King Arthur’s realm is under threat from the evil Mordred and his minions. It’s up to Merlin and his servants to save the day. But not everyone in his crew is being honest about their allegiances…
Brief Overview of The Resistance: Avalon
Set in the fantasy realm of King Arthur, your group is split into Good and Evil. The Good team – lead by Merlin – must try and complete three quests to win. While the Evil players must try and cause three Quests to fail.
The problem? Only the Evil players and Merlin know who is Evil. But Merlin mustn’t give away his identity or he will be assassinated.
Based largely around group discussion, it’s a game of bluff, deduction, and intrigue, as each player tries to work out the identity of their counterparts.
Unboxing The Resistance: Avalon
Avalon doesn’t have a whole lot of components. But what you do get is:
- 14 Character cards
- 10 Quest cards
- 5 Team tokens
- 20 Vote tokens
- 5 Score markers
- 1 Round marker
- 1 Vote Track marker
- 1 Leader token
- 3 Score tableaus
- 2 Loyalty cards
- 1 Lady of the Lake token
Avalon is a small game with only a few components to worry about. Most of them are just tokens and cards. Despite this, I was impressed with how much of the theme they managed to pack in. The animation wonderfully draws out the nature of each of the characters. And, while the boards are pretty plain, they still nicely evoke the misty, green lands that early Britain was apparently rolling in.
The components play only a small role in the game, so I was pleased that the general quality of them is strong.
I was especially fond of the rulebook. The animation in it is pretty lame, but it’s written superbly. All six pages are incredibly clear with a simple and intuitive structure. And there are helpful examples of gameplay provided throughout, although I would argue they aren’t necessary considering how well the rules are written. It means you’ll be playing Avalon in absolutely no time.
How to Play The Resistance: Avalon
Select the game board that corresponds to the number of players and place it in the middle of the table with the round marker on the first quest space. Then, give each player two voting tokens.
Next, take the number of Good and Evil role cards as determined in the rulebook, making sure to include Merlin and the Assassin. For example, a five-player game will have three Good cards (Merlin and two loyal servants of Arthur) and two Evil cards (the Assassin and a Minion of Mordred).
These should be shuffled and then dealt out to each player. Everyone should then look at their card in secret to find out their role for the game. Also, pick one player to act as Leader (usually, the most experienced player to start), and give them the Leader token.
Evil Reveal Themselves
This is the important bit. Throughout the game, the Evil players will know who each other are. Merlin will also know who the evil players are, however, no one will know who Merlin is except Merlin himself.
To achieve this, the leader tells everyone to close their eyes and put their hands in a fist in front of them. Evil players are then told to open their eyes and acknowledge each other. Evil players then close their eyes and put their thumbs up in front of them. Merlin is told to then open their eyes to see who the evil players are. Finally, everyone closes their eyes and lowers their thumbs, before everyone can then open their eyes again.
The game is now set to begin.
Phase 1: Team-building
Avalon is made up of several rounds, each with two phases. In the first – Team Building – the group must discuss who in the group they want to send on a quest. There are only limited spaces, and if an evil player is selected they will be able to make it fail.
All players should be involved in this discussion, however, it is ultimately the Leader who proposes the team (this can include themselves). Selected players are given a Team Token.
Once a team is selected, the group secretly selects a vote token (yes or no, denoted by a black or white stone) to vote on whether they want the proposed team to head on a quest. When everyone is ready, the vote cards are turned over to see how everyone voted.
If there are more Yes tokens (white stones) than No tokens (black stones), then the team is approved and you move onto the Quest Phase. If not, the Leader token is passed to the next player and the Team-building Phase starts again. If five teams are rejected in a row, Evil wins.
Phase 2: Quest
The players on the quest are given a Quest Success and Quest Failure card and must now secretly select if the mission was a success. Good players must select the Quest Success card. While Evil players can choose either Quest Success or Quest Failure.
The Quest cards are then handed to the leader, who shuffles them without anyone seeing who picked what. On being revealed, if even one Quest Failure card was selected, the quest is deemed a failure.
Ending the Game
The game ends in three different scenarios:
- Three quests are completed successfully = Good wins
- Three quests are failed = Evils wins
- Five teams are rejected in a row in the Team-building phase = Evil wins
The Evil team has one last chance to win even if three quests are completed successfully. With all cards still hidden, the evil players discuss who they think Merlin might be (remember, Merlin knew who they were). The Assassin then chooses a Good player to assassinate. If they choose Merlin, then Evil wins the game!
