Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Resistance: Avalon Review

Resistance: Avalon
  • Designed by Don Eskridge
  • Published by Indie Boards and Cards
  • For 5-10 players, ages 13+
  • Playtime is around 20 minutes.
You are a knight of the round table who is attempting to go on quests and figure out who the traitors are.  Unless you're a traitor, in which case you are trying to fail quests and place blame on others.  Avalon is a game of deduction and bluffing.  Evil is around you, and your job is to figure it out before the kingdom is lost forever.

There will be a mix of traitors and loyal knights at the round table.  How many depends on the number of players, but typically it's one less than half the group.  At the start of the game, everyone is given a role card.  There are some generic loyal and traitor knights, but there are also some special characters which I'll discuss in a bit.  Once everyone looks at their card, a player will conduct the opening of the game by having everyone put their heads down and then traitors will look up and see each other.  Then they go back to sleep, but they place a thumb up in the center of the table.  At this point, Merlin(a good guy) wakes up and sees who all the evil players are, but no one sees him.  (Various other characters can add to this, but I won't discuss them here.)

Then the game begins.  The starting player nominates the number of players for the first quest (this varies based on player count) and all knights vote to approve or reject the team.  Since this is the round table, everyone has an equal voice and majority rules.  If a team is rejected, then the crown passes to the next player who nominates a new team.  If a team is approved, then those players go on a quest.

Typical roles for a 5 player game
On a quest, each player is given a Success and a Fail card.  If a player is loyal, they MUST play success.  If a player is a traitor, they have the option of playing success (deep cover) or playing a fail.  These cards are placed in the center and mixed up.  If there is even one fail, the quest fails.  The only way to succeed is if all cards are a success.  This continues until one side has won 3 quests.

At this point you're thinking that this sounds pretty simple, and that Merlin has a huge advantage.  Well, you're right on both counts.  The counter to Merlin is that at the end of the game, if the loyal knights are victorious, then the traitors have a chance to assassinate Merlin.  If they guess correctly, then they win instead.  The counter to the game being simple is that player interaction makes the game insanely messy and complicated in a good way.

Avalon is one of the, if not the best example of an interactive game.  Everyone knows a part of the puzzle.  Spies and Merlin know the whole thing, but they can't convey their knowledge without giving something away.  Every single action you perform in this game tells a little something about who you are.  Who you send on teams when you're the leader is vitally important, but so is the way you approve or reject teams.  Then there's the way you talk to other players.  There's a lot of group think, but you can never rely on it because you never know who's on your side.  I'm a very vocal player in this game, which is great when I'm Merlin or a spy, but terrible when I'm a normal good person.  Still, I have to be the same vocal person every time.  Because I'm very vocal, and because I'm a very logical thinker, I have a lot of persuasion power over people.  Someone once said I could convince a loyal knight that they were a traitor.  I don't think I can quite do that, but the idea is there.  I once gave a completely logical argument to Player A as to why I wasn't a spy and Player B was.  Player A believed me, and yes, you guessed it, I was a spy.  Those are the moments this game provides.

Avalon is reasonably themed.  I enjoy Arthurian lore, so the game is a fit for me.  This is a rethemed version, with additions, of The Resistance.  I bought the Resistance in 2012, and it fell flat.  It wasn't bad, but it just didn't grab anyone.  Avalon captured people's attention and imagination.  Having traitors in your midst provides tension to the game, but not so much that it makes people overly anxious.  I think the short playtime really helps with that balance.

Pile of components in the game.
A lot in a small box.
Very simple components here.  Everyone has an approve and reject token, there are loyalty cards, boards for the different player counts, and success/fail tokens to mark the results of past quests.  They're all solid and functional components.  I am noticing some wear on my approve and reject tokens, but that's not a huge issue.

Learning Curve
I think that almost anyone could learn this game with just the rules, but it probably takes a play to see how things work.  For some it may take more to feel comfortable enough with all that's going on, and to play all the different roles, before they really grasp the game.

I've already played 23 games in the 2 months or so that I've owned the game.  This almost always gets played at my biweekly Friday night gamenight, and we play at least 3 times.  I want to play this game even more than I already do.  There's something new every time I play, even when everyone has exactly the same roles they've already had.

Why I like Resistance: Avalon
This gives me a reason to flex my analytical muscle.  I love trying to figure out the puzzle.  It forces me to talk and organize things, but also to slide into the background at times.  I enjoy playing this game with any role, though Merlin is the most fun for me and loyal servant is the most challenging.

Why I don't like Resistance: Avalon
It really takes a group of people who are either comfortable with each other, or players who are willing to make wild accusations to keep the game interesting.  If everyone just does their own thing, the game can be boring.

All of the roles (From L to R, Top then Bottom)
Normal evil, Mordred, Assassin, Oberon, Morgana
Normal good x3, Percival, Merlin
If you couldn't tell from the above that I really really like this game, then you probably just skipped down here.  In all seriousness, this is a huge keeper for me, and it may do shocking things when my top games list comes out in January.

Some people call this a Werewolf/Mafia knockoff/clone/variant.  It's true to a very small extent, but here's why I like The Resistance better.  You don't need a moderator, which let's everyone play.  It also has no player elimination, which keeps everyone involved the entire time.  Sure, you can have a spy outed really early, but there's always the chance that they can try to work their way into good graces again, whereas in Mafia/Werewolf, once they're lynched they're gone forever.

Would it be a good game for Tabletop?
Sure, they already did normal Resistance, why not throw in Avalon?

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