The Resistance: Avalon
How well do you really know your friends?
In The Resistance: Avalon, your skills will be put to the test as you try and figure out who among you is lying about their allegiances.You are loyal servants of Arthur, ensuring the safety of the realm through quests handed down by the king himself. Your band of adventurers have set out, unaware that the evil minions of Mordred are hidden in your party, ready to sabotage your plans. It is up to you, be you servant of Arthur or Mordred, to fulfill your master's wishes.
For the loyal knights of Arthur, success is your only option. You know not who among you is evil, so you must keep a watchful eye on your companions and try to deduce who is lying and who is telling the truth. Evil is not easily found: they appear to be good and must try to keep their identity secret. Arthur, in his great wisdom, sent along his court wizard, Merlin, disguised as an ordinary knight. Merlin knows who is evil, but he must take care to keep his identity a secret, as his unmasking would spell utter defeat for the forces of good. He must walk the tightrope between truth and deception and hope that his fellow knights can decode his riddles, or else he will watch helplessly as the party tears itself apart through infighting and mistrust.
The Resistance: Avalon is a game of social deduction. Over the course of 5 missions, you must discuss, argue, and work out the loyalties of the other players. At the beginning of the game, role cards are handed out. A majority of you are the good servants of Arthur; a few are the evil minions of Mordred. Each turn, the leader of the party must pick between 2 and 5 players to go on the quest. After the players are chosen, the group votes to accept or reject the chosen group, based on how much they trust the players involved. If it's approved, the group goes on the quest; if not, the leader token is passed clockwise and a new group is chosen. Time is ticking, though: reject five groups in one turn, and evil wins. In the midst of all this chaos is Merlin, Arthur's court wizard. Merlin has the unique boon of knowing who is evil, which gives him a leg up on party selection. Merlin is free to share his knowledge with the good party, but beware - if the evil players figure out who Merlin is by the end of the game, they win, even if good has completed their quests. As such, Merlin is one of the most fun roles to play, but also one of the most stressful. Walking the fine line between solid leadership and feigned ignorance is a tough task for any player. A properly utilized Merlin can clinch the game for good, but an underused or obvious Merlin can throw the whole game to the wind.
Once the quest has begun, each player in the quest is given a card reading "success" and a card for "failure". Good players can only pick success, but evil players have a choice of either success or fail. An evil player can choose to allow a quest to succeed if they feel that gaining the group's trust is worth more than a victory. Good players have to choose their party carefully: if there is even a single failure vote, the quest will not succeed. Three successes or three failures overall will win the game for good and evil, respectively.
Social deduction is one of my favorite game mechanics. The endless variability of human behavior gives social deduction games infinite replayability. Watching your nicest friends turn into conniving, backstabbing monsters is incredible. It's also incredibly easy to introduce social deduction mechanics to new gamers - sit them down, tell them not to trust anyone yet, and they'll get the picture immediately. Avalon can get a bit more complicated with the special role cards, but in my experience, non-gamers will figure it out in a game or two. Avalon might be the most perfectly balanced game I have played: without the optional special roles, good and evil are both perfectly equipped to win from the beginning. It all comes down to the skill of the players on each team. The art design is gorgeous and the components are good quality - the heavy chipboard on the vote tokens were a nice touch. Avalon can be played with 5-10 players and offers some gameplay diversity through a variety of special character cards and optional rules. Each game takes 30 minutes to 1 hour, depending on party size, making it a fun, quick game for any social gathering. If you like games like Mafia, Werewolf, or other social games, you'll love Avalon. If you're scared of getting in touch with your evil side... I guess Chutes and Ladders is more your speed. If you're ready to serve the king, get a copy here.
- Charlie, "Loyal" "Servant" of "Arthur"