February 26, 2014 by brennon
A lot of people might have heard of the first part of this games name. The Resistance is a ridiculously popular deduction game where some of you around the table are traitors to the cause looking to make sure the good guys efforts come to nothing. Avalon is the Kickstarted next game from Indie Boards & Cards which drops you into Arthurian legend. However, despite the gap in time the objective is still the same. Root out the evil traitors and succeed in your quests…
The game itself is pretty simple to explain. At the beginning of the game you will be dealt out a number of cards. Some of them, the number depending on the amount of players you are with, are Minions of the evil Mordred. One of these minions is also the Assassin, but we will come to her later. All the players will quickly and secretly (the secret bit is important) look at their own card and have their objective set.
The good players are, predictably looking to make sure their quests succeed. The evil minions are trying to do the opposite while also trying to make sure they don’t get found out so they can continue plotting and scheming behind the scenes to make sure successive quests continue to fail.
Once all the cards have been dealt out one person begins one of the coolest parts of this game. Everyone will close their eyes and put their hands into the centre of the table. One of you will then say “Minions of Mordred, put up your thumbs, open your eyes and know each other”. The minions will open their eyes, sneak a glance at their fellow conspirators and then close them.
Next up is someone I haven’t mentioned yet, Merlin. The next phrase uttered is “Minions or Mordred close your eyes. Merlin, open your eyes and see the servants of Evil.” This means that one player, the wise and powerful Merlin, knows who all of the evil doers are but they don’t know who he is! Both he and the Assassin are very much intertwined so I will get onto them later. Next up comes “Merlin, close your eyes. Minions of Mordred put down your thumbs. Everyone take out their hands, and open your eyes.” That’s when the suspicion begins!
Now all the evil people know who they are, the good people are in the dark and Merlin must try and work the table to make it clear to the good guys just exactly who they shouldn’t be trusting without revealing himself.
From this point on begins the meat of the game. One person will be randomly chosen as King (or indeed Queen) and will have to decide on the people she wants to send on a quest. The numbers needed for each quest fluctuate over time but whoever the King or Queen is must choose that many people to head out to find riches and slay dragons (it’s never really revealed what each of these quests are, so have fun with that one).
Talking suddenly becomes a very big part of Avalon. The King or Queen could well be evil so do you trust who they are sending out on these quests? You will have ample time to argue, debate, slander, mock, laugh and indeed cry over who is being sent but the decision is still always with the leader at that point in time. Once they have decided they will give a shield to each quest-goer and each of you will have a chance to vote on whether or not you agree with the party. Using a white and black stone token you will cast your vote. If the majority agree then the quest begins. If not then you go right back to the drawing board and start deciding again, however the leader token (King or Queen) has now moved on to the next player. Can you trust them more than the previous person?
Here is where we get to the winning and losing of this game. If the vote continues to go round and no-one can agree on a party by the end of a certain number of rounds then nothing is done, the Kingdom stagnates and evil wins. If however the quests are allowed and the party ventures forth one of two things can happen. The Good players must ALWAYS put in a success card when they head out, they are after all servants of good. The evil players MAY put in a success card or a failure card. You might think that putting in a failure card is the natural course of action, and in some cases it is, but on occasion the evil players might be looking to hide themselves and win favour so they can screw over the good guys at a later date. However, if ONE failure is put into that quest pool then the entire things is folly and a big fat black mark is added to the centre board. If the Minions of Mordred get enough failures through they have won. If the good players can make it through with get the majority of successes on quests, they have won.
If you have a particularly boring group then this could all be done with a lot of silence but the real gem of this game is in the interaction. If you like arguing and debating and effectively role-playing as a knight of the realm of evil minion then you will love this game. You might have figured out who the evil people are around the table and one of your friends is sending them on a quest. You make a desperate plea for them to understanding and listen to you. In return they scowl and accuse you of being the evil person trying to stop the quest from succeeding! All the while the Minions of Mordred that you just accused back up your friend and explain how you were on an earlier quest that failed so you MUST be evil! That is what makes this game superb.
A Pyrrhic Victory?
As I mentioned above the game can end in a variety of ways. If the Minions succeed in creating the majority of failures they have won. If the Servants of Good can get the majority of successes then they claim victory. But, it’s not over them those good guys yet. After the Servants have won the Minions reveal themselves and there starts almost an after-game err…game? All the Servants must be silent while the Minions discuss amongst themselves who Merlin is. If they can work out who the bearded one is then the Assassin calls to kill him and can claim victory for the forces of evil, cutting them down at the very last hurdle.
You might think this is unfair but it adds an entirely new dimension to the game. Merlin has to be vocal of course, he knows who the evil doers are, but if he does this alone then he will surely get found out and murdered. The Servants then have to cover for him without knowing who he is by simply being loud and talkative, drawing away suspicion from Merlin allowing him to play and react safely. This mechanic increases the amount of talking and debating around the table and makes for some hilarious moments later on when you try and figure out who Merlin actually is.
Stirring The Pot
To make things even more exciting they have added in some additional characters to mix up the debates. Morgana and Percival can be added into the game and work with the Merlin mechanic. After Merlin has looked at who the evil doers are he and Morgana put their thumbs up with eyes closed and Percival opens his. He will know that one of them is Merlin, and the other is Morgana so he has some extra deduction to do as the game continues. It adds another layer of intrigue and it’s hilarious when Percival realises he has been covering for Morgana all game.
Another additional card is Oberon. This faerie sprite is evil but is ignorant of the others so he adds an element of chaotic randomness to proceedings. Mordred too is evil but is hidden from Merlin’s sight, a great boon to the forces of evil. The final additional piece is the Lady of the Lake. This token allows a player to look at someones loyalty card. He then can say what he likes, calling them out as evil, reinforcing that they are good, or anything depending on his own alignment. One of the best things is for an evil player to have it, call out a fellow evil player and reinforce that they are good. OR, you are evil and call a good guy out as evil just to make people distrust them! It’s ace
As you might have garnered from this review, I love Avalon. I absolutely love role-playing and so having a game where you have to lie through your teeth or defend your honour as everyone else schemes and plots is absolutely essential for my group. We love delving into this with people and falling out (albeit temporarily) over alliances and shattered friendships as quests fail and succeed in equal measure.
The key to this game is interaction. If you like your games to be more structured then don’t buy this game. You need to be open to some fast and loose play, plenty of talking and debating and general backstabbing. I had one game where I was a Minion of Mordred (my friends will attest to how many times I have been evil…it’s insane) and managed to convince a good guy that I was Merlin. It was hilarious and won us the game. Either that or the game where a friend said to me, flat out “Are you evil?” and I just plainly said no, and she believed me. It then led to her never trusting me in the game again!
Art wise the game is fantastic with everything being thematically sound and top notch visual wise. Even the tokens and nice and robust and perfect for a game of shouting and cursing where things can get chucked around a bit. I would love to get a few gems to use as the voting pieces though, although it would kind of remove the hidden flipping mechanic. Maybe the players could put it into a bag secretly to be drawn out. I have an idea!
Avalon is just a better version of Resistance and very, very worthy of your time. The best thing is that it can take under an hour to play so if you have other games lined up you can fit it into an average session. Just make sure the proceeding game is a co-operative one!
Game Component Images via Board Game Geek and joakim589
Pick it up!
"In return they scowl and accuse you of being the evil person trying to stop the quest from succeeding!"
"I had one game where I was a Minion of Mordred and managed to convince a good guy that I was Merlin..."