Ridere, ludere, hoc est vivere.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Maybe Werewolf beats Resistance after all

I'd earlier blogged about my recent discovery of The Resistance and my initial impression that it must be better than Are You a Werewolf?  Well, now I'm not so sure, based on two days of family reunion gaming in which I introduced siblings, nieces, and nephews to both games and got some very unexpected reactions.

Image used by permission
of Indie Boards and Cards
First we tried two games of The Resistance (designer Don Eskridge, publisher Indie Boards and Cards), a social deduction game that I'd never played before but which I was convinced would be better than the more familiar Werewolf, particularly for the new crowd.  We found that the secret ballot process was a little clumsy, since we'd be constantly turning in votes, then turning in the unused vote cards, then redistributing them again, once or twice for every mission assignment.  But more to the point, in two games, the Resistance never successfully completed a mission.  In both games, the spies successfully sabotaged three consecutive missions.  Now, I don't know if that's a function of the experience of the players, in which we were invariably approving mission teams with spies in them, or a function of the play balance of the game itself.  So my intention later this week is to research what others have written about play balance in Resistance.

So then at my 15-year-old son's insistence, we switched to Werewolf (derived from the Dimitri Davidov designed Mafia, publisher Looney Labs).  I was worried about how the younger kids would react to the elimination aspect of the game, the killing theme, etc.  Oh, but that was not a problem.  Everybody jumped right into the spirit of the game.  My brother Pete was particularly enthusiastic.  I lost count of how many games of Werewolf we played over the two days.  The games were quite varied, too.  Sometimes we would leap right on the werewolves and eliminate them quickly.  Sometimes the wolves would make short work of the village.  And sometimes there would be long, convoluted debates over who was a wolf, or a seer, and why.  But I think everybody who played had a great time and kept asking to play again.  We even drew something of an audience at the picnic ground at one point.

(c) Looney Labs
Used by permission
So this experience begs the question:  Why did Werewolf turn out to be so much more popular with the family than Resistance?  Frankly, I think that there are two reasons: (1) We had an unfortunate early experience with Resistance appearing to be so lopsided after just two games, and (2) Werewolf really is an engaging, exciting game in its own right.  First, I do want to make sure we got the rules right; if so, I should revisit the play balance in Resistance, because that just seems so unlikely to be a common experience with a game that was so well-reviewed the first time I researched it.

How popular was this game with the family?  Well, my brother Brenden wants me to order a copy for him, and my brother Pete plans to order two copies - one for himself and one for his girlfriend, whose family apparently enjoys playing games.  I feel as though I should get some kind of discount from Looney Labs on my next order from them for all the business we generated...


  1. Okay, so I got a message on BoardGameGeek.com from a representative at Indie Boards and Cards that explains how we were playing The Resistance wrong:

    "Voting is not secret - mission cards are.

    "Voting is simultaneous reveal, everyone chooses how they vote then reveals at the same time so everyone can see how you voted. You keep your votes cards for the entire game."

    So in other words, it should not have been secret ballot to approve the team. Here the voting is much more similar, then, to Werewolf, where the way people vote can reveal their loyalties (or provide an opportunity to misdirect).

    So now that changes everything. We really should revisit The Resistance according to, you know, the rules, and see how things play out. I'll bet that makes the game much better.

  2. Re: Resistance. This suggestion won't help play balance, but might help the clumsiness factor. Have a few stacks of prebuilt cards for voting, and for missions. Assign a rotating player (like person to the left of the current leader) who collects the inbound vote cards, and shuffles them, eventually adding it to the prebuilt stack. Meanwhile, the leader can deal out one of the prebuilt stacks.

  3. That's actually a pretty good idea.