Do you trust your friends? Next time you’re sitting across a game table from one, look into their eyes, they could be a spy, no they are a spy and they’re here to ruin your day. In fact they could all be spies, every single person around the table, but you know you’re one of the good guys and you need to root out the corruption at the heart of this game. And that, my friends, is the level of paranoia that The Resistance is all about.
The Resistance is a simple card game played between 5 and 10 players where each player is secretly assigned a role; whether that be an honourable member of the resistance, fighting for the just cause of overthrowing the tyrannical oppressive government; or a low and dirty government agent who has infiltrated the resistance and whose job it is to sabotage their efforts. The game is played out over five missions, with a select team of agents deciding on the outcome of each mission. Determining the mission’s success is accomplished via a secret vote amongst the team members and a single negative vote causes the mission to be sabotaged by those dastardly spies. The first team to sway three missions to their side wins.
Players take it in turn to act as leader and select the team for each mission. Players then discuss on the choices that the team leader has made. This is the best part of the game because the spies are aware of the identities of their teammates but the resistance members are unaware of every other player’s allegiance. What follows is a mix of deduction, bluffing and wild accusations as players attempt to determine the loyalty of the other players while diverting suspicion away from them. Players then have to vote on whether they accept the current team. The spies want to ensure that at least one spy is on the mission but the resistance are looking for a team with no spies. If the players fail to reach a consensus then the team is a failure, the role of leader is moved to the next player and the process restarts. If there are too many failed votes then the resistance is considered to be in disarray and the spies have won the game without having to sabotage a mission. As a spy player this is actually the most rewarding victory, knowing that you’ve sowed enough dissent and confusion that the resistance can no longer act as a team.
Playing as a resistance member is a game of deduction and confusion but playing as the spy is simply much more fun. Spies have to carefully balance the team make up, too many spies on the team and you risk outing all of you, but trying to communicate secretly across the table requires either a subtle use of eyebrow movements or telepathy. The inability for the spies to communicate is one of the most binding concepts of the game, it means they have to play carefully and work as a team, but somehow do this by instinct alone.
Don’t worry if you’re a resistance member and think you’re missing out on all the fun because The Resistance is a very quick game to play, with 20 minutes being a typical game. Its short game time and minimal components mean you can bring out the Resistance any time and is a great filler game if you’re part of a large gaming group.
Included in the game are also a set of optional plot cards that allow players to take actions outside of the simple voting. They could force a player to play all their cards face up, reveal their loyalty or change the current leader. These cards add a much needed level of complexity to those players who find the standard game too simplistic. They are essential towards the larger player count, as the number of players increases the job for the spies become much easier. Anything above 7 players and the resistance members will find it very difficult to oust all of the spies. These cards give players more options, and with several cards forcing players to reveal identity or playing openly, increase the information available to the resistance players. However, it is still possible for a good spy to use these cards to their advantage forcing players to become suspicious of their allies.
The Resistance is an absolute belter of a game and I’ve found it popular amongst players of a wide range of skill levels and ages. The game is so simplistic, in its components and rules, that it becomes more about the people around the table than it does about the game itself. Play this game with a couple of really good liars, and maybe the odd one or two terrible liars, and the game really does come alive.
The Resistance is unfortunately a victim of its own success. If I was writing this review five years ago when The Resistance was part of the new hotness then it would have been a stand out and unique experience. The problem is the game was such a big success that it’s spawned a multitude of copycats and successors. Even the creators of The Resistance have since created the Resistance Avalon and Coup, two games that have evolved the concept. If you’re new to this style of hidden information game, or you think a simpler game is more suitable for you and your friends, then The Resistance is a brilliant place to start and an essential game in your collection. The Resistance is a very simplistic game, component wise it’s a very small deck of cards. This simplicity makes it easy to learn, smooth to play and means that the game concentrates on the negotiation and guesswork. However, if you’ve already played something similar then The Resistance is going to seem one-dimensional.