For my first critical play assignment I played Avalon, which was designed by Don Eskridge. We played with a physical board in-person.
The official board game has a suggested age range of 13+ and there is a 5-10 person limit. The game has multiple roles and the objective of the game is for the good guys to complete 3/5 quests whilst figuring out who the bad guys are. To help the bad guys, there are two special roles, Merlin and Percival. Merlin knows who exactly the bad guys are but must stay hidden throughout the game. Percival’s job is to figure out who Merlin and Morgana are from two people and protect and serve Merlin. The bad guys look to fail quests, ensue chaos, and figure out who the bad guys are.
The most similar game I’ve played to Avalon is Mafia. Similar elements include secret identities, social deduction, and ability roles. What Avalon accomplishes better than Mafia is its deduction element. The quest and voting system provides solid evidence for the players to examine or manipulate in order to win. Mafia relies more on “cold reads”, which makes the game less logical deduction oriented than Avalon. This in my opinion, makes the game so much better. Having information to base discussion upon gives the game structure and complexity.
The game was incredibly fun as the game went down to the wire. The good guys started with tough luck, as the first three quest leaders happened to be the secret bad guys. They coordinated their team to pass missions and build credibility, then failed them after other members joined the team. The quests were 2/2 tied and the good guys headed towards a loss as they did not know who to trust. However, Merlin makes a risky play and guesses which one of the bad guys is Morgana. He then claims the role of Percival, pointing out Morgana. The other three good guys all join suit, passing the last quest. The bad guys assassinate the real Percival, who was helping Merlin act the role of Merlin. The good guys celebrate their hard earned win.
Although this game is extremely polished, there are some areas they could improve upon. Sometimes, the game can be very unbalanced towards one side and that side ends up winning a lot of the games. The role of Oberon and Mordred is great for balancing purposes, but the roles either heavily hurts or helps the bad guys, which makes balancing difficult. An introduction of different roles could heavily help this balancing issue.