Thursday, 6 March 2014

The Resistance: Avalon

Hands-down the best game I've played thus far.

This post is dedicated to every friend I have and will play this game with, but in particular: Shaun, Kevin, Nick, Sam, Carina, Chloe and David (who are my frequent partners in crime).

May we have more fruitful alliances to come (whether as Minions or Loyal Servants of King Arthur)...



Name: The Resistance: Avalon (2012 - The original "The Resistance" first came out in 2009 though)

Notable HonoursThis is, thus far (at the time of writing), probably my favourite game by a long shot.

Close and Distant Relatives: Mafia, Ultimate Werewolf Inquisition (and Ultimate Werewolf etc), Bang!, Saboteur, Shadows Over Camelot, Sultans of Karaya, Samurai Sword, Battlestar Galactica etc etc

Publisher: Indie Board and Card games

Editions: This is an improved edition over the original The Resistance (it adds Merlin + other cool characters)

Designer: Don Eskridge

Players: 5 to 10 players, probably best with 7 or 8?*
*10 August 2014: I will note though that the 6 player game is quite great as well - each mission has different numbers of people (compared to the 7 player and 8 player games where the 2nd and 3rd quests have the same numbers of people - which could make it easy for the good guys to fluke a victory in an untalkative group)

Age: You'd probably need to be at least a teenager to appreciate this game properly. 13+?

Time to play: About 30+ minutes, depending upon how argumentative you are as a group.

Price Range (AUD)I bought mine for $19.99 but these days the price looks to be in the high $20's to $38. In terms of fun per dollar spent, it's quite a good bargain. In terms of items per dollar spent, there is probably not as much value here - the box doesn't really contain that much. 

Availability: Quite widely available but I don't remember seeing it at department stores. Very popular game, at least in the US.

Genres
  • Social deduction
  • Mafia
  • Traitors
  • Team-play
  • Party

Andre Lim's Rating and Brief Summary:

9.0* out of 10. (One of the best experiences that a party game has to offer - See my Rating Scale)

I cannot speak more highly of this game.

Essentially it's a revamped and powered-up version of mafia, with incredibly more substance.

For anyone who has never heard of the concept of mafia, or this game, here's a brief introduction: there are a certain amount of good guys and a minority of unknown bad guys. For example in The Resistance: Avalon, there is a composition of 4 good guys and 3 bad guys in a 7 player game; 6 good guys and 4 bad guys in a 10 player game.

The bad guys know who the other bad guys are. The good guys know nothing. The good guys have to succeed a majority of quests (3 out of 5 rounds) but to do that they must know who to trust because they will be selecting who should be going on the various quests. Detecting a bluff and observing mannerism, tone and body language is a key aspect of this game.

If the good guys are to win, they will need remarkable teamwork, instinct and communication. If you're a bad guy, it's always fun bluffing, sewing confusion amongst the group and trying to stay hidden.

If you've already played The Resistance and are wondering what makes The Resistance: AVALON different, you should know that the key difference is the introduction of new characters. Most notably, there is Merlin who knows who the bad guys are but must not reveal his identity (because otherwise, in substance, the bad guys will win).

These extra characters do provide some additional tweaks you can factor into the game to make it either more difficult or easier for one side.

So for example, if you find that the bad guys win too often, you can add Oberon who is Evil yet unknown to the bad guys (so the bad guys don't know who Oberon is, and hence, they have to deduce who is on their team). Or if the good guys win too often, you can add Mordred, who is unknown to Merlin.

All in all, this is a fantastic game. Purely based on two simple phases of voting, the underlying beauty of this game that makes it stand out from the many mafia games out there is the fact that it plays a lot cleaner and simpler.

*August 2014: I am in two minds as to whether to reduce this score of 9.3 to something like 9.0. Maybe it's just the fact that I've played this too many times but there are some games of Avalon where the same patterns of human interaction keep occurring, to the extent that it can become repetitive. The group you play with is important too - play with a lazy/tired group and teams get approved immediately without thought. But that isn't necessarily the game's fault is it? On one view, people just get tired of squabbling over every single quest. Needless to say, irrespectively, the kick is always there and I think I have just reached the breaking point for this game. I can't wait for the Kickstarter The Resistance Expansion: Hostile Intent and Hidden Agenda which is to come in November.

Another issue is this: I'm wary of giving this game too many high marks when I haven't played everything that has to be offered!

