Revolution! Game Review

The Basics:

  • For ages 13 and up
  • For 3 to 4 players
  • About 1 hour to complete

Geek Skills:

  • Active Listening & Communication
  • Counting & Math
  • Logical & Critical Decision Making
  • Reading
  • Strategy & Tactics
  • Risk vs. Reward
  • Hand/Resource Management
  • Auctioning, Bidding, & Trading
  • Worker Placement & Area Control

Learning Curve:

  • Child – Moderate
  • Adult – Easy

Theme & Narrative:

  • While the current government tumbles and is torn down, there is no better time or opportunity to ensure your future!

Endorsements:

  • Gamer Geek approved!
  • Parent Geek approved!
  • Child Geek approved!

Overview

The people will no longer tolerate the tomfoolery of the government. The status quo has failed and the word “revolution” is on the lips of every man, woman, and child. The pillars of society waver, but where others see chaos and disarray, you see opportunity. There is no possible way to salvage the old guard, but if one were to establish a seat of power in the new order, one could live a very comfortable life. The only problem is that many are as ambitious as you. Do you have what it takes to survive and win? Time to find out…

Revolution!, by Steve Jackson Games, is comprised of 1 game board that represents the town in which the players will vie for power, 100 Influence cubes (in 4 different colors, 25 per player), 4 Score tokens, 4 Bid boards, 4  Player Screens, and 56 bid resource tokens (12 Force, 12 Blackmail, and 32 Gold). The majority of the game components are made of thick and very durable cardboard except the cubes which are made of wood. Excellent game bit quality throughout.

Game Set Up

To set up the game, give each player 25 Influence cubes , 1 Score token, and 1 Player Screen all of the same color. Each player will also be given 1 Bid board, 1 Force token, 1 Blackmail token, and 3 Gold.

Place the game board in the middle of the playing area and separate the Force, Blackmail, and Gold tokens into three different piles next to it. All players should now place their Score token on the outside numerical track of the game board, bomb-side up, on the exclamation marked square.

The game board depicts the town the players will fight for – quaint, isn’t it?

Select the first player and begin!

The Currency of Coups

Before the game beings, it is important for all players to understand what resources they have at their disposal and what they are attempting to gain. The object of the game is to have the most support by the town elders and other influential persons by the time the game comes to an end. To gain support, you must use the resources available to you. These are threats (Force), having access to compromising material (Blackmail), and wealth for bribes (Gold).

The ability to Force and Blackmail individuals is not always available or possible. For example, the General and Captain do not threaten lightly, the Innkeeper and Magistrate scoff at Blackmail, and the local thief has seen it all and is never persuaded by threats or promises of embarrassing information being leaked to the public. After all, the dastardly rouge is fairly certain she has more dirt on you then you will ever have on her. Lucky for the player, Gold is the universal language that all understand. Unfortunately for the player, a bounty of coins is not always the strongest of arguments.

Gold is nice and will quickly win friends, but the threat of Blackmail will always beat any sized bribe. Threats, however, trump all. A dark promise of retribution and force will make even the most compromising of material seem completely useless. The player must know how to “buy” their friends using the best resources available to them.

But like most resources, they are not abundant. You can only threaten an individual so many times until you are out of threats to give. Blackmail material can only be used once, as the person you are blackmailing already knows you have dirt on them. But the players are not without friends. They have secret backers who will always make sure they have enough coin to influence others, but the player must cultivate their own klout and harvest additional resources to be truly successful.

Additionally, the level of influence a player can have in the town is limited. The 25 Influence cubes are all the player has available to them. This forces the player to choose where they might think they will be most rewarded if they obtain total control of a specific area and official in town. The level of influence any player can exert is further limited by the number of spaces each area has on the game board.

