BCM300 – Analysis of Avalon

Avalon is a standalone by-product of Don Eskridge’s The Resistance, a role-playing card game released in 2010 by the publisher Indie Boards & Cards.

As a narrative-driven title, Avalon disseminates its mechanics to the players as a story of manipulation and deduction. The players are divided into the opposing forces of good and evil, the Knights of Arthur on a noble quest and the Minions of Mordred scheming to sabotage it. This gives a guiding impression of the goals each player should have depending on their alignment and adds conceptual weight to the choices and pieces they are entrusted with. That is, a chance to select which players take on each quest, a vote to support this choice, and an opportunity to sabotage the quest if chosen. The two sides are unknown to the other, with the exception of an all-knowing Merlin, creating a tension that surrounds this deductive ousting of the villains while the linear quests unfold. In this regard, Avalon demonstrates its ability to operate a narrative structure for the conveyance of rules and mechanics rather than imposing a logic on its players that lacks any justifiable meaning.

This followed as an expansion of Avalon’s predecessor, The Resistance, for the sake of boosting the game’s aesthetic appeal and playability. As a game designer, Don Eskridge has collaborated on ten different projects in the last decade, eight of which have expanded on The Resistance universe that originated from a free print-and-play download on the popular forum BoardGameGeek. In a 2012 interview with Derek Thompson of Meepletown, Eskridge stated that the ‘new theme, updated components, and variants were the big pull of this version,’ referring to the shift from sci-fi to fantasy theme with the assistance of illustrators Luis Francisco, George Patsouras, Nan Sumana and Rafał Szyma. This also eluded to the difficulty for the ‘good guys’ of the original Resistance game from which Avalon improved, swapping out plot cards for role cards and adding the Merlin variant – though, debatably for mutual intensity. Despite Avalon’s popularity, Eskridge comments that ‘between the game being too hard and too easy, too hard is a far better option,’ summing up on the series that ‘easy is just boring in my book.’

In my personal experience with Avalon in the BCM300 subject, it was the factor of choice that maintained my involvement in the game and its story. Whether or not to play my vote of sabotage and risk exposure as a villain, or to entrust the quest with players that were surely devising a similar plot as a hero, underscored my growing engagement after each consecutive playthrough. In kind, this positioned me with a silenced need for teamwork, reliant on the choices of other players but with no means of communicating, bolstering the tension of the voting system. It was difficult to stray from the consequential narrative aspect that would leave the voice of failed villains exclaiming ‘you fool!’ in my head, or quite potentially out loud, after each quest had passed thanks to this feature of co-operative work.

As one of many in a line of Resistance games, the dedication of Don Eskridge to his series of quiet vendettas shows in Avalon’s capability to draw its mechanical tangibility out of narrative format and provide an engaging sequence of decisions that steep the player in a constant state of suspicion and subterfuge.

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