Ridere, ludere, hoc est vivere.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Poor Man's Resistance

I stumbled upon a review of The Resistance and immediately thought two things:
(1) this game of hidden identity and "social deduction" should beat Are You a Werewolf? hands down (no small feat, since I'm a huge Werewolf fan) and
(2) this game can be played easily with a small subset of a normal deck of cards.

The game is designed for five to ten players.  Players secretly determine their identities as rebels (attempting to conduct missions) or spies (attempting to sabotage the rebels' efforts) as follows:  From a normal deck of cards, select a number of face cards equal to the number of players such that a third of the cards (rounded up) are red face cards and the remainder are black face cards.  Shuffle the selected face cards and deal them face down, one to each player.  Each player looks at his or her face card to determine whether he or she is a rebel (black) or spy (red).  These secret identity cards remain face down in front of the players for the remainder of the game.

One player is randomly selected as the leader.  Players shield their eyes so that no one can see any of the others.  The leader announces, "spies reveal," and the spies (only) open their eyes and look to see who their fellow spies are.  The leader announces, "spies hide," and the spies close their eyes.  The leader announces "everyone open," and all players open their eyes and begin the game.  By this procedure, all spies should know who all the spies are (and therefore who all the rebels are), whereas each rebel knows only his own identity.  Unlike Werewolf, this is the only occasion in the game when it will be necessary for players to cover their eyes.

The remainder of the game consists of a series of missions.  For each mission, the leader assigns several players to participate in the mission.  The number of people that the leader assigns depends on both the number of players in the game and the mission number to be executed; it varies from two to three players (in the first attempted mission) to three to five players (in the fifth attempted mission) and can be discerned in the table appearing in an image of the gameboard posted on boardgamegeek.

Once the mission team has been selected, players vote openly whether to approve or disapprove the selected mission team.  [Edited for correctness.  In my original post, I mistakenly indicated that the vote to approve or disapprove the mission team was done by secret ballot. - PDO]

If the mission team has been disapproved, the mission is aborted, the role of leader rotates one player to the left, and play resumes as above with the new leader assigning a new mission team to be voted on again by all the players.  (Note that the aborted mission does not "count" as an attempted mission, so the number of players on the mission team does not change.)  If five consecutive missions are aborted, then the game is over, and the spies win.

If the mission team has been approved, then the mission team members (only) each get one red non-face card and one black non-face card.  From these two cards, each mission team member secretly selects a card to execute (black) or sabotage (red) the mission.  Each mission team member turns in his vote face-down to the leader, who shuffles the votes and then turns them face up to determine whether the mission succeeds (all black) or fails (at least one red).  There is an exception to the requirements for a successful mission:  In games of at least seven players, on the fourth mission only, at least two sabotage (red) votes are required to cause a mission to fail.

If this was the third successful mission, then the game is over, and the rebels win.  If this was the third failed mission, then the game is over, and the spies win.  Otherwise, the role of leader rotates one player to the left, and play resumes as above with the new leader assigning a new mission team to be voted on by all the players.

The brilliance of this game relative to Werewolf is that it requires no referee (i.e. everybody gets to play) and - most important to me - does not eliminate players over the course of the game.  Also nice is that it is only necessary for players to cover their eyes once at the beginning of the game to allow spies to identify one another (unlike Werewolf, which requires players to close their eyes in every round).

The reviews I have read and seen are quite exciting, and I look forward to trying this game out with a decent-sized group.

I should add that the original game comes with a small expansion set of cards that provide the leader with some additional "powers" to make the game more interesting, so there's motivation for buying the game regardless.


  1. Interesting concept.

    What confused me and required me to read it a couple times is I mentally imagined rebels vs. the government, where the gov't would be more numerous (doesn't help that as a child of the cold war, rebels tend to be associated with Marxists who tend to be associated with red), and the rebels would be the saboteurs. The word "rebel" by its nature is generally a challenge to authority, and it seems odd for the "rebels" to be the status quo.

    I assume the objective is for the player's faction to win, not necessarily for the player to be the leader when his faction wins.

    I'm not sure how, if at all, the spies can work together. I have a suspicion the game would devolve to become a bit like Mastermind. A great game as a child, but then one eventually develops an algorithm for it, is able to win every time, and it becomes just a complicated exercise.

  2. Yes, the theme can be confusing - good guys vs. bad guys, rebels vs. government, team vs. sabateur ...

    And yes, the objective is to win as a faction (not as an individual).

    But no, as it actually plays, there is a lot of personality in the game. It's not a strict logic puzzle like Mastermind. I'm not an experienced player, but I understand that people develop styles of play and methods for spies to "anticipate" how to vote.

  3. I should add that I subsequently got a copy of The Resistance: Avalon when I Kickstarted Coup, so I no longer need to fake it with a deck of cards.