Game: Maquis

Release Year: 2021

Publisher: Side Room Games

Designer: Jake Staines

Player Count: 1 player

Play Time: About 30 minutes

Rules Complexity: Moderate

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Side Room Games has a pretty interesting track record of solo board games. I previously reviewed Grove and gave it a glowing score, and I'm excited to try the highly hyped For Northwood once it's more widely available.

So, when I was given the opportunity to review Maquis—another one of their well-received solo games—I was intrigued and excited.

The question is, does Maquis live up to the hype? Does it execute well on its unique premise as a solo worker placement game? How does it stack up against Grove, which remains one of my favorite solo games ever?

Here's everything you need to know about Maquis, my experience with the game, and whether it's one that you should add to your solo board game collection.

This review is based on a review copy of Maquis provided by Side Room Games. I played the game 9 times before penning this review and my thoughts and opinions are solely my own.


Maquis is something of an experimental board game because it's a solo worker placement game. Worker placement games involve placing workers on distinct locations to take actions associated with those locations.

You normally can't place workers on spots that are already occupied, which is what makes Maquis so interesting: in a genre where blocking others—and being blocked by others—is such a crucial mechanism, how do you make it work solo?

Well, in Maquis, you play as French resistance fighters up against the Nazi occupation, and it's the threat of these oppressors that blocks you from certain locations.

Maquis plays round by round, with each round consisting of three phases:

  1. Placement Phase: Alternate back and forth, first placing your worker on a location, then drawing a Patrol Card to determine where the Nazis place a worker. Keep going until all workers for the round have been placed.
  2. Action Phase: For each of your workers, you may activate their location's action (e.g., gain resources, convert resources, recruit more workers, etc.), and then you must trace a path back to the Safehouse. If a worker's paths are all blocked by Nazi workers, they're arrested and removed from the game.
  3. Upkeep Phase: All of the Nazi workers are removed from the board and all of your non-arrested workers have returned to the Safehouse. Advance the Day Tracker, then rinse and repeat the phases.

There are three more important mechanisms to know:

  • At first, Nazi workers are Milice (Blue), who are like basic police. They can be killed if you have a Weapon resource, which allows your workers to return to the Safehouse if they're blocked. However, killed Milice are replaced with Soldiers (Red) in following rounds—and Soldiers can't be killed.
  • You'll also have to manage the Morale of the city. Various actions will reduce Morale (e.g., killing Milice), which is bad because a reduction in Morale will increase the number of Nazi workers in play during a round.
  • Some locations on the board are blank Spare Rooms. You can pay Money to turn these Spare Rooms into useful bonus locations, many of which provide resources and benefits that you can't acquire otherwise.

So, how do you win in Maquis?

Well, every game starts with two Mission Cards. You'll need to fulfill both Mission Cards before the Day Tracker reaches the end (i.e., you have 15 rounds to win), all while making sure the city's Morale doesn't drop to 0 and making sure you don't lose all of your workers to arrests.

Setup and Table Footprint

Maquis walks a weird line as a game that doesn't require much table space yet has a lot of components for its size and, therefore, takes longer than you'd expect to set up. When I sit down to a game of Maquis, it takes me about 4 or 5 minutes to go.

The main steps involved in setting up Maquis:

  • Get out the board.
  • Set up the Day Tracker, Morale Tracker, and Soldier Tracker.
  • Sort your workers and the Milice/Soldier workers.
  • Sort the various resource tokens.
  • Sort the Spare Room tokens.
  • Choose two Mission Cards for the game (randomly or manually).

But fortunately, as mentioned above, the game doesn't take up much room. The game board is small and the tokens are small, so you could feasibly play Maquis on a small table, a laptop desk, or even a TV dinner tray.

Learning Curve

While the overall concept and flow of Maquis is pretty straightforward and simple to understand, it's still going to take a few games to fully grasp it all.

Part of that is due to the depth of the worker placement mechanism, where the interplay between Patrol Cards and location layout prevents the decisions made during the Placement Phase from being overtly obvious.

The other part is due to the Mission Cards, which are all different and usually inject unique mechanisms that alter how you approach your plays on the board.

Overall, I wouldn't say that Maquis is a difficult game to learn, but it's certainly a layered game that's far thinkier than its small size would suggest.

Game Experience

Decision Space

"Worker placement" and "action efficiency" often go hand in hand, and that's certainly the case in Maquis.

You have a limited number of workers per round, and each worker can achieve at most one action. Combine that with the ticking timer of a 15-round end-game trigger and you'll feel the pressure of needing to use each worker as smartly and efficiently as you can to fulfill the Mission Cards before time runs out.

But what does action efficiency means in Maquis?

Well, at first glance, Maquis appears to be all about resource acquisition and resource conversion. Most actions in the game grant you one of the four main resource types (Food, Medicine, Weapons, Money) or allow you to convert between them.

The rest of the actions grant ways to acquire or convert into special resource types (Intel, Explosives, Alcohol, Fake IDs, AA Guns), and most of these require that you first take the intermediary step of buying a Spare Room with Money.

