“The history of liberty is a history of resistance.” – Woodrow Wilson
In a dark future, we are living under a brutal totalitarian government. The throat of democracy is trapped under the bootheel of oppression and any signs of struggle only bring it closer to crushing us. Our collective humanity is being slowly strangled to death, and before long, all of us will be born to bondage, never knowing even the concept of freedom. The best and brightest of us have fled underground, to plan the saving of all. At the cost of several brave souls, patriots in the truest sense of the word, we have identified five weaknesses in the governing power structure. If we can exploit any three of them, then we will cripple them enough to mount a true insurrection. We can overthrow this regime. Our resistance is small, but it is determined. But not all of us here are who we claim to be…
When I was packing for GenCon 2012, I brought a few of my favorite games. Chaos in the Old World, Battlestar Galactica, Wok Star, Lords of Waterdeep, and a few others. One morning as my hotel roommate and I were getting ready to go and teach the nerds to nerd better, we were discussing what to do on our off time. I lamented bringing Battlestar Galactica, because it’s an absolutely fantastic game that requires a prohibitive amount of play time. At its fastest, it clocks in around 2.5 hours, but it’s brilliant in that the tension rides so high the whole time that it doesn’t feel that way. It creates a very real sense of paranoia that is pretty hard to mimic. It’s a great time, but the odds of finding enough time in our busy schedules meant that it was a waste of suitcase space. Curt (Hi Curt!) asks me if I’ve ever played The Resistance. I had neither played nor heard of it. He proceeds to give me an elevator pitch that suggests that there exists a game that gives you all of the suspicion, politicking and intrigue of Battlestar Galactica in about 20-30 minutes.
Obviously, my first reaction was to call bullshit. Comparing any game (let alone favorably) to BSG was (and is) bold sauce.
Of course, I had to learn more. First stop in the dealer room was Indie Boards and Cards. They are running demos of The Resistance (the Avalon version thereof). I introduce myself, softshoe Pretty Sneaky, Sis and we sit down to a demo.
In the beginning of the game, each player is dealt a card identifying them as either a member of the Resistance or a Spy.
Once all players have determined their identity, all players close their eyes, then spies are allowed to open their eyes briefly to identify each other, a key mechanic allowing them to work together, which is still difficult even with this knowledge.
The Team Leader (a position which changes hands between each mission objective and sometimes beforehand) then selects a team to deploy on a mission. Once the team members are selected, all players vote to either approve of the team or reject the team.
The voting is the first of many wonderful layers to this game. Majority carries the vote, and watching how some players vote can give you clues (or at least hunches) on where their allegiance lies.
Of course, they can also vote against their better interests (just like real life!) in order to seed confusion among the ranks. If the mission teams fails to get the majority vote to approve, the Team Leader position passes to the left and the process is repeated. It’s not uncommon to see people vote to reject a mission team just to see how other people vote. It bears special mention that this can be a dangerous proposition, because if a vote fails four consecutive times, the fifth Team Leader picks a team and there is no vote.
Once the Mission Team is assembled, each player on the mission is dealt two Mission cards, Success and Fail. Each of these players will play one of these cards confidentially. Resistance players have no choice but to play Success cards. Spy players have the choice to play Success or Fail cards. As it only takes one Fail card to disrupt most missions, (some missions require two Fails to be played, pending number of players in the game) this is an advantage for the Spies. If only Success cards are played, it is a success for the Resistance. In either case, if neither Resistance nor Spies have scored three victories, the Team Leader role passes to the left for the next mission.
Should a mission fail, it immediately casts suspicion on everyone involved in the mission, and this is where the heart of the game lies, in the politicking of either misdirecting due blame to innocent parties or clearing your good name of slander, all while the clock ticks forward.
In a nutshell, that’s the game. This has become a quick favorite for a number of reasons, namely:
Accessibility: The game is very easy to teach which translates to appeal to both gamers and non-gamers alike. It doesn’t have a lot of moving parts to intimidate non-gamers .
Depth: For such a simple game, the strategic depth is astounding. Resistance players have it admittedly easier than the Spies. You never have to make a hard choice on whether or not to play the Success card in a Mission. The Spies want to fail the mission, but they need to do it in such a way that casts suspicion on other people. A new Spy player might fail every mission in their first few games, but they quickly learn that by being a part of succeeding missions, it becomes a lot easier to point fingers at Resistance players who have been a part of failed missions.
Timeliness: The longest game I’ve played clocked in at just over 30 minutes. Most games weigh in between 15-25, pending how combative the players become in their finger-pointing. It would totally qualify as pre-game or even mid-game night filler material, except that…
FUN: This game is crazy fun. It’s tricky to quantify why I feel so strongly about this game. It plays quickly enough to cram many games in a single session, and is addictive enough to make you want to keep playing well after you should reasonably stop. One night as Curt and I walked back to our hotel room, we discussed our collective exhaustion, but immediately agreed that if there were five people awake, we were going to play. Over the course of GenCon, I logged literally dozens of games. Any time I have five or more people together (it accommodates up to 10) it’s the very first game that comes to mind.
What’s more is that I still haven’t touched on the best parts. All of the above illustrates a game that is absolutely beautiful in its simplicity and one that will carry itself through many groups and convert countless people, (save those who absolutely despise games of deduction. Somewhat ironically, I was never a fan of Clue, but I wholeheartedly love The Resistance) and that’s just the basic game. Included in the 2nd Edition is an expansion which introduces Plot cards, which add many layers to the game without increasing complexity.
Plot cards have a variety of effects, like forcing a player to reveal their Loyalty card to another player, or see what Mission card was played before they are shuffled and revealed. The decisions made in these mini-games has a huge impact on the game. Who do I choose to show my card to? What do they do with that information? Are they honest about it? Why am I friends with such a bunch of duplicitous backstabbing assholes? These simple twists seem like they could make things a little more simple, but nothing could be further from the truth.
My solitary critique for the game is that it takes a minimum of five players, which makes it a little on the difficult side to round up people for, but this is mitigated by the notion that you can easily rope non-gamers in and make them Resistance junkies.
You can find the game in the $15-$20 range, and on a strict dollar to fun ratio, it is the most valuable game in my collection by no small margin. I can’t overemphasize the greatness of this game. It’s also very light and compact, so it’s easy to keep on you in case an opportunity comes up to play. I would recommend sleeves for the game though. Even though the cards don’t see a lot of wear and tear, any noticeable mark will utterly ruin the card for game play.
Curt was absolutely right. Against all odds, this game captured the best parts of BSG, and did it in a tiny time package that begs to be played over and over and over again. Viva la Resistance!