The Resistance is a social deduction game that heavily depends on the group of people playing it. With the right group of people, it is a very entertaining game of accusations, betrayal, and deceit. With the wrong group of people, it falls flat as a random-feeling guessing game.
Basic stats: 5-10 players, ~30 minutes, ages 13+
The Resistance is published by Indie Boards & Cards and was designed by Don Eskridge and developed by Travis Worthington.
The premise of the game is that the players are members of a resistance group attempting to overthrow an evil government. But a few of those resistance members are actually government spies attempting to sabotage the resistance. At the beginning of the game, players are randomly assigned roles as “good” resistance members or “bad” spies.
The resistance members get blue role cards with the resistance fist symbol on them. The spies get red role cards with a symbol that looks a little like a target. Players peek at their roles at the beginning of the game, but the roles are kept secret throughout the game.
Before the game starts, all players close their eyes, then the spies open their eyes and identify the other spies, and then everyone closes and reopens their eyes. It helps if everyone makes lots of noise and movement during this eye closed time so that the resistance members can’t tell which players are looking around to find their fellow spies.
There are always more resistance members than there are spies. In a five or six player game, there are two spies. In a seven, eight, or nine player game, there are three spies. And in a ten player game, there are four spies. Although the spies are outnumbered, they have the advantage of knowing each other, while the resistance members are in the dark and have to suspect everyone, including their fellow resistance members.
The goal of the resistance members is to succeed on three missions against the government. The goal of the spies is to fail at least three of those missions. The group can go on a maximum of five missions, but sometimes one side wins before the fifth mission happens. In most missions, it takes only one spy to fail the mission. In a game with seven or more players, the fourth round requires that two spies fail the mission in order for the mission to fail.
During the game, players take turns being the team leader and proposing a team to go on a mission. There is a special card to mark the team leader, and the leader proposes a team by putting mission cards in front of the proposed team members. The main problem I have with this game’s components is that there are too many cards and their meaning isn’t instinctively clear. It is a little confusing and makes it difficult to tell who is the leader or who is on the proposed team.
Eventually, we started using different markers instead of cards to show the team leader and the proposed team members. The last time we played, we used the black marker, which I think is meant to show what mission number we are on, to mark the leader. And we used gold pieces from my Incan Gold game to show the proposed team members. That worked pretty well, so I am going to try to fit some flat glass marbles in the game box to use for marking team members.
Different missions require a different number of team members. For example, in a six player game, mission #1 requires two team members, mission #2 requires three, mission #3 requires four, mission #4 requires three, and mission #5 requires four.
After the leader proposes a team for a mission, all players vote yes or no on the mission team. If half or more of the group rejects the mission, that mission does not move forward, and the next person becomes the team leader and proposes a new team for that mission. If the group votes down five proposed teams in a row, the spies win, so the group can’t reject missions an unlimited number of times.
Because each player gets a pair of mission approval and rejection cards and also a pair of mission success and failure cards, it can be confusing to keep track of which cards are used for which purpose. To help us remember, we started calling the white and black mission approval and rejection cards the “go” and “no go” cards. And we call the blue and red mission success and failure cards the “pass” and “fail” cards. The pass and fail cards only get used if you are put on a mission that gets approved.
If you are playing with a group of people who are really getting into the game, as soon as a mission is proposed, or sometimes even before a leader proposes a mission, the group starts discussing it. For example, the group might encourage the leader to choose certain people for the mission. And after the team is proposed, the group can discuss and try to convince others to approve or reject that team.
The group then votes by placing their “go” or “no go” cards face down in front of them. When everyone has voted, the cards are flipped over and the group gets to see how everyone voted and whether the mission was approved.
The spies in the group want to make sure that spies get included in the mission, so that they can fail it. It’s very tricky as a spy to keep your story straight and lie to the other players. It’s also important for the spies not to be too openly supportive of each other, since if one spy gets found out, that could mean the others get found out, too.
As a resistance member, you can use some logic based on how other players voted and on which mission teams succeeded and failed. You can also try to read the behavior of your other players to try to determine whether they are being honest or deceitful.
If you are a resistance member and you see that all of the players approved a mission team, you know that is a bad sign, because it means the spies liked that mission. But by then, of course, it’s too late to stop it. It seems like a good idea for resistance members to vote down many of the missions to see how other players vote and to see what they say and how they act.
Without voting down some of the mission teams, it’s difficult for resistance members to get information. Being chosen for a team is a very good way to get information, since you know how you voted and have a better insight into what others on the mission did. For example, if you are the team leader, you often may want to put yourself on the mission, so that you can narrow down the other pass or fail cards to just one or two other people who were on the mission.
