Chances are, if you’ve been in youth ministry for even a short time you’ve played the classic game Mafia. I have always loved Mafia and enjoyed the dynamics it creates and the relationships it develops as people learn about each other and their personalities. My love for Mafia fell to pieces when I first played The Resistance.

It’s not that I now like Mafia any less; it’s that The Resistance tops it in every way. Like Mafia, The Resistance is a social deduction game where a majority of the gameplay happens within conversations that transpire during the mechanics of the game.

Players play as members of The Resistance who are seeking to overthrow their corrupt government. Unfortunately, the government has discovered their existence and placed spies among them to sabotage their efforts. The Resistance must figure out the identities of these spies before it’s too late. Players take turns being the team captain as they form small mission teams. Teams then vote on whether each mission succeeds or fails. With three successful missions, the Resistance wins but three fails means that the spies win.

So why should you care about The Resistance when Mafia has worked so well in youth ministry for so long?

  1. The Resistance is far more strategic. Mafia often becomes a random swirl of accusations and that’s because it’s hard to learn information and figure out people’s roles. The voting system in The Resistance lets players be more strategic in their actions and actually deduce identities. It also lets spies be extremely sneaky and blend in way more than the mafia can.
  2. The Resistance is not an elimination game. Mafia is fun unless you’re the Mafia’s first target. The Resistance allows all players to play for the entirety of the game which makes it great for youth groups and youth leaders so you don’t need to worry about occupying the dead people.
  3. There is more free discussion in The Resistance. 95% of the game is in the conversations and there is no structure to them. Players can debate, strategize, and argue for as long as they want. The mechanics of the game bookend the discussions and bring meaning to them. Students will reference things that happened in the game long after playing which helps build relationships. This is a great game for retreats and lock ins. I jokingly say that this game destroys friendships but it really builds them and generates countless inside jokes for the group.

The Resistance feels like a much more polished version of Mafia and has easily become my favorite game. You can get it on Amazon for about $12. I would definitely recommend playing the game a few times before playing it with your group. Because so much of the gameplay is in conversation, it can be hard to grasp the flow of the game without actually experiencing it. If you enjoy Mafia, buy The Resistance.

Nathan Ballard is the Director of Youth Ministry at Brookfield Lutheran Church in Brookfield, WI where he works with 5th-12th grade students and their families. Prior to that, he served for eight years as a volunteer youth worker in Milwaukee. Nathan loves spending time with his wife Erin and his son Grayson.

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