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Co-op Case Study: The Resistance

Publisher: Indie Boards & Games (2010)
Cooperative Style: Hidden Teams
Play Style: Voting


In The Resistance players are secretly divided into one team of rebels and one team of spies. Though the spies know which team everyone is on, the rebels do not.

Gameplay centers on missions that are assigned by a rotating leader. Each leader chooses a fraction of the players around the table to join the mission. The players then openly vote whether to OK the members for the mission. Once a mission has been OKed, its members secretly vote to determine whether the mission succeeds or fails — and a single act of sabotage causes the mission to fail!

The rebels are trying to succeed at three missions before the spies cause three missions to fail.

Cooperative System

Most hidden teams games divide their play into two parts: deduction gameplay where players figure out who their teammates are and action gameplay where the teammates then try to work together. The Resistance offers an interesting change: each of the two teams tend to focus on just one side of this equation.

For rebels, The Resistance is all about figuring out who your teammates are. The rebels do this via deduction — based upon who voted for each mission and which missions (mysteriously) failed.

Because it’s so simple, The Resistance does a great job of showing how much information can be acquired from such a minimal source: the players have a maximum of four missions to figure out what’s going on. This minimalism nicely spotlights the deductive side of hidden-teams play.

(Why don’t spies deduce? Because just like the werewolves in Werewolf, they get to open up their eyes at the start of the game and see their team.)

For spies, The Resistance is all about sabotaging missions without appearing suspicious. This means that spies have to put other spies on missions for what seem like good reasons, and they have to figure out when to play failure cards in such a way that they (and their fellow spies) don’t look too guilty. There are so few choices that each one is quite important.

All of the votes for the success of a mission are randomized, but rebels can slowly start to deduce who might have played which cards as different subsets of players take part in different missions — which is what requires spies to play carefully together. This is the same successful design used in Battlestar Galactica (2008) — but massively simplified as is appropriate for a smaller, tighter game.

(Why don’t rebels work together? Well, they do, but they have an obvious choice if they can manage the deduction: choose fellow rebels for missions and support the missions. As in Saboteur, the teams are unbalanced, with fewer saboteur/spies, so there are always enough rebels to win … if they choose correctly.)

No Challenge System Elements. Hidden Teams.

Expansions & Variants

The Resistance has an almost identical variant game called The Resistance: Avalon (2012), which moves everything to King Arthur’s court.

Meanwhile, if there’s an alternative way to manage hidden teams, it probably appears in one of the Resistance expansions: Hidden Agenda (2014), Hostile Intent (2014), or The Plot Thickens (2016).

Giving individual players special powers is a popular mechanism that first appeared with characters like the Seer in Werewolf (1986). Thus, The Resistance has some traditional characters-with-powers, such as Hostile Intent’s Inquisitor and Hidden Agenda’s Commander, each of which has informational advantages, and Hostile Intent’s Reverser, who has an action-based power.

However, The Resistance offers an interesting twist on character powers in The Plot Thickens, which includes cards that a leader must give to another player to activate special powers. This implicitly introduces trust into the game, as the leader must now decide which players he really trusts, to enact certain powerful effects. It’s a great idea for hidden team games, and would work well in traitor games as well.

The other popular way to expand a hidden team game is to introduce special characters or special teams that have new or different goals than the standard two. Thus, there are Rogues in a promo set who can win on their own and Hunters and Assassins in Hostile Intent and Hidden Agenda who can help their team win by identifying opposition leaders.

Final Thoughts

The Resistance clearly comes from the Werewolf school of design, but it offers a eurogame take on the older game. The result is a cleaner game with just a little more in the way of mechanics; it also eliminates troubling elements from the original like player elimination.

From the cooperative point of view, The Resistance introduces interesting ideas that could be used in traitor-focused cooperative games — prime among them minimalism, voting, and the idea of introducing trust through the transfer of special powers.

Don Eskridge

Don Eskridge’s first designs were The Resistance (2009) and The Resistance: Avalon (2012) — plus the various expansions and supplements. After working on that for several years, he created Orange Machine Games, which has allowed him to create new negotiation and teamwork games like Abandon Planet (2017) and Black Hole Council (2018)

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The original article can be found on the great Mechanics & Meeples