So, when it comes to accomplishing your two Missions for the game, you'll need to figure out the proper chain of actions that lead to the efficient acquisition of those resources. If you dilly-dally for too long, you'll fail.

But Maquis isn't only about action efficiency. It's also about action safety. In fact, you'll often need to sacrifice your efficiency in order to ensure your workers can get the resources you need and evade arrest to make it back safely.

As you place workers on the map, Nazi workers will also appear. However, Nazi workers won't appear in locations where you already have a worker—so, if you want to prevent a Nazi worker from cutting off a worker's route back home, you need to place a worker in that location.

In other words, to take the action of a certain location, you might actually need to utilize two or three workers to do it safely. Not only do you need a worker for the location itself, but also extra workers to create a safe path home.

Maquis has a way for you to recruit two more workers during a game—you start with three and can recruit up to five total—so you might be tempted to go out and hire those workers right away. After all, more workers means more opportunities to create safe paths home, right?

Well, yes and no. The problem here is two-fold.

First, when you have more workers in play, the number of Nazi workers also increases to match. If you have three workers, then the Nazis have three workers. If you have five workers, the Nazis have five workers. (Unless the city has bad Morale, in which case the Nazis could actually have more workers than you.)

Second, since there are more workers in play, the board gets clogged up more every round, which increases the likelihood of your workers running into Nazis. (More on this below in the "Luck Factor" section.)

In other words, hiring more workers is risky because you actually increase the chance of your workers getting arrested. Is the risk worth it for the opportunity to occupy more chokepoints and let your workers return safely? No clear answer.

Luck Factor

Against all expectations, success in Maquis is heavily luck-based. In fact, I'd even go as far as calling it a push-your-luck game! Depending on how you play your workers, you can play it safe while getting less done in a round... or you can play it risky and bank your hopes on workers not getting caught on their way home.

You see, everything in Maquis hinges on the Patrol Cards.

The Patrol Cards determine where Nazi workers are placed, which means the Patrol Cards fully determine whether your workers are going to make it back home or not. If you place a worker on Radio B but the next Patrol Card places a Nazi worker on Black Market, your worker is trapped and arrested.

In order to mitigate the Patrol Cards, you have to plan ahead and sacrifice workers by placing them on chokepoints. For example, to make Radio B safer, you could place a worker on Black Market first, then place your next worker on Radio B.

Of course, then you run the risk of losing Radio B! It's entirely possible that you place a worker on Black Market, but the next drawn Patrol Card ends up placing a Nazi worker on Radio B. Not only do you lose out on Radio B, but now the worker you've placed on Black Market has gone to waste.

What's even worse is that worker placements don't guarantee safety—because Patrol Cards have a secondary mechanism that'll really mess you up.

Every Patrol Card has three locations listed on it. When drawn, the next Nazi worker goes to the first location on the card. If that location is occupied, it goes to the second, and if the second location is occupied, it goes to the third.

But if all locations are occupied? It retreads the list of locations and goes to the first location with one of your workers in it... and arrests the worker.

Here's what that means: even if you try to play safely by using backup workers to create safe paths home, one of them could get arrested anyway.

When this happens, not only do you lose the arrested worker, but the arresting Nazi worker might end up cutting off paths for other workers. You could lose two or three workers in a single turn, all because of a single card draw.

One biting example is the Radio B location, which has a path home through Black Market and Grocer. But there's a Patrol Card that lists all three of those locations on it! So, if you place workers on Radio B, Black Market, and Grocer, you could still draw a card that overrides your safe play.

So, if you really want to do well in Maquis, you have to memorize all of the Patrol Cards. There's simply no way around it. If you don't, then you're at the full mercy of luck whenever you place workers on the board. And even if you memorize them all, it's still very lucky—just slightly less lucky.

Fun Factor

Half of the fun in Maquis is figuring out the right sequence of worker placement actions to get the resources you need as efficiently as possible in order to fulfill the two particular Mission Cards that dictate the given game. This aspect of the game is strategic, logical, and contemplative.

The other half of the fun comes in the execution of your strategy and hoping it doesn't fall apart due to the Nazi workers. The majority of the game is played in the Placement Phase and the thrills come from the drawing of Patrol Cards.

Every time you draw a Patrol Card, you're just hoping it isn't going to mangle your plans. When it doesn't, you breathe a sigh of relief. When it does, you know you're going to be severely handicapped for upcoming rounds.

Honestly, I don't find Maquis to be very fun. I like the general idea of the Missions emphasizing strategic planning and efficient resource management, but the enormous amount of luck in executing your strategy feels antithetical.


For me, the best thing about Maquis is its sense of pacing. The whole thing boils down to one simple thing: a cycle of placement, action, and upkeep.

Despite my aforementioned complaints about the Patrol Cards mechanism, I do like the back-and-forth rhythm where I place a worker, then the Nazis place a worker, then me, then them, until we're all out of workers to place.

