The more I play games, the more I realize how much small game companies are overlooked. The mainstream gaming press tends to gravitate toward the behemoths of the industry; the ones with infinite reviewers to send games to, virtually unlimited marketing resources, the ones who have $50,000 booths at game fairs. That's fine and dandy, but there's more than that around. Some of the best games are the overlooked gems that you've never heard of, or simply didn't know enough about to pick up a copy.
So it is with Indie Boards and Cards it seems, and their outstanding little deduction-and-sneakery game, The Resistance.
I went to Dallas a while back, and while I was there I was lucky enough to have a good buddy break out this little wonder. I had not a clue what it was about, how to play, or even what the theme was. For all I knew it was a Race for the Galaxy clone or something. Turns out that it's the single best party game I've ever played. It's about a group of players, some of which are noble Resistance agents and some of which are loyalist spies for a tyrannical regime who are up to dastardly deeds, planted within the resistance cell to break up their plots. And it is epic. I mean, this is a game that can start a fistfight if you have the right people involved.
The object of the game depends on which side you're on, but the mechanics of it are astoundingly simple, yet novel. Resistance agents want to complete a series of missions where the loyalist agents want to sabotage them from doing so. This is handled by the player in the dealer position, which rotates per round, choosing a group of people to go on the mission, and then all players vote to agree on that squad.
If an affirmative vote is reached, the selected agents then vote, secretly, on whether the mission should succeed or fail via vote cards. If, though, consensus cannot be reached and no affirmative vote can be made on a team five consecutive times, the spies have immediately won and the resistance is crushed. But here's the even nastier part: If a team is successfully chosen, if a single failure vote comes up, the mission's been compromised and therefore fails. If three missions are successful, the tyranny is overthrown and the resistance wins, but if three failures occur, the spies win and the resistance is subjected to merciless torture and subsequent death by hanging. Or at least, that's how I envision it.
Let's talk about the box for a minute, though, because it's interesting to me that such a phenomenal game can come in such a small one. The box is very small, measuring perhaps 7 inches by four. The art is very nice, and definitely exudes a feeling of darkness. Once inside, you'll find a bunch of cards that are all cleanly illustrated with crisp text and a great sci-fi font. There's a small cardboard board, and some nice wooden tokens. Then, there's a diminutive rulebook that is both well-written and easy to understand. The last piece I should mention is a nice little insert to hold the cards in, and that's it.
In this day and age of seventy dollar, bloated, overproduced crap I am absolutely thrilled to see such an amazingly simple game, with good art but no plastic, that can be sold for twenty bucks and entertain a crowd of five to ten people. Better yet, it's not another picture matching game or word game to entertain the drunken simpletons at a frat party, oh no. This is a clever, devious game of cat and mouse, and those with a modicum of wit will be dying to play repeat games in the span of a night. With under an hour playtime, at a maximum, you really can't go wrong.
Onto gameplay, this game is simpler to play out than Snooki from Jersey Shore. To set it up, you simply place the small game board in the center of the table, segregate some cards, and then, depending on the amount of players involved, choose a set amount of agent cards, both resistance and mole, shuffle, and randomly hand out the cards.
Once you've done that, the players look at their cards, and then the dealer will ask all players to close their eyes. Now I know that there's the thought of the one invertebrate who needs to peek, and there's not much you can do about that, but in the six times I've played this, a simple "cheaters will be kicked in the dice bag" reprimand is enough to quell the bad actors. Once all eyes are closed, the dealer tells everyone that the traitors are to open their eyes, look around to make sure that they know who the spies are. They then close their eyes again, to keep up the facade, and all players then open their eyes to begin play.
As I mentioned, the game is incredibly simple, mechanically. The dealer, who is referred to as the leader, will select a variable amount of players to go on a mission. This amount depends both on how many players are in the game and which mission the players are undertaking. For example, in a five player game on the first mission, two agents are selected, but on the fifth mission, three agents sally forth. In a ten player game, three adventure onward on the first mission and five set out on the fifth. Suffice to say, the game scales well.