The Good:
  • Detecting who is a bad guy (if you are good) and pretending to be good (when you are bad) makes for a very interesting game, both from a social, teamplay and intellectual perspective. Once everyone gets good at the game, you can almost never tell who is good and bad (and you have past experiences that will taint your view of people). Eventually you'll have to rely on instinct, body language and, sometimes, voting patterns.
  • Great team-work is required to win!
  • Really intense, exciting and close matches where the success of your team can hinge on a single vote.
  • Great variety in characters to make the game more interesting
  • Interaction (both good and bad) is a highlight of this game - there are moments of sheer, absolute (and at times, hilarious) chaos; at other times, there is peaceful silence because everyone is confused: revel in the atmosphere of The Resistance: Avalon!!
  • A good game to play with people who question everything!! 
  • Avalon provides a whole array of exciting characters to the "vanilla" Resistance Universe, particularly Merlin who knows who the bad guys are but must not reveal who he is. (The Rules imply that this is because if Merlin dies all his knowledge of the future of Britain, including who is or will be evil as well as the plans of Mordred, will be lost.)
  • Thus, because of the above point, the whole theme and feel of the game is pretty cool - set in a fantasy world where the stakes are high! A classic ultimate battle between good and evil.
The Bad:
  • If you don't like tense games, games which involve bluffing or taking on hidden identities or games where accusations will be levelled at you, you won't like this.
  • Can be quite intense and, perhaps, shouldn't be played too many times in a row?
  • This is a minor point, but I wish there were more good characters to strengthen/weaken the good guys
  • If you have a very aggressive and talkative group of players, the arguments will NEVER stop (until everyone is fed up)
  • Sometimes, depending on who gets picked for the first couple of missions (especially if the good guys outnumber the bad guys, such as in a 9 or 6 player game), the good guys might get a lucky break and win an easy landslide victory.
  • Not a good game to play with if you play with passive people who will approve every team selection!!

What makes this game fun? 

I highly recommend this game if you are looking for a heavily social and dynamic game that involves uncovering who is good and who is bad - the results are sure to surprise you amongst your friends! It is truly a fantastic crowd-pleaser and best played with good friends.







- This concludes the basic overview of the game.
If you are interested in reading about the components & rules to the game, please read on -









Rules & Components (Photos courtesy of my mum, Joanne)

First step: Everyone gets a loyalty card. The game will tell you the distribution of Good (Loyal Servants of King Arthur) and Evil (Minions of Mordred) depending on how many people you have.

Table of distribution - as provided by the Rules book

In the example below, we are playing with 7 players.

In a 7 player game, this equates to 4 Good guys (who have a blue background and crest - Loyal Servants of King Arthur) and 3 Bad guys (who have the red background and crest/symbol - Minions of Mordred):

Loyalty cards: 3 bad guys on top of 4 good guys


You distribute the loyalty cards face-down, and you enter the Narration phase.

Narrations

Now the purpose of this phase is to ensure that the Bad guys get acquainted with each other. This happens via a classic mafia/werewolf narration. 

Anyone can narrate the opening lines. Usually it's best to let the person who knows the game the best to narrate as it can be quite difficult to remember the lines that need to be said.

Here is the basic narration:

1. Everyone close your eyes and bow your heads.

2. Minions of Mordred open your eyes and look around to find other Minions.

3. Minions of Mordred close your eyes.

4. Everyone open your eyes

If the Narrator is a minion, they should be careful with when they speak and be aware of the timing of their pauses!! An amateur minion narrator might accidentally reveal their identity by speaking when they lift up their heads - some players can discern when the Narrator is being softer [indicating the Narrator's head is bowed down] and when the Narrator is loud [indicating that the Narrator has lifted up their head]


Set-up

After that's done everyone now receives one Approve and Reject token each like so:

The white tokens are Approve tokens. The black tokens are Reject tokens.
The loyalty cards are now placed face down.


Now have a look at the Quest Board for 7 players:



The big numbers show how many players must be picked to go on a "Quest". There are 5 Quests in total.

So Quest 1 = Pick 2 players
Quest 2 = Pick 3 players
Quest 3 = Pick 3 players etc.

Aim of game: Remember, Bad guys always want to fail 3 quests out of 5. Good guys always want to succeed 3 missions out of 5.

I will explain the Vote Track later, below.

Each Quest always follows 2 distinct Phases.

Phase 1: Pick a team.

A random person receives the Crown icon (in this case below, the player at 2 o'clock).

This means they are the team leader and they get to select a team of people who get to go on a quest.

The leader does this using the shield icons.

Here, the Player at 2 o'clock selects herself and the Player at 9 o'clock.

Then everyone votes - all votes are placed face down. And then they are simultaneously revealed.

Here is what happens, for example, after the votes are revealed:


Only 6 o'clock and 2 o'clock have Approved. Everyone else has Rejected.