There's also an ebb and flow to progress on Mission Cards, where you're doing what you can and slowly making it possible to get what you need, deliver them where they need to go, prevent things from happening, etc.

But then you unexpectedly lose a worker and you're forced to deal with this spanner in the works. Every setback is huge and some are just devastating, but sometimes you can recover—and when you do, it feels good.

A victorious game of Maquis takes about 30 minutes, but failure can hit as quickly as 5 to 10 minutes in. In fact, failure is often quite sudden! You could be having a promising session, only for the game to crumble with one bad turn. (I've even had unlucky first rounds where I've lost two workers right off the bat!)


Maquis is only slightly fiddly, but it's about what you'd expect from a worker placement game. You're constantly in a cycle of placing and removing workers, plus constantly acquiring and spending cardboard tokens, and constantly moving wooden cube markers along tracks.

It's more physical than mental; it's more about the constant manipulation of pieces than using pieces for bookkeeping. But I tend not to like games where pieces are constantly being moved around, so bear that in mind.


As I sit here writing this review, I can't help but feel that Maquis is just... really not fun at all. It actively feels like a negative experience. I look at the box on my shelf and feel absolutely no desire to ever bust it out again, and I hate feeling this way because the ideas are interesting and the production is nice.

But, alas, I do feel this way. Here are the three major factors—one positive and two negative—influencing why I would and wouldn't play again.

Mission Cards are varied and unique. Maquis comes with 14 Mission Cards divided into 0-Star, 1-Star, and 2-Star difficulties. What I appreciate is that each Mission Card has a unique requirement that's unlike any of the others. There's no copy-and-paste laziness here, which goes a long way towards making each game feel different.

This is further amplified by the fact that you play with two Mission Cards per game, and the way they overlap can have a significant impact on your strategy. With 14 Mission Cards and two per game, you have 91 different setups (or 66 setups if you ignore the two 0-Star Missions).

Everything else is the same, but the Mission Cards inject an element of variable setup that helps keep Maquis interesting on repeat plays.

Most games start the same way, leading to a repetitive experience. Despite the variable setup from Mission Cards, my experience of Maquis is that every game starts in a very similar way. What you ultimately need for the Missions might vary, but you can only do so much at the start.

As it turns out, chokepoints don't only exist on the board in terms of finding safe paths for your workers—there are several chokepoints in the resource conversion ladder, so your possible pool of actions is actually quite limited and you tend to do the same things over and over again.

Luck factor is extremely frustrating. As Jean-Luc Picard once famously said, "It is possible to commit no mistakes and still lose. That is not weakness. That is life." In Maquis, you can lose for reasons beyond your control. Even when you choose the safe play over the risky play, you can get boned.

I don't mind luck in my games—in fact, Grove by Side Room Games is another solo game with some luck and it's one of my favorites—but the balance of luck in Maquis is so off that it makes decisions feel pointless and futile.

Repetition isn't bad when the core gameplay is engaging and satisfying, but when the gameplay is as empty as it is in Maquis, repetition is just dull.

Production Quality

The production for Maquis is pretty good. I wouldn't say I'm blown away by it, but there's nothing that stands out as particularly unacceptable.

The art and theme set the mood well. Maquis captures the claustrophobic feeling of being resistance fighters trapped in a city and fighting off oppressors. Between the artwork and environmental storytelling, you'll feel the highs of success and the lows of failure when the oppressors come out ahead.

The cubes and pawns are practical but forgettable. I like the inclusion of wooden pieces, which may seem like nothing special but at least get the job done. It keeps the price down while maintaining a grounded feel, which I appreciate. That said, the fact that the trackers are dual-layered does bring up the experience.

The cards have a linen finish but it's not great. Not all linen finishes are equal, and the finish on the cards in Maquis leave something to be desired. They're not hard to shuffle, but they're stiff and rough. I've also knocked some cards together by accident while shuffling and they seem less durable than I'd like.

The cardboard tokens are good, neither thin nor thick. There are lots of resource tokens that you'll be juggling around, and they're all made of a passably hefty cardboard that neither impresses nor disappoints. The artwork and colors on the tokens are easy to distinguish, which is a plus.

The dual-layered game board feels premium. This one's actually not a huge deal because the Spare Rooms don't always come into play, but when you do buy a Spare Room, you get to insert one of the Spare Rooms into the board. It's a nice touch that feels great when playing. I love dual-layered boards!

The box is perfectly sized, with a clever layout, with no waste. I like the insert that comes with Maquis, which makes the game relatively easy to set up and put away. Because there's no wasted space, Maquis feel like a big game in a small box.

The Bottom Line


Mediocre Score Guide
  1. Interesting take on solo worker placement gameplay
  2. Quality production with components that feel great to play with
  3. Variable setup via Mission Cards lends repeatability
  1. Strong luck factor makes decisions feel pointless
  2. Strategy and plans can fall apart for reasons beyond your control
  3. Need to memorize Patrol Cards if you want to win consistently
  4. Empty and frustrating, no desire to play again
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