Once the leader chooses agents for the mission, all players must vote to accept them. This is done by secret ballot, and each player will hand in their vote to the leader, who will tally the votes. The majority wins, and in the case of ties, the vote fails. If the vote fails, the leader passes his responsibility to the next player, who will then do the same. If agreement can't be reached five times in a row, the game ends with the traitors victorious. If an agreement can be reached, though, the agents chosen set forth on their dubious mission of sabotage and spycraft.
The chosen agents will then secretly vote, again by card, and hand their cards to the leader. The leader will shuffle them to avoid clever, observant folks from noting the positions of the cards, and then will reveal them. If one solitary failure vote was played, the mission fails and the leader will place a spy victory token on top of the mission circle on the board, indicating they've stopped the resistance.
Play continues until either side has three victories, and the game ends with a clear winner being indicated. That's all there is to this game, again, on its face. The reality is that there is so much table talk, with people yelling at one another and accusations flying wholesale that with the right crowd, the cops may be called by a neighbor. With clever traitor players, playing success votes to obscure their identity and subtle manipulation of the perceptions of the other players, it can be a devilishly satisfying role to play.
Remember also that the traitors will potentially be leaders at one point in the game, and thus the opportunity to influence the game by voting against teams can be just as deadly to the resistance as being selected on a team and voting for failure. There are so many facets to the strategy of this game that the replayability is outstanding, and I literally am going to play this tonight with the Superfly Circus regulars, even though we played again on Wednesday. To put it bluntly, I absolutely adore this game.
I should go back to how I got this game, though. I emailed Indie Boards and Cards and asked them for a copy, and they were happy to oblige, but they had already run out of their initial 2,000 sets and had to await another printing. I bought it off of Ebay in the interim, and when the box arrived with the game I had actually forgotten I'd requested for review, I was delighted to see that it had not only been updated with a correction, it included the "The Plot Thickens" expansion! Let me get into that a little bit.
The expansion includes 15 cards that are to be given to players by the leader at the start of the game, with the amount of cards distributed depending on the amount of players. These cards introduce deeper mechanics such as allowing a player to look at an adjacent player's character card, which can be great for a traitor if you have a traitor sitting adjacent to you. Another devious card is the Establish Confidence card, which forces the leader to pass their card to any other player for examination. This can be useful for a spy to call out a known resistance agent, allowing the traitor to act surprised and feign that they were "sure he was a spy".
There's nine new cards in all, and each has its own effect on the game. Some cards must be played immediately, some may be played on demand for a one time effect, and others are permanent cards that, once played, remain in effect for the duration of the game.
In conclusion, the base game was outstanding, and the newly included expansion makes this an even better value. This game is better than Mafia and Werewolf by a large measure, and although its roots surely lie with those games, The Resistance is simply in a different league. I simply cannot envision a better value, since you can get the game for twenty bones, shipped, off of the BGG Marketplace or from virtually any FLGS for about the same. The short version is unless you can't assemble five people for a game, or are a socially inept basement dweller who recoils at the concept of a social game, this is a must-have game.
What Makes The Resistance Righteous:
- If there were more $20 games of this quality, the world would be a better place
- The art is quite good, with dark, thematic sci-fi elements
- This is simple to learn, but the depth of subterfuge available makes this truly brilliant
- Not many games support ten players, and even fewer are this much fun
- Can you say, "Free Expansion?"
Why The Resistance Fails Its Mission:
- The box is an odd size that can be a bit funky to find a spot for if you're an organizational nut
- This game really should be sleeved to avoid damage as the vote cards' secrecy is integral
- It may not suit everyone because not everyone has five friends
If you have a larger group or want to play a party game, this is absolutely a no-brainer. The only people who should not own this game are those who can't get five people to play with them, which is honestly a hard thing to do for some people. Barring that, if you don't get this game to the table, you're missing out, big time.
You can learn more about this little gem at Indie's website: http://www.indieboardsandcards.com/resistance.php
And if you just want to give it a shot, Board Game Exchange has this game in stock, in droves, right now to try before you buy!