Earlier this week, myself and the missus hosted a games night for a few friends. We planned to play a bit of Monopoly, maybe some video games, eat a pizza, then say our goodbyes. Instead, we spent around six hours lying through our teeth, giving each other shifty looks and screaming wild accusations of betrayal across the table – all because of one deceptively simple card game.
Ask anyone who’s into complex board & card games what they think a good gateway game would be, chances are they’ll say The Resistance. Games like Space Hulk, Arkham Horror and the like all look fascinating, but are very expensive and, frankly, quite daunting for someone whose board gaming experience begins and ends with mainstream titles like Monopoly and Cluedo. So it was that, for our gaming night, I picked up a copy of the Avalon edition of The Resistance, hoping to dip the group’s collective toes into the water and see how they felt.
The game itself isn’t terribly complex, though it makes a lot more sense seeing it in action. There are relatively few cards in use at any one time, which not only makes the game easy to pick up, but also keeps the cost down (for the record, I ended up paying around £16 for a brand new set). Players are split into two factions; the good servants of Arthur, and the evil minions of Mordred. Players take turns to propose a group to go on a quest, and the entire table votes on whether or not they trust the leader’s judgement. Once the quest is in progress, Mordred’s minions must choose, in secret, whether or not to sabotage the mission. If a quest fails, all that’s definite is that there was at least one minion involved. Three failed quests, and evil is triumphant.
What this leads to is, of course, a whole lot of arguments. All players vote on mission proposals in public, simultaneously, and being the only person to reject an otherwise unanimous proposal is definitely going to turn a few heads. This is part of the reason The Resistance makes such a good party game; the meat of the game comes from conversations with your friends, rather than silently moving pieces around a board. It’s perhaps slightly worrying how quickly our group picked up the finer details of the game – I’m beginning to think my social circle contains a few more good liars than is perhaps wise – but the game’s ability to turn the nicest person into a backstabbing traitor within minutes is certainly worthy of praise, as is the fact that no two games are ever quite the same.
The Avalon edition in particular has a few extra rules that can shake things up a bit. Additional named characters like Merlin, Percival and Mordred himself add an extra tactical layer to the game, should you wish to up the complexity a bit. We only got as far as including Merlin, who is aware of the identities of every evil player in the game. However, he must try his best to direct the blame without drawing too much attention, because if the evil players correctly deduce his identity, they can assassinate him and automatically win the game. The other characters all add varying levels of complexity, and I’m looking forward to giving them a go next time I have a big session.
I have to say, this wasn’t my first time. Last year, I played a few drunken rounds of the 2nd edition in a pub, with a few strangers I met after the Eurogamer Expo. It was a lot of fun, but I’d still recommend playing with friends if you can – it’s much harder to read people you’ve only just met, and so much of the fun of the game comes from arguing over whether or not somebody’s eyebrow movement was just a twitch, or a hidden signal to another minion of Mordred.
All in all, I have to say I’m becoming a fast convert to the world of card & board gaming. If you’ve got five or more people to play with, I would highly recommend getting hold of a copy of The Resistance. The Avalon edition is generally considered the best, from what I’ve gathered, but the basic gameplay in the other editions is just as compelling.