There are a number of optional characters with different powers that are included in the base game. These don’t need to be used but can spice things up a little. Percival, for example, is Good and knows who Merlin is. While Mordred can also be added into the game, whose identity is secret even to Merlin.
Your First Game of The Resistance: Avalon
There’s a whole lot of lying in social deduction games, that’s true. But there’s a lot of trust involved, too.
You have to trust that no one is going to ruin the integrity of the game, which is very easily done. So be sure that, at all points in the game, everyone makes a conscious effort not to see anyone’s character card or any of the Quest cards.
The same goes for any questions during the game that will give away what you have on your card. Of course, people will make claims as to who they are – that’s the whole point of the game. But, for example, talking about the card artwork, which you’d probably only know if you had it in front of you, should be avoided.
To help avoid accidentally seeing something you shouldn’t, you’re advised to shuffle the discarded Quest cards as well as the submitted ones. This will help make sure no one’s vote can be traced back to them.
Otherwise, when it comes to actually playing the game, the best advice is to question everything and suspect everyone. Why did someone vote to dissolve a team? Perhaps they were evil and knew it had no evil members on it. Or perhaps they’re Merlin and knew someone heading on the quest was evil. Either way, the game comes into its own when people are made to explain themselves or theorize. Only then will cracks begin to show.
Pros & Cons
- Great group interaction
- Straightforward social deduction game
- High energy and emotion
- Everybody needs to be fully invested
- The social side of the game may not be for everyone
- Need a larger group
Oh boy, do I love me a social deduction game. And Avalon is one of the greats. Every play-through is a high-energy, emotional roller-coaster, all building up to a sweet, sweet reveal at the end. Whether that’s the Evil players identifying themselves or the tense attempted assassination of Merlin at the end.
Things can get quite noisy, and this is a great testament to how involved players can become. It’s incredible how much people can read into its simple voting system. And some of the theories people espouse can be hilarious. Not to mention, how nerve-wracking it is when you’re on the Evil team!
Pure & Simple
Avalon’s simplicity is one of its main strengths when compared to the likes of Secret Hitler. It keeps the focus on the group discussion and interplay, rather than having to fumble around with any clunky mechanics or rules. Don’t get me wrong, I love Secret Hitler – it’s probably my favorite social deduction game – but its rules can make it hard to introduce new players if they’ve not played a social deduction game before.
Optional Characters Add Spice
It’s worth mentioning, too, that the optional characters are well worth introducing. You could get by without them, but more regular players will soon want a way to mix things up. The addition of Percival, Mordred, Morgana, and Oberon does this nicely.
One challenge with any social deduction game is that, quite simply, they’re not for everyone. Some people might find the accusatory and sometimes quite aggressive nature of Avalon to be a little overbearing. Dominant gamers can take over and if it’s not in someone’s nature to throw out a theory or accusation, they may not enjoy the game as much. That said, there’s nothing wrong with someone having a quiet game. Often it’s the quiet ones you need to watch out for…
Also, Avalon is not a game for the half-hearted. If even just one person isn’t paying full attention, the whole game can be ruined. What was supposed to be a bonding experience could end up causing some arguments.
The result is that, with a minimum headcount of five, it is sometimes a challenge finding a group to play Avalon. Which is a shame, as it’s brilliant.
The Resistance: Avalon Review (TL;DR)
The Resistance: Avalon is a social deduction game for 5-10 players. It’s a battle of Good against evil, with the Good team attempting to complete three quests, and the Evil team trying to thwart them.
Avalon is one of the simpler social deduction games out there, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t chock-full of intrigue, deception, and emotion. It makes it one of the most fun and easy-to-play options available.
Avalon is one of the best social deduction games going. And, considering it can usually be found pretty cheap, definitely one of the best values.
It is a sure-fire way to get a high-intensity games session up and running, with bluffing, arguments, deception, and accusations flowing wildly. It’s simple features make it incredibly easy to dive into, and also probably one of the better candidates if you’ve never played a social deduction game before.
Of course, the emotional anguish and discussion-heavy nature may not be for everyone. However, with the right mix, Avalon can be some of the most fun you can have while accusing all your friends of being evil.
Have you ever played Avalon? We’d love to hear your stories too! Drop a comment below and let us know what you think of this one.