Sunday, 23 March 2014

The Resistance, Part 2: Gameplay & Verdict

In our last article we took a look at the box contents for Don Eskridge's The Resistance; a party game of deception and deduction for 5-10 people.  Now it's time to see how those contents come together as we run you through the gameplay of this incredibly back-stabbing game, and give it our usual final score!
Apparently it's futile...
The first thing to be decided is which players will be the loyal resistance operatives and which will take on the roles of the spies.  The appropriate Character Cards are taken from the box and shuffled together, before being dealt out to each player face-down.  The spies must almost be outnumbered by the resistance operatives, so in a 5 player game they are broken down 2-3, for 6 players it's 2-4, for 7 players 3-4, and so forth.  All players then close their eyes, and the spies are asked to re-open theirs, allowing them to know eachother's identities.  They then close their eyes again and all players re-open them, leaving the resistance operatives in the dark over who can and can't be trusted within their cell.
The appropriate Score Tableau is then placed in the centre of the table, each player is given a pair of voting tokens, one player is randomly selected start as the team leader, and the game is ready to go!
Each game takes place over the course of five rounds, with each round representing a resistance mission against the government.  At the start of the round, the team leader must choose which players (including themselves, if they wish) will be sent on the mission.  The number of players sent on each mission varies from one mission to the next, but the Score Tableau handily reminds the team leader of how many players they must choose.
Once the team has been selected, all players use their voting tokens to approve or reject the lineup.  This really comes into play after the first couple of rounds, by which time most players will start to have formed an idea of who the spies in the group are, and so will want to keep them off the mission team!  If the majority of votes approve the lineup then the mission goes ahead, if the majority reject it (or if it's a tie) then the mission is aborted and the Leader Token is passed around to the left, and the process is repeated.  If a lineup is rejected by the popular vote five times in a row then the spies are considered to have derailed the resistance cell, and they win the game.
Each member of the mission team is given a pair of Mission Cards.  They must choose one of these cards and hand it face-down to the team leader.  The resistance operatives must always choose the Success card (after all, they do want the mission to succeed!), whereas the spies have the option of playing the Fail card if they wish - this option gives the spies wonderful opportunities to throw suspicion onto other players, as well as to worm their way into the trust of the resistance operatives.
Once the team leader has received all of the Mission Cards they shuffle them, and reveal them all face-up.  If all of the cards are Successes then the mission was accomplished, whereas just a single Fail card means that the mission was sabotaged and the spies win the round.  At least three of the five missions must succeed in order for the resistance operatives to win, whereas three failures means victory for the spies!
Most games of The Resistance in our experience go right down to the wire.  The Score Tableau above gives a good example of this, with the resistance operatives having succeeded in their first and fourth missions, but with the spies thwarting them during missions two and three.  By the final mission the team leader has to have figured out the identities of the spies, as they have to send every loyal resistance operative on the mission in order for it to succeed, which can create an incredibly tense atmosphere for the final round, as the loyal operatives vie for their rightful places on the mission team, whilst the spies must argue for their inclusion as well, in order to bring the cell down once and for all!
The main enjoyment in The Resistance comes from playing mind-games with other players.  In one of our early games one of the spies made a slight slip-up which gave away his true nature.  However, only one of the resistance operatives picked up on this, and their attempts to explain it to the rest of the team only ended up throwing suspicion onto themselves.  It's certainly a game which raises the blood pressure, but as long as you're playing with the right group of people, and can play with the attitude of "what happens in the resistance, stays in the resistance" then there's no reason the insults, mistrust and back-stabbing can't all be taken light-heartedly - The Resistance is a party game after all!
The The Plot Thickens expansion adds some extra depth to the game by intorucing Plot Cards for each round.  These can allow people to sneak a look at other players' Character Cards, overthrow voting choices, and other such actions to thwart the plans of spies and resistance operatives alike.  Again, these can be used to great effect by either party - in one of our games a spy had to reveal his identity to one player, and so chose a resistance operative.  When the operative tried to share this information they were branded a spy and left in exile for the entire game.  This is a perfect of example of how The Resistance isn't just another game of playing the right cards at the right time, but it's also largely down to how the players adopt to the roles of their characters and how much they can make the other players believe their theories.  It's this, in our opinion, which makes The Resistance something very special indeed.
Is it a perfect game though?  Of course not, in our years of board gaming we've yet to experience such a thing - every game has shortfalls, even if they're only minor ones.  The minimum 5 player requirement is the first for The Resistance, as it can make it difficult to get a game on the go in the first place!  We've yet to experience a game with the maximum of 10 players, and don't expect we'll get to try it at any point in the foreseeable future.  The deceptive and back-stabbing nature of the game may be too much for some players who have trouble taking things with a pinch of salt, and we can genuinely picture people rage-quitting and friendships ending over a round of The Resistance!  Like we've said, it's great with the right people, just make sure that you're all going to be able to shake hands and put things behind you when it's over!
One massive shortfall which didn't become apparent for a few games was the difficulty in dropping preconceptions from previous games.  If a player is a spy for a few consecutive games, it can be hard for players to see them in any other light, and this can derail a game before it starts.  We did hear variations on the line "I think he's a spy - he was a spy last time!" crop up far too often for a game with random character assignment!
And finally the game components need a little TLC - as we mentioned in Part 1, the satin finish on the cards makes them prone to weathering, and so an investment in sleeves comes highly recommended.
So, it looks like it's time for our customary break-down...
The Good Points
  • The Resistance is quick to learn and quick to play, meaning everyone can get into it with only minimal explanation.
  • Refreshingly, it's a game that doesn't break the bank.
  • Accommodating up to 10 players, this is a game which large groups can all get thoroughly involved in.
  • With the right group of people it can be great fun playing mind games with your friends, and throwing suspicion around where none exists!
  • It requires only a very small amount of playing space.

The Bad Points
  • The flipside of the high player numbers is that smaller groups may struggle to get enough people together for a game.
  • The cards will need sleeving or else they'll suffer wear and tear quite quickly.
  • With the wrong crowd, this has the potential to start fights and end friendships!
  • Players' opinions can be easily influenced by previous, unrelated games.
Recommended Number of Players: 5+
Not a particularly helpful recommendation, we know!  But from our experience The Resistance works very well with various player numbers. As we mentioned earlier, we're yet to try it out with a full quota of 10, but based on games with fewer players it should continue to be the same great experience.
Average Game Time: 20 minutes
One of the greatest things about The Resistance is that it's a very quick game to play.  Not only does this mean that players don't get bogged down until the intrigue stops being fun, but with the game being skewed in favour of the spies, players tend to want to play through several games to try and secure that elusive resistance victory!
Replay Value: High
Again, being a party game, The Resistance hinges on having the right group of people to play it with.  With a good crowd it can be returned to over and over again, and with the same gaming group a poker-esque element could almost creep in as players learn to spot eachothers "tells".
The Future: Dystopian
Whilst The Resistance is a lot of fun, there isn't really anything to breathe extra life into it if it ever starts to go stale.  Obviously the The Plot Thickens expansion is included in the box, but most players will probably start to use those within an hour of their first game.
Price: £16
The Resistance is certainly a wallet-friendly game, and in terms of money-to-enjoyment it gives a very good return.  Since its initial release it's become a very popular pocket-sized game, and should be easy enough to acquire for those gaming stores who don't carry it on their shelves as standard.
Tea consumed during this review: None!  It's been a Pepsi Max evening on account of a devastating lack of milk.  -53/10

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1 comment:

  1. Nice review! The re-skin of The Resistance (Avalon) adds a lot of replay potential because of all the different role combinations. I highly recommend it!