If a majority of the group approves the mission, it goes forward and those players then vote on the mission success or failure by passing their pass or fail card face down to the team leader. The team leader then mixes the cards together without looking at them, and then lays them face up for all to see. If a fail card is included, that means a spy was on the mission and it failed. (Unless you are in a seven player or more game in round #4–then you need two fail cards to fail the mission.)
Resistance members MUST always vote to pass the mission. Spies get to choose whether to pass or fail the mission. Sometimes, spies pass an early mission in order to gain the trust of the resistance members, so that they can get on more missions and fail them.
After the mission success or failure is determined, all of the pass/fail cards are put in a pile face down and mixed together, and then new pairs of cards are distributed back out, to protect the identities of the voters. This is a little awkward and detracts a little from the game. I think maybe we’ll figure out a more efficient way to handle this.
It can be very tricky for the spies if more than one spy gets put on an approved team. If both spies fail the mission, that provides a LOT of information for the resistance members. They then know not to trust that group of people from that mission team, and it’s much easier to deduce who the spies are.
But if there is one spy on the mission along with a couple of resistance members, it’s easier for the spy to deflect the blame onto one of the innocent resistance members instead. If two spies somehow end up on the same mission, they can try to communicate with each other in some sort of non-suspicious way in order to determine which of them should fail the mission.
For example, I was once a spy choosing a team, and my fellow spy said in a totally innocent way, as if he were a resistance member, that I could trust him to pass the mission. I then knew that if I put him on the mission, he would pass it and I would need to be the one to fail it. Nobody suspected any funny business, the mission was approved, and I failed it while my fellow spy passed it.
I think it is fascinating and a lot of fun to find out how people decide who to trust when they are resistance and how to behave when they are spies. It is pretty stressful to be a spy, because you have all the information but need to act like you are confused and struggling to understand what’s going on. It’s also tough to be resistance, because there is so much that you don’t know, and it’s hard to figure out who you can trust.
I tend to like games with secret roles and hidden information, and I like games that encourage lots of talking and discussion. But I have played this game with some people who didn’t like it as much because it feels confusing to be a resistance member and difficult to figure out how to identify the spies.
The first couple of games I played were with a group of eight people, and we didn’t know yet how to strategize as resistance members to identify the spies, so the spies won each time and the resistance members felt like they didn’t have much of a chance. I then played a few rounds with groups of five at work, and we started to figure out how to identify the spies, although it still isn’t easy.
We even had a game where the resistance won, because on the fifth round, one of the resistance members had started to figure out that two of us were not acting quite as confused as the others and were making decisions too easily. He was right! And the resistance won that one.
But the spies still seem to have an edge. I noticed that when I am a resistance member, I get a little rattled when I am accused of being a spy, and it sometimes distracts me from what should probably be obviously suspicious behavior going on among the spies.
In the last game we played, I was resistance and eventually I and another resistance member had a pretty strong sense of who the other resistance and spies were, but one of the resistance members was fooled by the spies and they ended up winning. But it was actually a fairly close call in that one, so I think our resistance members are getting a little better at figuring things out.
My copy of the game also came with an expansion called The Plot Thickens, but I haven’t tried it yet. It looks like it will be very helpful to the resistance members though, and it might help to even the playing field a bit. There are cards that let you peek at another player’s role, cards that let you veto an approved mission, etc.
I think it may help to give a pros/cons list of the features I like and don’t like about the game.
- With the right group, leads to lots of arguing, accusing, and laughing.
- Leaves you with funny memories of attempts at betrayal.
- I have just as much fun whether my team wins or loses.
- Lets you team up in crime (or innocence) with other players, which can be fun.
- Nobody gets eliminated, so even if you are a spy who gets found out, you still have an impact in the game. You might not get chosen for missions, but you can still muddy the waters and get to vote on mission approval/rejection.
- It’s difficult to be completely sure that someone is a spy. Or even if you personally are sure, it can be tough to convince your other resistance members of it.
- Can accommodate a pretty big group of people, from five to ten players.
- Some players get stressed out when they are spies and have to lie to everyone.
- With the wrong group, can be confusing and boring.
- Can be difficult to predict how long it will take, since it depends so much on the amount of discussion and the number of rejected mission teams.
- When the group is still learning, the game feels weighted in favor of the spies. It can be difficult to get other people to push past that stage and play more rounds if they aren’t convinced that the game will eventually be more balanced and fun.
- The components include so many cards with non-instinctive symbols on them that it’s difficult for new players to figure out what they all mean. And the cards meant to mark the leader and mission team don’t stand out enough.
- It’s awkward how all of the mission pass/fail cards need to get mixed together and redistributed after a mission pass/fail vote in order to protect the identify of the people who voted.