The Players and the Played

Using the resources, the players will influence key town officials. Each official, in turn, influences a specific part of the town. By buying the official, the player temporarily gets to use that official’s influence. The officials are briefly described here:

  • General (immune to Force): provides Support, Force, and helps influence the town fortress
  • Captain (immune to Force): provides support, Force, and helps influence the town harbor
  • Innkeeper (immune to Blackmail): provides support, Blackmail material, and helps influence the patrons of the town tavern
  • Magistrate (immune to Blackmail): provides support, Blackmail material, and helps influence the town hall
  • Priest: provides support and helps influence the patrons of the cathedral
  • Aristocrat: provides support, Gold, and helps influence the workers at the plantation
  • Merchant: provides support, Gold, and helps influence the town market
  • Printer: provides support
  • Rogue (immune to Force and Blackmail): provides Blackmail material
  • Spy (immune to Blackmail): provides the ability to replace Influence cubes
  • Apothecary (immune to Force): provides the ability to swap Influence cubes already on the board
  • Mercenary (immune to Force and Blackmail): provides support and Force

It is plain to see that who you influence is just as important to how you influence them. All officials are means to an end, but must be managed appropriately or their support for the player will quickly shift to another.

Influencing the People

The game is played out with all players taking the same actions at the same time during 4 different phases. As a group, the players will complete the following phases in sequential order.

Phase 1: Espionage

The players are not the only ones with friends who lurk in low and high places. No one can be trusted and everyone can be bought. As a result, little is kept hidden from prying eyes. This works for and against the players, as they will know exactly what resources (Force, Blackmail, and Gold) each player has available to use this round, but this is not privilege information. All the player’s know what every other player has available to them. Even so, knowing the strength of every player also shows each opponent’s limitations.

Phase 2: Bidding

Once all the players have had a glimpse of their opponent’s strengths and weaknesses for the round, each player places their Player Screen in front of their Bid board to hide resource placement. Players must now carefully consider how best to use their available resources to influence the town’s leaders. The players’ must use all their resources, reserving none for later. Such is the dangerous and desperate game of treachery and power. Any official that has a red background is immune to Force, any official with a black background is immune to Blackmail, but all officials gladly welcome gold.

Player can place as much or as little of their resources as they like on the officials but can bid on no more than 6 at a time.

Phase 3: Resolution

Once all the players have placed all their currently available resources, the Player Screens are removed and all the Bid boards revealed. Starting with the upper left most official (the General) and moving to the right, the top row is reviewed to determine who influenced who. Once the to row is completed, the second row is reviewed starting with the left most official. This is repeated again for the third and final row.

A player influences and gains support of that official (along with any perks the official might provide, such as placing Influence cubes, gaining resources, and even gaining support) immediately if they win the bid. When determining the winner of the bid, remember to keep in mind that Force always beats Blackmail and Blackmail always beats Gold. A higher quantity of the same resource will always win against a lesser quantity, and if the resources are matched, the next less influential resource is counted, breaking ties. If ties cannot be broken, no player wins the favor of that official for the round. Any official is who not bribed, threatened, or blackmailed is simply ignored.

All used resources on the Bid Board are returned to the resource piles. Any gained resource are kept and set aside for the next round.

Phase 4: Patronage

At the end of the round, the secret and silent backer of each player will provide enough gold to ensure that each player has at least 5 resources to start the next round. For example, if the player only had 1 Blackmail, they would receive 4 gold to bring their total number of resources to 5.

Victors of the New Order

The game ends when all the Influence spots on the game board have been filled at the end of Phase 3: Resolution. The players now count up their points and adjust their Score tokens as needed on the outside Support track.

Each area location on the game board will award a specific number of Support points to the player who has the majority of their colored cubes in that space. The points for each location is listed on the game board. If the players have tied for majority control, then no one wins the Support points for that location.

For every Force token not used, the player gains 5 Support points as they remain a physical threat. For every Blackmail token not used, the player wins 3 Support points as they continue to have leverage over the town officials. For every Gold token not used, the player gains 1 Support point as money can still buy allies.

Once all the counting has been completed and the Score tokens have finished being adjusted, the player with the most Support points wins the game and the town.

Game Variants

There are a few game rule variants that can be used to make the game a bit friendlier and less difficult. All or just one of these following rule variants can be implemented in game play as needed.

