16 December 2015
Track down the traitor in King Arthur's court
Indie Boards & Cards | Party game | £16.99 | 5-10 players | 15-60 minutes | www.indieboardsandcards.com
Knights of the Round Table have been summoned to Camelot to perform five noble and perilous quests. As a loyal servant of King Arthur, you are quick to heed his call to arms. You gaze around the table at the other summoned warriors, wondering which of you will be chosen to serve your King, and which of you may be secretly a treacherous minion of the enemy, Mordred.
That’s how the game of Avalon begins. You will be given a secret identity and you’re either on Arthur’s side (good) or Mordred’s (evil). If you’re one of Mordred’s minions, you’ll know who the other minions are. If you’re one of Arthur’s loyal servants, you don’t know – and therefore cannot trust – anyone.
This popular party game is a retheming of The Resistance, which was set in a dystopian future. As well as changing the setting to a faux medieval setting of Arthurian legend, Avalon introduced special characters, including Merlin, the assassin and others. These can be added and removed at your discretion to provide some variety, or to rebalance the game, making it easier for one side or other to win.
For each of the five quests one player picks a group to attempt it. Everyone then votes to approve or reject that group. Watch carefully how people vote, as it may give a clue as to where their loyalties lie. Each member of the group selected decides in secret whether the quest should succeed or fail. Complete three quests successfully, and good has won the game, three fails and it’s a victory for evil. Just one fail card is enough to sabotage a quest. You’ll know there’s a traitor among that group, but you won’t know who it is. Merlin knows the truth, of course, but can’t speak freely. If good wins, then evil has one last chance to prevail – if the assassin can correctly identify Merlin, then good falls at the last hurdle and evil triumphs.
That may not sound like much of a game, and it is pretty simple, but this game is a riot! In my regular Tuesday night group, this is our signature game and almost always the last thing we play of an evening. Avalon produces lies and laughter in equal measure, shouting, pointing, accusations and usually a lengthy post-game analysis as well. The tension that builds is tangible, as you turn over cards to reveal the fate of a quest, try to deflect suspicion from yourself to someone (anyone!) else, or sweat it out as Merlin hoping to avoid the assassin’s knife.
Whether you’re voting down a team you don’t trust, desperately trying to persuade the others that it wasn’t you who failed the quest, or simply lying low and hoping no-one will notice your betrayal, you’re always in the thick of things. It’s easy to teach, endlessly replayable, relatively accessible for non-gamers and one of my favourite games of all time.(Iain Nisbet, @playothergames)
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