Full disclosure: I previewed Maquis for Side Room Games during the initial Kickstarter campaign, and received a review copy of the game after it was published.
What is this game about?
Maquis is a small-box solitaire worker placement game in which you control multiple members of the French Resistance during WWII. Although this game was originally a PnP as well as an app, there is now a very nice published edition available from Side Room Games. In a game of Maquis, you will draw two random missions that you will have a limited number of days to complete. You will complete those missions by sending your workers out to various locations in your town, where you can either collect resources, exchange resources, or call for more resources to be dropped on an air field. It is also possible to build special rooms at various points in the game, which is good fun because it allows you to customize the board to suit your needs in a particular game.
Getting to each location is relatively easy—you just put your worker out and hope for the best. The real trick is in helping that worker get home. While you are working to resist Nazi occupation, complicit police officers in your town are trying to stop you, and they go on patrol every night. If a police officer blocks your way home, your run-in with the law can end in only one of two ways. Either your worker will be arrested and disappear from the game entirely, or you will have a weapon that you can use to kill the police officer and escape. Weapons in this game are hard to acquire, so using one up is a big sacrifice. On top of that, the police officer will be replaced by an actual soldier, who is impossible to kill if he traps you and who causes morale in the town to fall. Low morale means bigger enemy patrols, even if your own force of resistance fighters is dwindling.
How does it play solo?
Maquis is a one-player game. Solo players, rejoice!
I hadn't played Maquis between filming the Kickstarter preview and receiving a review copy, but once I got it back out, I quickly remembered why I like it so much. This game has a lot going on for such a small game with such a quick playtime.
The main tension in Maquis is between planning your moves carefully and getting everything done in time. Generally, a patrol officer won't move to a location where you have a worker, meaning you can "chain" your workers in an attempt to keep them safe. Doing this, however, takes up a lot of time and can stop you from multitasking within the game. It can also backfire badly—if an officer cannot be placed on an empty location, he will instead run into one of your workers and try to make an arrest!
I also like that it is just challenging enough to get the resources you need in Maquis. You will really have to work for a victory, and you'll also have some options, including extra locations you can add to your map. If you need an extra safe house, you can build one, but choose wisely—there are also other uses for that particular space on the board. As you play more, you'll become more aware of how different locations relate to each other, where the bottlenecks are, and how to plan more efficiently.
But nothing is guaranteed, and that is part of the thrill! I can see some gamers finding this game frustrating because to some extent, you are depending on the luck of the draw when it comes to patrol cards.
The only real drawback of Maquis, at least for me, is that while its quick playtime invites you to play multiple games in a single session, it is also possible to burn out a little bit. There are only 14 missions, which is a lot of missions if you spread out your plays, but not quite enough if you find yourself playing a bunch of times in succession. You'll also develop some go-to strategies as you learn the game and the map, and plays will begin to feel more repetitive. If you go on a Maquis spree, you might need a bit of a break afterwards. That's a common issue for me with small games, though, and Maquis is going to be a great addition to my small box solo rotation.
Do I recommend it?
Definitely. Maquis is a delightful solitaire game that is snappy, has a great theme with just enough tension, and is a great pick for anyone who wants a quick but satisfying solo game.
Overall Rating: 4 stars
5 stars — I love it!
4 stars — I really like it.
3 stars — I like it.
2 stars — It's okay.
1 star — Meh.
If you'd like to see my original playthrough from when Maquis was on Kickstarter, check the link below!