  • Bid Refunds: Instead of players loosing their resources after an unsuccessful bid, they take them back to be used the next round. Resources used in a winning bids are still lost.
  • Area Control Bonus: If a player should ever influence all the spaces in a specific area on the game board, no other player can ever remove a player’s position of influence in that specific area. Additionally, players who fully own the area on the board are awarded an additional 10 Support points for every area they fully influence.
  • Making Deals: Players can negotiate deals, terms, and treaties but these promises are never binding.

To learn more about Revolution!, see the game’s official web page. The game also has an expansion, Revolution! The Palace.

Prediction

My little geeks understand worker placement games well enough. Understanding the basic “he who holds it, owns it” is not a difficult concept for a 4 and 7-year-old to grasp. What has me concerned is the bidding aspect. When games require spending money for goods and services, a fixed amount for what the player is paying for is much easier to understand versus a variable value that changes constantly. This is a concept that adults even have a problem with at times. As such, I’ll have to watch the bidding during Phase 2 very closely.

Other than that, Revolution! is not introducing anything new to my little geeks, nor does it read as being terribly difficult in its game play. In fact, it reads very streamlined. Streamlined games can be the easiest to teach, but not the easiest to play. This is because streamlined games have been so well polished that there is little to no room for the player to adjust to fit their learning curve. I think this is going to be the case for Revolution! as there is no time for the players to “learn as you go”. From the very start to the very end, each bid is going to count.

The Apothecary and Spy officials that can be gained during Phase 2 give me some hope in regards to flexibility and I plan to play with the Bid Refund and Area Control game rule variants with my little geeks to present them with as much opportunity to backtrack and correct their strategy and tactics as needed. For the adults, there will be no leniency. Mercy is for the weak in this game and the game appears rather passive-aggressive. I can’t wait.

Teaching the game to my little geeks did not take long. As I mentioned, they have had prior experience to games that share the same game mechanisms which allowed them to quickly make sense of what I was showing them. My 4-hear-old had a little trouble with bidding in regards to what trumped other values. This was easily addressed by pointing out the values were listed on the Player Screen. He kept trying to put it into terms of  Rock-Scissors-Paper, which is actually incorrect. There is no cyclicality to speak of. Force always beats everything, Blackmail always beats Gold, and Gold never beats anything other than itself. We kept at it until he felt he understood this perfectly.

After a few examples of play, my little geeks were ready to go. As I reset the board, I asked them what they thought of the game so far.

“Easy game! All I need to do is make sure I am bidding on what you are not or bid more than you.” ~ Liam (age 7)

“Dad, this looks like a Bro Fist!” (showing me the Force token) ~ Nyhus (age 4)

My little geeks are ready, the board is set, and we will have to play several games to determine if Revolution! is going to be a success or not. Let’s get to it and find out!

Final Word

As I predicted, the area control aspect of the game was not a problem for my little geeks, but the bidding was. My 7-year-old flip-flopped a good deal at the beginning as he attempted to collect as much support as possible. This quickly drained his resources and he was left with most of the game with nothing but Gold to bargain with. My 4-year-old never clearly understood the bidding aspect and quickly lost interest in the game, deciding instead to jump on my lap and tell me how I should play. But both of the little geeks had fun and that is the most important thing. Frustrated, you bet, but they had fun. The game plays fast and the excitement (and oftentimes disappointment) of the Bid board reveal was what kept them hooked. The speed of the game does not allow the player to linger long and wallow in self-pity, forcing them to reevaluate and retry. In the end, however, neither of them were able to grasp the bidding well enough to give them a victory. I was torn with the age recommendation as my 7-year-old could play the game, just not well. He could barely hold his own and I firmly believe he could play this game very well in another 6 months if not a year. However, since this is based on speculation, we cannot suggest this game for anyone younger than the recommended age range. Your results will vary.

Parent Geeks greatly enjoyed the game and even the non-gamers were enjoying themselves, but hardly dominating. The game is light enough to be accessible for even the most non-gamer of non-gamers. In some respects, I could easily argue that Revolution! is something of a gateway game. It teaches basic fundamentals that are used in much more complex games in a way that is easy to follow. This allowed the gamers in the Parent Geek groups to latch on and play the game brilliantly right from the start. The non-gamer Parent Geeks had no difficulty with the concepts but were a little slower in getting their feet firmly underneath them. Once they did, they quickly caught up.

