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Subject: Revolution!...A Pleasant Surprise! rss

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Sam Healey
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Revolution, designed by Philip duBarry and published in June 2009 by Steve Jackson Games, has broken the Steve Jackson mould, so to speak. Honestly, the first time I saw the game at my FLGS, my first thought was, "Hmpf...another overpriced Steve Jackson game with chinsey bits." It wasn’t until I was talking to Erik Smith, of Pizza Box Football and Baseball fame, at a recent game night that I even gave it a second thought. And with only one reservation, of which I’ll speak later, I’m glad that I decided to take the plunge.

Revolution is a blind bidding game with an area control mechanic in which players are trying to garner as much political Support as possible in order to gain control of the town depicted on the board. They can use three kinds of bribery on various town individuals in order to accomplish this goal, and they are, Force, as in physical force, Black Mail, and Gold. One Force token will beat any number of Black Mail and/or Gold tokens, and one Black Mail token will beat any number of Gold tokens. Even though Gold is the weakest form of bribery, it still has its uses, and is the easiest to come by. I’ve seen many times in the few games I’ve played that a single Gold token is used to bribe a character that everyone else ignored that round. So, don’t underestimate the power of Gold. Any combination of bribery tokens can be used on the individual characters with some restrictions. Some of the characters can only be bribed with certain kinds of bribery tokens. For example, the General and the Captain, which give a player Influence in the Fortress or Harbor respectively, cannot be bribed with Force, only Black Mail and Gold will work on them. On the other hand, Force and Gold are your only choices for the Inn Keeper and the Magistrate, which give you Influence in the Tavern and Town Hall respectively. There are also some individuals that can be bribed by any means, and others that can only be bribed with Gold.

Concerning game play, there are no individual player turns in Revolution. Instead, all play is simultaneously carried out in rounds. Each round consists of firstly showing everyone the kinds of bribery you have at your disposal, as it will change depending on how well or bad your bribe attempts turned out in the previous round. Secondly, each player takes their character board behind their shield, and places their bids on the characters of their choice. Thirdly, once all players have finished placing their bids, the shields are removed, and each winning bribe is carried out in order from the top left character (the General) to the bottom right character (the Mercenary). The player whose bid won takes the character’s positive effects, which can be anything from gaining more Support (points), placing an Influence cube in one of the buildings in town, or gaining more bribery tokens. Some characters grant a combination of these effects, with some granting all three, while others grant only one. Then, the round ends and the next round begins, following the same format, and play continues in this fashion until all the Influence spots in all the buildings have been filled. Influencing a building with more cubes than any other player can provide a lot of Support, as each building has an amount of Support that it grants to the player who has the most Influence cubes in it at the end of the game.

Now, I don’t necessarily like blind bidding, and I truly hate blind bidding in which all bids are lost even if they don’t win. The basic rules of Revolution use this hateful mechanic (IMO), but gratefully, the advanced rules do provide a caveat that only winning bids are lost, along with a couple other minor rule-change options. This does open the door for a "the rich get richer" problem with which some games have trouble , but I have not found that to be a problem as long as the other players spread out their bids and pay close attention to what kinds of bribery the other players have at their disposal each round.

In conclusion, I think that Revolution deserves more than a fair shake in today’s gaming community. My only reservation with the game is that, in my opinion, you don’t get $40 dollars of components in the box. But I will say that I think the replay-ability of the game, delightfully various choices to make, and bluffing chances one has throughout each game will ultimately make up for its initial sticker shock. Don’t get me wrong, though, it does have quality components, much better than previous Steve Jackson games that I’ve played, just not many of them. The mounted board is cunningly simple, yet aesthetically pleasing. The bribery tokens and Support markers are made of a durable and strong card stock, and you also get a good number of wooden Influence cubes. Revolution is a short game with even your first game clocking in at just around an hour, and experienced games taking less than an hour. The game can be explained in less than ten minutes, and game play is intuitive and flowing with little downtime, as a result of the simultaneous actions. In all, I give Revolution a strong rating of 4 out of 5 stars, with its price being the only detractor.

Until Next Time...Sam.
sauronninjasauron
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T. Nomad
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Thanks for the review, Sam. I have my eye on this one, and you alleviated some of the SJ-legacy fears for me.
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Mike
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I think within the last year or so Steve Jackson Games has really turned a corner in terms of quality. Not only in physical components -- which are much better -- but also in terms of gameplay. I've found myself much more interested in their products as of late and I hope its a continuing trend. I've read almost nothing but positive things about Revolution and with each new review I get closer and closer to cracking...its only a matter of time before I add this one to the ol' collection.

~ Bones
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Fraser Grant
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I too love this game. The whole look and feel of the game is very "Z-Man" which is a GOOD thing! It is very replayable-and the moment when you all reveal your bids can be quite tense.
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Sam Healey
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tommynomad wrote:
Thanks for the review, Sam. I have my eye on this one, and you alleviated some of the SJ-legacy fears for me.

You're welcome, Tommy! You really hit the nail on the proverbial head as to why I held off on buying it initially. But it really is worth your while to pick it up if it isn't too much of a financial strain on the pocketbook. The components and gameplay are quite frankly a full octave higher than the stereotypical Steve Jackson game. And if Revolution is a testament to a growing trend, we may even see that stereotype put to rest.

Until Next Time...Sam.
sauronninjasauron
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T. Nomad
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Frasergrant wrote:
The whole look and feel of the game is very "Z-Man" which is a GOOD thing!

A very good thing indeed.
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Robert
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To me, the best elements of SJ games are present in Revolution - the sense of humor in the rules comes to mind. However, this is very much a NOT Steve Jackson game. In fact, Steve himself has said he was very pleased that he didn't have to do anything to help the development of this game - that he could trust his team to do the work and put out a fine game without his influence.

