game, I would say that spies win about 80 percent of the time. Especially with experienced or savvy players. But, the game comes included with a mini-expansion - the plot cards. Plot cards give special powers or detriments to certain players. The new leader draws them and must give both away. This gives more information out to the Resistance as they look for potential links between known spies.
The game is riotously enjoyable. Playing as a spy, it is extremely fun to deceive and seduce resistance members into agreeing with you. Going under "deep cover" and helping the resistance succeed on a mission or two can buy you some much needed credibility. On the other hand, playing as a resistance member is a tense game of uncertainty. Resistance members look for clues anywhere they can and try desperately to divine the identities of the spies before time runs out.
A few mild criticisms exist, though. The accusatory nature of resistance can sometimes be difficult for a new player to jump right into. And the lack of special roles (while obviating the need for a moderator) also can make the game feel a little ... plain in comparison to others. You are only ever good or evil. You never have a secret agenda or a special power (other than as given by plot cards).
Components: 3.5 of 5. Resistance provides a small board and wooden bits to track successes and failures. But the vast majority of game information is conveyed on the cards. The cards are up to the task and have clean iconography and easily convey their information. The artwork on the role cards is also excellent. But, after repeated plays these are cards that may need sleeving.
Strategy/Luck Balance: 4.5 of 5. In a sense, this game is strategy in the truest sense. You are only reading the actions, votes, assertions of your fellow players for clues to their identity. This is both engaging and tense. Only rarely does a lucky plot card really clinch things for one team or another. Of course, you also have to play with a group that doesn’t get offended when they are accused of being dirty spies.
Mechanics: 4 of 5. Once a game or two is under your belt, the mechanics make intuitive sense. It brilliantly avoids player elimination and the need for a moderator while still providing a fantastic hidden-role experience. However, explaining the two sets of vote cards, and when each is needed (and why they should be voting one way or the other), can be confusing to new players.
And, without the plot cards, there is a huge bias in favor of the spies. When teaching a new group, I usually play the standard game once, but warn everyone that the spies will win. With the plot cards, I still think the spies have an advantage, but the win ratio is much more balanced.
Replayability: 5 of 5. I’ve almost never played only a single game of Resistance. The game supports up to ten players (and as few as five) and plays relatively quickly. A bigger group with a lot of discussion may take longer, but those are the best and most intriguing games. People want to play this game again and again and at the low price point, it’s worth every penny.
Spite: 1 of 5. Spite tends to run lower in team games. Since its team vs. team, there’s no feeling of being singled out. And, even the specter of spite is only raised by certain of the plot cards. All in all, that picked on feeling is largely (though not completely) absent.
Overall: 4.5 of 5. The Resistance is incredibly fun. I have a blast with every single play. I love mining the votes for possible clues as to who is a spy. I love hiding in plain site or masquerading as a resistance member when I’m playing the spy. If you like hidden-role games at all, if you like Werewolf and Mafia but hate player elimination, then you absolutely need to get in a few games of Resistance.
(Originally posted, with pictures, at the Giant Fire Breathing Robot)
Excellent description of the game given under the basics heading. I may have to paraphrase it when I explain the game to new players!
He's looking real sharp in his 1940's fedora. He's got nerves of steel, an iron will, and several other metal-themed attributes. His fur is water tight and he's always up for a fight.
He's a semi-aquatic egg-laying mammal of action. He's a furry little flat-foot who'll never flinch from a fray. He's got more than just mad skills, he's got a beaver tail and a bill.
I think the spite bit is countered by the fact that your loyalty is decided before the game by a card, rather than something like Diplomacy where you choose who you are loyal to and betrayals are player-led.