Posted on Monday, October 26th, 2015 by Jacob Hall
Welcome back to Cardboard Cinema, the series where we explore the fine line between movies and tabletop gaming.
A few days ago, we took a plunge into the world of officially licensed Star Wars board games, taking look at X-Wing, Star Wars: Armada, and Star Wars: Imperial Assault. Each of those games reflect a different corner of this classic universe, putting players in control of tiny space fighters, hulking Star Destroyers, and armies of Stormtroopers. They envelop players in the iconography of this beloved series, bringing the series to life right in front of them.
Today’s games have none of that. There are no Skywalkers or TIE Fighters or Jedi Knights. But there are, well, just about everything else. These are science fiction games whose concepts, ideas, and themes should appeal to Star Wars fans of all stripes. Have you ever wanted to simulate being a member of a rebel group fighting an evil empire? Have you ever wanted to captain an old ship that keeps on failing in the face of danger? How about participating in a full-blown space conflict, but wrapping up in about 45 minutes? This batch of games is for you.
The science fiction world of The Resistance is a few sub-genres away from the space opera of Star Wars. It hews closer to Blade Runner or The Hunger Games – a rainy dystopia dominated by a cruel government that does not have the well-being of the citizenry on its mind. However, this easy-to-learn party game captures one angle that is under-explored in the Star Wars movies: the terror and paranoia that accompanies being the member of a rebellion.
The Resistance is simple but not simplistic, only gaining depth as the players around the table learn the ropes. Like its close relatives Mafia and Werewolf, you can teach an attentive group how to play in just a few minutes. It goes something like this: the players are members of a resistance group hoping to topple the evil empire and if they succeed on three out of five missions, they are victorious. However, a few members of the team are spies, working to undermine their operation and sabotage the missions. The spies know one another’s identities, but the resistance members don’t know who they are. As leadership changes hands and votes are called to determine each and every decision, distrust swells in the ranks and soon fingers are being pointed, voices are being raised, and chaos reigns. No game teaches you which of your friends is talented at lying to your face quite like The Resistance.
This is a game of discussion and deduction, of negotiation and bluffing. The cards and tokens are really just a social lubricant. It’s impossible to play this game and not get into the spirit of the thing… unless your whole goal is to be the “quiet one,” a tactic that could make you look totally guilty. Or innocent. Who knows? It could change from game to game.
There are no dice rolls in The Resistance. Luck begins and ends at the start of the game, when you are either dealt a loyal card or a spy card. From there, the fate of the group is in your hands. The responsibility placed on the shoulders of each player weighs a ton. Two tons if you’re the group leader, charged with assembling a team of loyal soldiers and knowing that at least a few of them plan to screw the whole thing over. The same agonies applies to the spy – you are outnumbered and you must be proactive in your bald-faced lying to win. It’s the best kind of stress.
This game shows you what you don’t get to see in the movies. These are the intense discussions that occur before the mission. This is the rebel leadership realizing that something is wrong, that they’re about to walk into a trap. The fireworks that explode during The Resistance feel deeply personal and human. Your decisions feel like they matter. The fate of the mission, of your movement, is in your hands.
Play this one with a beer or two and then add the special character roles once everyone knows the game. Once you’ve played with the special character card who knows the identity of the spies but cannot be identified by the traitors lest he instantly lose the game for his team (whew!), you’ll never go back.