I've been playing The Resistance: Avalon with a group and we're finding that the games usually end with the Good Guys passing 3 missions, but then the Forces of Evil win by assassinating Merlin. This has happened 4 times out of the last 5 games.

We usually play with 7 or 8 people, although we've played with 5 or 6 people on occasion. For extra roles we usually add in Percival and Morgana. With 7 or more we also use the Lady of the Lake.

So 3 questions:

1) Can we change which roles we use to make Merlin's death less likely?

2) If I'm Merlin, how do I steer things in the right direction without outing myself to the Forces of Evil?

3) If I'm Percival (or even just a normal Good Guy), what can I do to protect Merlin?

  • It sounds like you guys know each other too well or else are just bad liars. What you're saying is "We figure out who the forces of evil are every time and they figure out who Merlin is every time." Have you tried playing a game without a Merlin?
    – dspyz
    Jun 18, 2014 at 3:58

3 Answers 3


Merlin's Death is generally not due to the cards, but to play style. However, in general Evil needs to keep track of things, so the more 'confused' evil can be the better. The best configuration for this (which I would try in your group, first) is Merlin, Percival, and Oberon. This gives good maximum information and evil the least. If this configuration affects the Merlin kill, then great, but I doubt it will much.

The bigger problem seems to be that "Good generally wins". This shouldn't be the case. Merlin is there to balance the information on both sides, since Evil knows Evil. In general, games should end 50/50. Merlin giving out too much information should be the only reason these scales tip away from 50-50.

As for question #2, how do you steer things? The short answer is you don't! The biggest reason for Merlin kills is not based on how Merlin behaved, but how all of the other good players behaved. My guess is all the rest of your loyal knights are acting timid and confused, while Merlin is acting confident, bored, or aggressively. You need to be aggressive, talkative, and opinionated in order to get the information out there to the other good players, ergo, the other good players also need to be aggressive, talkative, confident, opinionated, etc. If they're not doing that, there's very little that can be done by Merlin. I call this "giving Merlin cover".

Note, this isn't just Percival's job. It's everyone's. Percival is there mostly for late game use when you need a perfect team on quest 5. Think "I'm Percival, this is the team you need". He knows this because he's been carefully watching Merlin all game and Merlin has communicated to him who the bad players are (in some way).

As a normal loyal servant of Arthur, your job is pretend you have all the information and any 'mistakes' you make are a ruse to throw people off the fact that you're Merlin. This usually means a wild guess. However, these guesses often pay off. With 2-3 loyal knights guessing maybe one of them is accurate and this gives Merlin the cover he needs (as Merlin too will look like a random guesser).

Finally, don't discount the power of voting. The game relies on people voting in their best interests, as such, voting is a VERY reliable indicator of someone's knowledge and preferences. If you're being fingered as Merlin too often and this is because you're speaking, try switching up the strategy. Instead of speaking, try being totally silent, but just consistently voting for all good teams and down voting all bad teams. If the other players are paying attention to votes you can give full information about team evil without saying a word. Of course, at some point they might catch on to this, so you might need to change-up the strategy.

When I'm Merlin, I play exactly the same way as when I'm not. For me, this is trying to do a logical tally and deduction of votes and to point out table behavior and it's consequences. Usually, even without being Merlin, I can fully figure out Team Evil by the end of the game with this method, so when I do it as Merlin I need to carefully act the same. Still, in the absence of any cover, I will still lose.

Things you generally shouldn't do as Merlin (though deception always allow for exceptions):

  1. Vote for losing teams. This 'fools evil' far less than it screws good.
  2. Approve team with 2 Evils early. While this is a sound strategy, it can confuse good players who are trying to find you, and can convince them an evil player is good.
  3. Claim to be Merlin at the end of the game. This ploy generally doesn't work.

Things that are perfectly okay to do as Merlin:

  1. Claim to be Merlin near the beginning of the game. I've used this strategy effectively several times, even pointing out the exact bad guys. It's often so bold that it fools the opponents, but, of course, it can only be used sparingly, and it too needs cover (e.g. by players randomly doing this in some games)

  2. Speak your concerns. It's okay to think that a bad guy is bad and say so. Often a Merlin 'tell' is being afraid to 'give away' anything, as that fear will come across and garner suspicion.

  3. 'wink' to Percival. While perhaps not a literal wink, Percival is going to be looking right at you, so dammit look at him and acknowledge each other! This is especially important in games with Morganna.

Overall this is a game about information and mis-information. At the start Evil has an information advantage, so that needs to be made up with by good player speak. Likewise the thing evil doesn't know (Merlin) needs to be covered up by a lot of misinformation from Good. The more stuff you put out there, the more Evil needs to consider and the more cover Merlin will have.


  • I would say it has a lot to do with player skill as well, and it is surprising how easy it can be to determine who Merlin is before the game even starts based on information you can gain during the start/reveal phases of the game. Another key is for the good voters who are not Merlin to do as much as they can to appear to be Merlin based on the play style of others and for the player who is Merlin to make their lay style not appear different when they are Merlin. As was said the good team should not win as often as evil and I would give evil a higher winning percentage before assassination.
    – Joe W
    Apr 2, 2014 at 19:06

Remember that Good can win without Merlin at all. It's a struggle and I think the odds are against them, but this is the way the vanilla Resistance game works.

As such, I think it benefits Merlin to be subtle. When players start speculating about each other, encourage the speculation that is true and cast doubt on the speculation that is false. As an example: One common way a game begins is for a 2-person mission to succeed, and then a 3-person mission consisting of those first two, plus one more person, to fail. Obviously a lot of suspicion naturally falls on the third person, but plenty of Evil players will happily sandbag the first mission to cast that shroud of doubt on a loyal knight in the second. As Merlin, if the third player is evil, play up the natural suspicion; if the third player is loyal, play up the possibility of a sandbag. If an evil player can be caught in a lie or drops a significant "tell," be sure to point that out!

This is probably a playgroup difference, but unlike Neal, I don't mind voting "wrong" as Merlin. We have players who, either as Good or Evil, will nominate doomed-to-rejection parties just to see who votes for them--and will vote against their own nominations!

If Good is losing too much, Percival, Oberon, and removing Morgana will give them a boost, but eventually with that setup I believe you will find Evil to be oppressed.

As Percival, see if you can pick up on what Merlin's doing, and cast suspicion or innocence where Merlin is trying to place it. Ideally Evil will try to assassinate you rather than the real Merlin! As any Good character, but Percival especially, make sure to offer lots of theories and share your suspicions. Percival should keep a careful ear out to see which ones Merlin encourages and discourages.


One strategy I've used is to have Merlin come out as Percival. This can be tricky if the evil team knows about this ploy, Percival isn't on the same page as Merlin, or if someone evil contests the claim (Then there is usually A LOT of yelling in my experience). But otherwise it gives the loyal servants a guaranteed good person to put on all their teams, gives Percival a signal to act as suspicious as possible with cues from Merlin on who to accuse. And if Merlin plays it right usually they are considered to be Percival and are out of the running for consideration as Merlin.

This can backfire if someone else claims to be Percival, and especially when playing with Morgana because then Percival doesn't know who to back up.

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