Friday, October 14, 2022

Resist!(ance) is Not Futile – A Solo Game Review

My introduction to hobby gaming back in the 1970s was wargaming – games like Wooden Ships & Iron Men and Squad Leader (Avalon Hill) as well as my long-time subscription to SPI’s Strategy & Tactics. I loved the gaming part of those games… but a big chunk of the fascination was the historical research/background that was inherent in those games.

Some 40+ years and a couple of thousand different games played later, I don’t really qualify as a wargamer any more. While I love Memoir ’44, my “war games” have a lot less small cardboard chits and a lot more plastic miniatures… and no CRTs. (That’s “Combat Resolution Table” to the those of you uninitiated in the world of war games.)

With that background, I was delighted to experience the new solo card game from the design team of Trevor Benjamin, Roger Tankersley, and David Thompson. (David & Trevor are the team behind War Chest and Undaunted: Normandy & North Africa.) Resist! is a brilliantly simple game design and, thanks to evocative artwork from Spanish comic artist Albert Monteys, brings the history of the Spanish Maquis ongoing guerilla battle against the Francoist regime to life.

A Quick History Lesson

I don’t know about you, dear reader, but the amount of time spent on 20th century Spanish history in my history classes throughout my educational career was, to be charitable, limited. I knew about the Spanish Civil War, the Nazi support for Franco, and the event that inspired Picasso’s Guernica… but that was pretty much it.

In short, the Maquis were loyalists to the Republic who continued a guerilla war against Franco from the late 1930s into the early 1960s. Experiences during World War II waging a guerilla war in southern France to thwart the Nazi occupation there helped to train and organize the Maquis, leading to the greatest amount of activity following the close of the war. Robberies, sabotage, assassinations… all were a part of the efforts devoted to undermine the regime.

More and more effort was made by Franco’s government to crush the Maquis that ultimately ended the resistance roughly 25 years after it began.

A Slightly Less Quick Explanation of How the Game Works

Playing Resist! puts you in the role of sending groups of Maquis to perform various missions – destroying outposts, freeing political prisoners, attacking government facilities, committing robbery in order to finance the resistance, etc.

The game begins with drafting your cell of Maquis from a deck of 24 cards. You draw two cards, choosing one to join your group while sending the other to the Reserve (from which you can possibly recruit them later in the game) to form a deck of 12 cards.

Then, because nothing is that simple, 3 spy cards are added to the Maqui deck to undercut your ability to complete your missions. Each mission has a value required to defeat it, a number of military card units attached to it, and a special effect that can apply during or after the resolution of the mission.

Four possible missions are active at one time, each with some number of military unit cards attached to defend the objective. The mission deck is built randomly prior to the game, with 4 missions from the first era of the resistance, followed by 3 missions each from the second and final eras.

On a turn, you flip over the top five cards of the Maqui deck and begin playing them in two phases: Planning and Attacking. You may play Maqui cards and execute Plan actions on their cards prior to choosing the mission you are about to attempt. All of the military unit cards at that location are turned face up.

Once you shift into the Attacking phase, any Defend effects on the chosen mission trigger… and then you can continue to play Maqui cards, activating any Attack actions on their cards.

Maqui cards have special powers which are activated if played in a particular phase, and some of those powers can be utilized in either phase.

Each over-sized Maqui card has 2 “sides” – a hidden side and a revealed side. Maquis played as hidden continue to support the guerillas without showing their allegiance to the cause, while Maquis played as revealed are front and center during the mission. Hidden Maqui cards are returned to the regular discard pile, which revealed Maquis are sent to the Reserve discard pile.

Once you have completed playing your Maquis and executing their powers, you total your attack power and use it to defeat military units and the mission itself. It can be very important to eliminate military units – or, at the very least, eliminate key units that can potentially cause you to lose not only the mission but the game.

A Quick List of Ways to Lose Resist!

Like any solo game, there are a number of game-ending/loss-creating triggers:

  • If you fail two missions, you lose.
  • If you draw a hand full of Spy cards, you lose.
  • If you get 5 or more Civilians killed, you lose.
An Even Quicker List of Ways to Win Resist!

Basically, stop before something horrible happens… then figure out your score. Defeating all ten missions is an Epic Victory – I figure that is likely to happen just after Hell freezes over for me. Right now, I’m aiming for just a plain old “Victory”.

Some Quick Closing Thoughts

I’m 6 plays in – four using the basic game rules and two with scenario rules. So far, I’ve only managed to have a minor victory in a single game. (Let’s be clear – this is what happens when you put a risk-taking maniac in charge of the resistance who sends out his Maquis one time too many… or is successful at completing missions but manages to get a bunch of civilians killed.)

I’ve played it at home and on a hotel bed while traveling for work… and, as I predicted when writing the original version of the is review, even playing it on the kitchen table in our AirBnB on vacation. While the gameplay is simple to explain (particularly with the components in front of you), the decisions can be difficult and sometimes are excruciating – do I sacrifice this fighter’s cover for one glorious attack? will using a weak hidden card with the power to reveal military cards help me or just show me the form of my destructor (to paraphrase Ghostbusters)?

There is one misprinted card in the original version – Adolfo’s hidden side should be a zero value rather than 2. As is, Adolfo is being played by A. Schwarzenegger in “Commando”. (It’s a joke; you have permission to laugh.)

Games of Resist! clock in around 30 minutes (or less, if your luck goes dry). It’s easy to set up, easy to tear down and put in the box… what more can I ask from an extremely portable solo card game?

Finally, the scenario book does offer a way to link three era-specific scenarios together into a campaign… but I’m leaving that until I feel a little more competent at the basic game.

Resist! will be distributed in the U.S. starting in spring 2023 (thanks to 25th Century Games)… but folks in Europe have access right now!

This review originally appeared on the Opinionated Gamers website.