The Resistance is a wonderful game of deduction, bluffing and betrayal (you can read my full review here). Now, Indie Boards & Cards has released two new games in the same vein: Coup, a sequel of sorts to The Resistance, and Avalon, a riff on The Resistance set in King Arthur's court. How do they measure up to the original? Let's take a look.
In Coup, two to six players take on the role of the evil future corporate leaders, all seeking to undermine their opponents. Each player receives two face-down “influence” cards, each with its own abilities, and two coins. On a player's turn, he must take an action. He can play it safe and simply take one coin from the bank, or can try to take two, though if another player claims to hold the Duke card, the phasing player won't get any.
Additionally, players can claim that they have any character card and take its action. The Duke also allows players to take three coins; the Captain allows a player to steal two coins from another and block players attempting to steal from him; the Ambassador allows players to change their cards, or block stealing like the Captain; the Assassin allows players to pay three coins and attempt to eliminate one of their opponents' influence cards; and the Contessa blocks assassination attempts.
Once a player has seven coins, he can mount a coup, essentially destroying an opponents' influence card in a manner that can't be blocked. If ever a player holds 10 coins, he must mount a coup.
When a player says he holds a certain influence card, before he takes the action, any other player can challenge him. If the phasing player did not have that card, he loses an influence card. If the phasing player did indeed have the card he claimed to have, he reveals it, and the challenging player loses an influence card. The phasing player then discards his card and draws a new one from the deck.
The last player left with an influence card wins the game.
There is a whole lot of game in the little box of Coup. Because players only ever have a maximum of two influence cards, every game of Coup is fast and intense. Players must constantly be aware of how many coins their opponents have, because no one wants a coup launched against them. At the same time, you will need to walk a careful tightrope between playing your actual cards and bluffing. At one time or another, you will need the action from all the cards you don't have, but knowing when to bluff is crucial.
Just as important is knowing when to challenge an action. A player recklessly claiming many different types of cards is just begging for a challenge, or is it a ploy to knock out one of your cards?
A worthy successor to The Resistance, Coup will have you and your friends on the edge of your seats and laughing uncontrollably with every game.
Coup generally plays in about 10 to 15 minutes and is recommended for ages 13 and up.
The basics of Avalon are essentially the same as The Resistance, though the medieval court of Camelot provides the setting. Five to 10 players take on the roles of those loyal to King Arthur, or the evil Minions of Mordred. Players are assigned character cards randomly, and no one knows who is who.
Over the course of the game, a rotating team leader will pick a number of players to go on missions, and all players will vote on whether they accept the chosen team, forcing players to consider each others' loyalties very carefully. When the team is accepted, the members secretly play success or fail cards, with the good players playing success, and the evil players playing fail or success to fool other players. If one fail card appears, the mission is a failure. With a total of five missions, the first side to complete three missions wins the game.
Sound familiar? Well, this isn't just a simple re-theming of The Resistance. There is an important mechanical difference.
One of the good players is Merlin, and one of the evil players is the Assassin. At the beginning of the game, Merlin knows who the evil players are and must use his knowledge to convince the other good players. The problem is, the other good players don't know who Merlin is and may well mistake his entreaties as an evildoer's deception.
Additionally, Merlin may not identify himself as Merlin and must be careful not to let others know his identity. If the good side wins three missions, the Minions of Mordred still have one chance left. If the Assassin can guess the identity of Merlin, evil wins the game.
Avalon adds a fun new twist to an already wonderful game mechanic. Now, not only must the evildoers bluff in the game, the good Merlin character must also obfuscate in order to conceal his identity. Additionally, players can use optional rules to add more characters to the mix, each with their own ability.
Tension builds as one must constantly look beyond the missions in an attempt to discern the identity of Merlin. Evildoers must find out who he is as it may be their only chance to win. The good characters must try to reason out who Merlin is in order to heed his counsel, and Merlin must remain in the shadows, giving careful, subtle hints to his allies.
A fantastic game that should find a home on every gamer's shelf, Avalon may well be the definitive version of The Resistance. Avalon plays in about 30 minutes and is recommended for ages 13 and up.
Cody K. Carlson holds a master's degree in history from the University of Utah and currently teaches at SLCC. He has also appeared on many local stages, including Hale Centre Theatre and Off Broadway Theatre. Email: email@example.com