Pocket Arthur: The Quest for a Portable Avalon

Avalon Cards 1

I struggled with how to fit the large print Avalon mission trackers in my game box. In a previous post, I mentioned the modular track that I was developing. The design was utilitarian, the color scheme gray-scale, and the functionality limited. After two concentrated weeks of work, alongside my grandmother’s fabulous printer, I finally have something to share:

The Portable, Modular, Customizable Avalon Mission Tracker.

The PMCAMT (pithy title pending) is a set of four double-sided playing card-sized boards that, when combined, can form any of the six player boards needed to play The Resistance: Avalon.

Anatomy of a Card-01

 

Each of the four card faces corresponds to a certain number of players (from five to ten), while the reverse of each holds every permutation of numbered spaces required to assemble the remainder of the board.

Track Anatomy-01-01

The spaces can be tracked, as usual, using the tokens provided with the original game (though I use the Agricola tokens from my game box to track rejections.)

Assembly is as follows:

  1. Find the card face that corresponds to the appropriate number of players.
  2. Turn the remaining cards over. Find the three numbers that correspond to the set-up diagram in the lower right hand corner of the face card.
  3. Overlap the cards to expose the correct numbers, making sure that the reject track falls in numerical order.

DESIGN PROCESS

The idea came to me while attempting to brainstorm a solution for my problem with the Avalon boards. I’d tried everything: photocopying and folding my originals, designing my own more compact editions and drawing copies of them on my box. Eventually, the thought of overlapping cards from a small deck came to mind. I realized, however, that this would waste a great deal of paper, so, at 3:00am, I set about finding a way to employ more efficient cards. The first prototype emerged on thumb-sized scraps of notebook paper:

Avalon Prototype Faces

Avalon Prototype Backs

I recognized two things: first, the last two missions for every player count are unique from any other board; and, second, the remaining missions are comprised of permutations of one of three integers: One, Two, or Three. It was a convoluted process to figure out which numbers needed to be paired with which face. Using the same process of elimination I was able to perfect the design by incorporating the rejection tracker. With these discoveries, the meat of the cards fell directly into place.

Following the gray-scale prototype, I sought a minimal design to emphasize the simplicity of the concept. I’m happy with the layout: the base frame it lends itself to background and color customization. These special edition Arthurian illustrated cards are an example:

Castle Display 2 Castle Display

However, the true portability offered by these cards is not best revealed through a multi-game travel box. With just the PMCAMT, ten role cards, ten success/fail cards, and a handful of tokens, you can pack a full game of Avalon into a simple deck box:

Avalon Portable box top Avalon Portable box Display

If you’d like to print your own set, download the links here. I printed mine on separate sheets of paper then hot-pressed them together.  Enjoy!

 

 

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Arthurian Connections: A Pseudo-Review of the Resistance: Avalon

Much has been said about the wonderful social deduction game The Resistance: Avalon. Here, I have decided to provide some anecdotal evidence of the game’s success before commencing with a short review. For better or for worse, the few words I have to say in way of evaluation fall closer to the category of ode than review, as my fondness for the game transcends the usual measure of board game acclaim.Avalon box

[TEN-SECOND GAME SUMMARY: Avalon is a 5-10 player social-deduction game that claims to take about half an hour to play. Players portray members of King Arthur’s round table who are trying to complete quests to ensure the triumph of Good over Evil. Unfortunately, said Evil is hidden directly in plain sight, as a number of your teammates are, in fact, not really your teammates but evil bastard minions of Mordred. Players use deduction, lies, and careful voting to ensure their team’s victory.]

My first experience with Avalon was a happy disaster. A dauntingly large group at the local game store invited my friend and me to join a round. We happily agreed, having read about similar games. What we didn’t know was that Avalon is a game with a modular structure, which allows a group to adjust the complexity of a round of play to suit their needs. One may add characters with specific abilities, use action cards and implement various game rending side powers. For this particular round, the veterans of the game misguidedly decided to include not only the game’s upper limit of ten players, but also the full pantheon of the Arthurian court. As my friend and I remained stuck in the bare preliminaries of the game—such as how, when and why you should vote—Merlin, Morgana and Mordred were free to traipse blithely about, wielding game-shattering powers we couldn’t hope to fathom.

And we weren’t alone in our amateurism; it soon became clear that over half of our playgroup was new to the game, which, I have come to learn, makes the game exponentially harder: This game relies entirely on the player’s ability to read the patterns of the proceedings and the tells of their colleagues. Hence, when half the players have no idea which tells to hide, what information to convey, or how to convey that information, confusion reigns.

And reign it did. Loyal servants of Arthur took it upon themselves to claim they were evil. Players subverted the purity of democracy by voting randomly. Newbie henchmen forgot to sabotage the very quests their battle-hardened cohorts had spent so much time contriving to get them on. It was messy. The ending was brutal. We were hooked.

Unfortunately, the large requisite number of players kept me from playing the game for a while after that. The second time, however, was the session that cemented the game forever as a staple within my play group.

We were on a brief coastal retreat, and I had brought the game along in the hopes that I could muster the seven troops at my disposal to crack open the fortress of strategy. The group was skeptical: the sight of the dashing maiden on the cover became a running joke, my cabin mates refusing to believe that a game themed around the round table could be any fun at all.

That night, we played a round. The frenetic game play was followed by silence. Then, someone softly asked, “Can we do another?”

We played a total of seven rounds, putting off sleep until well past 3 am.

This experience wasn’t an anomaly. Avalon has led me through countless nights filled with backstabbing, team euphoria, bridges razed and rebuilt, moments of innovative strategy and hours of laughter.

That’s what I love about this game. It presents the players with a set of guidelines, then leaves them to connect with the things that games are ultimately designed to connect us to: each other. As such, I am no more able to rate Avalon than I would be able to rate a dear friend. It’s like an inebriated mentor, dishing out wisdom and abuse in equal measure. Avalon has taught me more about my friends—and myself—than any other game in my collection.

And that’s why this game is perfect.