Five people eye each other suspiciously around a table. Three are underground resistance fighters plotting to bring down a corrupt government. Two are spies, known to each other through a secret code passed between them at the start of the meeting. The regime must be brought to its knees, but how can the freedom fighters prevent a spy sabotaging their missions? This is the mind-melting crux of The Resistance, and it has taught my group of friends one valuable truth – I am comfortably the worst spy in the entire world.
The Resistance has so much going for it I barely know where to begin. It is fast. It is hilarious. It will make your brain hurt. The board is tiny. You can play it in the pub. It’s earth-shatteringly CHEAP and even if you’ve lived your whole life on an island where the only game is throwing coconuts at seagulls you’ll have picked the game up within minutes. I am copyrighting Coconut Gull Cull by the way so don’t get any ideas.
Everyone thinks they would be a good spy. Everyone. Let me tell you this – it is a nightmare. Thankfully so is attempting to root them out from a group of your friends when any one of them could be a traitor, despite all of their forthright assurances they are on your side. Oh GOD just thinking about is making my palms sweat, which normally only happens when I’m up tall buildings or drop all my coins on the floor when trying to pay for supermarket shopping.
The lightweight core of The Resistance is that each player takes turns choosing a set number of colleagues to go with them on ‘missions’ – with each simply choosing a ‘success’ or ‘fail’ card in secret once a team has been approved. A single ‘fail’ and the mission is toast. Succeed three out of the five missions spells doom for the creepy near-future government – fail three and the spies have crushed the goody-two-shoes uprising under a well-tailored futuristic boot.
The problem, as ever in the covert intelligence game, is information. As a resistance player in the early turns you are hopelessly isolated, faced with a whole table of people all swearing blind they are not spies and imploring you to choose them to make the mission succeed. The only option is to attempt to read visual clues, play through a couple of missions and hope to use deduction to winkle out the bad eggs. The spies are not much better off, but at least they know who is on their side from the start – every player is told to shut their eyes, and the spies then get to open theirs to discover their black-hearted allies (two in the minimum-sized five player game, going up to four for the maximum ten players). Their problems come in attempting to repeatedly persuade others they should be picked for missions, as the finger of suspicion will be on them during each failed mission they are involved in.
As in perennial spy favourite poker, bluffing is the key, and occasionally allowing a mission to succeed can reap wonders for the spies by forcing the resistance players to turn on their own number. Each player can approve or reject their choice of personnel for a mission, with the majority vote deciding the result, but a stalemate of five vetoed teams in a row means failure for the resistance and a sexy party for the government agents.
Let me reiterate: I was utterly hopeless. Of the five games we played yesterday I was only on the winning team once. I was completely convinced in two of the games that we couldn’t possible lose in the final round, only to watch in disbelief as a fail card was turned over and our band of freedom fighters crumbled. I spent my resistance games furiously reiterating my noble qualities, and when the spy card came up for me I knew I would be subtle, conniving and easily bring down the rebel team. But as one of my friends pointed out this just involved me going really quiet, meaning the game was up for me almost straight away. DAMN!
Oh yes, and the second edition game currently on sale comes with a full expansion called The Plot Thickens, which throws new cards into play each round allowing players to do things like secretly look at another person’s identity, make themselves leader or automatically veto a mission vote. These add a whole new dimension to the game, but don’t make rooting out the spies as straightforward as you might think. You play a card and find a spy! Does anyone believe you? Of course not. And so the shouting continues.
The game is a doddle to pick up, but even so developers Indie Boards and Cards have made a handy instruction video to get you up to speed as quickly as possible. I bought my copy from the lovely Paul Lister at BoardGameGuru.co.uk, but as ever your friendly local game shop, Amazon or eBay are worth a look. Now go! I’m off to cut eyeholes in a newspaper and sit around coffee shops rooting out traitors to the state.
Liked this review did you? Eh? Please share it around on Facebook and Twitter and such, it’s a massive help.
Why not follow us on social media too? You can:
You could also click on the hearts on our Boardgamelinks page, that would be swell.