Gamer Geeks raged, laughed, swore, and huzzahed during our games. They all acknowledge it was light, but there was more than enough room for them to stick it to their opponents, manuever for victory, and swivel to avoid upcoming conflicts (if they really wanted to). The game played easily for them, but they didn’t walk away feeling like they played Candy Land. Indeed, the difficulty of this game increases based on the player’s ability, as it is the players who will directly influence all aspects of the game. When playing with the Child Geeks and the Parent Geeks, the level of cutthroat play was much more subdued when compared to playing with the Gamer Geeks. This was greatly appreciated and enjoyed.

All three test groups enjoyed the game, but it did little to improve any feelings of trust among the players

Gamer Geeks, Revolution! is a fairly quick (about 1 hour or less) game that will challenge your ability to think ahead and have you constantly reevaluate what you think you know about your opponents. This is a game of control and outwitting the competition. The only way to do so is to make yourself as strong and as flexible as possible. This will have you observing the board and the players in equal measure. Knowing what your opponents are working on is more important than what you want to do with the game. And while the game play itself is very fast, the amount of thought that goes into your turn will feel like a brain burner to some as you continue to second guess yourself and your opponent’s. A very entertaining game if not somewhat repetitive.

Parent Geeks, this is an excellent game of control and power, played out in a way that is easy to understand and to learn. You’ll appreciate the simplicity of the game’s design and how it is able to give you a surprising challenge. The game is very welcoming to new players, but has little in the way of forgiveness for those who don’t learn the basics of bribery and blackmail quickly. For some, this will be “the game” that turns them from non or part-time geek to full-blown Gamer Geek. For others, this game will reinforce how great a hobby board games really is.

Child Geeks, this is going to be a game you will enjoy but you must first understand the laws of Supply and Demand as your resources are limited and the availability of officials to bribe and influence is based on what other player’s want and how many resources they have to spend on it. If you guess wrong, you’ll be left behind and have little support or resources to help get you back on your feet. You will always have the ability to play, but the more mistakes you make, the longer it will take for you to get back to a position of authority and influence in the game. This can be exceedingly frustrating and make a very entertaining game into an exercise of emotional anguish. As such, we strongly suggest you work on the noted geeks skills and then take on this game using all the game rule variants listed until such time you feel confident in your abilities to crush your enemies.

Revolution! was a real delight. It feels like a much bigger game than what it is, but never plays like one. It is very exact in its execution without limiting player choice. In fact, I never felt like the game was playing me and the games only purpose was to provide the players a battleground on which to mentally compete. The meta-game of trying to out think and guess what my opponents were going to do or not was the most fun for me. Support is surprisingly easy to come by, but keeping ahead of the competition was not. The game does an excellent job of showing how fickle popularity is and how quickly the Winds of Change can blow you down. Simply a wonderful experience every time I’ve played it, leaving me feeling frustrated and exhausted, but always excited for another round. Do give Revolution! a play when the opportunity presents itself.

This game was given to Father Geek as a review copy. Father Geek was not paid, bribed, wined, dined, or threatened in vain hopes of influencing this review. Such is the statuesque and legendary integrity of Father Geek.

About Cyrus

Editor in Chief, Owner/Operator, Board Game Fanatic, Father of Three, and Nice Guy, Cyrus has always enjoyed board, card, miniature, role playing, and video games, but didn't get back into the hobby seriously until early 2000. Once he did, however, he was hooked. He now plays board games with anyone and everyone he can, but enjoys playing with his children and wife the most. Video games continue to be of real interest, but not as much as dice and little miniatures. As he carefully navigates the ins and outs of parenting, he does his very best to bestow what wisdom he has and help nurture his children's young minds. It is his hope and ambition to raise three strong, honorable men who will one day go on to do great things and buy their Mom and Dad a lobster dinner Cyrus goes by the handle fathergeek on Board Game Geek. You can also check him out on CyrusKirby.com. Yes, he has a URL that is his name. His ego knows no bounds, apparently....
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