A game that I had never heard of until I innocently posted a Tweet looking for new games to try is The Resistance. After reading a review and looking into the game, I decided it would be a great one to buy and play in my office.
The Resistance comes with a base game and an expansion in the same box. I view this similarly to a simple and advanced ruleset. For the purposes of this post, I will be writing about the combined game that uses both, but I have played it both ways quite a few times and it is highly enjoyable either way - but be warned, once you start using the expansion, you will never want to go back.
In The Resistance, each player is dealt a loyalty card to determine if they are a member of the Resistance, or if they are a Spy. Based on this, they want their side to succeed on three of the five missions. Unfortunately, the Spies have an advantage - a single failure will fail an entire mission. To start each round, the Leader will draw cards from the "Plot" deck and hand them out to other players (this is what the expansion adds). These cards will allow players to look at other Loyalty cards, look at Mission cards as they are played, etc. After these cards have been handed out, the Leader will pick a set number of people to go on the Mission. Based on his selection, all the players will vote on whether or not they think that Mission should go ahead, or if the leadership should pass and another team should be assembled. Play continues in this way until either there is a successful vote or everyone has been the Leader and been voted down (which counts as a Spy victory). Next, the players that are on the Mission each get to select a single Mission card - either Pass or Fail. If a single Fail is played on the Mission (or two of them in certain situations based on the number of players), then the Mission is a failure (Spy success). Otherwise, with all Pass cards, the Mission is a success for the Resistance members. Next, if neither side has achieved three victories, then Leadership passes and a new round begins.
The first pro for The Resistance is that the game is a lot of fun. This is a very hard pro to measure and elaborate on, but some games just "click" and are a blast to play. The Resistance is one of those games. It is easily the best value for the money of any game that I have played in several years. The game retails at $20 (or $15 on Amazon), and I have played it dozens of times; it is highly addictive and only rarely is a game of The Resistance not enjoyable.
What's more, the game can easily be taught to anybody. I don't necessarily mean that it is appropriate for all age groups, but it could be taught to people that have never really played strategy board games, and they can quickly understand what is going on in the game - even becoming key contributors. I would especially see people that love bluffing games (such as Poker) loving this game (assuming that they love the bluffing and not the gambling aspect of Poker). I have taught this game to 90% of my office, many of which have never played "my kind of board games," and we haven't had any problems with people not understanding.
The third pro is that The Resistance truly gives you an immersive gameplay experience without taking a large amount of time. The game claims to be 30 minutes long, but I would say a typical game is anywhere from 15-30 minutes, depending on the number of accusations and distrust. Therefore, if you are looking for a game that you can play quickly when you need a break, The Resistance is a great choice - if everyone understands the time crunch, you can normally fit in a game in less than 20 minutes with no problems. I can't think of many other games that can be played so quickly and yet are engaging enough that you find people talking about the game hours after it has been played.
The final pro that I will mention for The Resistance is the depth of strategy that the game has simply because of the social interaction of the game. When you start playing the game, strategies will be fairly basic - if you're a Spy, fail every mission. After a few games, however, people will expect that, and so you will start passing some missions to throw people off of your trail. But then, people will realize that Spies are passing missions, and so they will start suspecting people, even though they have only ever passed missions! And the Plot cards (the expansion) add even more of this! Suddenly, when I reveal my Loyalty card to someone and they tell you something about me, you have to determine - are they lying, and both are Spies? Are they telling the truth and they're both Resistance? Are they telling the truth because they're a Spy and want you to think that they are Resistance? Why did that person decide to reveal their card to the other player in the first place, instead of to a different player? The paranoia factor in this game is off the charts, and I must say that though I doubted it to start with, it truly does capture the cylon feel of Battlestar Galactica incredibly well.
With all the pros, there are some minor cons to The Resistance. First, there will be (very rare) games in which only Loyal players are picked to go on missions. The first two games that I taught The Resistance to my friends saw this occur. We sent two players on the Mission, and it passed. So we sent them again and added a person - and it Passed. And the next Mission still only required three players, so we sent the same three - and it Passed; Game Over, Resistance wins (zero fun was had by all). This happened twice in a row! In the dozens of games I have played since then, I have only seen something like this occur one other time. When it does happen, it is quite annoying, but those games are incredibly few and far between.
The second con for The Resistance is that it definitely has a number of players in which it works best. With 7-8 players, the game is off the charts phenomenal. However, with less players (5-6), you are much more likely to run into the anomalous games that I mentioned in the last paragraph. With more than 8 players, you don't actually have to figure out who all of the Spies are to win (you have 6 Resistance members, but only send up to 5 players on any of the Missions). In fact, we actually started trying to play 9 player games with 5 Resistance and 4 Spies (the official rules state that it should be 6 Resistance and 3 Spies), because we felt that it was too easy. This doesn't mean that The Resistance can't be played with these numbers of players, or even that it's not fun - it just means that it isn't as fun.
The final thing that I must mention gets classified as a "point of note" instead of a con; you must be very careful with your Mission card vote versus your discard. We have had at least two situations in which all of the players thought that they had played a Pass card, and yet a Fail somehow occurred. I recommend that everyone holds the card that they are discarding in their hand until the votes are gathered up to be revealed. Whereas this is definitely a fault of the players and not of the game, it is something to make sure that you are careful about when playing the game.
Overall, I give The Resistance a 9.0/10. As I stated before, this game is easily the best value for the money of any game that I have bought in years - and possibly ever. Unless your group of friends truly hates social deduction games, or doesn't normally get up to 7 players, I would highly recommend that you pick up a copy of this game!
If you like betraying your friends, you might also check out Shadows Over Camelot, Mousquetaires du Roy, and Betrayal at House on the Hill. If you're looking for another opinion (in addition to the review I shared earlier), you might also check out this review of The Resistance from the Board Game Family.