The Resistance, a game of bluff, sabotage and second guessing

The Resistance

The Resistance (Google Images)

A recent small get together provided the opportunity to get this unassuming little game from Indie Board & Cards off the shelf. I had heard raves about this one before on podcasts like the Dice Tower and was very intrigued by the sobriquet “like Werewolf, but better” I heard someone apply to this game. Personally I don’t think there’s much one can do to improve basic Werewolf. I’ve played with all kinds of variants to the game and own three or four commercial versions with tons of variant roles, but I rarely play them because I mostly play the basic non- commercial game at conventions and those games usually start well after 1 AM, too late in the evening to be making things complicated. At first glance, THE RESISTANCE seems reminiscent of ” just another published werewolf variant” which probably contributed to it riding a shelf for so long. Mirabile Visu! Somehow the right people got together and time freed up and the game got played with the right crowd, and it turned out to be a big  success.  Now I’m flagellating myself for not trying it sooner.

Background: the Resistance certainly borrows certain tropes from the much older Werewolf, the two most obvious being a hidden traitor role and voting mechanisms.  The players are either members of the heroic Resistance, fighting a totalitarian government, or secret Saboteurs, in the pay of the Government, seeking to subvert and sabotage missions undertaken by the Resistance.   This probably sounds identical to Werewolf or Mafia at first, but the differences are in the two-phased turn– which reveals information about role identity via inductive logic.   Game play is both more subtle and more definitive than Werewolf, which can feature games where actions are often taken for the hell of it.

How to Play: Depending on how many players you have, you assign roles for a certain number of Resistance fighters and a certain number of saboteurs.  These roles are depicted on cards.  It is important to note that there are always fewer saboteurs than resistance players, and that nobody knows who is who.

This game would certainly be playable without a referee, but it plays easier with one. The first leader or whomever is running the game cautions everyone to close their eyes.  Then he asks for the spies (only) to open their eyes and identify each other.  Then everyone closes their eyes, then everyone opens their eyes.   Then the Leader is assigned by pulling  a card, and he/she will be responsible for assigning crews to missions and calling the vote for the current round.  A game is five rounds, and the Leader role, which is independent of Saboteur or Resistance allegiance, rotates around the table.  Depending on what round it is and how many players are playing, a Leader may assign a certain amount of people to a team by placing mission cards in front of individual players.  That team will have to go out on a mission.  First, the entire Resistance cell has to take a vote to approve the team in the Voting Phase.  This gives players a chance to veto the team assignments.   Obviously, voting “No” may a tip off to being a spy, so it may behoove the Spies to vote yes more often then no on some teams.  Five vetoed teams in a row is a victory for the Saboteurs.  Since there are always less saboteurs than resistance in every game, this is difficult to achieve without at least one Resistance player voting against a team assignment– this is a distinct possibility in later rounds where the resistance players suspect another player of being a saboteur and don’t wish for him to be assigned to a mission.  Once roles are assigned, there is a discussion of the roles and a vote using Vote Cards.  If a proposed team doesn’t get a clear majority, it gets Vetoed.  If the player team passes the vote, it goes out on the Mission.  This is the second, even more critical phase of a round, Mission Execution.  Missions are resolved by (you guessed it!) playing cards.  Every player on a mission team is given two mission cards– succeed and fail (read this as “work to make the mission happen” or “throw a monkey wrench in the Resistance’s plans“).  Here’s the kicker that makes this game so interesting to me: Resistance players can ONLY play Succeed cards.  Saboteurs can select EITHER Succeed or Fail.   Then the cards are turned in, shuffled thoroughly and revealed on the table.  So, obviously, if you get a team of three turning in all succeed cards, you MAY have a team of dedicated Resistance fighters (but you don’t know for sure), if you see even ONE failure card, you know FOR CERTAIN there is at least one Saboteur in the team that just went out.  Interesting, neh?  There is an expansion built right into the game, called “The Plot Thickens”, which allows you provide more information about the players’ alleigance, what they voted for and against, etc.  I haven’t played with them yet but I have read them all, and I don’t think any of the Plot Thickens cards imbalance the game.

Unlike the Werewolf and Mafia games, there is no elimination mechanism.  You might be sure that a player is a Saboteur, but there is no burning him or her at the stake the Resistance.  You simply try not to include those players on missions that indicate they might be saboteurs.  After three Wins, the Resistance side wins.  After three Losses, the Saboteurs win.

That’s pretty much all there is for the Resistance.  I give it high marks for being engaging and a clever design.  This is a great game, but works better with the “right crowd” paradigm.. I suspect a crowd with a little experience with Werewolf or Mafia already would adore this game.  Resistance is a game for multiple players– a classic party game.  It would play poorly with anything less than five players because the ratio of roles is important for game mechanics.  The game is a real bargain at roughly 20 USD in secondary markets.  I would classify this game as a modern microgame due to size, economy of packaging and great design.  I suspect it won’t permanently supplant Werewolf and/or Mafia in people’s hearts (as they are free), but it will provide a fun and engaging alternative to those games.  Recommended.

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The two chaps at SHUT UP AND SIT DOWN “Vidcast” Blog, whatever, produced a wonderful episode dedicated to this game. Watch this before playing it yourself.

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One response to “The Resistance, a game of bluff, sabotage and second guessing

  1. I find the logical deductions much more interesting in The Resistance, as compared to Werewolf. Team choices, voting patterns, mission fails. All of these things provide information for deducing the spies. Werewolf relies on rhetoric.