$30.00
Jonas Hellberg Hellberg
Sweden
Malmö
Skåne
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In these reviews I try to sum the game up through different aspects to boil down the essence of my experience for you.
It’s a subjective view on what the game is about.

The historic backdrop of Revolution is the Dutch revolt against its distant Habsburg rulers who symptomatically called the region 'the lands over there'.
Historically it’s the conflict that resulted in the creation of the Netherlands and later on Belgium (the part of the region that remained loyal to its rulers).
It makes sense that the publisher is Dutch. To many I guess it remains a pretty obscure conflict, even though it took some eighty years and saw the birth of a country. Aside from a few visits to the region and my great-grandfather’s last name I initially had no real reason to feel anything for the conflict. (The name’s Alkman, of Alkmaar)
Even though it’s obviously an important conflict I’d wager that outside the Netherlands only a wargame publisher with poor production values would touch it.
Phalanx games’ production values do not leave you disappointed.
Up to five players assume the roles of different interests in the conflict:



The Reformers - yearning for freedom of religion
The Habsburgs - yearning to keep order
The Catholics - yearning to keep reform at bay
The Burghers - yearning for free trade
The Nobility - yearning to keep their lands

These five motivations are reflected in each faction’s special way of gaining victory points, gently nudging you into certain courses of action.
Victory can be had through simply controlling regions but you probably won’t make it without any of your special points. Some are even hard not to get.

Your money and your influence are interchangable, so resource management and priority is key. In that sense it’s like the logistics of a war game.
There is no chance element in the game. In that regard, it is like chess.
Position is key - most of the time you want to be the last to act so you can see the actions of others. In that regard it is like poker. One unit cancels out another unit, so having more units in a conflict gains you the victory, which is why you want to act last. On the other hand the military actions can be stronger if they’re done early (for example filling up a region so noone else can place any more armies there). This makes for some delicious decisions - 'will early military or late influence placement gain me the most?'

It’s a game that grows on you. It takes quite some time to play, the '4 hours+' on the box is no lie, but it’s well worth the time to try it more than once.
The rules really aren’t complicated, it’s basically 'Take X counters, put into region Y', but they’re meticulous and separated into a whole bunch of discrete steps that each player needs to do separately.
The devil is in the details, and knowing what to do in each phase is key, but there is also strategy written between the lines.
The overflow rules are a good example. Some people posting here and one of the 'condensed rules' in the files section mention that overflow rarely occurs, if at all. So why is there a rule to begin with?
The answer is probably in the siege rules. Sieges were common affairs during the conflict and rendered a lot of pathos. Big oil paintings were made of them, so they're obviously important for the flavour, but is it just chrome then?
During the overflow phase counters under siege do not count towards how many counters are allowed in the province at large, making overflow possible from a neighbouring province or from an even more distant one through the use of waterways.
So you need to set it up, by flooding a region you control with counters (the only way to have too many counters in a province is to have control of it), laying siege to a city in the province you mean to take over and then flow into it.
But there is no mention of that strategy in the rules, so you need to master three rules and three decisions - how and when to overstack, which siege to lay and how to overflow.
It’s in there, but the rules would be better with a 'newbie’s guide to the dutch revolution'. There are lots of helpful files here on the geek though.



Every game needs a bit of chaos to be enjoyable, and in Revolution the other players represent that chaos. There is no luck of the draw, no roll of the dice, just the decisions of other people.
But that’s enough, and it’s got a good power struggle feel to it. In politics, the one in power is usually the one who has to act, giving the others the chance to react. And that’s the way it is here.
The Habsburgs and Catholics start on top. The reformers on the other hand start off low, being able to target key areas with their reforms. The Habsburgs and Catholics, acting first, cannot guard all they have and can only try to minimize the damage by presenting easy targets to the Reformers or by spreading their own influence, making it more costly for their enemies wherever they choose to go.

But in this positioning, a trouble rears its head which is common to all games with like mechanisms. It’s usually better to avoid gaining a region and thus points in order to be in a better position for the next round, making a big push in the final round.
On the one hand you might excuse this as consolidating, guarding your positions, but it does make for some meta decision making which tends to ahistorical acting.
But then again, there are only five turns in the game (plus a zeroth 'set up turn'), giving you only five sets of key decisions to make. You can’t go too slow.

But then again, the fact that your influence and money are used interchangably gives you another reason not to overstretch yourself.
If you happen to place a counter too many too soon, you’ll have the region for sure but that’s a lot of counters you can’t put to use anywhere else.
Another delicious decision - let the others be in the region and risk them taking over or push them out and lock up precious resources in a region you could get for cheap?

The logistics of wargames, the maneuvering of chess and the positioning of poker.
If you enjoy delicious decisions, rich flavour and meaty gameplay then Revolution is your game.




(Images courtesy of ntrolls, Shin Yoo; endersgame, Ender Wiggins and alextrov, Alessandro Trovato, respectively)
(Edited for line spacing and choice of words)

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Jim O'Neill (Established 1949)
Scotland
Motherwell
Graduate of Barlinnie
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VENI, VIDI, VISA - my good wife conquering a Shopping Mall.
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Like a good red wine, I improve with age... and being laid.
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Pyuredeadbrilliant

Jonas,

You have captured the very essence of this frustrating but immensely enjoyable game and in your summary of the motivations:


"The Reformers - yearning for freedom of religion
The Habsburgs - yearning to keep order
The Catholics - yearning to keep reform at bay
The Burghers - yearning for free trade
The Nobility - yearning to keep their lands"


you have described the very core of the strategy. I take my hat off to you.

Regards,


Jim
Est. 1949

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Steve Bachman
United States
Colonie
New York
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An excellent review of my favorite medium length game. The review style is excellent as it skips over the "how to play" specifics and instead captures the essence of the game and how it actually feels to play. And as Jim highlighted, your summation of the faction motivations is spot on both historically and game-wise.

Well done!
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Les Marshall
United States
Woodinville
Washington
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Fascinating. I don't think my group has ever quite grasped the siege/overflow interaction. Perhaps I'll trot it out next time. Mwah hah hah!
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