That he's willing to do this, and that the result of this might be more games like Revolution, give me a very positive vibe about SJ Games' future releases.
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Mark Goadrich
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Escher26 wrote:
That he's willing to do this, and that the result of this might be more games like Revolution, give me a very positive vibe about SJ Games' future releases.


I also have a positive vibe about future SJ Games eurogame releases. ninja

(disclaimer, I am the author of a future SJ Games eurogame release)
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Philip Reed
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ensor wrote:
I also have a positive vibe about future SJ Games eurogame releases. ninja

(disclaimer, I am the author of a future SJ Games eurogame release)


I'm very happy to see how people are responding to Revolution! and Nanuk (we've been running the game at shows). And I think we have some other games in the works that will make many gamers quite happy.
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Chris Baylis
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I have played Revolution several times now and I tend to agree with most of what has been said already. The quality is very good, as is expected of a SJG production, the rules are short, clear and concise, which is good for the type of game it is, a family boardgame leaning more towards the European style than either American or British.
The bidding system is fine, allowing for some bluff, and ensuring that players always have a minimum of 5 pieces (Force, Blackmail or Gold) to bid with, but if you are unlucky you can end up in a rut having just 5 Gold per turn to bid with and that can be disastrous.

Seeing as the final score gives a value to each of the bidding components, 5 for Force, 3 for Blackmail and 1 for Gold, we introduced this into the actual game so that 6 Gold defeat 1 Force (but 5 Gold do not draw with 1 Force even though they are of the same intrinsic value 5 and 5, the Force wins). The same goes for 4 Gold and 1 Blackmail (Gold wins) and 3 Gold and 1 Blackmail (Blackmail wins). This still keeps Force and Blackmail of a higher value and doesn't upset the balance of the game, but it does give the player who is stuck with just 5 Gold per turn a better chance to pull themselves back into play.

One other point is that it is generally easy to spot when the last round of play is likely to be and thus the clever player will have been biding their time and setting the game up for a power play in the penultimate round. Unfortunately when you play with 2-3 other regular games players (gamers) they are all looking to win in the last round play.

The game plays quite differently with 3 players than it does with 4.

Revolution is a game that gamers should play irregularly lest it get stale.It is high on fun and entertainment, low on options.
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Paul Chapman
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Chris Baylis wrote:
. . . but if you are unlucky you can end up in a rut having just 5 Gold per turn to bid with and that can be disastrous.


No one should ever have to spend more than one or two consecutive turns with just 5 gold -- that's what the Rogue and the Mercenary are for. Put all 5 gold on one of those, and you'll usually get a Force or 2 Blackmail. There are odd occasions where another player is in the same situation, and bids on the same space, but just saying "hey, we're both in a tight spot -- you go for the Merc and I'll go for the Rogue" should prevent that.
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Sam Healey
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PaulChapman wrote:
Put all 5 gold on one of those, and you'll usually get a Force or 2 Blackmail.

I would highly discourage most players from ever putting all their gold on one spot. Usually, I encourage people to spread their bids out as much as possible. Keeping an eye on what people are going after from round to round should allow you a good amount of certainty on the safest spots to place your gold bids. There have been times where I bribed both the General and Captain in the same round for one gold each. So, spreading out when your able is much better than stacking up on one spot.

Until Next Time...Sam.
sauronninjasauron
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Paul Chapman
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SamHealey wrote:
So, spreading out when your able is much better than stacking up on one spot.


I've seen the strategy of "spreading out" work with experienced players occasionally, but I've never seen it work with new players. In fact, the largest disparity I've ever seen in a game came from a player who insisted on avoiding the Merc/Rogue -- he ended up with single-digit support, and the winner broke 200. Everyone at the table (except for me) was a newbie, and the winner used the Merc/Rogue frequently.

How about this? For conservative players, or newbies, focusing on a smaller but much more likely reward is better. For players willing and able to take on more risk, spreading over the board is a better strategy.
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Sam Healey
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PaulChapman wrote:
...the largest disparity I've ever seen in a game came from a player who insisted on avoiding the Merc/Rogue -- he ended up with single-digit support, and the winner broke 200. Everyone at the table (except for me) was a newbie, and the winner used the Merc/Rogue frequently.

How about this? For conservative players, or newbies, focusing on a smaller but much more likely reward is better. For players willing and able to take on more risk, spreading over the board is a better strategy.

I've marked in italics and underlining where I think the problem found its root. It wasn't found in the 'spreading out' part, but I get what you mean. When I teach the game, I always highlight the power of gold and stress the necessity of spreading out with your bids. At the same time, though, I also make a point of not avoiding any one character for the entire game, and to keep general track of where your opponents have been bidding. Granted, a 3-player game's strategic choices will differ greatly from that of a 4-player game. In the latter, it may be better not to spread out your bids as much.

The last game I won was a three-player game in which I focused on replacing and switching cubes on the board just enough to get the other players thinking about bidding on those characters in the next round; and when they did (sometimes even cancelling each other out so that no one could do either), I bid real low on some of the other characters that they neglected in order to be able to switch and replace cubes, and won them. I continued that trend throughout the entire game (going back and forth), and it was a landslide victory...I controlled all but two of the buildings, and only one of those was controlled by another player, the other was tied-up at game's end.

As an aside, I think our little conversation here is lending more credibility to the fact that this is, and can be, a rather strategic game, which smacks in the face of those who may be tempted to say that it has few choices.

Until Next Time...Sam.
sauronninjasauron
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