The Resistance Board Game – Basic Strategy Guide

The Resistance is one of my favorite deception/bluffing games. Whether you’re playing with a large or small group, close friends or strangers, it’s a great game to pull out and play a few rounds with. It’s such a simple game at its core, but that simplicity is why it’s so great. There aren’t random events or roles that can swing the game wildly – it all comes down to which team does a better job bluffing and rationalizing throughout the game.

Yes, there definitely is some luck involved, but such is true in almost any game. With some deft play, though, you should come out on top more often than not. Here are some of the best Resistance strategies to help you hone your game.

Note: This article is about The Resistance base game, not the Avalon expansion with roles like Percival, Merlin, etc. Stay tuned for a follow-up strategy guide for that.

Pay Attention to Votes

Carefully observing how players vote can provide a lot of information. In online games, you can usually see everyone’s voting history and make much more informed decisions off that, but in person you’ll have to do your best to remember as much as you can.

In general you want to take note of players rejecting teams with certain members of the absence of members. In the later rounds, be suspicious of someone who approves a mission they’re not on. This is because if they were innocent, they’d want to ensure they’re on the mission themselves to improve or even guarantee the chances of success if the mission requires everyone to be innocent.

Play a Balanced Style

One of the most important concepts to understand about The Resistance strategy comes from poker: balance.

In poker, good players understand that you need to play some of your strong hands and weak hands the same way so as to not be exploitable. You can’t only wait until you have a strong hand to bet, because otherwise opponents will pick up on the fact you don’t bluff frequently enough and never pay you off.

The same is true when you play The Resistance. You need to act the same when you’re playing as a spy as you do when playing as the Resistance. And I don’t mean just in terms of your voting pattern – I mean everything from your facial expressions to speech pattern to enthusiasm to body language should be mirrored as best as possible.

Not balancing themselves is probably the biggest mistake that people make when playing deception games.

One of the most common player types I see are those who enthusiastically participate in the game when innocent, throwing out accusations, loudly engaging in arguments and discussions, and vehemently denying accusations against themselves.

But that same player as a spy will tend to be much quieter and are more of a passive watcher of the game than an active participant. They tend to be very cautious about who they accuse and try not to start beef with anyone. Their play is overall more subdued.

Remember that you’re not just playing the game in a one-time instance. You’re laying the groundwork for all the future games you’re playing with that group as well, so keep it consistent.

Look and Listen for Coordination

Sometimes two spies are put on the same mission. If this happens in the early rounds, they want to avoid double failing the mission as that would give away a lot of information. Listen to the mission-goers words for clues about how they’re going to vote.

Some phrases you might hear are, “This mission is going to fail for sure,” or “I’m innocent so this is going to pass.” If you hear someone say these statements, question them.

Two spies on a mission are also likely to give each other looks to try and deduce what the other will vote. Keep an eye out for these glances before the mission.

Look for Body Language Tells

When we’re lying or trying to hide something, we tend to close ourselves off more both in terms of our body language and speech patterns. Think back to how you acted in school when you were trying to prevent the teacher from calling on you. You likely averted your eyes away and tried to seem small to not draw attention to yourself.

Keep an eye out for signs like someone covering their face, neck, chest (vulnerable parts of the body), repeating words or phrases, sitting very still, or breaking eye contact when speaking to.

Analyze Who’s Being Unhelpful

Spies benefit the most by keeping people confused. Some common tactics people use to do this are:

  • Rushing the game along or trying to prevent people from discussing/thinking too long
  • Throwing theories out left and right that may contradict, not actually providing any real insight
  • Immediately piling on when someone innocent is accused

Observe Player Interactions (Or Lack Thereof)

Spies often try not to go on the same mission as each other, to avoid the scenario where there are 2 fails in one mission. Therefore try to look for people who seem to be avoiding each other to go on missions.

Early on, spies also tend not to accuse each other so see who isn’t talking to each other. Late game this is less true as people get narrowed down so spies are often forced to throw each other under the bus.

Know the Meta and Go Against It

Every group that plays inevitably develops a meta of how you’re “supposed” to play. For instance, I’ve been a part of groups where the meta was spies would always fail missions if put on one. Other groups I’ve played with, spies would always pass the first mission if they were put on it.

If you know the meta and do the opposite, you can routinely deceive others because people overestimate how much others think like themselves. This is known as the false consensus effect and is a common cognitive bias.

Of course, this only works the first one or two times before people start catching on. Then the meta shifts, so don’t get caught with your hand in the cookie jar too many times!

Conclusion

The Resistance is a game of huge potential given its open nature. You get to play against others in a game of wit, logic, deception, and bluffing. While the game seems simple at first glance, beneath the surface lies a deep and varied challenge full of player interaction, ingenuity, craftiness, and imagination.

I hope you have as much fun as I do playing The Resistance and hopefully the tips in this article will be of benefit in your next game.  

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