Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Board game review: Steve Jackson's Revolution!

What is it?

Revolution is a board game first published by Steve Jackson Games (SJ Games) in 2009.

Following a revolution, a city is in turmoil and requires a resourceful, head-strong leader to guide the massed throngs back to stability and prosperity, but more importantly, come out on top.  That's the spiel but in reality, it's a Euro-style resource management game using a closed-bid system of vying for the support of various factions around the city.

A Euro-style game is one where no-one is 'knocked-out' of the game and the true winner of the game is not usually ascertained until the final whistle.  There is usually less emphasis on luck with very little dice-throwing, and more on strategy.  Worker placement and resource management as opposed to military endeavours are very common mechanics in Euro-style games.  They are particularly family-friendly as no-one is left out of the action and all players stay in the game until the end.

What's in the box?

The Revolution main game-board is a very pretty, top-down reproduction of a small city with lovely detailed artwork depicting the various areas such as harbour, market place, plantation, tavern, cathedral, fortress and town hall.  Around the edge of the board is a scoring track (or 'support' track as it's called in the game) for keeping track of the scores for all the players.  Also in the box are four plastic bags of support cubes in different colours, four *individual* player boards each with a cardboard screen, numerous 'influence' and player counters and an A4 4-sided rules 'book'.

The components are very high quality, made out of thick card-stock and the small coloured wooden cubes are like those seen in other games such as Agricola.  The bidding screens, on the inside, have a very brief summary of the rules regarding the bidding round (more on that later) which is handy.

How does it play?

The players' aim in Revolution is to gain control of more of the city than other players and this is done by gaining the support of various factions.  Each player has an identical game board upon which are represented various important members of the city whom the player is trying to 'influence'.  Influence comes in the form of Force, Blackmail or Gold. 
  • Anyone can be influenced by Gold.
  • No amount of Gold beats Blackmail.
  • No amount of Blackmail beats Force.
There are four phases to each turn:
  1. Spying - Each player sees what counters the other player has to spend on their influence round.
  2. Bidding - Players then surround their game boards with the screens and secretly place their counters on members of the city they want to force, blackmail or pay gold to.
  3. Resolution - The screens are lifted and everyone can then see what other players have bid.  Reading across, each faction then responds to the highest bidder for their support.  Where there is a tie, no-one wins and the counters are lost.  Depending on who the faction is, they can give the player influence counters, support points on the support track or support cubes for placing in the various buildings on the city map (or a combination of all three).
  4. Patronage - Each player makes up their counters to 5 by taking gold from the bank.
And the next turn starts. 

Each building or area on the city map is worth a certain amount of points at the end of the game.  The player with the most support cubes in an area gains those points.  For example, the Tavern is worth 20 points but only requires 4 support cubes while the Fortress is worth 50 points but requires 8 cubes.  If an area is tied, no-one gets the points.

Some of the factions also allow you to swap and move support cubes on the board which becomes a key tactic towards the end especially. 

Good Points

  • It sounds horribly complicated but it's a very simple mechanic and the rule book (pamphlet really) has lots of pretty pictures.  The game boards are colour-coded showing where the different influence counters can be placed and the rewards for successfully influencing a faction are clearly shown.  In our very first game, after the very first turn, we all 'got' it and needed little to no looking up the rules.
  • As stated, this is a Euro-style board game and all players remain in the game until the end.  Furthermore, each player is given something to do each turn and you are not left hanging around too long between turns.
  • A game will come in under an hour, perfect for lunch break board games.
  • Very quick set up time.  Open the board, hand out the cards, hand out the counters, done.
  • It's fun!  No, really it is.  It's all about trying to second-guess your opponents and trumping their bids for the hotly-sought factions.  You get a real nice warm feeling to see one of your bids win that all-important support cube and the tension mounts as the final scores are tallied.

Bad Points

  • The Revolution theme of a, erm, revolution is merely tagged onto an abstract gaming mechanic.  That is, the rules could easily work in any other setting such as a farm or a sea of islands ready to be plundered by pirates or without _any_ theme at all.  This is quite different to, say, a game like Twilight Struggle where the theme IS the game (The Cold War).
  • It's 3 or 4 players only.  Bear that in mind as the options here on Ciao don't allow this to be shown correctly.
  • With 3 players, there is the possibility of one player shooting into the lead on the very first turn with no chance of the others catching up.  Yes, this happened to us.  Don't ever ask my mate Tim to play.
  • It's easy to fall out of the loop of receiving more force and blackmail counters and having to rely on just 5 gold to make the winning bids.  This makes it very difficult to chase after the higher scoring areas of the city as you are constantly being priced out of contention.
  • After repeated plays, it starts to get a bit 'samey' with no massive variation between games (that could be down to Tim winning every single one though.  Like I say, don't ask him to play, I'm sure he cheats).

Overall, it's a very enjoyable game and a worthy lunchtime filler.  The components are superb quality, the artwork is top-notch and the rules are very (very) simple.  There's an interesting mix of strategies that can be employed and of course, all players stay in until the end.

It has elements of simple arithmetic, logical deduction and forward-planning so would be a good family game.  It is rated as 10+ and I have no cause to doubt that.

Revolution is ranked #655 in BoardGameGeek.com's game ranking chart.  It can be found here: http://www.boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/34887/revolution
or http://www.sjgames.com/revolution/

Expect to pay around the £25.00 mark.


At time of writing (Feb 2011), there is only one expansion available, 'The Palace' which allows up to 6 players, but with SJ Games' track record of releasing expansion for their games, this will surely rise.

No comments:

Post a Comment