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Subject: I'm not a SJ Games type of guy, but I am a Revolution!...ary now! rss

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Joseph Cochran
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Costa Mesa
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The Background:

I feel like I need to apologize to SJ Games. Not because I've said anything bad about them, but because I really didn't have extremely high hopes for Revolution! In the ancient days of yore, I was a RPG player, but I was one of those "story" folk and GURPS players tended to be a bit too much into the numbers and stats for me, so I never really got into that game. As I got into TCG's I tried out SO many of them, eventually trying INWO as well. I didn't really end up enjoying the game that much because the game was both too long and too short: that is to say each individual person's turn took a very long time thanks to the paralyzing number of options available, but too short in that each person got too few turns to really have a satisfying experience. As I moved to board games, I tried the light card games like Chez Geek and Munchkin, but I really felt that those were too much "silly" and not enough "game" for me.

So my past impression of SJ Games has been that the company puts out games that are "not for me." Recently, however, I heard that they were trying to do something euro-style, and eventually I heard about Revolution! a little more specifically. On the general principles that I likes me my board games and that even if the game is so-so I would like to support SJ's effort to bring more euro-style games to market, I picked up a copy with another order I was making.

I'm very glad that I did. While I was worried that the game would be overly-themed or silly, when I opened the box I discovered a relatively interesting game that was a lot of fun to play!

The Game:

In Revolution! the object is to have the most Support (VP's) when the revolt happens. You're not making it happen, you're just trying to capitalize on it.

Components:

The game comes with a nice, slim rules sheet, three types of bidding currency tokens and a board. Each player gets a set of cubes, a score marker, a bidding board and a (REALLY nice) folding-game-board-material bid-hiding screen. The components are top-notch: I've got plenty of games with privacy screens, and this is by far the best one I've seen: I won't ever need to worry about rips, tears, folds or any other issues under normal play conditions with those puppies! The board is likewise a heavy lay-flat board, and the currencies for bidding are solid, thick stock large enough to be easy-to-handle without being too big for the spaces they go in. The cubes are the euro-standard wooden cubes: it seems weird that they're the least impressive of the components, but it's saying a lot that they are!

The Rules:

The board is a collection of areas on which you place cubes during the game (Fortress, Town Hall, etc., each of which has a number of Support that it will grant to whoever has the most cubes there). At the same time you'll be getting Support directly. When the board is full of cubes, the game is over and whoever has the most Support wins. Each turn everyone places bids in secret on a little board of people who grant some combination of cubes, Support and budding currency, and whoever bids highest for each person gets the benefit. That's basically the game.

That said, the turn-to-turn bidding is actually quite fun. There are three types of currencies for bidding, Gold, Blackmail and Force. Think of them like trumps: Any amount of Blackmail trumps all Gold and any amount of Force trumps all else. Tied bids mean everyone loses. To make it more interesting, some people can't be Forced, and some can't be Blackmailed, so the bidding is a game of guessing where your opponents will place their resources and trying to get the stuff you need (cubes, VP's and more stuff to bid with). The board fills up and the VP's increase, and when the cubes fill the board, a winner is determined!

The game bears some great hallmarks of a good euro: simple, elegant mechanics that allow interaction with the other players, little downtime, and as a bonus a shorter-than-expected play time!

Our First Game:

I played a three-player game with my friends T and J, and from a cold start, complete with rules learning, it took no more than 35 minutes. T and I started working the Force and Blackmail and ended up trading off turns using it while J took the gold-generating people (who incidentally have a lot of VP's on them). While Gold is less powerful than the others, you tend to have more of it and we let him take far too many people far too cheaply as he spread his bids out. What we realized was that we'd let him get so far ahead in VP's that even with the spaces we were getting on the board for end-game points, there was no way to catch up. About halfway through the game we caught onto this and slowed him down by spreading out our bids more, but the damage was done. Still, toward the end as the board filled up we had a lot of interesting jockeying for position in the hopes that locking him out of enough points would get one of us the win. Despite that not working, we still all had a great time.

Conclusion:

I can see this game coming out to the table frequently: its short play and simple rules make it an ideal candidate for that inevitable "waiting for more" time you get at the beginning of a day or between longer games (whether you have to teach it or not), and its high level of interaction during the bidding makes for plenty of "oh no!" moments and fun between the players.

It's a simultaneous-bidding game, though, so if you're not a fan of that then you might not enjoy it as much as I did, but some of my past favorites have been games with that element in it like Modern Art and Adel Verpflichtet, and this game works wonderfully as a quicker, streamlined game based on the bid mechanic.

Buy this game?

SJ Games hasn't always been a go-to company for games for me, but Revolution! is an absolute winner and if you have a chance to try or buy it, I'd strongly recommend it. Great work!!
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D Dark
Germany
Bielefeld
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I thought you meant SJ the mbti-way, nvm ninja
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Eric Johnson
United States
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I absolutely love this game. The bidding is handled wonderfully and leads to some very tense moments towards the end of the game, especially around the Spy and the Apothecary. Highly reccommended, and an excellent review.
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Trevor Schadt
United States
Glenshaw
Pennsylvania
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Revolution! (along with The Stars Are Right) are published by Steve Jackson Games, but they are originally Euro games that SJ imported and published under their own label. So I'm not all that surprised that, even though you don't like most of the other SJG fare, Revolution! is up your alley.

You might want to give TSAR a look as well.
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Philip Reed
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Kyle
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ryudoowaru wrote:
Revolution! (along with The Stars Are Right) are published by Steve Jackson Games, but they are originally Euro games that SJ imported and published under their own label.


TSAR was a licensed game. Revolution! was self-published here in the US and sold 30 or 40 copies before we picked it up.
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Trevor Schadt
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Glenshaw
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Then the history was conveyed incorrectly to me. Thanks for clearing it up, Phil. :-)
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Philip Reed
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Kyle
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ryudoowaru wrote:
Then the history was conveyed incorrectly to me. Thanks for clearing it up, Phil. :-)


No problem. We've posted the designer's notes on our website if you want to see a detailed history of the game:

http://www.sjgames.com/revolution/notes.html
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