It might be telling of my board-gaming group that we seem to prefer games with a healthy element of treachery. For the longest time, Battlestar Galactica filled that need. The game even started to leak into other aspects of our gaming. A couple rounds of Murder on the PC can quickly start accusations of so-and-so being a Cylon. Because let’s be honest – it’s always much more fun to be the Cylon.
The same mentality extends – in aces – to the board-game The Resistance. I say board-game loosely. If I were being truthful, the game is really more of a simulation of how to quickly lose friends. It combines all of the backstabbing needs of Galactica down to a thirty-minute game-time and has already replaced the aforementioned title as our board-game-of-choice when we feel the need to plant a dagger into a friendly back.
So how does it work?
The Resistance requires a fairly sizable group of gamers. Choose wisely, because about a third of the players you bring to the table will become backstabbing fiends right at the start. This is determined by a draw of cards:
- Blue card, you’re part of the Resistance fighting against an evil, overreaching government. Or Dictator. Or pastor. Or Cub Scoutmaster, hard to say and not really important. All that matters is that you’re the underdog. The Rebellion. The FireFlies. Those fighting against Big Brother, or whatever you want your oppressive governing body to become.
- Red card, you’re a spy that has infiltrated this upstart little band of terrorists, and it’s your job to undermine everything they do.
Once everyone has their identity, the game begins in earnest.
A mission leader is chosen by whatever means the players deem best, and it is this person’s job to organize a team of players to go on the first mission. The context of these missions are intentionally left fuzzy. Maybe it’s to bomb a military convoy. Or perhaps steal weapons from a depot. Or, maybe, it’s to go spike the fruit punch at the Scout Jamboree. Whatever. The game doesn’t say, and it’s – again – not important and best left to the imagination.
What is important is the result of this mission. Everyone that goes on this and any mission is dealt two cards – success and failure. They secretly choose one card and put it in the mission pile, which is then shuffled to preserve anonymity. The cards are then revealed to the group.
Each game is composed of five missions. Majority wins. If the spies undermine 3 missions, then the Resistance falls. If the Resistance wins 3 missions, then your Big Brother analogue falls. If even a single “failure” card is in the mission deck, then that mission fails.
Yeah. I’m sure you can already see where this game is going.
So much of this game is going to be spent at the table pointing fingers or eyeballing your fellow players. Every word said is analyzed. Every vote or decision made remembered. History will be brought up time and again. Well, why are you suggesting these three people go this time when, last time, those two people went and the mission succeeded? The game can so quickly bog down into rampant suspicion and distrust.
And that’s what makes this game beautiful.
The Resistance‘s simplicity is a very admireable trait of the game. There are very few actual mechanics to this game. Nothing to truly even fight for – heck, there’s not even a roll of the dice or any actual board-game combat! There’s nothing to see in this game except a few cards, a couple cardboard cutouts, and those five Success and Failure tokens representing the outcome of each “mission”.
And yet, I find myself incredibly invested in every single round. Getting put on a mission as a spy is exhilerating, knowing that you hold the balance to the game in your palm. And vice-versa, seeing that FAIL card appear when you, yourself, organized a mission party and you realize that someone you trusted to be on your team is a dirty, backstabbing traitor…
I would heartily recommend The Resistance to any group of gamers that enjoy the suspense of knowing there are traitors in your midst, or to players that very much enjoy the act of driving daggers into their buddies backs. The Resistance is a very quick game, and yet very few other board-games offer the level of distrust, suspicion, and utterly filthy backstabbery that this one delivers.
Try it out. But trust no one. Unless I’m the spy, of course. Then you can totally trust me…