We have 5 Reject (Black) tokens and 2 Approve (White) tokens. The Quest is NOT approved, so the Quest does not go ahead.

You always need a MAJORITY of approvals for the Quest to go ahead - a tie is not enough and is considered to be a rejection.

Now the leadership (crown) token gets passed to the next person: the player at 3 o'clock. In this example, the leader chooses themselves and they also choose the player at 2 o'clock.

Everyone votes, and this is what happens:



The Quest is approved - 4 votes to 3.

This means that the players at 2 o'clock and 3 o'clock are going on a Quest.

Important note: If the group rejects a team selection 5 times in a row, the Minions automatically win. Here we are safe - there was only 1 rejection. We use the Vote Track on the Quest Board to keep a track of this


Phase 2: Succeeding or Failing a Quest

Players who were voted to form part of a team now get a Succeed and a Fail Card.

Importantly: GOOD GUYS MUST NEVER FAIL A MISSION. THEY MUST ALWAYS SUCCEED A QUEST.

Bad guys get a bit more flexibility as they can choose to either Fail or Succeed a mission - there are always strategic benefits to this latter option, such as gaining the trust of others and not arousing suspicion.

So here, 2 o'clock and 3 o'clock receive Success (Gold goblet) and Fail (Dark goblet) cards.



They then secretly, without showing anyone, put down their vote. (Here, they put down their vote face-down in the middle of the table.)

Then they secretly place their other card elsewhere in the Discard Pile (here, on the bottom right corner). Both discard and actual votes should be shuffled to mask the identity of the bad person (if there is any).



Then the votes are revealed:



Since there is 1 Succeed and 1 Fail here, the group now knows that, between 2 o'clock and 3 o'clock, one of them is a bad guy. It is up to the rest of the group now to decide who they trust and who they should include on future missions.

Discussions/arguments will ensue!

So we record the score like this:

A red token symbollises a Minion of Mordred Victory for that Quest. Blue token = Loyal Servant of King Arthur Victory. The shield icon demonstrates we are on Quest 1
The purple market indicates that we are up to the 2nd team selection (5 being in red because if the group does not approve a 5th team, the Minions win)

Phase 1 and Phase 2 continue for the remaining Quests until a team has won a majority of quests.

Variations - Avalon Expansion

The above rules were an explanation of the "normal version" of the Resistance. The Resistance: Avalon provides a variation with Merlin and the Assassin amongst other cool characters.

(Note: Many people get confused about the Assassin. The Assassin is just a Minion of Mordred, but they have an additional role to play ONLY IF the good guys win)



Here, Merlin knows who the bad guys are BUT must NOT reveal his identity. Ie. Merlin is trying to tell his team mates who the bad guys are without being too obvious.

Why? Because if the Good Guys win, then the minions get a LAST SHOT chance at winning: If the Assassin can guess who Merlin is, the bad guys win.

The Assassin is able to discuss this decision with their team mates.


Other Variations



To make the game more interesting, you can add:
  • Oberon: who is unknown to the minions but is a bad guy. However he is KNOWN to Merlin. This weakens the Evil team as there is a lack of communication between the minions
  • Mordred: who is unknown to Merlin but KNOWN to the Minions. (This strengthens the Evil team)
  • Percival: Who knows who Merlin is, and hence, can protect Merlin in a way. Makes the Good guys stronger.
  • Morgana: She can only be added if Percival is playing. When Percival opens his eyes to see who is Merlin, Morgana also sticks her thumbs out. This causes confusion because Percival is no longer 100% sure who Merlin is. This makes the Evil guys stronger, though not always. For example, it can be a tell-tale sign if Morgana picks Merlin on their team (as Merlin knows Morgana is evil, but not the other way around - Morgana has no idea who Merlin is; Percival should pick this up straight away)

Complicated Narrations

If you add the above characters, the narration phase can get quite complicated:

1. Everyone close your eyes and bow your heads.

2. Minions of Mordred (EXCEPT OBERON) open your eyes and look around you.

3. Minions of Mordred close your eyes.

4. Minions of Mordred (EXCEPT MORDRED) stick your thumb out.

5. Merlin open your eyes.

6. Minions of Mordred, put back your thumbs.

7. Merlin close your eyes.

8. Merlin (AND MORGANA!) stick your thumbs out.

9. Percival, open your eyes.

10 Merlin (and Morgana), remove your thumbs.

11. Percival, close your eyes.

12. Everyone open your eyes


Other notes

There is a Lancelot promo character who changes alliances every round apparently. It sounds pretty awesome and I'd like to try it out sometime.

I also wish there were more special characters for the good guys.

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